Dale Yu: Review of Pagoda



  • Designer: Arve D. Fuehler
  • Publisher: AEG / Pegasus
  • Ages: 8+
  • Players: 2
  • Time: 30-45 min

One of the new releases that I found at this year’s Origins was Pagoda – a nice 2 player abstract game released by AEG and Pegasus.  While I normally do not like to take too many 2p games as I honestly don’t have as many chances to play a game specifically for only 2, the demo that I got at the con from John convinced me to bring it home.  The game is an award winner, taking home the prize for best 2p game in the 2013 Hippodice competition.

The two players in the game are striving to build a row pagodas between them (to honor the upcoming visit of the Emperor), and try to do the best job at construction – and thus have the most victory points.  The board, which has 6 building sites, is placed in the middle of the table.  Players get an open display of 5 cards – one of each color in the game.  Additionally, players are dealt a hand of 2 cards at random.

pagoda box

Pagodas are built with square tiles, separated by wooden dowels.  The tile shows you which color of dowel needs to be used on that level.  Once the four dowels are on the card, a tile that matches the color of the dowels is placed on top of them.  When the fourth tile is to be placed on the pagoda, it is flipped over to show the “roof” of the pagoda.  There is only a single spot for a column here, and when this space is filled with a dowel, the pagoda is complete.

On your turn, you have three possible options – and you may do them as many times as you want and in any order.

1)      Construct a column – to do this, you play a card (either from your face up display or from your hand) and then play matching colored dowels to appropriate spots on the board.  You score a number of points equal to the level of the pagoda that the column was placed in.  You are OBLIGATED to play at least one column each turn, and you many not build more than 3 in a turn.  The cards you play are placed in front of the particular pagoda where the dowel was placed.

2)      Play a pagoda tile – once a lower floor is complete with 4 dowels of matching color on it, you can place a tile of matching color to start the next floor.  You play a card of matching color in front of that pagoda and then choose one of the tiles still available in the supply to play there.  You score 1VP per tile, regardless of level.  As an added bonus, you gain some special abilities when you place the tile.  You move the matching color marker on your Architect board all the way to the right – thus giving yourself two special actions associated with that color.  Note that the 4th and topmost tile is not built this way, as this is a “roof construction”

3)      Roof Construction – in order to do this, you must  be able to build both the 4th level tile (using the rules above), but you must also be able to finish the room by playing 2 colors matching the dowel color needed for the roof.  Thus, you must play three cards is total – one that matches the roof tile and two that match the roof dowel.  When you do this, you score a total of 6VP as well as gaining the special abilities for the color of the roof tile.


Again, you may do any or all of these actions as many times as you can (you will, of course, be limited by the cards you have – the 5 on the table and the two in your hand).  Remember that you MUST build at least one column each turn though.  If you do not like the above choices, you can do a special alternative turn where you discard any 4 cards from your hand and then place exactly one column anywhere you want on the board.

When you are done with your actions, you replenish your cards – first filling your face up five card display and then drawing face down cards to bring your hand back up to 2.

Special abilities – So what are the five special abilities?

  • Purple – when you replenish cards, you may draw up to 4 in your hand.
  • Yellow – at the start of a turn, you may discard any number of cards and then replenish the same number immediately
  • Green – you may use a pair of cards of one color to build a single column of another color
  • Blue – you may use a pair of cards of one color to build a tile of another color
  • Red – you may build up to 4 columns this turn (not just 3)

pagoda board

Again, each time you build a pagoda tile, you move your marker as far right as you can.  Thus, if you are already at the right edge of the Architect board, you will not gain any further special actions for a tile in that color.

The game continues until 3 pagodas are fully constructed and all players have had an equal number of turns.  The player with the most points wins the game.  There is no tiebreaker.

My thoughts on the game

This is a well constructed, easy to learn two player game.  I have played it with both of my boys, and it has proven to be an enjoyable way to pass the time.  Now that we are familiar with the game, I’d say that we are able to finish a game in about 20-30 minutes.

The amount of strategy in the game isn’t great, but for a quick game, there’s enough to keep me interested.  In the quest to score the most points, it becomes clear that you score more points for building columns on higher levels.  Thus, whenever possible, that’s what I try to do.

There is a bit of strategy though when you get close to finishing off a level though.  As you can see your opponent’s five table cards, you know most of what he has available to play.  Thus, you would like to try to limit his ability to score when possible.  If you can finish off a level and play a tile, you might choose a tile that needs a color that he does not have showing on the table.  Alternatively, if he has two cards of a particular color showing, you may not want to build the 3rd column on a space as then your opponent might be able to finish it off, build the next tile and then continue building more valuable columns above.   But, in the end, you really just try to have the matching colors when you need them.  You can shape your luck a bit with the purple special action, but barring that, you’d really just like to be lucky when drawing from the deck.   The five special actions are a nice mechanic – adding some special powers to an otherwise vanilla game.  Good tactical use of these special actions is generally what separates the winner from the loser.

The art is well done, simple and uncluttered.  The components are easy to read/understand, and the iconography is also clear.  The rules are easy to grok from a single read thru the rules.  Heck, the back of the box graphic is almost enough to get you started with the game!

While this will never be one of my favorite games due to its 2p-only nature, it is one that I am glad to have around in those rare times that I only have one other person around to game with this summer.  For me, it would have been nice for the game to offer a few more decision points along the way though.  The kids have used it to introduce some of their non-gaming friends to our hobby, and that has been nice as well.


Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

I love it. W. Eric Martin

I like it.

Neutral. Dale Y

Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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