This wasn’t a game that had grabbed my attention originally. I am not sure quite what it was, but this game, like so many, was lost in the ocean of game releases.
Never fear though, my wife had flagged it and when it went on sale decided to order it. It arrived as a pleasant surprise game for us to get to the table and play.
- Players: 1-5
- Playtime (with Setup): We find it between 90-120 minutes
- Publisher: Stonemaier Games
- Designer: Robert Leask
A Box Full of Components
Pendulum features a game board that will fit fairly well both on your kitchen table and your coffee table. It’s intended to be the center focus of the game play, keeping players focus on the game board and not having to dig for anything in a pile of components.
To aid this there is places for all of the cards you will interact with during the real time game play or each round. As well, there are places for each of the sand timers and very clear and easy to read worker placement spots.
Overall, the board itself is a great game board for a game like this.
There’s plenty of cards in Pendulum. Each is very high quality with a great protective coating that prevents them from sliding around quite so much. Not to mention, the coating doesn’t glare as badly as some gloss coats on cards making it much easier to see the cards in certain lighting conditions. All in all, amazing card quality and materials here.
Usually one of the first things we want to do when we unbox a game is sort the components into player bags. This makes set up easy for when we get together with other players.
In Pendulum, the normal instinct of putting the raw materials like votes and resource cubes into one bag. This isn’t a great idea though as there are very specific quantities of each of these for each player. The game doesn’t used a shared resource pool like other games. This really streamlines the game play and means players don’t have to go hunting for a gold cube when the time comes that they need one.
The materials themselves are all plastic, except for the 10 vote card chits. Because of this, they are all really nice quality gaming pieces. The coloring is consistent and overall I am really happy with the plastic pieces.
Due to the frantic pace of the game, the only complaint I have here is that the player board doesn’t feature any insets for the VP tokens. These small round discs tend to slide around the board a bit as you play causing potential errors with scoring at the end.
The Grains of Sand Pass Quickly
Pendulum is a frantic game of making decisions quickly and then groaning because you missed opportunities. Indeed, this is the game that will frustrate those players in your group that suffer from the dreaded analysis paralysis.
There is a way to play the game without using the actual timers, but I think that defeats what this game really is meant to be. That is an adrenalin pumping frenzy. There will be short downtimes, but the shortest timer is 45 seconds and the longest is two minutes. Have your workers locked up on that two minute timer and it can feel like infinity. Meanwhile, if you have 3 or more workers on the board taking care of actions on that 45 second timer before it flips can prove to be challenging!
The game itself is effectively a worker placement game that takes place in real time. The idea of either of these concepts isn’t really new, but the way they are melded together in this game is quite brilliant.
During the bulk of the game you are either going to be placing workers on various action spots where the row doesn’t have a timer or you will be activating those workers if there is a timer on that row. Beware though, because there is are grande workers. These workers prevent the placement of the small workers on the same action spaces.
Over the course of the game you will acquire resources and territory cards. These will aid you in pushing your tokens up the 4 victory point tracks. You must achieve a minimum rating on each track in order to be considered for victory in the game. These tracks are asymmetric based on the character you are playing, but is countered with asymmetric starting resources and four special cards that you can trigger for added bonuses.
The game effectively lasts for four full frantic rounds that last between 6-8 minutes long. After each round there is a quick Council Phase where you will gain some rewards that will help aid your path to victory and reset the game state.
Pendulum is amazing! It’s really unique game play is exciting and fresh. The components are all exceptionally good. The theme of the game is really cool even if the immersion into that is lost in the frantic pace of the game. The art is top notch. All in all, I really like this game.
Before you run off and buy this game there is something I feel I must warn you about. This game will NOT BE for everyone. The real time nature of the game can stress some people out and those players that are notorious slow players may find this game not to their tastes. You need to be able to play fast, make quick decisions, and play honestly.
If that warning doesn’t chase you off, then this game might be the game for you. I really enjoy the game myself and happen to really enjoy real time games. Before you play with new players, take the time to make sure everyone has a firm understanding of the rules and have a go.