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Some Mids

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When Looney Labs kindly sent Zendo my way to review they also kindly provided (at my suggestion) Nomids. And it has been a few months. Nomids has taken me some time to be able to write about, partially because of time management being an endlessly resettable puzzle, but mostly because I needed to figure out how to talk about it. To summarize my conundrum: I think of Nomids as a very useful supply box for Looney Pyramid neophytes and veterans alike despite not enthusiastically recommending actually playing Nomids with it. This box is a good one, albeit for unconventional reasons.

Let's get that out of the way first, yeah? As far as pyramid games are concerned Nomids is just ok. Each play either ends too quickly to feel satisfying or drags on a tad too long for how light it is depending on the actions the die avails you. There's some amount of decision making to be had in which pieces you take from the bank, but because your action each turn is determined by the die it's impossible to gauge which colors you should go in on. I like the idea of a pyramid riff on a shedding game, and this one can have some solid moments, but it doesn't quite stick the landing. In many ways Fluxx has already bested Nomids, feeling similar while generally being more funny on the table.

So that's the review, then? That's a verdict, an opinion. Well yes, but actually no. That's not what I'm going to talk about in depth. See, while I'm not super into the game named on the box it's also the return of something exciting that pyramid fans (of which I am one) have been awaiting for some time: the stash! The stash is wonderful. I will elaborate.

Pyramid games are numerous. Folks have been designing rulesets around these bits for decades, and most of these are compiled online. Years ago LL used to sell pyramids in sets called "stashes", which were typically monocolor collections of pyramids. Many games still measure their required components in "stashes", which is awkward when stashes aren't readily available anymore.

But Nomids is available! It's not monocolor - quite the opposite in fact - but because of that it makes for a fantastic intro to pyramid games. Just searching for games that use individual trios on the Icehouse wiki returns dozens upon DOZENS of games playable with this box and little-no additional help; we're talking a piece of paper, a chessboard, some regular dice, that kind of thing. I haven't even played most of them yet but I can and will happily provide some guidance.

Relevant link:

Treehouse, Pharaoh, and Pyramid Sham-Bo are all suggested in the box. Treehouse isn't my favorite as it's a bit overcomplicated for what it is, but Pharaoh is a neat multi-way riff on Backgammon and Pyramid Sham-Bo is a top notch party game. I was positive towards these when I ranked all the Pyramid Arcade games and I stand by that stance. Those alone make this box far more attractive, but we can do even better!

Martian Chess is a standout choice. It requires as much effort as Pharaoh (half a Chess board, 4x8) and is excellent. You may end up preferring playing with the self-contained Martian Chess box that includes a board and a collection of mono-color pieces, but there's something charming about the board state looking like a broken kalaidescope in play. Being able to grab a piece of paper, draw a quick grid, and play a compelling abstract strategy game is a wonderful thing.

While you've got the Chess board out how about some Penguin Soccer? This is a very different kind of strategy game, one that's a little less chin-stroking and a little more "oh god I made a mistake". It's a bit more complex than Martian Chess, but with that comes some truly interesting decisions that I find myself coming back to.

There are a handful of other games I find interesting that require a bit more work, but the Nomids box will still get you started. My beloved Twin Win (a wonderful game of deduction and bluffing), Pyramid Punch (an appropriately fiery dice chucker), and Emperor's Garden (uses Hanafuda cards to fascinating effect) stand out, but there are loads upon loads. It's hard to recommend Nomids as a standalone ruleset, but no set of pyramids is truly just one game. A Nomids box makes for an excellent jumping off point to play a ton of excellent games as long as you're willing to do a little work to supply additional non-mid components, and you won't regret giving the system that chance. There hasn't been a better intro set than this one until now, that is unless a new player just really wanted to dive straight into the deep end with Homeworlds.
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