My pyramid games journal
P.D. Magnus
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I remember reading about Icehouse pieces years ago in Games magazine. I didn't have a chance to play any of the games, however, until I started acquiring pieces. This geeklist is a list of Icehouse games I've tried, in the order that I've tried them.

Note that I tried a couple of Icehouse games on-line, but I'm only using this list to track the ones I've played with physical pyramids.

Update feb2011: LooneyLabs is now rebranding the system to be Looney Pyramids, so I've changed the title of this list. Although I'll try to edit some of the entries, I may still sometimes refer to them as Icehouse pieces.
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1. Board Game: Treehouse [Average Rating:5.82 Overall Rank:4351]
P.D. Magnus
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I started by buying one Treehouse tube, so this is the first game I tried. It seems random and not terribly fun.

I has been described as being like Fluxx with pyramids, but that's only true in some abstract way. Both games are luck driven in a way that makes planning pretty much impossible. Treehouse, however, lacks the zany chaos that makes Fluxx enjoyable.
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2. Board Game: Moon Shot [Average Rating:5.17 Unranked]
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This is a light dexterity game. Not much here, though: Even with practice, there is only so much control you can get over where the pyramids go after you tip the stack. There really isn't any player interaction, and so not much strategy.

These aren't damning criticisms, of course, because it's only meant as an amusing diversion. And it's good for that.
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3. Board Game: Zendo [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:498]
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This game is brilliant.

It requires real concentration, even moreso than an abstract strategy game. You don't really have the option of just making some moves and seeing what happens.

This is not so much a criticism as a fact about the game, but it does mean that I need to be in the right kind of mood to play the game.
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4. Board Game: CrackeD ICE [Average Rating:5.53 Overall Rank:8829]
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Another dexterity game.

It requires a delicate touch, making it fun to watch other people take their turns. There is definitely player interaction, too, since you can place pieces in ways that are precarious so as to hose the next person.

All of the pyramid games are pretty to look at, because of the Icehouse pieces. This one especially so. The mirrored surface of the CD and the tight arrangement of pyramids looks like something out of an old science fiction movie.

We play with a variant that allows players to place pyramids either upright or flat on the platform.
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5. Board Game: Blam! [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:6732]
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This one came highly recommended.

The rules are simple and easy to understand, but interact in interesting ways. For example, there's the choice between scoring points and recovering pieces.

Played this as a two-player game, but I want to try it with more.
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P.D. Magnus
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This one is a bit of a stretch, but Andy Looney set the precedent when he made up Martian Hold'em. His game is just poker, but with Icehouse pyramids instead of poker chips.

Magnate is a Decktet game in which players collect resources of six different types. Today my Xeno sets arrived, giving me enough colours to use pyramids as the resource tokens. So today we played Martian Magnate.

[Mar 11, 2009]
 
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7. Board Game: Logger [Average Rating:6.77 Unranked]
P.D. Magnus
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Played two-player and lost.

It took us a while to realize the power of protesters, but for the last turn I was sandwiched in place between protester-filled trees while my opponent was free to score the winning chop.
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8. Board Game: Tic Tac Doh! [Average Rating:5.80 Overall Rank:8143]
P.D. Magnus
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This was quick playing but interesting. Unlike old school tic-tac-toe, Doh! doesn't degenerate into an inevitable draw. The end game requires some thought and consideration.

Yet it is certainly solvable. With complex but theoretically solvable games like chess, nobody can actually implement the perfect game. Tic Tac Doh! is simple enough, though, that I think an informed player could learn the relevant patterns. Then the one player would always win, whichever of first or second is determined to have a winning strategy by the structure of the game.
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9. Board Game: Blokus [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:367]
P.D. Magnus
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When she first saw the pyramids, a friend of mine insisted that we should make a game that uses them together with Blokus pieces. I devised rules for such a game, and last night several of us tried it out. We played through an entire game, but decided halfway through that several rules need to be changed.

It doesn't have a name yet, but suggestions included 'Canals', 'Lockus', and 'Terminal Ice Block'.
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10. Board Game: Twin Win [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:6821]
P.D. Magnus
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If you try to attain your goal directly, the other player will be able to thwart you. Yet, if you feint too much, you might just arrange the other players goal for them. The result (in the games I've played so far) is that players meander around, nudging things, until somebody gets a chance to win. It has a similar feel to Fluxx and Chrononauts in this regard.
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11. Board Game: Martian Coasters [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:4372]
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Fun but light-weight. Good for when I'm in the mood for something thinking optional. Played as a 2-played game, it can easily come down to die rolls at the end.
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12. Board Game: Black Ice [Average Rating:5.61 Overall Rank:8763]
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This is a bit like Treehouse, but with an element of hidden information and bluffing. This extra aspect was enough to make the game enjoyable.

Two complaints: First, the Treehouse dice are a poor fit for this game. All of the die results are stretched, especially "Aim" which in Black Ice means "Same."

Second, this is only available in the 3House rules booklet - but I am not convinced that this game alone justifies the purchase. (The two other games in 3House are available for free on the web.)
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13. Board Game: Thin Ice [Average Rating:5.17 Overall Rank:9622]
P.D. Magnus
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This is a decent stacking game. I would be more impressed if I had not already played CrackeD ICE. This game (unlike Cracked Ice) is mostly about learning specialized stacking moves that allow you to put pieces on top of one another without nesting. Cracked Ice requires a steady hand and a good eye for balance, which are easier to pick up. Plus, this game adds an explicit player elimination mechanic which can leave people on the sidelines if you start with three or more players. So I'd only play this if I didn't have a CD to use for Cracked Ice.
 
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14. Board Game: Martian Backgammon [Average Rating:5.83 Unranked]
P.D. Magnus
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There is a little bit of strategy here, but not much. In our game, the player who moved first won by half a turn. It works better as a two-player game than Martian Coasters, and to fill that thinking-optional niche I might (just might) play it again.
 
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15. Board Game: RAMbots [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:5393]
P.D. Magnus
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Since my wife loves RoboRally, this was the game originally convinced me to start collecting pyramids. For various reasons, it's taken us this long to try it.

I was worried that having the different colors arbitrarily associated with different powers would be confusing, but it wasn't really. The game was much tighter and competitive than two-player RoboRally. I will certainly play again.
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16. Board Game: Volcano [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:2038]
P.D. Magnus
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Reading the rules and considering my own predilections, I didn't expect to like this one. The packing cardboard from Small World was the perfect size for a Volcano board, though, so I decided to give it a try.

I was pleasantly surprised. I lost our first two-player game, and we both immediately wanted to play again. This is fun.

Although it's thinking intensive, this is not a game that requires looking several moves ahead. There is some strategy in the color collecting, but mostly it's a matter of making the move which scores the most for you immediately while strangling your opponent's options for their next turn.
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17. Board Game: Zark City [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:5443]
P.D. Magnus
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I now realize that I have no ability to guess in advance whether or not I'll like a game. I was pleasantly surprised with Volcano, and have been happy to play several more times. I just tried Zark City, which I expected to like, and I'm somewhat mystified.

It took us a game to sort all the rules out, but the second game resulted in a stalemate. My opponent kept drawing to cycle cards, making attacks, and suborning my pieces. Nevertheless, I had enough pieces on the board to stop her from controlling a power block. Although she seemed to have a material advantage, it was not at all clear how she could convert into a win.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but it would take a revelation to make us try this one again. Still, there is one up side to this outcome: I don't have to find space for a deck of playing cards in my box of pyramid stuff.
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18. Board Game: IceTowers [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:3169]
P.D. Magnus
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This is my first try with one of the boardless, realtime pyramid games. It was less frantic and athletic than I expected it to be. Although there is some timing and 'twitch' involved, there is also a good deal of thoughtfulness and strategy.

The obvious thing is to use your 3-pip pyramids quickly but to carefully ration your 1-pip pyramids. There is also strategy in burying bigger pieces so that you'll be able to mine and split later - and that's a layer to the game I am only just beginning to reckon with.

I'd like to play this again, although I don't know if I'll have an appropriate group again anytime soon.
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19. Board Game: Dectana [Average Rating:7.50 Unranked]
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Tried this over the Summer, but forgot to add it to the list.

I played two three-player games. I can't count the first game for too much. Since none of us had played Zarcana or Gnostica before, the first game was a learning round.

In both games, two players ended up too close together and in conflict. The third player stayed above the fray to win. Would it work better with an even number of players?

Given the number of turns required to set up and then carry out an attack, defensive arrangements seemed effectively impregnable. Perhaps more experienced players would have attacked before defenders got into position. I'm not sure.
 
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20. Board Game: Drip [Average Rating:5.10 Unranked]
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Tried this one after a game of CrackeD ICE, when people still wanted to play with the pyramids but didn't want to do any thinking. There was more game here than I expected. There is both luck and dexterity involved in making a drop well, and sometimes they stick in ways that look impossible. Although there is player elimination, it only happens when the game is nearly over.

This one doesn't justify getting out the pyramids - and it won't be possible at all with the new packaging - but it is a game I would play again. Quick, fun, and a bit madcap.
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21. Board Game: IceDice [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:4448]
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A decent press-your-luck game. Unlike some games in the genre, I think a slow-and-steady approach strongly dominates over recklessness.

It's decent, and I'd play it again.
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22. Board Game: Ziggurat Demolition Throwdown [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
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This is one of my own designs. It's sort of a reimplementation of Cosmic Tilt, using pyramids and the Decktet. Pyramids of different colours correspond to different basic powers, which allow you to play matching cards either for attack or defense.

It's at a stable point, but it needs to be played more.
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