The Story of Flaming Pyramids
A lifetime in the making
Game designer Norbert Abel first conceived of the game that would become Flaming Pyramids when he was a boy growing up in Germany. Using a standard deck of cards and inspired by UNO, he created a game that was popular with his friends.
When he was 20, Norbert showed the game to his girlfriend, Jenny, who drew illustrations for the cards, enabling the first bespoke prototype. Her use of the three building material types: straw, wood, and stone, led to the introduction of cards that could burn certain materials. The 200 “wild” tile was also introduced at this point.
But, as Norbert says, “life happened” and the game was set aside for some years. He and Jenny married, had two children, and came to New Zealand. When the children were old enough, the game came out of storage once again. The kids loved it, and Luisa even contributed a new dimension: the possibility of explosions when fire-causing cards are adjacent.
The game’s continuing positive reception beyond the circles of the Abels’ own friends and family led Norbert to think a publisher could be interested. A friend recommended he approach Cheeky Parrot Games, so he arranged to show the game to Julia Schiller at the Board Games by the Bay Hamilton event in 2017. Julia was so impressed with the game she offered to work with Norbert on the spot to get it published under the Cheeky label, knowing it would fit in perfectly with her existing line of affordable, accessible, family-friendly games.
The game was already so polished that very little development work was needed. A few rounds of formal testing confirmed that the game could be played with six people, though it is more random and silly as the player count increases.
One relatively late change was allowing the player, and not the tile’s colour, to determine whether it falls to the right or the left after the tiles below it collapse or ignite, introducing a bit more strategy, control, and planning to gameplay, but also the potential for hilarity, since it can be challenging to imagine how the tableau will look several steps ahead in the midst of a big collapse.
Next up was hiring an artist, Simon Fletcher, to work on the box image and tile art, which the team decided to highlight with New Zealand flora and fauna.
LongPack was selected to be the manufacturer and they sent sample tile sets, allowing the team to confirm that 1.5 mm was an appropriate tile thickness. The tile dimensions, 47 mm by 47 mm, were selected so that the length and width of the game’s box would be the same as the existing Cheeky Parrot titles Hoard and Raid the Pantry.
Since Cheeky Parrot had run a successful Kickstarter campaign for Hoard in 2016, Julia decided to try this avenue again to raise funding toward the production of Flaming Pyramids, but an initial campaign faltered and the hard decision was taken to cancel it and regroup. More reviews were sought, the campaign page received some aesthetic tweaks, stretch goals were added, and the target was lowered. A second campaign launched more strongly, then meandered toward the target, reaching it halfway through, then accelerated again in the final three days. In the end this campaign closed at 156% of goal with 172 backers and reached four stretch goals.
Copies of the game reached New Zealand shores in December 2018, with about 150 copies immediately dispatched to Kickstarter backers in New Zealand and across the world.
Flaming Pyramids gained additional fans overseas with its debut on the BoardGameArena platform. Norbert used his programming skills and time in Covid lockdown to make this happen. Check it out here.
A second edition, with artwork by Tim Kings-Lynne, was released in 2022.