The folks at Looney Labs have been busy playing with pyramids, which is no new real news. Andrew Looney, co-founder of the gaming company with Kristin Looney, states he has been inventing pyramid games for more than twenty years, first writing about them in stories that would become his novel The Empty City, featuring an addictive pyramid game. He has apparently toyed with the gaming motif nonstop for years now, and the newest blowout version of the game releases September 30, IceDice.
The game set comes in a pyramid-shaped zipper bag (bonus points for uniqueness and keeping with the theme) and includes two dice and thirty plastic pyramids in five colors and three sizes. IceDice is for two to four players aged fourteen years and up, with gameplay lasting between five and ten minutes. Overall, the game is of a “press your luck” sort, rolling two dice to see what kinds of pyramids of what color a player may pick up. Players may continue to roll as much as they want, but if they roll the same color again, they lose everything. As we playtested, the game proved to give a similar feeling to blackjack, rolling dice instead of hitting for another card.
Just like blackjack, the game is played on what the rules describe as “an invisible gameboard,” which is to say spaces on a table. All the pyramids are placed in the Bank for drawing, a Counter rests in the middle for potentially won pyramids, and each player has a Vault in front of them where safe pyramids are kept. In play, the first player rolls the two dice, one featuring different combinations of pyramids (small, medium, or large) and the other five colors and an atom, which serves as a wild. The player may continue to roll, adding pieces to the Counter at risk of rerolling a previous color, resulting in Bust Out, where all of the pyramids are returned to the Bank. When the player chooses to stop, he or she collects the pyramids from the Counter and adds them to the Vault, working toward the goal of collecting a monochrome Trio, or three sets of pyramids of the same color. Sounds simple, but so does “closest to 21 without going over,” and people have been playing that for some four hundred years.
While IceDice itself is a nice enough game, the set also comes with a bonus game, Launchpad 23. Another fast, simple game for two to four players, Launchpad 23 is a building game where players add pieces to the center of a three-by-three grid and move pieces to assemble a “rocket” of five similarly colored and sized pyramids stacked on their corner. This game features much more competition and planning, something like chess where not all of the pieces come into play at the same time.
Further, the set also contains the twenty-four-paged Guide to Looney Pyramids, which defines terms for the world of pyramid-gaming and outlines thirteen games playable with various numbers of “Rainbow Stashes” (15 pyramids). The rules can be downloaded from the pyramid website, and a further link goes to Icehouse Games, a wiki where even more games can be found. All this makes IceDice a starter set, opening up a whole new world of gaming.