Pylos review — A Tic-Tac-no

Pylos is another two player abstract game from publisher Gigamic and designed by David Royffe. Players will race to be the first to place their last sphere at the top of the shared pyramid of wooden balls on the board.

The rules for Pylos are very straightforward. In fact the entire game can be learned from the back of the box without even cracking the rulebook. To prove my point, I won’t even explain the game, just take a look at the box picture below.

Rules 1 & 2

Rules 3 & 4

Once you have the rules down, Pylos is a snappy game. A winner will emerge in just a few minutes so it needs to have some staying power, something to make you want to go again. For me, Pylos is missing that something. There is some room for setting up plays that force your opponent to make bad choices or leave them without a way to block your move but it all feels rote. The 3D nature of the game can obfuscate the board state a bit but two competent players will more often than not be able to block every opportunity to gain an advantage through moving already placed balls or forming squares and gaining pieces back. Like Tic-Tac-Toe, once the game is understood, it plays itself.

Quarto, another abstract from Gigamic, relies on the same ideas, but it succeeds where Pylos fails because the board state becomes complicated enough that the mental gymnastics required to keep up are either too much or take too long. The chaos of all of the different pieces makes it easy for the human eye to miss something and trigger a mistake that your opponent can either capitalize on or miss themselves. Pylos on the other hand is just way too simple to get away with it. Like Xs and Os, the light and dark colored balls don’t hide anything.

Mid game with every square easily blocked

The production of Pylos doesn’t get a pass either. It has the same style of sturdy board as others in this line from Gigamic and the pieces are nice and solid wood. However, it’s a bit of a mess. For starters, the balls are all meant to sit in the carved channel around the edge of the board. At the start of the game, the balls absolutely do not all fit in the channel. If you take out the first piece, they still do not fit nicely. The slightest nudge is going to send balls flying. The reason for that, is the channel is carved with a different radius than the balls so they don’t actually even sit in the channel as designed. Speaking of the balls, my game either came one short, or more likely, we immediately lost one during the first game when several inevitably flew out of the channel and scattered across the room. Mind you this was in a rental at PAX Unplugged and despite several days of intermittent searching, the missing ball was never to be seen again. All of this packs up in a standard size game box which seems like a crime of shelf space for 3D Tic-Tac-Toe.

Two player abstract games can be a joy to discover and master when done well. Unfortunately Pylos doesn’t land in that category. My kids will get a kick out of it for a while but I wouldn’t recommend this one to anyone else. For a crunchy experience that truly has emergent strategies and will make you want to play again and again, check out my favorite in the genre, Shobu.

The board doesn’t fit the balls properly

Lead Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

A life long video gamer, Mark caught the Tabletop itch in college and has been hooked ever since. Epic two player strategy games are his favorites but he enjoys pretty much everything on the tabletop, just no Werewolf please. When he gets a break from changing diapers and reading bedtime stories he can usually be found researching new games or day dreaming about maybe one day having time for a ttrpg. Some of Mark's favorite games are Star Wars: Rebellion, A Feast for Odin, and Nemesis.




Review Guidelines

Two player abstract games are one of my favorite genres, but Pylos left me wanting more from it and confused about where exactly the “game” was. Kids that don’t know better may enjoy this one but it’s a pass for me.

Mark Julian

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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