PHARAO CODE is a fast paced game of mathematics for 2-5 players aged 10 and upwards.
it is published by the German boardgame company AMIGO and designed by James Lim.
It uses a simple game mechanic of rolling 3 D10s (10 sided dice) and numbered tiles laid out
pyramid style on a board. The board isn't necessary to the game but it does keep the tiles tidy
and also as each row of tiles has a different border colour it is used to show the colours for a
You separate the tiles into four distinct stacks by colour. It doesn't matter that you see the numbers
as long as you do not see how many scarabs are printed on the back. The tiles are then laid on the
board as shown above (not those specific numbers but drawn as they come from the tile stacks).
You can see that there are less tiles for the top spot but that the numbers for that position are quite
a bit higher than those on the other 3 rows which contain a mixture of low to medium numbers.
One player rolls all 3 dice and everyone plays off the result. You look at the 3 dice and then the numbers
on the board and as soon as you can or think you can create one of the pyramid (or target) numbers from
using one, two or all three of the dice you take the tile. The first person to take a tile each round also has
the job of turning over the sand-timer and, most importantly Time-Keeping. We find that we get so
involved in watching what other players are doing or what we/they missed that we forget to watch the sand.
A 30 second bell timer would really have done this game a big favour.
So how do you know what tile to take ? Lets say the board is set as you can see it above, and the dice roll
produces a 3, a 6 and a 10 (0). You could immediately take the "3" tile (bottom right) as you can make 3 from
the dice on display. 3 = 3. You could also take the 60 (centre board) by multiplying the 6 by the 10 = 60 or
the 18 (3 x 6) etc. each player can only take one tile per round and if they see another after they have already
taken a tile they may not take it. You can Add, Subtract, Divide or Multiply the die numbers but you may
only use each number once. A very clever but simple mechanic.
Tiles taken are kept number up in front of you. Once the sand has run out the round ends and each player has
to show how they made the number on the tile (6 x 10 = 60 etc). If they make a mistake then they turn the
tile over and the number of scarabs shown on it are now minus points. The rows are refilled with more tiles
and a new round begins. Once a row cannot be refilled the game ends and players turn over the tiles they have
won and count the scarabs - highest number wins, or most tiles if it is a tie.
There are no tactics except to try and get a number higher up the pyramid as this is where the most scarabs will
be found, however the higher numbers are also easy to miscalculate under pressure of the timer and so it is also
the place where you can lose most points.
After numerous plays some bright sparks will probably remember the number of scarabs on the backs of the tiles
so my advice is to play it but not too often with the same people (then you can l;earn the numbers and they can't!).
For a short game this is a lot of fun. It is well designed and works very well but it does require a quick mental maths
brain - which is probably why I am yet to win a game. Definitely one to play with the family as it has maths teaching
qualities without seeming to be an educational game.