Sometimes a game grows beyond it’s initial incarnation to become something more. Looney Pyramids began in a short story written by a young Andrew Looney in 1987, and over the following 35 years it has evolved through numerous incarnations to become a full fledged game system. As such, a single review seems insufficient, and so we present Looney Saturday, a regular, bimonthly, look at a different Pyramid game.
We technically started with “A Primer, Abridged” which is a great place to start if you’ve never played a Pyramid game. But for our first actual review, we going to look at not one, but two games. Ice Dice and Twin Win, collectively packaged as Ice Duo.
I want to start off by saying I’m a huge fan of every Looney Labs pyramid game I’ve played so far. The instructions are so well written and there’s little to no confusion on how to play the game, or when strange occurrences pop up, they will mostly have an answer. Ice Duo is made up of 2 games made by the company: Ice Dice and Twin Win. I’ll start with Ice Dice.
When my friend Dave first introduced me to these games, I fell in love instantly. Every game I have played so far is purely luck based or quick to learn strategies. Mind you, there are lots of games using Pyramids I’ve yet to try, so I’m sure I will retract that statement eventually. Now when I play with Dave, he tends to kick my butt…every single time…so I don’t get the full experience of winning these strategy games until I make someone else play me. Thankfully, I seem to win over my family members so I can safely say I have experienced winning and that satisfaction.
I always get so excited when friends ask me to bring games over, I’ve started to always bring at least one Looney Lab pyramid game. I think a lot of them are great warm up games to get your brain in the right mindset for longer more intense games. Looney Labs definitely has more intense strategy games in Pyramid Arcade and the Pyramid Quartet, but I am referring to games like Ice Dice and Twin Win. I find both these games are great as party games or warmups for more intense games later on.
For Ice Dice you need 2 dice; one that has solid-coloured symbols on each side (aka a “Color Die”) and one that has pyramids matching the sizes of the game pieces and the pyramids (aka a “Pyramid Die”)! The version I have, came with 2 trios of each colour for a total of 30 pyramids, that works for 2 player games but if you want to add a third player you need to add a trio of each colour, which would total 45 pyramids (according to the official Looney Labs website and rules).
The game is simple, you want to be the first one to collect 3 single colour trios before your opponent. But how on earth do you complete such a simple task you may ask. Well, let me tell you.
The game is set up by putting all the pyramid trios on the side of the table, that area will be called the bank. Then you start rolling the dice and testing your luck. You roll both dice, and it will indicate to you which pyramid you can potentially take. For example, if you rolled a yellow star and a pyramid with one dot, you would take the yellow small pyramid. Any pyramids you collect when rolling goes into the center of the table called the counter. At any point before rolling the dice you can say you want to stop and can collect all the pyramids from the counter and put them in front of you. That area is called your vault. If you roll an atom-icon instead of a colour, you can pick a pyramid of any colour that isn’t already on the counter.
Now here is the catch; if you roll and collect a pyramid that matches a colour that is already on the counter you “bust out”. Which means all pyramids collected that turn are returned to the bank and your turn has ended.
If you are rolling and the pyramid you’ve rolled isn’t in the bank, you are allowed to steal from someone else’s vault, and if you bust out all pyramids stolen from your opponent will go back into the bank, not back into their vault.
This game is silly and fun. The quick pace and minimal strategy mean this is a great warm up game and almost any age can play it stress free. You may make a few enemies if you steal from their banks, but you can always just blame the dice.
Onto Twin Win, this game will require the small deck of custom cards, game board and one of each coloured pyramid trio. This can only be a 2-player game.
For set up, you need to shuffle the deck and deal 2 cards to each player and to stack pyramids into 5 trees, all with different coloured pieces and place them on the square spaces on the board. (e.g., red large piece, yellow medium piece and purple small piece)
The goal of the game is to complete one of the secret goals in your hand. Each card will ask for a completed tree or nest of the same colour and you need to complete one of your card’s goal before the other person. Bluffing is very important in this game so the opponent does not know what cards you may hold in your hand.
Players take turns moving either 2 pieces one space or 1 piece 2 spaces. Any piece can be moved that is on the top of the stack of pyramids. Pyramids can be stacked in any order, so big pyramids can cover smaller ones. Or, instead of moving a piece, you can use an action to draw a new goal card. The moment you or your opponent create one of your goals, you announce it and flip over the card and you win! The goals can be created on top or below other pyramids but the 3 pyramids in your goal need to be in the correct order with no different coloured pyramids in the middle.
This one takes some strategy, which makes it a great starter game for your game’s night with friends and family.
One thing I also love about Ice Duo is how compact and easy to travel the game is. I can throw the box in my bag and I know I will have a fun game to play anywhere with a friend. This particular duo is meant for two people, so it is best for one-on-one meetings. I would love it if Looney Labs made an expansion so more could play. But for right now, with COVID 19 precautions in place, 2 person games makes sure we are all safe. [Editors note: there are tons of ways to gain more Pyramids, including Pyramid Arcade, the other Pyramid Quartet games, and numerous out-of-print options. Just not a stand-alone expansion for this. -dc]