Looney Pyramids continues to expand the universe of gaming with logic, luck, and plastic. Most of us would have imaged only a few uses for sets of three pyramids in increasing size like nesting dolls, but there seems no end to Andrew Looney’s creativity. In one of many games, Treehouse, which won the Origins best board game prize in 2006, players race to make their pieces match the center “House,” laid out with the big pyramid on its side, the middle pyramid the side opposite, and the small pyramid standing in the middle (see picture).
Players begin with their pyramids stacked in the “Tree” formation, looking not unlike a pine. Using a special die, each player takes a turn by rolling to determine what action they are able to do: Tip, Aim, Hop, Dig, Swap, or Wild. Aim and Swap allows the player to reorient any piece while Tip and Hop may only be played on standing pieces, and Dig is only for pieces already on their side. The Wild means the player can perform any action on his or her own Tree or alter the House. Confused yet? To make things clearer, Looney has an online video with a demonstration game.
Upon seeing the instructions sheet full of diagrams, some players might get the “deer-in-headlights” look, but the learning curve, while steep, is easily overcome. All of the moves have logic behind them, and the flurry of options need only be dealt with one at a time as the die is rolled. During playtesting, the game proved reminiscent of past Christmases playing Canasta late into the night. Rules-heavy card games like Canasta, Bridge, etc, are intimidating, but players who learn the rules become addicted. The layers of strategy make for a great mental workout, and the introduction of the die gives a taste as random as drawing a card.
Designed for two to four players, ages 14 and up, Treehouse is a game that could take five to 10 minutes as it says on the tag, or it could be half an hour of delicate plotting, hoping for just the right roll and being set back with a Swap when you really needed an Aim. Players must play out their roll unless impossible, in which they also gain the opportunity to change the House, which could frustrate all the carefully laid plans of every other player.