Whispers turn into rumours, and rumours turn into stories, told with the assuredness of students on a playground. Such was the case of the Pyramid of Penqueen. Four young students heard the tales and, intrigued, vowed to find the entrance of the fabled tomb. After months of searching, they did just that, stumbling upon a tunnel hidden beneath pots and pans in their school cafeteria. Following the tunnel, they came to the entrance of the pyramid glowing ominously in front of them. Undeterred the four brave penguin youth ventured forward. That’s when the doorway of the pyramid slammed shut behind them with a bang that reverberated in the darkness. A moment later a gravely voice welcomed them to their new home. The mummy of the Penqueen had been awoken.
A good family or kids game needs a hook, and as great as the story is behind Pyramid of Penqueen (PoP), to keep players coming back, the hook has to be incorporated into the gameplay as well. Luckily PoP, the follow up to Brain Games’ Ice Cool, offers a really fun game experience as well.
At its heart, PoP is a roll and move game, where one player takes on the role of the Penqueen Mummy, and the others play the students searching the Pyramid for treasure and a way out. However, there is a lot more going on. PoP takes advantage of a standup, double-sided board held up by the game box. The Mummy player sits on one side and the students on the other. Both sides of the board depict an identical maze map littered with treasures. Now, the really cool part is that the board is magnetic. The students place their discs on the entrance space to the Pyramid. The Mummy starts on the Sarcophagus space on their side of the board, however, the Mummy also has a disc that represents it on the student side of the board. The two Mummy parts stick together through the board and allow the students to always know where the Mummy is skulking through the Pyramid.
At the start of the game, each student is dealt out a random set of five different treasures that they must find to escape the underground prison. They move through the Pyramid by rolling a set of five (or less) Treasure Hunter dice. The faces of the dice are numbered 1-4, with an arrow, and a Mummy face. Players can roll all the available dice as many times as they want until they get the result they are looking for. They’ll choose one die and either move that number of spaces (in the case of a number), or go straight vertically or horizontally until they hit an obstacle (in the case of an arrow). If one of their dies end with a Mummy face, it is locked and can’t be rolled again until they are reset.
If too many of the Treasure Hunter dice are locked at the start of a player’s turn, they can choose to refresh them all, taking them all into to hand to roll. However, this results in an Interrupting turn for the Mummy, where they are able to move the amount of spaces equal to the Mummy faces present on the Treasure Hunter dice before being refreshed. There is an added element of risk, but if your fellow students have locked a bunch of dice, you’re left with few options.
On the Mummy’s turn, she’ll roll her die and add the number of Mummy faces with the number of locked Treasure Hunter dice, then move that number through the maze. On the students’ side of the board, they’ll be able to see where the Mummy is moving, but it might not be enough to avoid her. When she comes across a space with a student their disc will magnetically snap to the Mummy with a satisfying click, signifying they’ve been caught. The student will lose one of their three lives and they’ll return to the entrance, while the Mummy returns to the Sarcophagus.
Although the Mummy can’t see where the students are at all times, they aren’t completely without clues. When a student collects a Treasure, they flip over the associated card for all to see. This informs the Mummy where at least one of the students are on the board, and can help them close in on them.
The game comes to an end when either a student finds their fifth Treasure, or the Mummy has stolen a certain number of Life tokens (based on player count). It’s an interesting one-vs-many structure, where all the students have a similar goal of avoiding the Mummy and collecting Treasure, but only one of them will come out on top.
The use of magnets and hidden movements is not entirely new. Games like Magic Maze, Mind Maze, and even Scotland Yard come to mind, but Pyramid of Penqueen does a really good job taking advantage of the mechanic and components. The fact that the students can see where the Mummy is lurking about increases the fun, and young players will delight in eluding her. Brain Games had a surprise hit with Ice Cool and they continue the fun with Pyramid of Penqueen.