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Review: 3843 Ramses Pyramid


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#1 Dunjohn

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Posted 26 December 2009 - 08:27 PM

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My brother got me this for Christmas, and since it doesn't seem to have been reviewed, I'll give it a shot.
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"The Mummy King Ramses is planning of conquering all of Egypt with his army of mummies! Unlock the crystal coded layers to climb to the top of the pyramid and defeat the Mummy King, taking his crown and the treasures within. A family game of memory, skill and cunning. Compete against each other or take on the Mummy King together!"

...Well, that's what the box says. In reality, there are no cooperation rules, this is a cut-throat, bare-knuckle, dog-eat-dog battle to the end for ages 8 and up.

INFORMATION:
Set Name: Ramses Pyramid
Set Number: 3843
Theme: Lego Games
Year Released: 2009
Number of Pieces: 217
Microfigs: 13
Price on Release: €24.99
Bricklink
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THE BOX:

Front:
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I love the picture here, great use of dark colours to make the box stand out. The two explorers must have been on their way to sort Ramses out but got completely absorbed in the board game, and are ignoring the obvious danger in the background and the scorpion that's about to demolish the beardy guy's right hand.

Top Corner:
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Anyone who's really into their boardgames will recognise this name (and may even be able to pronounce it). It suffices to say that there's a reason he gets his name on the cover of his game when none of the other designers did on theirs.

Back:
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And the rear. Nothing unusual, a photo of the full board, some functional close-ups and the blurb I just quoted, in four languages. Also a note of who Reiner Knizia is, though apparently he's only a Doctor in Germany.

Top:
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And here we have the usual minifig callout, showing preci.... WTF!? Where are my minifigs? And why is this upside down??

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Ah, now I get it. It's so it won't be upside down when you store it with your other boardgames. I thought that was a good spot on TLG's part.

That should be enough to save it from the usual fate that befalls my Lego boxes: Cutting board and raw material!
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Apologies to you box-folders who may be distressed by this image. I am not of the brotherhood.

Moving along....

INSIDE THE BOX:

Contents:
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A game rulebook, an instruction booklet (the larger one), a 32x32 tan baseplate, the iconic customisable die, and three bags of parts separated roughly by size. As with the other board games, this one will fit back into the box fully assembled, though you will need to remove some layers of pyramid (which is fine, since they're designed to be seperable anyhow, as you'll see).

Rulebook:
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Here's a page from the rulebook. The game rules are concise enough to fit into four pages per language and there are a few pages of ads at the end, showing each other game box and a photo of their boards.

Instructions:
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The instructions book, with another fantastic image.

Random Page
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The entire gameboard features in every step, so each one takes up a full page, and two full pages when you're doing the pyramid layers, as in this shot. Note the lack of a piece callout, which would have been very welcome in the early stages when you're placing all those fiddly bits around the board.

Ads:
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This booklet also has ads. A bit redundant, since they're the same, but unless you're Italian you're probably not going to be reading the back of the other book anyhow.

Inventory:
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Here's the parts listing. Apologies for the lousy picture editing. The baseplate isn't really textured to look like sand dunes... but wouldn't that have been awesome!?

Parts:
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Here you have all the bits n' bobs, laid out in what turned out to be a rather neat rectangle. Again, apologies for the photo quality, I'll need to work at that a bit more.

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A couple of the cooler bits: 2x2 dark tan jumpers (eight in the set), dark tan domes (six), a dark tan regular brick, scorpions, some treasure, the die and its tiles, and a wrench that's used to pry the tiles off the die.

Microfigs:
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Here are the thirteen dudes, with a regular fig for scale. Four explorers, Ramses, and eight identical mummies. And there's one thing I've always wondered about, ever since I first saw pictures of microfigs....

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Yes!! Regular headgear fits!

Moving along...

THE BUILD

Stage Six:
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Here's what it looks like half-way through the thirteen building stages. The non-detachable elements are all in place. The jumpers are under the 2x2 bricks to make them easier to remove - they get moved around a lot during the game. The coloured roof bricks represent the explorers' tents. The interior of the pyramid has no part in the gameplay, so that's all just bonus. Pretty spiffy.

Stage Ten:
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The individual pyramid layers rest on the black tiles of the layer below and fit nice and snug. The brown 1x1 tiles mark where the coloured "crystals" should go and aren't really necessary, but maybe they help younger builders. Gameplay-wise, those crystals could really go anywhere on the line, but they look cooler in this arrangement. The scorpion on the hinge above the door has no game relevance and, again, is only there to look cool.

Stage Thirteen:
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With the mummy-infested capstone in place, Ramses is ready to begin his quest for world domination. Turns out that gold crystal piece is his crown. How he managed to put it on with no arms is not fully detailed in the booklet. Overall, the build is straightforward and repetitive, but quick enough that it doesn't get dull.

The Spares:
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Wow.

Moving along...

GAMEPLAY

Game On!
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Okay, we're tooled up and ready to go! Note that I've arranged the explorers according to where their tents are, something even the rulebook writers didn't bother with. That's just how moronically perfectionistic I am. The object is to climb the pyramid and challenge Ramses. To do that, you can only climb on layers that match a crystal colour you control or one of the secret ones you know about that are hidden in the dark tan domes. Before tackling the pyramid, each explorer makes a clockwise circuit of the secret temples, picking up loose crystals and memorizing secret ones. All the while, Ramses' mummies will be descending the pyramid, blocking off any layers they occupy.

Since I have no friends, I'll play through a game by myself. We'll start with the yellow explorer, purely because he's standing in everyone else's way.

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He rolls a 1 and a spin. He chooses a layer of pyramid to rotate ninety degrees, but that has no relevance this early in the game. He also moves one step, onto the nearest base.

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Okay, now he can choose to either nab that purple crystal and store it by his tent, or he can flip open the Secret Temple and memorize the crystal inside. Since it sounds more interesting, we'll check out the temple.

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The Secret Temple is designed to come off that dark tan single-stud tile, so you can pick it up and cup it in your hand before opening it. This prevents other players from seeing what colour it contains. However, I'm playing against three other me's, so yellow dude opens it up for all to see. Hmm, okay, purple. Purplepurplepurple. Got it. Now, instead of putting everything back the way it was, the cap is replaced and the Secret Temple gets shuffled onto one of the other blank bases - and once that's been done a few times, your memory's really going to be tested!! It's an excellent touch. That's the end of yellow dude's turn: Orange dude is up next!

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3 and a mummy! The high number isn't necessarily good at this point, since it's better to take your time and collect as many crystals as possible to make navigating the pyramid easier.

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Orange dude skips along to the third base and decides to nab that crystal. It gets sent to his tent. Meanwhile, there's a-stirrins atop the pyramid....

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Ramses begins to send out his army of darkness! Or daylight. Do mummies hate daylight? I dunno. Anyhow, whenever you roll a mummy on the die, you choose a mummy on the top of the pyramid and move it down onto the next layer. You then move every other mummy that had already started to descend down another step, ensuring a constant cascade of screaming undead that will affect the entire board with each roll, rather than just the occasional troublemaker. If a mummy reaches the dark-tan bottom layer, it vanishes from the game, suggesting that there are parts of his plan that Ramses didn't fully think through.

At this point, I'm going to skip on a few turns. There's one other "marked" side of the die I haven't used: the black triangle. Roll that, and you get to steal a crystal from another explorer.

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Right, by now, most of the explorers have rounded the pyramid. Red dude is in the lead, and rolled a two to climb to the second layer. He didn't control a yellow crystal, but he knew where one was hidden, and in front of him was a green layer, so he ended his turn in good shape. Unfortunately, blue dude has just rolled a 1 and a spin, and slyly rotates that green layer away! Orange dude did remarkably well, controlling three different crystals (two stolen) by the time he returned to the entrance, while Yellow dude is lagging behind in both pace and crystal count.

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Hours pass, and it's twilight by the time an explorer finally reaches the summit to challenge Ramses and ask him how he got his hat on. To defeat the Mummy King and prise the precious answers from him, Orange dude must roll a mummy on a single roll of the die. Does he? I didn't bother taking a picture, but no, he didn't. Ramses kicked him in the head and knocked him back to the base of the pyramid. Blue dude won.

IN CONCLUSION

And that's pretty much it. It's a lot of fun, and the balance between luck and strategy strikes me as having been particularly finely balanced. There's no die roll that simply "does" something; every roll results in decisions to be made and opponents to be screwed over. And there are a huge number of ways to catch opponents out. You can rearrange the pyramid on them, send mummies their way, shuffle their carefully-memorized Secret Temples around, thieve their crystals.... but they're doing the same to you, too, so it never feels unfair. At the same time, ganging-up on a particular player is difficult because you won't have access to every option reliably. So, pretty much all win there.

As for building, if there's one thing these board games are great for, it's for getting oddball pieces in huge quantities. Plenty of tan bricks, trans-coloured cones, single-stud 2x2 tiles and solid domes, as well as the ever-useful tan base. The microfigs must have dozens of uses as statues,... uh.... totem poles... literally dozens of uses! The board design is basic but sturdy and will be fine if you do store it in the box on the boardgame shelf. It also looks rather spiffy sitting out by itself, with that multicolour cone spiral.

Design: 9/10 As a boardgame, it's a case of function over form, but they still squeeze some nice bonus details in there, and the aesthetics are very well built into the functionality.

Parts: 8/10 Again, another requirement of being a boardgame, there are good multiples of everything but not a huge variety in the individual bits. I'd have liked if the explorer microfigs were based on existing minifigs rather than being completely new, that would have been very cute, but these'll do. And thirteen of the blighters is very nice.

Build: 7/10 As long as you don't have a ridiculously low repitition tolerance, the building speeds you on to the playing as fast as it can. A steady but unexciting process.

Playability: 10/10 Does exactly what it says on the tin.... Well, it would, if it actually said "game" on the tin. It doesn't. And if it came in a tin. But it also doesn't. But AS a game in a box, playability is maxed out, and it's a particularly good game at that.

Price: 7/10 Well I got it as a gift so no complaints. Otherwise, €24.99 seems decent for the parts, but coming in at the twenty feels better. We're probably paying for Knizia's involvement, too.

Total: 90% I don't like totals that are just straightforward tots of the individual scores. It's not accurate; they don't all stand equal. For me, the total asks if I liked it, and the answer is a resounding yes. The game is terrifically well thought out and will appeal to the non-Lego fans in the house far more than a regular set would.

Thanks for reading!

Microfig-Scale Tombs: All Too Easy
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- Dunjohn

Edited by Dunjohn, 26 January 2011 - 01:41 AM.
Indexed and poll added

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#2 Rick

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Posted 26 December 2009 - 08:37 PM

Thanks for a very extensive and amusing review! Quite some interesting and unique parts in it. Although I'm not a games-fan, the game sounds pretty unique, i.e., not just some generic game 'Lego-fied'.

And... lots of minifig babies!   :grin:

#3 prateek

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Posted 26 December 2009 - 10:23 PM

Great review! Your humour made my day :classic:

#4 Big Cam

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Posted 26 December 2009 - 10:26 PM

So the heads are actually smaller than a regular minifig head??

Thanks for the review, cool set!

#5 The Cobra

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Posted 27 December 2009 - 07:50 AM

Thanks for this outstanding review! I'm waiting for these games to hit Italy over the next few months.
But I do not exactly understand what you're saying here:

View PostDunjohn, on Dec 26 2009, 09:27 PM, said:

Ads:
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This booklet also has ads. A bit redundant, but unless you're Italian you're probably not going to see the ones in the other book anyhow.

Most overread phrase on S@H: "Sorry, item is not available in this country: Italy."

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#6 brickzone

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Posted 27 December 2009 - 10:10 AM

Great review - I now even more want to get hold of this game :)

#7 Rick

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Posted 27 December 2009 - 11:03 AM

View PostBig Cam, on Dec 26 2009, 10:26 PM, said:

So the heads are actually smaller than a regular minifig head??
Yeah, the Babyfigs™ ( :tongue: ) are one by one stud and they look like they're two bricks high.

#8 Lordofdragonss

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Posted 27 December 2009 - 11:39 AM

One word: Wahahahahahahahah.

That was one of the funniest reviews on EB! I hope you will make more reviews!
The game istelf it's really fun to play, but I preffer Minotaur one better.

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#9 Dunjohn

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Posted 27 December 2009 - 11:54 AM

View PostThe Cobra, on Dec 27 2009, 07:50 AM, said:

Thanks for this outstanding review! I'm waiting for these games to hit Italy over the next few months.
But I do not exactly understand what you're saying here:

Don't worry, I wasn't insulting Italy! The Italian rules are the last of the four languages and are followed immediately by the ads, so if you're not Italian, you probably won't be looking at that part of the book.
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#10 The Cobra

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Posted 27 December 2009 - 07:40 PM

No problem at all, I just wanted to understand.
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#11 Forresto

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Posted 27 December 2009 - 08:42 PM

Brilliant review! It was humorous and very informative, good job! I really can't wait to buy this one when the Game theme hits the US. Does anyone know when it does?


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#12 Joebot

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Posted 29 December 2009 - 04:34 PM

Terrific review! Most of these boardgame reviews that have cropped up here on EB have focused on the parts, rather than the game itself. You did a nice job of actually telling us about the gameplay, which was much appreciated.

Renier Knizia is indeed a bit of a rock star in the hobby boardgaming community. Slapping his name on the cover is akin to putting "Stephen King" on the front of a novel -- the name alone is going to sell.

I'm disappointed that the game has a memory component. I hate games where I have to memorize stuff. I'm terrible at them.

#13 Noworries

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Posted 29 December 2009 - 08:50 PM

View PostDunjohn, on Dec 26 2009, 09:27 PM, said:

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Yes!! Regular headgear fits!

When i saw this, I laughed REALLY loud  :grin: Epic!

Thanks for the funny review!

#14 Huntleyfx

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 01:29 AM

I saw the microfig mummies and immediately thought of the Pygmy mummies for The Mummy Returns. I might have to try to get my hands on the game.
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#15 Delta 38

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Posted 03 August 2010 - 09:44 PM

I've just found out that this set has a pretty good price ($40!), so I may buy it for the microfigs. The gold scorpion is nice, too. I don't own one, so it would be nice to get it.
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