Looney Pyramids have been a fixture in board gaming for over 20 years. That’s kind of a staggering thing to put into perspective considering how much the landscape has changed in that time. Interest has waxed and waned as it does, but a few years ago Pyramid Arcade’s success on Kickstarter demonstrated that plenty of people still wanted to see just what these little things can do. And as I’m always behind the curve, I didn’t get in on that.
But now I have! I have been playing with pyramids lately. A lot. So much so in fact that I’ve now played every game featured in the arcade. All 23* of them, a minimum of once, a maximum of dozens of times. No exaggeration. Writing that out and reading it back, good lord that is a lot of pyramids.
As an officially recognized Starship Captain I feel it is my duty to inform prospective Space Cadets what they’re getting into, so I’ve taken it upon myself to rank them all. Yes, all of ’em. And of course I’m putting them in a numbered list. Let it never be said that I don’t understand what the internet wants. We’ll be starting with the negative opinions and working our way up for two reasons: I generally like the games in PA and want to get the not-great ones out of the way, and because negativity is another thing that internet people really love. I won’t judge, don’t worry. We’re counting down!
EVERY PYRAMID ARCADE GAME RANKED
Fumbling around in the bag to identify the size of pieces and hoping to pull the right-colored ones has the potential to be a great gimmick. Sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you don’t. Unfortunately, Powerhouse massively overstays its welcome to the point of being a slog due to a combination of crabs in a bucket syndrome, the aforementioned randomness, and the most non-intuitive rules of any game in PA. This is my least favorite game in the box and the only one that I won’t revisit if asked. Maybe I just don’t get it, but it put me off enough that I don’t care to. Strangely it appears to be the only one without an official Board Game Geek listing, which may be for the best.
22: Give or Take
A weak dice game that can end in 3 turns or 300. There are other games in the list that succeed at what this game attempts. Very little else to say on this one, other than that it isn’t really worth your time.
I recognize that this is probably a sacrilegious opinion among pyramid heads, but Treehouse just isn’t worth the rules overhead and fiddliness for what you get. Its use of its namesake die is arguably the worst depth: complexity in PA. Each of the 5 moves requires its own explanation, and early plays of the game will be fraught with “no you can’t do that” and “wait, hold on” as you tell other players why they have to undo their move that they were excited to perform. Eventually players get to the point where the dice are second nature, but even then it just isn’t as satisfying as other games in the arcade. Couple that with how variable the playtime is, with games ending anywhere from a minute in to indeterminate depending on rolls, and you can start to see why I’m not hot on this one.
All that being said, I do appreciate Treehouse for being a lot of people’s introduction to pyramids. I played it once a while back, years before the arcade was even close to being announced. But it was never the game that stuck out in my memory, only the pieces themselves. I was excited to revisit Treehouse when I realized what it was but there are so many better options available in PA that I don’t see why this one should be bothered with.
I love all kinds of dexterity games, and stacking games are some of the best. Generally speaking the best stacking games have interactive game states that generate tension as structures get increasingly precarious. Verticality doesn’t have this, and as a result isn’t all that interesting. Building isolated towers with no input from anyone else turns this into little more than an endurance match of whose hands are steadiest. The cards and pyramids stack well and stacking things is generally a fun activity, but when there’s no real difference between playing this solo or with a full table it can feel hollow. Plus you don’t even get to stack the pyramids themselves!
19: Launchpad 23
I don’t dislike Launchpad 23. It’s fine. Unfortunately “fine” just isn’t up to par with the majority of the games in the arcade. In this case it’s the action economy that throws me off. Rolling the multi-pyramid sides or wild on the color die gives you selection when you otherwise wouldn’t have it, which is neat, but having it also give you more action points is baffling. I am very much a fan of dice as we’ll see later in the list, but the implementation here just feels lopsided to the point of making the game a bit unsatisfying when someone gets a lucky break.
18: Ice Dice
Reasonable little push your luck game. Doesn’t really make the best use of pyramids as it’s just a set collection game, but it does have a fun twist with the bank taking back stolen pieces even if you bust. Average.
Hijinks marks the point in the list where we transition from games that are “fine” to games that are “good” or better. Hijinks itself falls exactly halfway between both of these. Sometimes it’s a clever dice-driven abstract with a lot of action and reaction, other times it’s a dumb dice activity that ends almost instantly. There tends to be a lot of undoing what the previous player did but the die won’t let you do that as often as you may initially think, which keeps the gamestate moving. If Hijinks didn’t have a significant chance of fizzling out immediately it would have landed higher on the list, but as it stands its inconsistency keeps it at the borderline.