Full disclosure: A review copy of Pile-Up Rush was provided by Nice Game Publishing.
Alright, we’ve got some time, so let’s talk about more of the games I’ve been checking out from Korea! I’m really excited about a lot of these, so I’ll hopefully have a lot to talk about regarding these over the next few weeks / months / however long it takes me to get through all of these (at least 7 weeks, probably?). Weirdly enough, this is another real-time game, but, I mean, I like those so … it’s not weird for me. Either way, that’s what we’re talking about this week.
In Pile-Up Rush, well, there’s not really a theme, so to speak. It’s a bit more abstract, but the rules are clear: you’re here to stack pieces and stack them fast. Will you be able to outpace your opponent? Or will everything you’ve built up fall even more quickly than it was constructed?
First, set out the ring:
Put it jagged-side up for Hard Mode, flat-side up for Easy Mode. Give each player a set of pieces:
Finally, set out the sand timer. Like I said for Eco-Links, I’m trying to avoid taking photos of sand timers for personal and logistical reasons. Once you’ve done that you’re ready to play!
Choose a player to go first. The first player / team flips the timer, and then must place three pieces on top of the ring. There are a few rules to placement:
- It can’t move once you place it. Or at least it has to not fall over, standard stacking game rules.
- You can only hold one piece in one hand while you’re placing. It’s tough, but fair.
- All players on a team must place a piece on their turn. Naturally, this is why the game is 2 – 4 players. Also, you play simultaneously, so good luck with that, seriously.
- Except for turn one, you must place at least one piece on your turn. Then you can flip the timer.
- If time runs out, you lose. Try to avoid that.
Once they’re done, they flip the timer, provided the sand is below the black line. Now, it’s the other player / team’s turn. If, at any point, the tower falls on your team’s turn, you lose! If you place all of your pieces, you win!
Win or lose, once the round ends, you gain points:
- Time runs out: +1 VP for your opponent.
- The tower falls: +1 VP for your opponent.
- You place all of your pieces: +2 VP for you.
If you gain a VP, you may remove one of your opponent’s pieces from the game. If your opponent gains a VP, they can remove one of yours. On the bright side, that makes it easier for you to use all of your pieces. The first team to score 4VP (remove four of their opponent’s pieces from the game) wins!
For an extra challenge, have players set out their blocks in a line at the start of each round. They can only pull blocks from either end of the line. You can also have the teams split the blocks and they can only use the blocks they’ve been assigned.
Player Count Differences
The major difference is that you use teams at 4 players. If you have an odd number of players but insist on playing this game, let the odd player either put a block in each hand or use both hands to place blocks, but they still must place two blocks on their turn.
I’m not the biggest fan of team games in the world, so I’m gonna stick with playing this at two. It’s great at two, though.
It’s kind of a speed dexterity game, so, there’s not much strategic play happening. You can be kind of tactical, I suppose.
- Lay traps. The best thing you can do is set up a really precarious stack and then your opponent has to deal with it. Just make sure your trap isn’t so good that it immediately falls on you.
- Don’t leave flat surfaces accessible. Remember, you want to make life hard for your opponent. If you have flat surfaces that are well-supported, well, your opponent can use those to build the structure up. Make your opponent be the one to reinforce the structure and leave you flat surfaces. Besides, it’s more fun to leave curved surfaces up and make the structure even more difficult to navigate than it already is.
- Balancing stuff is fun, too. It’s a bit more dangerous, but with great risk occasionally comes great reward. I’m like, thirty-five percent sure Uncle Ben said that.
- Don’t forget about the timer. You lose if time runs out; keep an eye on it. You really don’t want it to run out.
- Similarly, don’t waste time. Once you have something working, flip the timer. You want your opponent to have as little time as possible to figure out what to do with the mess you left them.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I haven’t laughed this much playing a game in a while. We’re mostly shouting obscenities at each other through tears as the tower falls over and then we just laugh and laugh and laugh. Once you’ve got a few games of this in, it’s an absolute riot. It’s a pretty incredible two-person game, especially if you have players that like stacking and balancing.
- The components are really nice. They’ve got a good weight and they feel solid, and the colors are both distinct and they look nice together on the table. It has a good table presence.
- Easy to learn. There aren’t very many components or rules. You just kind of … go at it.
- Plays fast. Most games take us < 10 minutes, which I appreciate. This + Eco-Links makes for a great real-time set of games. Add in BEEEEES! for the dice and you’ve got a whole real-time game night. I’d also add in Zogen or Anomia, but that’s the kind of monster that I am.
- It’s unclear to me if the pieces are purposely cut weird or if it’s just a weird bunch of shapes. I don’t mean that the shapes themselves are weird, I mean more that a few shapes are flat on one end and slanted on the other — the asymmetry of a lot of them occasionally throws me off. Not a huge deal, just kind of a “meh”, hence the meh.
- We didn’t particularly care for the “choose your blocks in advance” variant. It’s not really a problem with the game, just something I figured I’d mention. Your mileage may vary with this one, though; hopefully you like it more than we did.
- The sand timer isn’t really … good. It’s a bit inconsistent; this means some turns will go by extremely quickly, and others will move much more slowly. I am hoping that I can find an app that I can use instead of the sand timer, but I’m not having much luck, unfortunately.
- Not a whole lot to it, really. I wonder how much long-term replay value it’ll have, unless you’re playing it with different people each time. I mean, as it stands, I quite enjoy it, but it always begs the question of how long it’ll last. That said, this seems like the kind of game that expansions with new shapes would be more than welcome.
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, I’ve had a ton of fun with Pile-Up Rush! Sure, it’s a simple game, but it doesn’t really try to be anything more than what it is. It’s a silly, super-fun press-your-luck dexterity game. I’m not really interested in the team modes, personally, but I enjoy the ability to go head-to-head against another player and watch the whole tower crumble under its own weight. Seriously, this game has been absolutely hilarious in one of my groups, and it’s a great game to learn to play with another person, as it becomes a lot more challenging as your mutual skills increase. If you have another person who you do deep dives into games with, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out. Either way, though, if you like dexterity, stacking, a bit of press-your-luck, and / or real-time games, I’ve really enjoyed Pile-Up Rush; hopefully you will too!