Looney Pyramids, Part Two: Ice Duo
When last we looked at Andrew Looney’s latest production of his pyramid system, the results were spotty. Of the four games included in the introductory Nomids set, only one put the system to good use. The rest relegated their pyramids to glorified counters. Better to heed the advice of Sir Benjamin Wyatt: “It’s all about the ‘mids.”
How does the second set fare? Fifty-fifty. But to put that in context, that’s double the score!
2 players. Tagline: push-your-luck with pyramids.
There’s a good chance you’ve played something like Ice Dice, which is both a statement on its ease of entry and its lack of appeal. It’s familiar, but like a brother-in-law who doesn’t understand that staying over at your place the week between Christmas and New Year’s isn’t anyone’s idea of a refreshing holiday vacation.
It works like this. On your turn, you roll its pair of dice. These assign a color and a size that correspond to the pyramids in the bank, sometimes with a bit of wiggle room as to what exactly you’re allowed to claim. Don’t grab that ‘mid just yet. Your selected pyramid goes in the middle of the table. Now you choose: take the pyramid or roll again. If you roll a different color, you add another pyramid to the middle and make the game’s sole decision all over again. If you roll the same, everything you’ve earned this turn is lost back to the bank. As the pot grows larger, so too does the temptation to push onward or pull out.
That binary decision repeats until one player completes two sets of three like-colored pyramids. There’s some stealing once the bank runs low, and a smidgen of strategy whenever a wild is rolled, but that’s some watery broth no matter how many bouillon cubes you slide into the pot. The problem isn’t the push-or-bust gameplay. Rather, it’s that heaps of other games have done the same thing with more style despite not featuring a single pyramid. And it doesn’t help that this is yet another entry in Looney’s pyramid series that doesn’t leverage its titular system.
2 players. Tagline: AT LAST. PYRAMIDS.
I need to put my enthusiasm for Twin Win into context. Tucked into each of this series’ four boxes is an identical pamphlet explaining the Looney Pyramid system. Three sizes of pyramids, with identifying pips for the sizing-impaired. Two orientations, upright or flat. And three groupings: the trio, three pyramids of the same color; nests, when smaller pyramids disappear underneath larger pyramids so that only the largest is visible; and trees, when small pyramids pile atop larger ones until they resemble cartoon pines.
Twin Win is the first entry to actually utilize those last two groupings. Even better, nests and trees are central to every decision you’ll make. Even better than that, Twin Win also includes bluffing.
Imagine this. As Twin Win begins, there are five trees, each consisting of three different sizes and colors of pyramids. A single turn sees you moving two pyramids, either traveling clockwise around the board or using the middle space as a shortcut. Sometimes you’ll stack a small pyramid on top of a larger one, making futuristic high rises across the game’s ever-changing skyline. Other times larger pyramids will enfold smaller ones, hiding them from view. Or sometimes both will happen within the same stack, large pyramids atop small atop large atop small.
There’s a purpose to all this movement. Two purposes. Four, really, but only two of them are yours. A pair of objective cards, drawn at random during setup, and indicating which three pyramids of the same color you’re endeavoring to bring into conjunction. But more than merely putting them in proximity, it’s your task to secure their proper arrangement, whether as a nest or a tree.
Meanwhile, your opponent is doing the same. And since there’s no limitation on which pieces they can move, it behooves you to keep them from figuring out which arrangement you’re going for. Hence some light bluffing. Or bluffing like you’re bluffing, but you’re not bluffing. Or bluffing toward one of your colors while moving the other color only sporadically. Or not bluffing at all, and then wondering why your jerk opponent keeps winning so easily.
What’s so great about Twin Win isn’t only that it’s a genuine introduction to the pyramid system — although it is that. At last, it makes sense why all these pyramids are translucent. You can see the pyramids that might otherwise go overlooked! At last, it’s easy to see why Looney describes his ‘mids as a deck of cards. Because in addition to the Go Fish of the other titles, here’s a game worthy of buying a pack! But like I said, Twin Win isn’t only that. It’s also a clever spatial puzzle in its own right. What initially looks impossible soon becomes possible, then likely, then impossible again when your opponent happens to move that small red pyramid you needed. Was that their intention? Have they figured you out? Or are they going for the same color but in a different arrangement? The whole thing has a compelling edge, as thinky as it is compact.
Or maybe I’m just mesmerized by the ‘mids. Entirely possible. But after the letdown of the first few entries, it feels good to finally see what Looney Pyramids are all about.