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Another light-hearted, gently challenging game from Tim Roediger and Gamewright

Box, Pyramid and cubes
Box, Pyramid and cubes
Publisher (Gamewright Games)

Pyramix

Rating:
Star4
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There's a bit of a numbers game inherent in Gamewright's Pyramix that may not be immediately evident as you peruse the rules and prepare to play. You set up a 56-cube pyramid, and each player, on his/her turn pulls one of the cubes off the pyramid, until there's only a single, 21-cube base layer left, at which point, a scoring process will determine which players get to claim certain cubes off of the base layer. After all cubes have been dispensed, cube values are added for each player and the one with the most, wins. It's that scoring process as the pyramid reaches its final base layer that invokes the numbers game.

There are four types of cubes, three of which have scoring values - the ankhs (worth 1 point each), the cranes (worth 2 points) and the eyes (3 points). There are four Cobra cubes which are not worth points at all; existing primarily to inhibit the turn-by-turn selection process. Here are the numbers: There are 32 ankh cubes in the game, eight each of blue, purple, orange and green. There are 16 cranes, four each of the four colors. There are only four eyes, one in each color. So the cubes worth the least (ankhs) are the most plentiful, while there is only one each of the cubes with the highest value (the eyes). The number of cranes (and their value) is midway between the number of ankhs and eyes (16). All of these cubes are going to spill onto the pyramid randomly at the start of the game, and players should take steps to assure this randomness. When you're done with this game, each player is going to have a pile of them, sorted by type and color, and if you don't scramble them altogether for a subsequent (maybe later) play of the game, you're going to have a pyramid with clumps of the same types of cubes.

It would be nice if the revealed bottom layer of this pyramid did not have a Cobra on it, but you'd want to guard against that happening on purpose. It might be interesting if all four eyes were in the bottom layer, but you'd want to assure that that didn't happen on purpose either. The randomness of the original construction improves this game's playability, in my opinion.

So, pretty simple, right? Build the pyramid, start deconstructing it, one cube at a time, until only the bottom layer exists. The 'wild card' in this is the ankhs. Each player will have pulled a number of ankhs off the pyramid during normal play. Whoever has the most ankhs of any given color will be able to remove all cubes of that color from the 21-cube bottom layer of cubes before scoring. If Player A has four purple ankhs and Player B has only three, Player A will be able to take all purple cubes (other ankhs, cranes or eyes of that color) from the bottom layer. Each color of ankhs is assessed this way, until all cubes have been removed from the bottom layer. Ties result in nobody being able to take those color cubes off the base layer. Players add up the points associated with the cubes in their possession at the end, and the player with the highest point total is the winner.

Cobras, as you might expect them to be, are something of a nuisance. During normal play, Cobra cubes prohibit a player from taking a cube that is adjacent to it (on a flat side). This can preclude the extraction of up to six surrounding cubes. You can grab a Cobra cube off the pyramid at any time, but it has no point value. It does, however, possess some tactical value, as it may open up certain cubes for extraction that were previously unavailable. Of course, those cubes become available after a player has removed the Cobra, making it beneficial to the next, not the active player. Any Cobras left on the bottom layer of the pyramid, as the extraction part of the game comes to a close, will cause any cubes adjacent to it (them) to be removed, before the player ankhs are totaled for the purpose of removing further cubes from the bottom layer.

It should be noted that you will not be deconstructing this pyramid in a strict top-to-bottom way. You will, on your turn, be allowed to remove cubes from lower layers of the pyramid, as long as the removal does not include one of the 21 cubes at the base. The cubes above the cube you remove from a lower layer will slide downward to fill the space. To be eligible for removal at all, a cube has to have at least two sides visible, and, as noted earlier, not be adjacent to a Cobra cube.

In any normal random distribution scenario, you would think that each player would get more or less an equal number of cubes of the different types. In a four-player game, for example, you might expect each player to end up with about four of the 16, two-point cranes, or one of the four, three-point eyes. The aforementioned numbers game comes in when you consider that you will only be extracting 35 cubes from the 56-cube pyramid, and there is no way to determine which 35 of the 56 will be part of the original pyramid, above the 21-cube base. There could be (though highly unlikely to be) 16 cranes, four eyes and a single ankh in the base layer. If the base layer had 21 ankhs (again, possible, but highly unlikely), that would leave only 11 available for extraction from the upper levels. The color variations complicate this even further. If that hypothetical base of 21 ankhs were made up of all eight orange ankhs, all eight blue ankhs, and five green ankhs, you'd only have green (3) and purple ankhs (all eight) among the players to consider for scoring purposes. In other words, 16 of the 21 cubes (orange and blue ankhs) in the base would not be claimed (nobody would have any orange or blue ankhs at the end, since they're all in the base). Not only that, but players in possession of purple ankhs would be out of luck, because even if they had the most, they couldn't claim any off the hypothetical base (there aren't any). In the end (of this highly unlikely, hypothetical scenario), players would compare their green ankhs (there are only three of them to compare) and if any one player had either two or all three of them, he/she would add only five points to their score (claiming the five green ankhs in the base).

This is actually a good thing. It highlights the fact that each game is going to be a little different because of the random distribution of the cubes when the pyramid is initially constructed. You will be able to see 15 of the 21 cubes in the base when the game starts (six are hidden under other cubes), giving you an idea as to which color ankhs to seek during the extraction process. You'd look to see if there's a majority color among the 15 base cubes you can see, and looking to claim those six, you'd want to claim as many of that same color's ankhs as you can from the pyramid. A hidden Cobra among the six base cubes you can't see at the start could throw your calculations off a bit, because that hidden Cobra will eliminate any adjacent cubes before they can be claimed.

You will, of course, look to get as many eye cubes off the pyramid as you can; they, being of the most value, and you'll want to get cranes off the pyramid, too, when you can. But you'll want to keep up with ankh collections, as well, because there's no telling how many points having the most ankhs of any given color will net you at the end when the full base is revealed. This is why it's imperative that you start the game by assessing the 15 cubes (out of 21) that you can see in the base. This gives you at least a starting idea.

Some of your extractions from the pyramid are going to be dictated by the positioning of the game's four Cobra cubes; restricting your moves. Others will be restricted by having only one cube face showing. All of it is going to be controlled by your awareness of the numbers game; asking yourself how many of each color cube you can see in the base layer, how many ankhs you'll need to control a color, and claim those colors from the base. Find the eyes, and grab the cranes, but be aware of the ankhs.

It's a quick game, easily within the 15-minute time noted on the box. Until you've actually played a time or two, you're not likely to catch on to the numbers game, and it may seem like all process, and little thinking; remove a cube, wait for your next turn, repeat. Even with the thinking, it isn't going to burn a lot of brain cells. Hidden depths, but not really over anybody's head.

Pyramix is designed by Tim Roediger, who designed Dweebies for Gamewright, as well (a game I described similarly in an earlier review as being "more of a challenge than a first look might indicate.") It can be played by 2-4 players, 8 and up. It can be purchased for under $20 at a number of locations. It hasn't been out long enough to get much of a response from BoardGameGeek; only three ratings to date - an 8, a 7, and a 6 - giving it an early average 7.