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The Meeple Guild: Pylos among trio of wooden beauties

Gigamic makes some great-looking games
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Pylos, foreground, is part of a trio of games, Quixo top left and Quarto, from same game company.
YORKTON - If you are into board games, you most likely root through the shelves at whatever thrift store is close at hand. You can often find some great games at far from original prices and most of us have ‘want lists’ far longer than money to spend, so saving a few dollars is always good. 

Several years ago I happened upon a copy of Quixo released by Gigamic in 1995 from designer Thierry Chapeau. 

At the time it wasn’t a game I knew much about but the box top showed it was a game using chunky wooden pieces, which always piques my interest. 

There is something about wooden games that for me hearkens back to an early time, a time before even I was born, when artisans would have crafted games, not some plastic injection machine, and that effort of old intrigues me. 

So for a few bucks I grabbed Quixo, and found it a simple, but fun, five-in-a-row offering where two players are moving those chuncky wooden blocks into position to win what is at its heart, a game of Xs and Os. 

The board for Quixo is plastic, but overall the game looks great and is usually left out on the coffee table because it is an abstract strategy game I can get my better half to play. 

In reading up on Quixo I found the company behind it; Gigamic, had other wooden offerings, including Quarto and Pylos. 

It would have been a few years ago now, pre COVID of course, that I happened upon Quarto in a gaming store in Brandon while attending PrairieCon. 

Quarto came out first, back in 1991 from designer Blaise Muller, and is both aesthetically beautiful and diabolical in game play. 

The game, board included, is wooden, again with nice big pieces to place. 

Players take turns placing a piece on the board trying to complete a line of four, which can be of the same height, shape, colour etc. – so players draw from a common pool of pieces here. 

The twist is that your opponent gets to choose the piece you place on the board each turn, which is a refreshing change of pace, and makes you think in a different way in terms of strategy. 

The game can be ridiculously frustrating, but plays quickly enough to be rather addictive, so expect to play multiple games at one sitting. 

Then just the other day I found Pylos at a local thrift store for $10 -- a tad pricey in terms of thrift games – there is a risk of missing pieces to factor in – but for the missing wooden offering from Gigamic I took the chance. 

Thankfully the game was pristine. 

So Pylos is from designer David G. Royffe and was released in 1993, and as the name hints is based on piling pieces – in this case wooden marbles on a wooden base. You want to be the person capping the pyramid created to win. 

Now if there is a downside here it is that the track the marbles sit in awaiting placement isn’t quite deep enough, so pieces can be dislodged a bit more easily than you might like. Once off the board wooden marbles roll, often into hard to get places, like under the easy chair you are seated at – personal experience has attested to that already. 

Again this is a quick to play, beautiful game. 

Overall this is a great trio of games, in large part because of how wonderful they look in wood. They are all suitable for the coffee table just to look nice and create conversations with visitors. 

The quality is such that they are also what I term heirloom games, the kind you can proudly leave to the children you taught to play and they can have fond memories of learning the games every time they play years after you are gone. 

All three games are very quick to learn and under 20-minutes generally, to play, which means they are not the deepest abstract strategy games, but instead fall into the fast and fun category. 

For the record, Quarto is easily the best of the three, followed some distance back by Pylos, which is just ahead of Quixo for me, but all three are certainly worth owning, if you like abstract strategy games, and especially if you appreciate beautiful looking games.