My collection of “great for 2-players” games really got a boost over the holidays – one of the new ones is Pagoda, and it is for exactly 2 players. Not only is this game fun, it’s really very visually appealing as you are building mini pagodas.
I think everyone is familiar with the “edge of the board” scoring that is used in Ticket to Ride, and the same type of scoring is used in Pagoda. In the center of the board is the building area. The deck consists of 5 different color cards and every player has 5 face-up in front of them and 2 in their hand (see pic below). Each card can build a pagoda column or floor of the matching color. You must place a column on a dot that matches its color (so a red column must be built on top of a red dot). Floors can only be built when there are 4 columns and the floor tile must match the color of the columns, BUT the dots on it will be a new color.
A turn goes as follows:
- You must build at least one column on your turn, and you can build up to 3 if you wish (floors don’t count as columns). To build anything, you must discard a card of the color required. So if you are going to build 2 red columns, place a red floor, and add a new green column you’ll need to play 3 red cards (2 for the columns and 1 for the floor) and 1 green card. You are NOT required to build on just one pagoda – you can spread out your building efforts on your turn.
- You score your turn: Columns are scored by what floor they’re on. If they’re on the bottom floor, they’re 1 point. If they’re on the 3rd floor, they’re 3 points. Floors are always 1 point. If you finish off a pagoda (by adding a roof/4th floor and the 2 columns that go on top) you get 1 point for the roof tile and 5 points for the column on top (2 pieces required).
- You refill your table cards and then your hand.
The game ends when the 4th pagoda has been completed and the player with the highest score wins. There’s space for 6 pagodas – so you may not want to finish a pagoda if you’re behind in points.
The other interesting element is that each time you place a pagoda floor you get a special “ability” for 2 uses. Both players have an “Architect’s Board” that shows the special abilities. When you play a floor tile, you move the little token next to that color over 2 spaces to the right. When you use the special ability you move it back 1 to the left. After the 2nd use, you go back to the start position for that color until you place a floor of that color again. The powers vary: one allows you to hold extra cards in your hand, whereas another allows you to play a pair of any color cards instead of 1 of the correct color to build a column. If you are playing with a younger kid or want to get the feel of the game without being overwhelmed by all the special abilities you can play without the Architect’s Board, but I hope you eventually use it as it adds a lot to the game.
Overall, I enjoyed playing Pagoda. It was super quick to pick up and there was definitely a little advanced planning required as it’s super frustrating to get to the point where you can place a floor tile and then realize the one with the color dots that matches 90% of your hand has already been played! Is this my all-time favorite 2-player game? No, but it got a lot of play time over the holidays and I’m really happy to have it in my collection! It’s not so complex that you can’t have a cocktail while playing and it’s fun to look at — which may make it easier to convince your date to play (if they need convincing).
~ $20-30 at Amazon, and some local game retailers
~20-30 minutes (it says more than that on the box but after 1 run through it never took more than 30 min)