Die Pyramiden des Jaguar
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Two players try to reconstruct the lost Jaguar Pyramids in Central America. In order to do this, the two must offer each other artifacts, which they must then build into their own pyramid. The artifact cards must be laid out two at a time. The opponent chooses one for their pyramid and you get the other to add to your pyramid. In order to build the pyramid, you must put the cards in ascending order. And if none of the two offered pieces fits, you have to cover a pyramid piece already placed. That takes time--and helps the opponent's explorer. Whoever finishes their pyramid first may also advance their explorer. Whoever advances their explorer the furthest wins this tricky game.
Average Rating: 3.8 in 5 reviews
I've seen some high praise for this game, but I to caution that it's on the dry, mathematical side. It's a great Kosmos Two-Player game for fans of, for example, Torres, and although I've never played Pacal, I understand it's based on that. There is a deck of cards numbered 1 through 40, and each player is dealt 15 of them to start. Each player also has a pyramid that they must slowly fill with cards, trying always to keep them in sequence of ascending numbers as you go from the base on up. If you must place a card that is out of sequence, your opponent moves forward on the scoring track, and depending on where they land, they can also reap additional benefits, such as the ability to remove a card from either player's pyramid. What makes the game is the mechanism for laying cards on the pyramid: each turn, a player must select two cards from his or her hand and lay them openly for the other player, who then selects one first and places it in his or her pyramid. You get the leftover card. I'm not a fan of this kind of abstract, mathematically based game, but there are people who love these kinds of games, and in this class, it's a great game. The components are of good Kosmos quality, though the colors are a little somber and drab. Overall, a very good game if you like abstract strategy.
My 12-year-old daughter and I play Pacal regularly. It's very simple, yet can become quite involved strategically. I like games that are quick but with depth. Pacal fits the bill nicely. Still, I am far from mastering it. You're never sure what cards your opponenet has, because 18 cards are always out of sight and out of play. It's so easy to trip up by guessing incorrectly about which cards are likely to play next or where to leave your open spaces.
Pacal will not grab your attention with lots of bits and pieces, or flashy cards with colorful graphics. It will however, draw you into a simple but clever game of trying to complete your 'pyramid' while avoiding handing the game to your opponent.
As described in other reviews here, the core of the game revolves around choosing two cards from your hand, one of which your opponent gets to pick FIRST and put on their pyramid, then you get the other to put on your pyramid. Sounds pretty easy, but I was surprised how much thinking you put into your card play. Good balance of skill and luck makes the game easy enough to play without draining your brain.
Having played this with several different people about a dozen times now, it must be admitted the game has an addictive quality. Comparisons to Lost Cities are fair and accurate. Each offers very simple rules with much more depth and strategy then what first appears.
You can make a deck and get the rules elsewhere all for free, but I prefer to support designers and companies and decided to buy the game. I am happy to have it in my game collection.
4 stars, well deserved.
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Burkhardt has enhanced his austere but superb Pacal (2001 Games 100). Cards are numbered 1 to 50. Deal 15 cards to each player. Each turn, show two cards. Your opponent picks one and leaves you the other. Place cards on one of the 10 spaces of your four-level pyramid, to run in numerical sequence from top to bottom. Previously placed cards can be covered only once, which moves the opposing Explorer one to four spaces (equal to the card's level) on the track. Reaching a track's Action space permits recovery, or removal, of placed cards. Win either by offering cards the opponent cannot place or by completing your pyramid (or by having the largest variance in card values if both are simultaneously completed). A simple yet intense adventure for intrepid explorers.
Prepare to invest some time in a perfectly legal pyramid scheme! You and your opponent are each dealt 10 of the 50 cards (numbered 1 to 50) facedown. These remain unrevealed to both players, and form pyramid-shaped playing areas. Both get hands of 15 cards from the rest of the deck. Each turn, show two cards. Your opponent picks one and places it on a facedown card in his pyramid; you place the other on yours. Cards must run in numerical sequence from bottom to top. You can cover a placed card with another only once. You win by either (1) completing your pyramid first, (2) revealing cards the opponent cannot use, or (3) having the largest variance between high and low cards if both pyramids are simultaneously completed. Simple, fast-moving, and unexpectedly strategic, Pacal climbs to the apex of tense gameplay.
Pacal is a 2-player card game that seems to have gotten lost in last year's shuffle. Using only a deck of cards numbered 1-50 with no repeats and no suits, each player tries to construct a pyramid faster then the other or force the other to give up construction. The rules call for three wins as a victory, but this is an arbitrary number since the card draw is somewhat mitigated by the way the game is played.
Each player is dealt 10 cards face down, and these are laid out in a pyramid structure (one on the top, two below that, etc.) without being revealed. This becomes the base for the development in the card play. The top cards of each are then revealed to determine who starts. The remaining cards are dealt out, 15 to each, and the play begins. Each player will try to construct a pyramid of face-up cards that must meet two rules: the lowest card must be placed on the bottom right-hand location, and the card value must continually increase to the highest card on the top. During the play, once a card is built on a location it cannot be moved and can only be covered once by another card. The winner is the first player to complete their pyramid or alternatively the one who forces the opponent to take a card that cannot be placed.
On your turn, you select two cards from your hand and place face up. Your opponent selects one and plays it on his structure, then you take the other and build onto your own pyramid. Play alternates, and if the play extends through 14 pairs of cards (leaving each player with only one left), you are allowed to play your card on your own pyramid if it meets the rules. Here are three examples:
- I am holding a lot of low cards, and Marcia offers the 24 and 26 on the first turn. I take the 26 and place it on 7th position from the bottom, knowing that with my many low cards I will probably be able to fill more spaces below 26 than above. Marcia places on her 5th position, a more moderate placement suggesting to me that her hand is more balanced.
- At a later point in the game, I have three consecutive positions filled with the 19, 26, and 31 cards. Marcia then lays the 29 and 30 cards. I have no choice but to take one of the two and cover either my 26 or my 31, keeping my number hierarchy intact. Once a card is covered, though, it is fixed for the game and cannot be covered again.
- At the end, I have the 21, 30, and 32 showing all as a result of covered cards. Marcia lays the 23 and 29 and wins the game, since either card would force me to cover a second time.
This creates a very interesting dynamic, as almost half of your hand will be played by your opponent, and you have enough information to develop a good strategy but not enough to be sure it will work. There are two basic strategies to employ: pairing and splitting. By pairing, you choose two cards close in number that ensures you can place in a friendly position. This works well when, for example, you are in a position with one empty spot between the already-played 34 and 41. By playing the 36 and 38, you can easily fill the gap but must watch to see how the other card will help or hurt your opponent. By sorting your hand into logical pairs, you can assure yourself as many as seven spaces on your structure. Splitting, conversely, means playing cards with very different values and forcing your opponent to choose the high or low value. This is used less often, but helps to gain insight on the player's hand and can help set up a future pairing situation.
The game moves quickly, and it feels a bit like breaking a serve in tennis when you play a set that forces your opponent to cover their card while you fill an empty slot. You now have a one-card advantage that can only be lost by being put into the same position yourself. Choosing where to place the early cards is often the key to victory, as is assuring yourself of filling slots by proper use of your own hand. If both pyramids are completed at the same time, the winner is the one with largest variance between the low and high cards, giving extra emphasis to choosing carefully on the first and top spaces.
Pacal is fun, and the card play is more important than the draw. Each round is different, since 18 cards are never revealed, and it often feels that you could have played something smarter when you find yourself in a hole. The game comes with a small board and two pawns to use to keep score of the hands won, but these are superfluous and only make the game a little more expensive. You can play with any deck that has cards numbered 1-50, but like most of us I prefer to buy an original copy and support the designer if I am actually going to play it beyond the test run.
With all of the hype given to Lost Cities (and I like the game, too), it is odd to me that Pacal does not have more visibility. Obviously people are comfortable with a two-player card game that requires planning and fast play, and Pacal fits this exceedingly well. Get the rules from the Gaming Dumpster and try it with cards from your 6 Nimmt deck, and you likely will not be disappointed.