David G Royffe's Pylos was originally published in 1990 as Strat-O-Sphere. It's a stacking game where you're placing balls out onto a platform, competing to be the last player to place out a ball - either because you are placing it at the peak of the pyramid or because your opponent has run out of spheres to place out.
This edition from Gigamic, distributed in the UK by Hachette Board Games, streamlines the 1990 game. It substantially reduces the number of spheres, replacing the original game's 6 x 6 base with a much tighter 4 x 4 base. Whereas Strat-O-Sphere could take up to four players, Pylos is very much a two-player head-to-head abstract strategy game. There are more rules than in most of the other titles in Gigamic's range of wooden games, and it's not quite as intuitive, but Pylos is still easy to learn.
Each player has 15 chunky 1 inch diameter balls; one player takes the natural wood spheres and the other takes those in dark stained wood. On your turn you must place out one of your spheres. You can place it in any unoccupied indentation on the base or, when a square of balls has been formed which would support another sphere, you can place a sphere on that higher level. So far, so intuitive. However, there are a couple of special rules... If you're placing a ball on top of a square of balls, regardless of their colour, you can take the ball you're placing from those you have already out on the board rather than from your reserve, tho', as you might expect, it has to be possible to remove the ball without dislodging others on the board. Also, whenever you make a square that exclusively in your own colour, you can take back two balls from anywhere on the board. These actions both obviously extend the number of turns you'll be able to take over the course of the game.
Tho' the aim of the game is ostensibly to place the last sphere out on top of the pyramid, you'll find, as we have in our many Board's Eye View plays, that the game is usually won by the player who is able to ensure they benefit the most from the 'square' rules, ensuring that the other player ran out of spheres and was unable to take their turn.
Pylos is a strong abstract strategy game. It benefits from the Gigamic's excellent production values, so, as with other titles in this range, you have a game that, when you're not playing, you'd be happy to leave out on display.
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