Since the dawn of time, people have yearned to build things. And so the tower was born. From the Tower of Babel to the Tower of Pisa to the Space Needle, cultures have reached for new heights with whatever material they could gather and in any shape they could conjure. The taller, the more magnificent! The weirdest looking, the more glorious! Why with classic wooden block toys, we even nurture in our young the innate desire to construct. To stack. And hope it all doesn’t fall down. Unless that would be funny.
How To Play
Put your stacking and building skills to the ultimate test in Pile-Up Rush. The goal is to construct a tower and be the first player or team to win four building blocks from your opponent, all while under the pressure of the clock. Or sand timer.
Each player or team begins with an identical set of ten blocks in odd shapes and varying sizes. They will stack these in alternating turns on a round base. The starting player begins the sand timer and, with one hand, may place up to three of their blocks on the base…before time runs out. As soon as they decide they’re done, they flip the timer and the next player/team hurries to add to the tower, this time placing as many blocks as they wish before the sand empties. Builders may only use one hand and cannot touch any piece already in play, though they may use their current block to nudge or orient other bits already stacked.
Whenever a player is satisfied with their turn, or afraid of running out of time, they flip the timer to immediately signal it’s the next team’s go. These turns alternate until one player knocks off or causes one or more blocks to fall, one team runs out of time on their turn, or one side manages to place all of their blocks on the tower. That ends a round. If one player makes pieces fall or fails to complete their turn in time, the opposing side wins one of their blocks. If a team successfully adds all of their pieces then they earn two blocks from the others. When one player/team collects four blocks from their competitors, they win!
Falling to Pieces?
The trick with dexterity games is creating something new while also achieving a nice balance of skill and strategy with fun and frivolity. Obviously these designs are not serious experiences and as a result usually fare better with – or depending on your point of view, are often relegated to – filler, families or party groups. Some classic titles, like Animal upon Animal, might transcend those lighter restraints. Others, as in Flick ‘Em Up, trend toward the more dexterous end of the skill scale. Then a number of others rely on a unique twist to ramp up the zaniness, like a Sticky Chameleons. In any style the category receives mixed results, whether you view “light, casual, accessible and frivolous” as a backhanded compliment, or as apt descriptions for particular game nights.
Pile-Up Rush does toss in a minor twist, but is otherwise pretty familiar. It feels like a mix between Animal upon Animal and Junk Art. Yet it doesn’t offer anything profoundly different to usurp the former evergreen. Nor is there as much skill and inventiveness as the more involved latter. And that’s fine. It just means it may find less table time and, indeed until a broader North American release, limited circulation.
The speed element, though, does inject an interesting tension. In most dexterity games you’re interested in paying attention to observe a particularly clever placement or hilarious failure. In Pile-Up Rush, however, you’re always alert to what the other team is doing because you must be prepared to jump in at a moment’s notice. Look away or get distracted for only a moment and it could be round over!
That coincides nicely with the strategy element, which is not dissimilar from Animal upon Animal. Since all of your blocks are unique, it’s really tempting just to grab the easiest one(s) to fit in the growing stack. However, if you can manage finagling a really wonky shaped bit that makes for an uneven or imbalanced foundation for your foe to build upon, that can prove more successful. That decision in and of itself isn’t necessarily gripping. But when having to decide between the safe play or a risky move in all of a split second can be tensely engaging and amusing. As is the decision to push your luck and add as many pieces to the stack while the sand is sifting fast.
By design, there’s not much to dig into with Pile-Up Rush. It’s a straight-forward dexterity romp that plays quickly. The odd shaped pieces pose an amusing challenge when paired with its more original alternating speed element. And that offers a pinch of strategy when deciding how far to push your building luck or choosing what blocks to force as a foundation for your opponent’s next turn. While there probably aren’t many situations you’ll be busting this building design out, it is nonetheless an accessible, fun and slightly different dexterity tilt. For families, filler and especially fans of the genre, Pile-Up Rush will stack up just fine.
Nice Game Shop provided a copy of Pile-Up Rush for this review.