WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 2-4
Published by: Synapses Games
Designed by: Ikhwan Kwon
This is a free review copy. See our review policy here.
There seems to be a lot of marketing support behind this new release from Synapses Games. The game arrived months before general release in fancy packaging, with four exclusive play mats. That's quite a fanfare for a board game. Ikhwan Kwon has made some cool games, but is not a huge name, and this is not a big box legacy or miniature filled monster. Just your normal abstract strategy board game. So, why the internal hype? Well, lets get it to the table and find out in this Pyramido board game review and how to play.
How To Set Up Pyramido
Getting Pyramido to the table is a thing is pure simplicity. The same goes for learning the game. The rule book is one of the best I have ever seen. It is quite long for such a simple game. 12 pages in total. But that is with well over 50% illustrations, and a beautifully constructed flow. You will get through it with no questions in minutes.
To set up, take all the tiles out of the box and give them a quick shuffle. Then separate them into four piles of roughly the same size, keeping three back, and pile them into a central area face up in a row of four. With the remaining three tiles, place these face up in front of the other four piles in the middle of each so you have three tiles in front of four piles. Give each player one of each of the six coloured wooden jewel marker pieces, and one of each of the three single tiles. You are now ready to play.
How To Play Pyramido
Starting with the last player to make a sand castle, players will now take it in turns to draw a tile from one of the three single tiles in the front of the other four piles. The chosen tile must be placed immediately in front of that player as they begin to form their own pyramid. You are working towards a 4x5 or 5x4 base. After you take a tile you must replace it with one of the two face up piles above from where you took your tile. You then must add one of your wooden Jewel markers that matches the symbol on the tile you just placed. Finally, if you want to, you can place one of your single tiles over one half of the domino you just placed if you want to change it. You only have three of these, and once placed they must remain in position until the end of the game. On your next turn, any subsequent tiles must be placed touching one of your existing dominos. Colours do not matter. But they must be connected with at least half of the tiles touching. No partial connections.
What you are looking to achieve is to create coloured groups of as many jewel symbols as possible. At the end of the round, when all the players have formed their bottom layer, the first scoring round takes place. You will score one point for each jewel in any area with jewel marker present. You will also score your lowest area twice. Any group without a jewel marker does not score. If you have left any single space gaps you must use your single tiles to complete this. If you cannot do this as you have already used them you immediately lose the game. So, don't do this!
The second round then begins where you will now build a second layer on top of the first layer in a 3x4 or 4x3 shape. Building up the pyramid shape leaving a gap on the outer edge of the previous level. At the end the second round you score as you did in the first, but this time, you can include the outer rim of the base layer that will still be visible. If any symbols on the base layer that are visible and connect to areas on the second layer of the same colour, these can be included in your scoring. Below you can see on the third level scoring the blue bird symbols connect all the way from the first level, through the second to the third. As does one of the green ones from the first level, even though there are not any on the second, the green area still connects. The placement of one of the single green tiles here has helped increase the green score by an extra three points.
The final forth round see's players adding just one tile on the top of the pyramid. It can be a make or break round where with careful planning, you can score a lot more than other players if they have not been as forward thinking, and in truth, lucky with the final selection of tiles available to you. The below tile added to the top scores an extra six points but if the blue single tile was still available you could get ten more. It was already used on the base layer though, as you can see on the top row below. But if there was no blue or green tile available and you had used all your single tiles, the scoring options greatly reduce in this situation.
After the fourth round, the four rounds of scoring are totalled up and the highest points wins.
Pyramido Board Game Review
Playing Pyramido feels very simple. Anyone who has played any domino style game before will very quickly adjust to the strategy and get into the flow of the game. You may miss the importance of placing symbols on the outside edges so they can continue to score for you through the rounds, but by game two you will be well aware of this. And from this moment on, you will realise that through the simplicity of this game, is a genuinely entertaining and rewarding experience.
Grouping tiles together to score points is not unique in board games in any sense. Carrying over actions from round to round to affect later game scoring is not new. But the strategy to build up in this way, round-by-round, focusing on the outer edges and building groups of colour that connect across multiple levels feels fresh. It creates interesting strategic decisions. And makes the scormg exciting and when done well, very satisfying.
As the area you build each round reduces in size from a 4x5 to a 1x2 in the final round, your scoring area stays the same. But you need to stay aware of the connection between the levels and how they interreact with each other because your ability to place down the jewel markers reduces and you can only score in the areas that these are present. In the final round you can only place one tile, and a maximum of two jewel markers so you need to maximise your chances and plan ahead.
With this, the three single tiles become very important. They are double sided so you have access to each of the six colours, and holding them back to the final round can be very useful. Being able to manipulate your final choice can increase your score by quite a lot. Earlier in the game, you can make most tiles work for you. By the final round, your intentions are clear for all to see and the three tiles available to you may not score well for you without these single tiles to adapt them.
Games of Pyramido take around 20 minutes in a two player match up. A little longer with more, but the game always feels fast. Turns are short and quick and the game will move at a real pace. The choice of which tile you move down into the available three is an interesting one. In a two player, you are often able to manipulate the situation to move tiles down that you want and can later use without interference. In a four player game, there are obviously more turns between your own, and the situation can change a lot more. This changes the strategy quite a bit. No longer are you able to manipulate your own situation as much, but you still need to pay attention to the player after you, to see what they need, and what tiles you can move down that would work for them or not.
My only criticism of the game is the tiles themselves. In a game where you are building a pyramid, I would like more height. The tiles are of a decent quality and absolutely fine for the game. It would just feel more thematic and look better aesthetically if the tiles were a little chunkier and offered more of a sense of building up as you work through the levels. These pyramids are a little flat!
However the game itself is faultless when it comes to rules, set up and gameplay. I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys tile laying and abstract strategy games who is looking for something that plays quickly, whilst still offering a game of substance. I think this is why the publisher is putting more effort into the marketing for this release. It hits that sweet spot that can be very popular amongst the board game community. I can see this game on release selling out all over and this game becoming part of many people's collection.