From BRAIN GAMES the publishers of ICE COOL comes a new game about Penguins and not a Flicking Penguin in sight !
Designed by Marcel-Andre Casasola Merkle (designer of over 20 games) the game is brought to life by the illustrations and inkmanship of Reinis Pëtersons
This is a 30 minute 2-5 player 'Battleships' 'Odyssey' Hunt style game where one player is the Hunter and the other players are the Hunted with the board creating a screen between the players.
Anyone expecting ICE COOL with a few changes should think again, the only similarity being the theme of Penguins.
The Pyramid Tomb of the PENGQUEEN is full of marvellous treasures and of course this means that Adventuring/Treasure Hunting Penguins from all over the lands of Ice Cool have arrived at its locked entrance to be the first to discover the greatest artefacts and relics. However, the operative word in that longer than usual sentence is 'locked'! The entrance is actually more than locked it has been blocked and sealed. Oh dear! How can an honest tomb raiding thief make a living if they cannot get into the pyramid where all that glittering loot lives (well it doesn't actually 'live' there, it resides).
Thankfully, before we, the human players, came onto the scene, one of the adventurous penguins has discovered a secret back-door and so as we arrive to take control of the cute little Peng-dudes, they already know their way into the tomb. However, boy do us reviewers like that word, one of us humans has decided to prevent the Tiny Penguins from finding the required Treasures and has awoken the Mummified PENGQUEEN from her deeply wrapped slumber and now has control over her, and with her help is determined to prevent the Treasures from leaving the Temple.
The Mummy of the PengQueen is a large blue plastic - the ugliest Penguin you have ever seen - with a magnetic base. She has a mini penguin of her own that sits on the opposite side of the magnetic game board which is a mirror image of her side of the pyramid thus alerting the Treasure Hunting Penguins of her position in the tomb at all times - remembering that to the Mummy her Left is your Right and vice-versa. The Adventurous Penguins have found their way into the Pyramid by carefully manoeuvering down a slippery ice-covered series of stone cold steps until they enter a room with a wall in front of them and a wall to their right (behind which is the sarcophogus tomb of the Mummified PengQueen.). This leaves the Penguins just a move into the pyramid or back out of the door they entered through - oops! where did that door go ?
If you play with three, four or five players then one player takes control of the PengQueen Mummy and the others each control a Treasure Hunter. If you play with just 2 players then one is the Mummy and the other controls two Treasure Hunters. Each Treasure Hunter has three lives, shown as tokens featuring torches with backgrounds the same as the Adventurers. There are 5 white dice which have 1,2,3,4 an Arrow and an 'M' faces, each white die is the same. Then there is the Mummy's die which is black with a number of Ms on each face (3 x 1M, 2 x 2M and 1 x 3M). There are 23 Treasure cards (an unusual number) made up of 5 cards each Grey, Green and Yellow and 4 each Red and Purple; these Treasures relate to the illustrations on the board (both sides) where they are clustered according to their colour. Players are randomly dealt 5 Treasure cards, one of each colour, and should one Adventurer collect all five of their Treasures (by arriving on them on the board) before the Mummy has captured enough 'lives' (according to the number of players) then that Penguin wins. With 2 players the Mummy has to collect three lives while the Penguin player has to gather all 10 Treasures - this seems tough on the Penguin player but it is actually that bit easier than when there are more players. In a 2 player game it is also easy for the Mummy player to cheat by just hanging around one of the areas where there just 4 Treasures and wait for the Penguins to come along as they will have to get there at some time as the Adventurer has to collect 2 of each colour Treasure, not necessarily 5 with each Penguin. This isn't a guaranteed cheat-win because the Penguin player can always see where the Mummy is, but the chances are the Mummy has the upper hand in this situation. This means there is no point in playing though, for like any game if you're going to cheat why play ?
Penguins collect the Treasure when they land on the space showing the same Treasure as on their card/s. However once a Treasure is picked up the Penguin player has to (by Penguin Chivalry Honour and Lore) show the card collected to the Mummy player. Naturally this now tells the Mummy where that Penguin is as they can see the same Treasures on their side of the board. As the Penguins can see where the Mummy is at all times it is sometimes a good idea not to pick up the Treasure immediately if the Mummy is close by, wait for her to get a little way away before landing on the Treasure - you must pick up a Treasure if you stop on its space. Movement is cleverly designed even though it uses dice. The player chosen to go first (Penguins always move before the Mummy) rolls all five White dice. If any of the dice show the 'M' they have to be put aside and then the player chooses one of the numbers or arrows and moves their penguin. They have to use all movement points but that's no problem as Penguins can move back and forth over the same space if they wish, the only rule is that they may not end up on the space they began their move from. Choosing an Arrow moves the penguin as far as they can in one direction before reaching an obstruction (Other Penguins, the Mummy and Labyrinth walls count as obstructions).
Once Penguin One has moved it is Penguin 2s turn. The player may select one of the numbers to move or they may decide to reset, which means re-roll all 5 dice. If they select reset then before the dice are rolled the Mummy player can move the Mummy as many spaces as there are White Ms aside. When the play gets round to the Mummy's move then the Mummy player rolls the Black die and adds the number of White Ms on show to the number of Ms on the Black die to determine their Movement Points. Hint: if you reset when there is only one White M on display then you limit the extra movement for the Mummy- though there is always the possibility of you rolling more Ms on a reroll. As I said, clever use of the dice.
The artwork for the artefacts is neat and tidy, almost all of it is believable as Museum pieces. I cannot draw for toffee (mind you with my teeth I can't eat toffee either) so I shouldn't critique art, but I found it to be a bit flat, 2D rather than 3D, which makes absolutely no difference to the game, I just thought I'd mention it because there are so many good things about this game I needed to look for a flaw or two. So having forgiven the art for being 2D I come to the only real flaw in the game - the player pieces.
I have already mentioned the PengQueen, a big Ice-Blue plastic grotesque (looks like it should be on the wall or roof of an old French building) Pengthing. It may be unsightly but it does its job perfectly well. The problem is the Penguins themselves, they are so tiny that they are easily dropped and possibly lost. I can understand the need for them to not take up a lot of board space but it would have been better had the designers made them the same diameter but about 3 or 4 times longer (say 30mm) which would make them easier to pick up, move, not drop etc. plus with a little creativity with the mould they could have looked like (thin) penguins; otherwise the game is of very good design, the quality cannot be argued with that's for sure.
Encompassing great use of a magnetic board and magnetic pieces, clever movement options, and a good atmosphere of a cold snow-cavern full of long lost artefacts (I even had to put a jumper on while playing it - though that may have been due to the weather outside but I prefer to think it was the chill from the Ice Cool cavern.
As an 'old' person I find the £40.57 (on Amazon) rather high for what is basically a children's game, but then I look at the price of LEGO and PLAYMOBIL 'games' and realise that I am still living in the financial past and that £40.57 is actually not too bad, especially when I think of the fun we have had with it more than several times, plus £40.00 is less than the cost of a 2 person night out at the pictures nowadays (with popcorn, hotdogs and drinks) and that's money gone once you leave the cinema whereas with The PYRAMID of the PENGQUEEN you have the pleasure of playing it time and time over. Kids love the magnetic movement plus it made me go digging through some old boxes to find some other magnetic games - Super Soccer, Driing Test - neither of which are as good as I remember them and thus in this case the present wins out over the past.
Thinking back to our last game with 4 players, perhaps having small iceberg shields for the players to hide their Treasure cards behind wouldn't have gone amiss. As a player versus player game there is just enough room to fit the 10 Treasure cards onto the Penguin's side of the Ice cavern so they cannot be seen by the Mummy player, otherwise with more players the cards have to be held in the hand and that eventually wears or damages the cards, especially with younger players involved.
For a harder game we have tried playing by having each player shuffling their Treasure cards into personal 5 card face-down decks and turning over the top card (but still keeping it out of the Mummy's sight), making that the Treasure they have to get to first and so on etc. This can make it very difficult for the Penguins to win but there is a greater amount of personal satisfaction if you can outwit the Mummy. This is a fun way to play but I do not suggest you play it like this every game, just once in a while and especially when you have all adult (ish) gamers playing. Anyway, that's not in the game it's just an idea.
Here at GGO, playing with or without children, we thoroughly enjoy adventuring in The PYRAMID of the PENGQUEEN and think you will too.