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Tony Chen
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Pylos is a perfect information game played by 2 players. Games last around 15 minutes. The game is also known as Pyraos.

The board is a 4x4 array of dented holes. There are 15 black and 15 white balls. Using the board as the base, a 4 level (4x4, 3x3, 2x2, 1x1) pyramid is built as the game progresses.

On each turn, a player can either 1)place a marble from his reserve or 2)relocate one of his balls on the board to a higher level. Balls can stack on top of others only if it is being supported by 4 balls. A ball that is supporting another ball cannot be moved.

Whether it be by placing or relocating, if you form a 2x2 square or an orthogonal line that spans the first or second level, you get to (and must) remove 1 or 2 balls of your own from anywhere on the board (except those supporting other balls).

The player to place the top ball and finish the pyramid wins.

reduced variants
Instead of applying all 3 methods to save balls, some variants only use 1 or 2 of them.

The player who keeps a bigger reserve of balls wins, because the player who runs out of balls first will be unable to complete the pyramid. But that is easier said than done, because the larger your reserve, the less balls you have to play with on the board!

Forming squares, completing lines and raising balls are fairly straightforward and simple in and of themselves. However, the catch is to threaten to do so, and guard the opponent from doing so, while using as few balls as possible. Moreover, the 3 methods of conserving balls interplay quite well with each other to add another level of depth to the game. By blocking an opponent from completing a line, you might be creating a platform for him to raise one of his balls to. When you raise one of your balls, you may be leaving behind an empty space which, if taken by your opponent, can lead to his forming a square/line. All these add up to a very dynamic and exciting game.

One drawback to Pylos is that the opening and endgame are usually mere formalities, because the possibilities and consequences one needs to consider are very limited in these situations. The midgame, however, is where Pylos really shines. The gameplay can be quite intense and cut-throat, with many shifts in momentum leading up to a dramatic victory. I´ve won many games where the outlook was grim up until the very last couple of moves, and vice versa. In a tightly, well fought match, one move can turn the game around.

A position to strive for, and prevent the opponent from achieving, is the cross or T on the first level. A cross uses 5 balls, and requires 6 balls to block all the square and line threats. A T uses 4 balls, and requires 4 balls to block. Having a cross is obviously good because it lets you save one more ball in your reserve than your opponent. A T is also good, because he cannot move his blocking balls before you remove one of your balls making the T. This gives you more versatility of movement. Suppose a platform is formed, you might be able to use it for a raise before he does because his balls are ¨pinned¨.

After completing a square/line, one can remove 1 or 2 balls. It´s almost always best to remove 1 ball that is part of the newly formed square/line, so you can keep reforming the square/line until he blocks it. Removing the 2nd ball is a lot trickier, and this goes for raising a ball as well: if all the removable/raisable balls are in key and vital positions, it´s better to not remove/relocate any at all. If one of them is expendable, then remove/raise that one.

Everything else being equal, don´t place a ball that will complete a platform if the opponent has an ¨unpinned¨ ball that he can raise.

I can´t really explain why, but experience indicates that it´s usually not worth it to raise a ball to the 3rd level. Not until everything else is ¨settled¨ anyways (all the balls are locked/pinned, no more ball saving moves available).

player advantage
One of the neat things about Pylos is that it´s not clear which player has the advantage. Going first obviously gives you the edge in terms of controlling the board and creating lines and squares. However, your reserve is always one ball short of your opponent´s, until you manage to pull a ball saving move.

I have the Gigamic wooden version. The color of the black balls seem more artificial than natural (not very pleasant, glossy). But overall, the pieces have a decent quality and a nice solid touch to it. Verdict: coffee table quality.

I never play with the reduced variants.
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David Molnar
United States
New Jersey
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Cute review. Or something. I will keep an eye out for this one...
But, I guess one would need at least four of these to play Akron.

drunkenKOALA wrote:


I can´t really explain why, ...

I never said that.
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