Players 2
Length 20-40 minutes
Equipment Required single standard piecepack, PiecepackPyramids
Designer Michael Schoessow
Version 1.0
Version Date2004-01-10
License custom license: Copyright August 2003 by Michael J. Schoessow. These game rules may be copied and distributed as long as the author is credited or this header is left in place.


Abstract 4x4 for for two players.



Reviews & Comments

Compact, luck-free abstract game in which Piecepack Pyramids move alone or in stacks over a 4x4 board, displayed in diamond shape. Each player aims to capture the opposite corner of the board, or all the opponent's stacks but one. The captures are enabled by the smallest pyramids, called Activators, which can only rest on a pyramid or stack belonging to the opponent. Activators protect the enemy stacks they rest on, and their combined positions also determine two squares on the board which are frozen.

Activator reads well: its use of the pyramids is specific to the Piecepack (Icehouse pyramids haven't got as many sizes), the rules are concise and they seem to squeeze a lot of strategic and tactical play within a very small board. It also starts off well: the movement rules are very restrictive and it takes a bit of practice to keep an eye on the frozen squares on the board, but as soon as the first moves are made, players can indeed imagine different paths to take.

At this point, though, is where the game shows an unwelcome issue: it takes considerably more effort to prepare an effective attack than to defend it: the target pyramid can often be trapped in one square (particularly if it is a big pyramid), but the pyramids containing the activator can be moved very easily, particularly at the beginning of the game, when the activator rests on the smallest of the opponent's pyramids. Thus, the game only gathers momentum very slowly.

After the first captures, this imbalance unfortunately persists: more free squares allow stacks to move away from threats more easily. In addition, when one player has superiority over the opponent, it also has less possible spaces to place the activator, narrowing even more the chances to attack. Therefore, the game becomes a protracted positional battle as players try to corner both target pyramids and the stack carrying their activator in increasingly open spaces.

Offering two different paths to victory (capturing all stacks but one and occupying the opposite corner of the board) offers only limited help in that respect: since the pyramids that occupy the corner spaces are the biggest ones, they can only move when the spaces beside them have been freed. Even then, there doesn't seem to be a point in doing so: moving all other pyramids away from the sides of the board and leaving the pyramid in the "home" corner space with the activator on nearly stalls the game (in this scenario, only the big pyramid on the corner could be attacked by the opponent, and having the activator on top of it makes this impossible).

To sum up, I can recommend Activator to dedicated abstract game aficionados and amateur game designers that won't mind some extra downtime to think about the structure of the game as they play.

--Antonio Recuenco Muñoz


BGG page:

CategoryGame DisplaceDifferentiatedPiecesCategory MechanicStackedPyramids