The Pyramid’s Deadline
designed by Jun Sasaki, published by Oink Games
Race to build the grandest pyramid for the dying pharaoh in this small box game from Japan’s Oink Games. Each round, a lead builder will roll the dice allowing players, one at a time, to draft different shapes in order to build their pyramid. Choose from a rectangle, a big triangle, a little triangle, and a square in order to complete your pyramid, from base to capstones and following the rules for laying tiles But be careful, the square also represents the pharaoh’s life, and if you take the last square, you automatically lose the game for killing the pharaoh. Likewise, make sure you actually complete your pyramid before the pharaoh’s life runs out. The player who scores the most points (length of pyramid x height of pyramid – the number of capstones) wins and has the honor of having a moldy, dessicated mummy reside in their grand creation.
A potentially simple and elegant tile-laying game is hampered unclear scoring rules for the endgame. The definition of different legal placements for the tiles feels unclear at times and turned the game from strategic tile-laying into, “I don’t think that counts as legal” arguments. Sometimes less means more, but here less just led to confusing. And definitely one of the most brutal instant lose conditions out there.
One Line Verdict: Great concept with flawed execution; leave this one buried in the desert sands.
designed by Steve Finn, published by Doctor’s Finn’s Games
Run your very own medieval monastery! Collect the various supplies (scrolls, manuscripts, pigments, quills, ink) you will need to produce magnificent illuminated manuscripts by rolling 6 (or 7) resource dice. Choose one set of results and move up that number of spaces on the associated resource track. Or get gold. Or move up on the bishop track and get bonuses. Or manipulate the value of some of the resources. Unless of course it’s market day, when the active player divides up the dice (5 in group, 3 in the other) and everyone secretly bids, one card at a time, to win the right to a group of dice. The game ends four markers reach the top of the resource tracks, or one player reaches the top of the bishop track. Points are added up for first, second, and third place based on the value of each particular resource. Most points wins! But be careful: not moving up on a track means you get negative points for being at the bottom. And in a game where the winner and 3rd place were separated by 4 points, that’s a big difference.
A game where randomness is not so bad, as there is always something good to do. Just choose wisely and you advance at least a little on all tracks. Use clever strategy in timing the manipulation of the value of the resource, but watch for the abrupt end. Light enough for gateway, deep enough to make for interesting choices.
One Line Verdict: Don’t take a vow of silence on this one. Scream it from the abbey roof about how good this game is.
designed by Yves Touring, published by Z-Man Games
Use dice to build buildings in this clever little dice-drafting game. Each round, players will get a secret blueprint for building a small building composed of six dice. Roll the dice, and choose one to add to your building. Numbers indicate if you can build on top of existing dice, so put low numbers on the lower levels. Colors indicate different building materials. Following the blueprints is actually optional: you score extra points if you do. After all six dice are placed, buildings are scored; points are awarded depending on material, dice face, and placement. VICTORY points are then awarded for first and second place buildings, as well as for completing runs or using the same material or building high towers or having the same number dice. Three rounds, add up the victory points. Best plan: carefully choosing between maximizing your building points and end round bonus victory points. Worst plan: not following the blueprint and not getting the end round bonus.
A tricky little dice-drafting game that offers lots of strategic decisions that is the perfect length. Just hard enough to get you thinking, but light enough to serve as a filler.
One Line Verdict: Just the right length and very satisfying.