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Subject: A misunderstood and incorrectly played game. rss

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Robert .
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Royal Oak
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I've come to the conclusion that this game is entirely undeserving of its poor rating here. Talking with people, and carefully listening to their complaints, i've found that the people that score this game low, fall into one or more of the following camps.

1) People that misunderstood or misinterpreted the rules. (I can see why they do, the rules are vague, require study, and perhaps clarification)

2) People that ignored the critical "11 Card" rule. (Meaning you MUST score a pyramid over 11 cards immediately)

3) People that neglect the incredibly fun, and all important "Negotiation" phase of the game. (doing this, is like gutting 25% of the game, considering some games are based entirely off a similar system, it would be silly to think you could ignore this. Its a LOT of fun too!)

Generally, i've yet to run into ANYONE that rated it poorly that I wasn't able to put into one of these camps. Heck, one guy I talked to said "I did the math, there aren't enough cards! So I rated the game low based on my figures.". zombie

Some people complain of game length, which is puzzling given that the time of the game is measured by how often you score pyramids. I think this MAY tie into the common mistake of people hording and continuing with illegal super-pyramids ignoring the 11 card rule - thus breaking the game. Generally when we play, we've scored 6-7 pyramids within the first 20 minutes of play, putting us about 75% through with the game! Our sessions generally clock in at 30 minutes, but can be pushed out to 45 minutes if we add in a new player or two that needs to check our turn-aid every 2 seconds.

So is 30-45 minutes too long? No.. Ticket to Ride, which offers less interaction, less mechanics, and very little player interaction can last 60-90 minutes. So why critisize this game for lasting 30-45 when it has more mechanics and systems?

I think after further sessions in this game, my rating will actually INCREASE from 8 on this one. We'll see how it holds up over the long term, but the desire for it to hit the table is intense around our game group.
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Denise Lavely
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Carmel
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I agree, this game isn't nearly as bad as people think. It doesn't rate quite as high for me as it does for you, but I enjoy it.

I used to sell SimplyFun (not anymore, real life got too busy) and taught this game to a LOT of people. One thing you don't mention that seems to put a lot of casual gamers off is the math in the scoring. Add the digits, then multiply by the number of rows - doesn't seem to phase us geeky ol' hardcore gamers but it's a little more math than most non-gamers seem to enjoy.

One thing with the 11 Card Rule - you don't IMMEDIATELY score any pyramid that hit 12 cards, you do it at the beginning of your turn only. If you start the turn with an 12+ card pyramid, you must score it before you can do anything else on your turn. But if you start the turn with a pyramid of 11, you can build it up as big as you can for that one turn only and you will score it at the beginning of your next turn. Theoretically you could build as high as 19 cards! (11 plus the 7 in your hand plus the 1 you draw during your turn, but this is extraordinarily unlikely that ALL these would be playable.)

This is actually one of the nicer points of the game, especially with the negotiation aspect. The other players aren't going to trade you that 8 to top off your pyramid so readily when you already have a big pyramid! So you try to arrange things so you can have as many of the cards you need for that last big push by the turn BEFORE, then do your trading before you lay down your usable cards in hand. And even then, your opponents get wary pretty quick!! In this way, you can potentially build one of those mega-pyramids, but it will take you several turns to set it up. And if your opponents are going for smaller but high point pyramids in the meantime, it may well not be worth it, especially if your mega-pyramid consists of a lot of low numbers.

I've seen people win building a few mega-pyramids, and I've seen people win building lots of smaller ones, both strategies seem to have advantages. The real key is to focus on the higher point cards, the strategy you pursue should have more to do with what will work best to maximize your higher point cards. Sometimes that will be lots of small pyramids, sometimes a few big ones, just depends on the other cards in your hand. Either way tho, it's all good - or at least a lot better than a lot of people seem to think!
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Robert .
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I agree on all points. This game is fairly complex, and each turn has many options available, which throws off people. Furthermore, the options and strategies aren't readily apparent until you wrap your head around it.

A couple plays really isn't enough to grasp it, especially when I find MOST people play it incorrectly, or get several rules wrong.

I taught this game again last night, the people I instructed really enjoyed the game. I'm not a SimplyFun consultant, but just so happens I wanted to teach it to a new gaming group I started. Anyway, the consensus was, this game is really really cool once you understand how turns take place.
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Steve Oliver
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Denise wrote:
One thing you don't mention that seems to put a lot of casual gamers off is the math in the scoring. Add the digits, then multiply by the number of rows - doesn't seem to phase us geeky ol' hardcore gamers but it's a little more math than most non-gamers seem to enjoy.


Good point! This is exactly why I got the game in the first place because I teach the game to my daughter's fifth grade class during the weekly math games hour. The combination of basic math and repetition make it very useful as a math drill, but the gameply and cartoonish graphics are what attract the students to play the game. I can see where some older players might not appreciate all the math, but the kids love this game. Another way that we get in some math is that each player keeps score for everyone. This is not only a little extra practice, but serves as a reminder to how they are doing in the game.

As Robert says, it's important to explain the game to new players since it's so easy to overlook the many options and the need for negotiation. And with the changing scoring requirements, it's important to sit in the entire game to make sure they continue to get things right. The end-game with the shuffling of the pharaoh card is another rule that's easy to miss.

The game does drag on a bit though, at least with students (my group is 10 year olds). They get into the negotiation part quite a lot, and also there's the counting and re-counting of their pyramids (a good thing for a math game!). It takes the full hour to get through the game.
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Robert .
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steveoliverc wrote:
The game does drag on a bit though, at least with students (my group is 10 year olds). They get into the negotiation part quite a lot, and also there's the counting and re-counting of their pyramids (a good thing for a math game!). It takes the full hour to get through the game.


I can see it lasting an hour if they do this. But is that so bad? Ticket to Ride can last 1-2 hours, and offers almost no interaction, and is essentially a "Go through the motions" solitare game for most of it.

Another important thing to remember is that Oh Pharaoh never makes the claim to be a Fluffy-Light and fast filler. The game packs so many mechanics, and good solid gameplay, we consider it a staple non-filler around here.

With that being said, we can STILL get through most games in 30 minutes or so with 3-4 people that have at least played it once or twice.
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Steve Oliver
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Kobra1 wrote:
I can see it lasting an hour if they do this. But is that so bad?


Nope, not a bad thing at all.
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Robert .
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This one continues to RISE in ratings for us.. Played with 4 people that totally understand the game, and this is quite stunning in execution! 4 aggressive traders, and it becomes bliss!

Raised to a 9 in my ratings, about the top it can be for me considering the sloppy rules.
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Tracy Smith
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steveoliverc wrote:
Kobra1 wrote:
I can see it lasting an hour if they do this. But is that so bad?


Nope, not a bad thing at all.


So those who have played this game multiple times, a question:

Is it necessary to add the end game card and shuffle the deck when the pawn hits the last scoring tile? Or can the game just end when the pawn reaches the end with little change to the strategy or gameplay feel?
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Timothy Young
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Great discussion guys! Thanks for the insights. I've had this game for about a year now and still haven't brought it to the table yet. Your comments here have really renewed my desire to give it a go!
 
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