Glass Bead Boardgames

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Jordan and I played at the Pyramid Arcade

Allen OConnor
United Kingdom
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On the Saturday before my wedding, Jordan and I met up for coffee and board games. We decided to explore some of the many games found as part of the Pyramid Arcade set, which is basically a big box full of components meant as a game system rather than single game. The box contains the rules for 22 games, but if you look at BGG under the Looney Pyramid Games family, then you’ll find entries for 221 games at the time of writing. Although the Pyramid Arcade only came out last year, Andrew Looney of Looney Labs has designing games using Looney Pyramids since 1989. Essentially these games are designed around sets of three coloured pyramid shapes of different sizes. When placed next to one and other they are called a Trio, when stacked inside each other they are called a Nest, and when stacked on top of one and other the are referred to as a Tree. Pyramid Arcade contains 30 sets of Looney Pyramids in 10 different colours, and a bunch of different boards, cards and dice. We played five of the games found in the main rulebook of Pyramid Arcade.






Martian Chess

The first game that we tried new to me, and one of the more popular games from the set. In Martian Chess there are two 4x4 grids side by side, each having nine pieces on. There are Pawns which can move one diagonal space, Drones which move one or two orthogonal spaces, and Queens which can move an unlimited number of spaces in any direction. Players start with three of each piece on their side of the board, and as the game goes on they must attempt to take their opponent's pieces in a similar fashion to Chess. The twist is that a player controls every piece that is on their side of the board, so when you take a piece from your opponent you are also handing control of that piece to the other player. In addition, the better pieces are worth more points at the end of the game, so the strategy really revolves around trying to capture the opponent's Queens and Drones. I managed to capture a few Drones, then made an effort to empty my side of the board to force the end of the game; I ended up winning fairly comfortably. The strategy is really unusual in this game, but I liked it a lot.

Allen 14 - 10 Jordan






Twin Win

This game uses a small nine spaced board with arrows on showing which way the pieces can be moved, and adds a small set of cards to the game. Set up involves making five mixed colour Trees using five different coloured Trios. Then two cards for each coloured Trio are collated to form a draw pile, one showing a Nest and one showing a tree for each colour. Players will each have two cards, and must attempt to make one of the patterns to win the game. Players take two actions each turn, either to move the pieces on the board or to swap one of their cards for a new one. If a player makes it obvious what they are going for then their moves will be easily blocked by the other player; so bluffing plays a part in the flow of the game. Jordan and I really enjoyed this game, and ended up playing it three times. Every time Jordan was about to win, I would find a winning move. All three games were close though.






Volcano

Next up is a game that has evolved a little over the years, designed by Kristin Looney. The rulebook states that this is the third iteration of Volcano, and I’m aware that the previous versions required five Trios of the same colour which wouldn’t be possible with Pyramid Arcade, so I’m sure that this updated version might have been made to work with this set. The game uses the 5x5 grid, and starts with three Nests of eight different colours scattered around the board with a space left in the centre. Then six smallest Pyramids from the two remaining colours (in this case Black and White) are placed on top of two sets of Nests, referred to as Caps and the game begins. Players move the caps on their turn, causing everything under the Cap to cascade out in a straight line across the map. If a piece would land on the same size of piece it is captured. The first player to score three matching coloured Trios, or five mixed colour Trios is the winner. This was a real brain burner, but Jordan and I loved it. We both found ourself one move away from winning, but in the end i got a bit lucky and won because Jordan had overlooked my previous move. Definitely one that I would like to play again.






Color Wheel

I sat back for the next game as Jordan played a round of Color Wheel. This can be played solo or as a cooperative game, and it’s probably the one that I’ve played the most from this set. Setup includes taking all of the Pyramids from seven colours and mixing them in a bag, then to randomly place a piece on every section of the circular board until it is full. This will only use a little over half of the pieces so there will be an uneven distribution of colours on the board. The pieces from the three remaining colours are now stacked neatly on the side of the board, these represent the 27 moves that players are limited to in order to beat the game. The aim is to have all of the pieces grouped with their colour, and each move can either be to swap two pieces of different colours but the same size, or two pieces of different size but the same colour. This might sound simple, but it’s really the closest to a Rubik’s Cube that a board game can get. Jordan managed to beat the Color Wheel in 24 moves, and he seemed to enjoy the challenge.






Hijinks

And finally the last game of the afternoon was Hijinks, previously released as Pink Hijinks using only pink Pyramids. I’ve played this one a few times and it’s a nice simple game. This uses a 3x3 grid and starts with three Trees across the central row, the colours don’t matter here but I like to use different colours to match the different sizes. Players control the three spaces closest to them, and must try to either get one matching piece in each of their spaces, or must try to get all nine pieces into the opposing player’s spaces. Each turn a special die is rolled showing the player which sized piece can be used that turn, and a player can move a corresponding piece orthogonally from either their row or the central row. Players can move pieces onto the opponent's row, but can’t take them off it. Jordan and I both had two pieces in position and needed a third to win. We were both getting in the way of each other winning, waiting for the right dice roll to win the game. It was close, and it would have been nice for Jordan to beat me at something that day, but luck was on my side as I rolled what I needed to win. A great afternoon with a great friend, thank you for reading.



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