Designers: Aaron Weissblum and Norman Woods
Publisher: R&R Games
Time: 15 minutes
Ages: 12 and up
Times Played: 3, with a copy provided by one of the designers
While I love most card games, Poker is just not one of them; I just don’t get the appeal over other classic card games. I was curious to try Pyramid Poker to see if it could improve on the Poker experience for me.
OVERVIEW OF THE GAME
The game does not come with a deck of cards; instead you are given 54 wooden blocks printed with the usual card suits and two blank blocks. The game starts with each player taking 15 blocks at random face-down into their hand; the remaining blocks are left face-down to the side.
Players then take turns selecting a block from their face-down hand and placing it on the pyramid. A block may be placed in any open space or centered on top of any two neighboring blocks. Blocks are placed so that the suit is facing the player who placed it and cannot be seen by the opposing player. This continues until both players have placed their blocks into a sort-of pyramid; the pyramid shape may not be a perfect pyramid due to the number of blocks.
Players now take turns selecting a block from the pyramid; one may choose any block that does not have another block on top of it, regardless of which way the block is facing. If the block is anything but a joker you must place it in one of your face-up hands; you will eventually have three face-up hands in front of you as the game progresses. If you draw one of the two jokers you discard it and turn 3 of the remaining face-down tiles face-up and choose one to add to one of your hands.
Once all the blocks have been chosen you compare each of your hands to your opponent’s hand using the provided chart of poker hand values; if you win at least two you have won the game. You can also choose to play the advanced game, where each hand is worth a certain number of points – from -1 point to 5 points; you play several rounds, until one player has reached seven points (short game) or eleven points (long game).
This is an enjoyable, light-weight game for 2. The components are well-produced and the rules are clear. While some may think this is an entirely luck-based game, there is definitely some strategy in how you place your tiles; you may want to try to leave yourself certain blocks near each other, or you may want to place strategically to ensure your opponent doesn’t have too many tiles that they can see close together. When you select blocks you also have some interesting choices in trying to decide whether to take a block that you know will work for you or whether to try to limit your opponent’s choices as well as how and when to formulate your hands. You can customize the length, too – just one game if you only have a few minutes, the advanced game if you have a few more minutes to devote to the game.
I like this much more than I would enjoy a hand of poker, and I will enjoy this as a quick filler or option for a game when I don’t have much time, as well as a game that could easily be taught to non-gamers.
THOUGHTS OF THE OPINIONATED GAMERS
Dale Y: (2 plays) – this is an interesting two player game that adds a bit of strategy/gamerification to the standard game of Poker. It turns out to be pretty accessible as most people are at least familiar with the concepts of poker and the general ranking of hands. From this base point, it’s not hard to jump into the rest of the game. I have played each method of scoring once, and thus far, I prefer the more advanced game where each hand is worth a different point value. It does give you something to shoot for when building your hands.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
4 (Love it!):
3 (Like it): Tery N., Dale Y
1 (Not for me):