Friday, October 2, 2009
Triangle Game Review - Treehouse
It's kind of tough to figure out what kind of game Treehouse actually is. There are no cards, so it's not a card game. There's no board, or even a rough approximation of a board, so it's not a board game. You can't play it with more than four people, so it's not a party game. Nobody dies, so it's not a man's game. Hell, the copy I have is pink. It has fifteen little pink pyramids and one black die. So what kind of game is that (aside from a game for men who wear hot pants and spend too much time in the park after sunset)?
I guess I could settle on 'fun game.' It's odd, for sure, and a little simple, but that's about what you expect when you break out a Looney Labs game. It's also rather ingenious, and the more you play it, the better you'll be, even if you can't figure out what kind of game it is.
When you set up this wacky little game, each player gets a stack of three pyramids in three sizes, so they kind of look like a pink pine tree from an old-school Atari tank game. Then you put three more pieces all screwed up in the middle of the table, and you try to get your pine tree to look like the tree in the middle of the table.
You change up your pine tree stack by rolling a die. There are a bunch of different silly words on the die, and every word lets you do something different, either to your pile of pink tree parts or to the tree in the middle of the table that you're all trying to copy. So maybe you'll SWAP two parts of your tree, or DIG one part under another part, or AIM a part a different direction, or one of the other things the die lets you do. It's not complicated, but it will take a while to get good, because it seems like it should be a breeze, but you have to be watching everything at the same time.
For instance, if you're one TIP away from winning, and an opponent just needs a HOP, but all you can roll is a DIG, it might be worth doing the move on the triangle pile in the middle of the table. Because if you're creative at it, you might be able to rearrange the pieces to keep you just one SWAP away while leaving your opponent having to start from scratch.
So my take on Treehouse is that it's a clever game that's easy to learn but has a fair amount of room to learn. However, that's not all Treehouse is. Because not only is Treehouse a quirky little game of rearranging triangles, but it's almost infinitely expandable. Yes, a game that consists of 15 plastic pyramids has a bunch of expansions.
Treehouse isn't the only game you can play with Treehouse. There's a whole bunch of games. In fact, I can name more games you can play with Treehouse than I could name games you could play with a standard deck of cards (that may have something to do with the fact that I can't name very many card games, or that while I'm typing this I have the Looney Labs website open). You can play Icicle, Tic Tac Doh, and Rotationary with just one set. Add some Martian Coasters, and you can play that. Add a couple more sets and a ludicrously cheap book, and you can play Martian Chess, Binary Homeworlds and Black Ice. I can keep going, too - there are literally hundreds of games that have been created for Treehouse pieces.
One thing I really like about Treehouse is that in a market saturated with games whose themes are completely pointless (I'm looking at you, Doctor Knizia), Treehouse has the balls to be honest and just be an abstract game. It doesn't have to pretend that tipping over triangles is actually part of a story about old French kings trying to nail the chambermaid. There's no pretense of unicorns or sea monsters when a piece changes direction. I know people shrug away the worthless theme by saying the market demands it, but that's a load of crap. Treehouse doesn't pretend to be a game with a theme, because the crazy hippies at Looney Labs know that most people would rather not be fooled into buying a game they think is about stealing priceless statues, only to find out they got a boring math game.
I'm still not sure how to label Treehouse. But I don't care, because I like it, and I want to get four more sets and play all these wacky pyramid games. Plus they look like hard candy, and I'm a sucker for a candy theme.
Neat, attractive pieces
Clever game that plays fast
Enough depth that you may need a few games to be really good at it.
You'll need more than one set for most of the really cool Treehouse games
I swear this site isn't turning into a front for Looney Labs. I just like their games, and they keep sending 'em to me. If you think you might like them, you can get Pink Treehouse right here, and even help fight breast cancer: