Pyramid of Pengqueen: A Return to the ICECOOL Universe
We’ve always been big fans of cooperative board games in our house, but it seems like we’ve actually been playing a lot more asymmetrical board games recently during our family game nights. I’m talking about games like The Enchanted Tower and Jurassic Park Danger! - games where different players or teams have different goals for winning. And oftentimes that means it’s the good guys vs. bad guys.
It’s a fun twist on our love for cooperative games, and somehow it often still seems to dull that sting of losing you might feel in traditional competitive games. In our house, we always tend to play these asymmetric games with the same teams. I often get the honor of being the bad guy, and the rest of the family teams up against me.
Our 6-year-old son absolutely insists on being a good guy. I think it’s adorable he outright refuses to role-play as a bad guy - no matter what game we’re playing. His little sister, on the other hand, has no qualms with being evil. But, as a bonus, I can use his utter disdain for the dark side as a way to get him to do things like brush his teeth.
Recently, we’ve added a new family game to our asymmetric arsenal: Pyramid of Pengqueen. If you’ve ever played ICECOOL - the wonderful dexterity game of penguin flicking - you’ll be interested to know that Pyramid of Pengqueen is actually a return to that same penguin universe. As a fan of good themes and stories in my games - and a big promoter of the child’s imagination - I really love that little detail.
But Pyramid of Pengqueen is different than other asymmetric games we’ve played, because even the good guys are technically competing against each other to win. And you can certainly play the game this way, or, if you’re a huge fan of cooperation like us, you can also easily twist the rules to your liking. It’s quite easy to make the good guys win and lose as a team.
You know what they say - the only thing more important than having fun is coming together as a team and beating Dad every night. Other families have that saying too, right?
Disclosure: The publisher provided us with a copy of Pyramid of Pengqueen with no expectation of this article. We choose to write about things that we love, and all thoughts and opinions are our own.
The Story of Pyramid of Pengqueen
Like I said, I’m a big fan of stories, and the narrative setup for this game is fantastic. The good guys in this case are a group of penguins - perhaps the very same penguin students from the board game ICECOOL. When we last saw them in ICECOOL they were skipping class - and trying to avoid the hall monitor - so that they could get their hands on some fish before lunchtime.
In Pyramid of Pengqueen, our penguin friends are adventurers searching for the treasures of the lost Pyramid of Pengqueen. They discover a secret entrance behind the pots and pans in their old school cafeteria, and it leads them down a path to a giant cave. And that’s where the discover the pyramid they have been looking for.
But, once they enter the pyramid, the door slams shut behind them, and the Mummy of Pengqueen awakens. Now they have to find the right combination of magical objects to break the curse of the mummy - before they’re stuck for all eternity.
The few paragraphs that describe this story in the instructions might seem insignificant to some, but my son always listens very intently when I read stories like this out loud. For us it lays the foundation for the imagination to come in and really do its work.
What Makes Pyramid of Pengqueen Different?
Pyramid of Pengqueen has actually been published before under different names - like Curse of the Mummy and Pyramid. So Pyramid of Pengqueen has been reskinned by publisher Brain Games to place it into the ICECOOL universe with those lovable penguins. And it’s really a great fit.
Several people have also pointed out that Pyramid of Pengqueen has some visual similarities to another one of our favorite family games - Gnomes at Night. Both games have a vertical, two-sided map with magnetic pieces, but that’s very much where the comparison ends. Unlike Gnomes at Night, both sides of the map in Pyramid of Pengqueen are identical, and there is no communication or cooperation taking place between the people on opposite sides of the map.
The divide only exists in Pyramid of Pengqueen to ensure that the evil mummy is walking around blind - without knowing where the penguins are. The only hint the mummy receives regarding the penguins whereabouts is when a penguin finds one of the magical objects they are looking for. At that point, they must reveal which treasure they have stumbled upon, providing a momentary glimpse of their location on the map.
I very much enjoy playing the role of the mummy in this game. It’s fun to stumble around in the dark with only occasional hints of where to turn - almost like playing Marco Polo in the swimming pool. Likewise, being one of the adventurers is just as exciting. Being able to see where the mummy is, but needing to take calculated risks to grab your treasure can provide quite a rush.
Is Pyramid of Pengqueen a Cooperative Game?
If you’re playing by the rules where the penguins are competing against each other - you want to be the first to find their 5 treasures. This adds an interesting bit of strategy to the game. There are definitely moments of throwing the other adventurers under the bus. You might choose to reset the dice (which gives the mummy a bonus turn) knowing full well that it can catch one of your opponents.
At the same time, you have to be careful about that strategy if the mummy is close to winning. If they take too many lives, the game is over, and the mummy is the winner. You might find yourself working together - trying to keep everyone else alive long enough for you to find your last treasure.
But, if you want to tweak the rules a little, you could also turn the adventurers into a team. You can require a certain total number of treasures be found to make all of the penguin adventurers win together. This changes the strategy quite a bit as well. Penguins might find themselves communicating more with each other - planning out sacrifices and strategizing about when to reset the dice as a team.
Our family has never played a game like Pyramid of Pengqueen before, and it has definitely added something completely new to our family game nights. And the story about discovering a hidden passage behind the pots and pans in the school cafeteria provides a little bonus fodder for our imaginations.
Even though the official recommendation is an age of 8+, our 6-year-old has no issues at all. Even our 3-year-old has figured out the goal of the game and can easily play on a team. And for my part, I enjoy my role as the bad guy very much, and have a blast chasing down those penguins as the evil mummy. I can safely say we’ll be playing this one for years to come.
You can find Pyramid of Pengqueen to purchase on Amazon.
What’s your favorite asymmetrical board game? Have you played Pyramid of Pengqueen yet? Who’s the default “bad guy” in your house? Let us know in the comments!