I’ve been sitting on this review for about a month but haven’t published it because I wanted to get some nice photos of the game in action. Looks like that’s not going to happen any time soon so fuck it, you can probably look up some images on Google or Board Game Geek.
I fairly impulsively bought Pagoda after hearing about it on the Shut Up and Sit Down podcast and I am pretty sure it was a good idea.
You are a builder in ancient China or some shit and you are tasked with building Pagodas. The game ends when three Pagodas have been completed.
Pagoda is what you get if you cross Ticket to Ride with opening a real stiff jar. You get more glory for opening the jar than you do from loosening it (to paraphrase Matt Lees). You build the columns and floors of the Pagoda by collecting and playing coloured cards. The higher up the Pagoda you place the columns and floors the more points you get.
Cards build the corresponding coloured feature and all features on a floor must be of the same colour. The cool stuff happens when you complete a floor. You get different powers for the the different colours of floor.
The purple power lets you draw more cards for the next turn, the yellow power lets you trash cards and redraw, the red allows you to build more columns in a turn and the blue and green let you use cards of one colour to build a feature of another.
It’s a surprisingly mentally taxing game. You have to think about how to get the most points out of the cards you have in front of you. You also need to think about how you’ll leave the board for the next player, have you left an easy pagoda for them to score? Choosing what floor to build determines what power you get so you may want to play around that, but you must also think about what colours that floor is going to force you to build.
So the game has some deep mechanics but it’s also quite fast paced. While your opponent is taking their turn you are drawing cards for your next and thinking about what you are going to do. There is rarely any down time.
It’s obviously not perfect, the box insert is utter shit, it feels like every component could easily be twice the size and you can be completely screwed by the cards you are dealt.
It’s starting to become a theme that I get screwed over by the cards but my last game is probably as bad as it can get. Of the seven cards I had available to me. For at least three turns five of them were purple, this would be great but I couldn’t use them to build anywhere! In addition I didn’t have the yellow power so I couldn’t trash my hand. I was basically playing with two cards. That felt shitty. We may house rule it that you can take your entire turn to scrap your hand and redraw.