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Pecking Order
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Pecking Order

English language edition of Auf die Palme

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Product Awards:  
Games Magazine Awards
Family Game Nominee, 2007

Ages Play Time Players
8+ 30-45 minutes 2

Designer(s): Richard Garfield

Manufacturer(s): Immortal Eyes Games, Winning Moves USA

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Product Description

A fast-playing game which features subtle depth. Set against a backdrop of lush jungles and ancient stone ruins, mystical birds battle for advantage... for their place in the Pecking Order.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Family Game Nominee, 2007

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Richard Garfield

  • Manufacturer(s): Immortal Eyes Games, Winning Moves USA

  • Artist(s): Doug Kovacs

  • Year: 2006

  • Players: 2

  • Time: 30 - 45 minutes

  • Ages: 8 and up

  • Weight: 452 grams

  • Language Requirements: Game components are printed in English. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item.


  • 1 game board
  • 26 tile cards
  • rules
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Product Reviews


Average Rating: 3.3 in 6 reviews

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by areeve
Quick and Simple
August 18, 2006

When I first saw that Pecking Order was by Richard Garfield and was a card game I couldn't help but hope that it was MTG in a non-collectable format. I love MTG, but hate how it tries (yes, I've put a stop to this) to take every penny from me several times a year with each new edition... new abilities... enough about MTG. Anyhow, I then wondered how they could capture all of that in one box. After all, part of the fun of MTG is the escalation and figuring out how new abilities can mix with old abilities to create the uber deck.

Well, forget about MTG... Pecking Order is nothing like it. And I'm glad. Trying to copy MTG with a game that only has 26 cards for both players combined would have been a recipe for disaster. I'd say Pecking Order has more in common with Stratego than anything else and yes, I like Stratego. The strategy? I'd say it's more of a bluffing or psychological game than anything. Very quick. Light. Simple rules. And most important of all... I enjoy it.

One of the things this game advertises itself as having is simple rules (no doubt) and deep strategy (not so sure about this one). The deep strategy is trying to pick off a high bird of your opponent with your non-point scoring jaguar or a comparable bird. But bigger than that it's about not falling into a rut. In playing this earlier in the week with my wife I found that I tended to occupy the lower spots and she the higher spots until the end of the game when I'd try to take the high spots away. I won the match, but it was close. In one instance I popped my Jaguar down on the 10 and she used the Vision Roof to see it and later pick it off with a 2. Actually that's an interesting aspect of the game... if I go last and you take the highest (10) perch with a low card like a 1 early in the round then I can save my 2 for the last drop and guarantee that I'll get the 10 perch as you can't REPLACE a bird on a perch with a higher (or lower) valued bird. In fact, that might not be a bad alternate rule... have a "swap bird" option in addition to a placement option (although something would have to be done with respect to the Vision Roof so that that still has teeth such as a perch is revealed in stead of a card).

The extra abilities are interesting although I found the average game involved each using the Vision Roof once as by that time we didn't have any cards we wanted to waste on a 3... and likewise I didn't find ties occuring often enough to really worry about the 1 (The Tiebreaker spot) unless it was available for me to put a low card on.

Ultimately, however this game is about psychology... I found myself sorting my cards each round and then realized that that was a give away as to what was being played where. I found myself playing similar numbers on similar spots each turn... not good. The depth is getting into the mind of your opponent and trying to accurately know what they are playing where. If your opponent isn't deep then the game won't be very deep. It's Stratego with cards... everyone gets only one of either piece... the board had a couple 'special abilities' to capture... and ties go to the attacker by default...

Now, I don't want to say that there aren't other strategies to the game such as the aforementioned scenario that would result in getting the 10 spot with my 2 bird. By I'm over psychoanalyzing this now

In summary, if you're looking for a light game that almost anyone will be able to grasp then this is a fine choice. I like it better than Lost Cities (I, too, fail to see the comparison with Lost Cities other than there being a board and some cards) and I think this will get some regular play. I also liked the durability of the rather thick, although small cards.

by A Gamer
Excellent 2-Player Game
July 31, 2006

I read that first review and was a little skeptical. I really liek the look of the game so I bought it anyway. My wife and I found this to be an excellent game for 2 players (only). It's the perfect game to slot in there between longer games or if you have some time to kill before going out. We completely see the similarities between Pecking Order and Lost Cities (which is one of our favorite games). Pecking Order is a great companion to Lost Cities and we felt it was adequately priced. The components are excellent quality for an American game.

Happy Gamer in NH

by Erik Moore
Fun game
February 27, 2008

I think it's hard to come up with a new game that has a good balance of skill and luck--I'd been looking for something that I would enjoy playing with someone else who is not necessarily a game geek.

The game is quite short and you can play it in less than an hour. I don't really think the duration of a game is a pro or a con--I like games that are engrossing but as a working person I don't always have enough time to play games that take several hours.

When we first played the game, we forgot the rule that hidden cards are turned over when someone challenges them and loses. This made the game a little more complicated and might be an alternate way to play.

One thing that helps with this game is that the scoring makes sense. I've encountered a lot of other games recently that are fun to play but that have scoring systems that make determining the winner a bit too complicated.

One possible negative is that part of this game is based on the honor system--it might not be the best to play with someone who tends to cheat. On the other hand, with only 13 cards on either side, it's probably easy to detect cheating.

The art is great, though I agree that the cards are a little thick to shuffle.

by Roy L.
Great Combination of Bluffing, Tactics and Strategy
January 16, 2007

A quick light but clever game that's an excellent alternative to Knizia's recent lightweight two- player fiascos (Times Square and Great Wall of China). Though marred by poor production (sloppy board art, cards that can't be shuffled, and a theme that makes no sense at all), this game is a lot of fun and just the right level of variety and challenge for players looking for a game for 2 that demands some thinking and presents some tough choices (largely due to luck of the draw). A great balance of bluffing, tactics, and strategy in a game that's so simple that (if you can ignore the pasted-on theme) it's almost minimalist.

Interesting - but it's over before it starts.
July 26, 2006

I'm always glad to see a new publisher of board games to burst on the scene, especially when they look exciting and interesting, as the games of Immortal Eyes Games do. Actually, Immortal Eyes isn't new but is a subsidiary of Winning Moves - a company that puts out more mainstream games. Pecking Order (Immortal Eyes Games, 2006 - Richard Garfield), one of the first two games produced by Immortal Eyes, isn't quite so mainstream. In fact, isn't that the designer of the infamous Magic the Gathering on the cover? That alone had me intrigued (although Mr. Garfield's other new game, Rocketville, is almost universally derided).

I've played Pecking Order several times and have mixed feelings on it. It is about as far away from the complexity of Magic the Gathering that Mr. Garfield can get - simply being a game in which players place thirteen cards on the table. It's very simple and has a bit of fun, but I almost feel that the game is over before it begins. I've seen people compare this to Lost Cities and other games of that type, but I just don't see it. The components are interesting (although overpriced), and gameplay is interesting - I'll certainly hang onto my copy. But I just am left with a slightly empty feeling after games, which will keep me from playing it too often.

Each player is given a stack of cards, showing a picture of a bird on twelve of them, along with corresponding numbers from "1" to "12". The thirteenth card for both players is a jaguar card with no number. Players shuffle their cards and form a draw pile in front of them, while setting up a board in between them - showing eleven perches, numbered "1" through "10" (there are two "8"s). One player goes first, and then play alternates between the players for the remainder of the game.

On a player's turn, they draw the top card from their stack and place it face down on their side of the table - next to one of the eleven perches. If the perch already contains a bird of the other player, then the bird that is already residing there is turned face up. This initiates a "challenge", in which the two numbers are compared by the "attacker" (player laying down the second bird). The attacker (honestly!) announces which bird wins - higher number wins; attacker wins ties. The losing card is removed from the game, and no matter if the attacker wins or loses, his card is not revealed.

If the Jaguar is in a challenge, whether as the attacker or defender, both cards are discarded. Also, there are three special perches on the board.
- Normally, the defender loses ties. If they control the "1" perch, however, they now win ties.
- When a player takes control of the "3" perch (the Vision Roof), they may look at one face down card in play by their opponent.
- Each of the "8" perches is worth eight points, but together they are worth nineteen points.
The game continues until players have played all their cards, and then each player scores the total sum of all the perches they control with the higher sum winning the game for that player!

Some comments on the gameā€¦

1.) Components: First of all, I think the artwork of the birds on each card (and the jaguar) is really fantastic; and the board itself, a long board with different types of perches shown on each side, is a work of art. The cards are thick and quite durable, although I can't figure out why they didn't print the cards with two different type or color backs, making it easier to sort them. Everything fits in a thin box about the size of a hardback book, although you might be surprised at how the board and cards tend to rattle around in the mostly air box.

2.) Rules: The rulebook is three fully-colored pages with illustrations and examples - all well formatted. It is a breeze to understand, play, and teach the game; and without fail, people ask me, "Is that all?" after I take the minute to explain the game that it requires. Pecking Order is a game that is good for even younger ages (8+), mostly because the game is so simple to learn.

3.) Unique: My first thoughts on reading the rules were that the game had some really unique and interesting ideas. Having only the defender reveal their card was a unique twist on the "Stratego"-like play of the cards. In fact, the game itself plays like a Stratego card game - albeit shorter and simpler. Because the game is so short, it also discourages cheating from players who might want to lie about which card won, since players will easily figure out if they were deceptive in only a few minutes.

4.) Jaguar: The "bomb" of the game - it's an interesting card, and players often attempt to kill the "12" of the other player with it. I don't find it to be as useful of a defensive card, since the other player may never attack it, and it's a bit annoying to have to reveal it at the end of the game for no points, since the Jaguar cannot "control" a perch. The jaguar is an interesting card, but it seems like there should be a bit more.

5.) Short: This is one short game! Players only play thirteen cards and can do so at a very quick clip, ending games in less than ten minutes. Normally I would laud this as a good feature of the game - and indeed it is - to a degree. Games this short can occasionally leave a player with an unsatisfied feel - and for me, Pecking Order often did just that. Maybe there is a definite strategy in the design by only using thirteen cards , but it just didn't offer enough depth for me.

6.) Fun Factor: The game's short length and "subtle" strategies are certainly obscured with the total randomness of the game. If you get your jaguar first, you must play it defensively; and drawing low cards when you need high can be rather annoying. Yes, I know that the game is one that generally consists of bluffing; but a player simply can't afford to miss out on the higher perches and win, so some of the game feels scripted. For comparison's sake, the game gave me the same feelings that Phoenix did but in a much shorter period of time.

So I suppose that my general impression of Pecking Order is slightly negative. It's a quick game with a unique and interesting mechanic, which is often a formula for a good game. And while some will argue with me about the "subtleties" of good strategic play, I would contend that the game is over before a player has a chance to find them. Beautiful artwork aside, Pecking Order is over before I feel it has a chance to begin. It's like the first chapter in an interesting book - great to read, but what happens next?

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

by Rick Goodman
Bottom of the Pecking Order
November 17, 2007

I've read several positive reviews of this game. And, I wish I could be generous about the design of this game, but I can't. The best thing I can say about the game is that it's not very expensive.

I won't go into detail, other than to say, there isn't a solid game mechanic here, on which to base the game's design. Too simple. Not fun.

The game has definitive similarities to Knizia's Lost Cities. But, unlike Pecking Order, Lost Cities is a splendid 2 player game. In summary, the world doesn't need a mediocre game, like Pecking Order, when it already has a stellar game like Lost Cities.

In fact, I've played a lot of Richard Garfield's games. And, after playing this game, it occured to me that I don't like any of his designs. Magic the Gathering aside, I'll say this: Be cautious about purchasing a game designed by Richard Garfield.

I hope his future work improves dramatically.

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