The Pyramid of the Jaguar is a simple game in concept. The deck has 40 cards valued from 1-40. Players get a hand of fifteen cards to play into their 10 space pyramid, with the lowest value card to go in the lower left hand corner and the highest value card at the top, and each space from left to right and up the pyramid higher in value than the one before it.
On his turn, the player picks two cards from his hand and puts them face up on the table. The other player then picks one of the cards and places it into her pyramid, leaving the remaining card for the first player to place. If you can't fit a card into your pyramid without messing up the order, you have to play it on top of an already placed card, covering it with a Jaguar stone to indicate that it can't be covered again. For example, if you have the 15 and 19 cards next to each other and must play the 17, you'd play it on top of the 15 or 19. When this happens, the other player moves their token up the Jungle Path (score track).
Another wrinkle is a set of symbols along the Jungle Path. If your token lands on a symbol, you get to perform a powerful action such as removing a card from your or your opponent's pyramid, removing a Jaguar stone, or discarding a card from your opponent's hand. If you win the round by completing your pyramid, you move your token 5 steps up the Jungle Path.
The game ends when, at the end of a round, one of the player's tokens is farther up the Jungle Path than the value of a card randomly drawn from the deck. At that point, whoever is farthest up the path wins.
The trick of the game is to force the other player to take a card that will disadvantage her while getting the card you want into your pyramid. As reality rudely reminded during this game, it makes no sense to lay out your cards perfectly sequentially. I had thought I was clever playing my 1 and 2 cards on the first two spaces, but when Carol removed my 1 card by landing on a symbol on the Jungle Path, I had to reorder my entire bottom row.
Despite what I thought was an early advantage resulting from a good hand, Carol quickly threw my structure into disarray, taking advantage of the special actions afforded by the Jungle Path, and easily won the round, ending four spaces ahead of me. The card drawn from the deck was below her score value, so the game was over after that round and Carol won.
Coming up: Islands in the South Pacific provide the backdrop for a magical battle for supremacy in Kahuna.