Can you escape the Pengqueen?
One of my favourite scenes in adventure movies is the escape sequences. It can be from a boulder, a storm, or an unseen force – whichever it is, it’s almost always fun to watch.
And of these adventures, a classic staple is, of course, the Mummy. Not just an unstoppable force, but a power that is capable of outwitting the heroes.
And you know what you call a board game that uses this type of setup? One vs Many. There is one mastermind that must beat all of the other players to win!
A problem with a lot of One vs Many games is you have to learn two sets of rules. One set as the mastermind, and then the player rules. This can be a big ask for new players, but there are gateway or introductory games to help with this.
One such game is Pyramid of Pengqueen.
Oh wow! Why didn’t they think of this before?
They did. Pyramid of Pengqueen is a reprint and retheme of the 2008 game Fluch der Mumie, printed in English only as Pyramid. In 2018, Brain Games got the license and rethemed Pyramid with the Icecool theme, hence all the penguins.
The games are almost identical in everything but the artwork. The Mummy has been replaced with the Pengqueen, and there is an arctic feel to the art. Gameplay-wise everything has been kept, so this is basically a review of both versions.
The re-theme can get a little confusing as well. In the rules, the Mummy of the Pengqueen is referred to in different ways, mainly the Mummy or the Pengqueen. While this doesn’t make it harder to learn, it does show how little the Icecool theme does for the game overall.
So what do you do in the game?
Players sit with the game board between them, similar to Battleship. On one side, the Pengqueen controls their movements as they travel through the tomb. On the other side, players have their tokens and can see the Pengqueens location.
How do the pieces stay on the vertical board? With SCIENCE! Well, magnets. Still counts :p
The players roll for movement each turn and have to explore the tomb and collect treasures. The treasures they collect are determined with a random card draw at the start of each game, so there is no one way to win each game.
As the players explore the tomb, they must also evade the Pengqueen. If they are on the same square as the Pengqueen, they are captured and lose a life.
Once they are caught, they start from the Pengqueens sarcophagus and continue collecting treasures until they run out of lives. Once a player collects their set of riches, they win! If the Pengqueen collects a certain number of lives though, the game ends with the Pengqueen winning.
That sounds great!
Doesn’t it? The game is simple to teach and play, and players can jump straight in. The satisfaction of hearing the clink when the player piece is caught by the Pengqueen is fun for both sides.
For such a simple game, the tension that builds as players watch the Pengqueen coming closer is excellent. It doesn’t matter how many times you have played, seeing the Pengqueen a square or two away and coming towards you never gets stale.
It’s also great for all ages. You only pick one die for your movement as a player. You can play and teach your first game within about 5 minutes, then a quick reset to start playing properly.
A game plays in about 30 minutes, and setup/teardown only takes a few minutes. This makes Pyramid of Pengqueen an easy game to play on short notice, unlike many One vs Many games.
I am waiting for the But…
Yeah. The But. As fun as Pyramid of Pengqueen is, there are a couple of factors that do kill it for me.
Balancing is a big one. Playing two players, the Pengqueen has way too much information. This can be adjusted a little bit by the player character spending more time running to different areas before collecting treasure. Still, it adds 5-10 minutes of somewhat dull gameplay, so it’s not a great solution.
The other issue is the board and player pieces. The player magnets are tiny, and you move the board a lot when you move your piece. The Pengqueen player gets a pretty good idea of what area you are in just by watching the board flex. It’s so apparent, even younger players will pick up on this quickly, giving away more information.
Finally, the magnets are not always your friend in terms of hiding. Ideally, you want to put your piece in the middle of a square on your turn. This rarely happens, though. You usually end up closer to a side, and if the Pengqueen stops closer to your side on their square, you can capture a player without meaning to. This again gives away exactly where you are. No one has cheated, it’s just the way magnets and people work.
So should I buy Pyramid of Pengqueen?
To me, this is a game you should play before you buy if you can. I am glad Alpal showed it to me, and I am so happy I got to play it. I am just not keen to play it again anytime soon. I will show people how to play anytime, but it’s not a game I want in my collection.
Until next time,
On paper, the Pyramid of Pengqueen looks to be a fun game. Smooth one-vs-many gameplay with quality components that can be played by all ages. The theory works well, the final execution, in my opinion, not so much.
Many people say how fun the Pyramid of Pengqueen is to play. I am not saying they are wrong. I know everything I have said can be taken as if I am, but that’s not my problem with the game.
The Pyramid of Pengqueen has balancing issues. Big balancing issues. With two players, it is too easy for the Pengqueen to win. At higher player counts, it is too easy for the players to win. Individual players can be eliminated by the Mummy pursuing them, which can make players feel bullied. This is more of an issue for younger players, but I can see it happening. The potential for frustration and arguments, for younger players, is just too high. And those situations aren’t fun for anyone.
- A light game that is easy to teach and play for all ages
- Novel moving mechanics, especially anticipating the Pengqueen’s movements.
- Doesn’t scale well
- Player pieces too small
- Not very good at hiding player movement
- Icecool theme does nothing for it