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Flaming Pyramids: the Arena Experience

During the big initial lockdown of 2020, Flaming Pyramids designer Norbert Abel proposed that we put Flaming Pyramids on the Board Game Arena platform, and best of all, he was was prepared to use his time and programming skills to do it. Norbert discussed that experience with Bez on her podcast.

Flaming Pyramids had been successfully Kickstarted in 2018 by 172 backers and released into the New Zealand market in November of that year. Over the next two years (as of September 2020), 76 people had rated it on BoardGameGeek and its average rating was 6.355.

Flaming Pyramids was made available to play on Board Game Arena in December 2020 and to date, even though it is hardly one of the most popular games on there, over 200,000 games have been played on the site. As comparisons, over 8 million games of Carcassonne have been played and 1.17 million of Wingspan.

Just as rewarding to know, the founder of BGA, Gregory Isabelli, wrote me, "I just would like to drop you a message to tell you how much we love FlamingPyramid: it has become one of the favorite games of the BGA team for our weekly playing sessions." (personal email, February 28, 2022) Although I feel the game is more fun in person, there's no doubt having it available on BGA has enabled it to grow a larger circle of fans than Cheeky Parrot could achieve via our retail channels. Because BGA allows the publisher to put an advertising banner at the top of the screen, we've also sold a number of copies, largely to overseas customers, via the SchilMil Games webstore.

Those buying the physical game can read right on the back of the box that "it is most strategic with 2-4 players and tends to get random and silly with 5-6."

Not necessarily knowing this, it seems many people play it once on BGA, fail to pick up on its strategic dimensions, and rush to the 'Geek to give it a low rating! Its average rating on BoardGameGeek has sunk to 5.257 over the past two and a half years. Of those who made a comment to accompany their low rating, this one is sadly typical: "A very random game with little to no decisions or strategy.... I do not think I will play this again."

On the other hand, here's a player from Serbia who gets it:

A great time killer, a great game while you're waiting for people to play your next boardgame, a great game to play with kids and easy to teach.

I see comments like: it's very random and u need luck, but actually it's not all in luck ,but strategy.

Ofc u will get random cards, same as ur opponent but u may get fire tiles and if you think that's bad-u could make a strategy and prepare the ground to use it to burn your opponent! If you don't have it, you can also make a strategy and make the ground that way that he cannot use his fire, sometimes even to destroy tiles by yourself and get more cards, sacrifice just to make him burn the whole pyramid!

One of my favorite short games!

Played on BGA and keep the 1st and 2nd place long time already, it is not all in luck for sure?

And this commentator picked up on the humorous aspect of the pyramid coming to grief, as did some others:

Really fun game. Easy to learn. Skill needed to win and a bit of luck. Hilarious when it all comes tumbling down or catches fire. I think this is why some people have given it a bad rating - they are big babies who can't handle everything falling down. haha this is part of the game! it's really funny. Recommended.

I have started to work on a video demonstrating how to make strategic decisions when playing the game. Funnily enough, I only became aware of one of these through playing it on BGA.

If this was your starting hand and you were the first player, which tile would you use to start off the pyramid? Since you're playing on the bottom row, any of the five are possible, but some choices are better than others, and the player count influences the decision.

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