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The Sultans of Swing: A Pendulum Board Game Review

W Updated October 07, 2020
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
920 1
The Sultans of Swing: Pendulum Board Game Review

Game Information

Game Name
Designer
Players
1 - 5
There Will Be Games

Back in the day, certain music labels were an auto-buy for me: Wax Trax, Def American, Sub Pop. More aptly, on the video game front, anything from Working Designs was a must-have for me. Working Designs were know for their top of the line production: limited edition artwork on the CDs, foil-stamped covers/instruction manuals, exclusive pre-order bonuses, and a somewhat controversial face of the company, Victor Ireland. Now, 30 years later, Stonemaier Games follows in those same footsteps, even complete with a somewhat controversial face for the company, Jamey Stegmaier. So, the fact that any Stonemaier release is an instabuy for some players shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

From the outside, Pendulum “looks” like what we have come to expect from Stonemaier Games. Once you open the box, the smart, geometrically transcendental Game Trayz we've almost come to expect is...missing? Ah, well, I guess this games doesn't really need them. Besides, one of the main things we are here for are those custom game pieces. Ahh, the linen finish manual, the high-quality cards and *reaches for Meeples but, upon touching them, recoils in horror* Wait, these are...plastic? And why do the worker's instantly remind me of cut-rate Marty McFly and “Doc” Brown? Bland, untextured plastic meeples in a game with a real-time manipulation environment seems like a very poor choice. Not to mention the vote tokens need to be stackable and a chunk of slick plastic doesn't lend itself well to that.

So, this is a real-time worker placement game...
“Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, is someone,possibly myself, going to knock over my Scotch when we are playing this?”
“First off, you don't drink scotch...”
“Yea, but If I did, would this be a game where someone is going to knock over my Beer...err...Scotch.”
“Well, it does have more grabbing and flipping than a Bel Biv Devoe song.”

What is a real-time game without timers? This isn't a hypothetical question; it is literally how it is recommended that your first, learning game be played. Obviously, you'll want to learn to walk before you have the “pressure” of time running out while you make your decisions. But do you play an untimed, turn by turn play every time you introduce a new person to Pendulum? If you want them to have an teachable, enjoyable experience, the answer is yes. And if you have graduated to the level of “I'm just here for the challenge of the real-time aspect” well, too bad. Granted, if you play with the same core group each time and everyone learns at once, this isn't an issue.

Once you have decided to add the timers into the game, it still can be some sand (timers) in the gears. Early in the game, before you have full access to all of your workers, you'll often find yourself watching sand go though the hourglass (something something days of our lives) waiting on the next round. Of course, the duration on those sand timers doesn't change, and once all the pieces are in play, it moves at a pace that is more hectic than ho-hum.

I am one of those players that explains what they are doing on every turn, especially in teaching games. I don't know if it is a weird, fair-play motivation or years of explaining games to others, it's just something I have gotten into a habit of doing. I also encourage others to do the same so that any rules that could be misinterpreted or actions they might be missing can be adjusted for. You won't find that in Pendulum. Since everyone is doing their own thing under the ever-descending sands, there is never time or reason to explain what you are engaging in. Are the other players playing the rules correctly? Are YOU playing it correctly? Did everyone remember to pay their resources? The world, and you, will never know.

Pendulum is a Stonemaier game in that it takes a chance on putting gameplay mechanics together that you might not immediately consider compatible. It is also a Stonemaier game in that it doesn't excel at any one of those mechanics. The turn-by-turn version isn't a stand out implementation of worker placement and the real-time execution is obviously the hook, but it never managed to truly set it for me. Plenty of the gameplay relies on you spotting excellent cards during the heat of the moment and making sure you have dibs on them. But the biggest issue was that after a couple of games, even with the real-time element, each play felt the same as the previous one and we had seen everything it had to offer.

P.S. I didn't forget to mention the theme/setting of Pendulum. I'm just giving it the exact same amount of attention that the game does once you finish reading the manual.

A review copy of this release was provided by the publisher.


Editor reviews

1 reviews

Rating 
 
3.0
Pendulum is a Stonemaier game in that it takes a chance on putting gameplay mechanics together that you might not immediately consider compatible. It is also a Stonemaier game in that it doesn't excel at any one of those mechanics. The turn-by-turn version isn't a stand out implementation of worker placement and the real-time execution is obviously the hook but it never managed to truly set it for me. Plenty of the gameplay relies on you spotting excellent cards during the heat of the moment and making sure you have dibs on them. But the biggest issue was that after a couple of games, even the real-time element, each play felt the same as the previous one and we had seen everything it had to offer.
Wade Monnig  (He/Him)
Staff Board Game Reviewer

In west Saint Louis born and raised
Playing video games is where I spent most of my days
Strafing, Dashing, Adventuring and Looting
Writing reviews between all the Shooting
When a couple of guys reminded me what was so good
About playing games with cardboard and Wood,
Collecting Victory Points and those Miniatures with Flair
It’s not as easy as you think to rhyme with Bel Air.

Wade is the former editor in chief for Silicon Magazine and former senior editor for Gamearefun.com. He currently enjoys his games in the non-video variety, where the odds of a 14 year old questioning the legitimacy of your bloodline is drastically reduced.

“I’ll stop playing as Black when they invent a darker color.”

Articles by Wade

Wade Monnig
Staff Board Game Reviewer

Articles by Wade

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fightcitymayor's Avatar
fightcitymayor replied the topic: #314870 07 Oct 2020 08:27
Wax Trax Records. Now there is a genre of music that time has forgotten: Industrial. Front 242, KMFDM, Front Line Assembly... good luck getting anyone under 40 who remembers that period of time when Industrial music was pretty damn popular, and occasionally bled into the mainstream (Ministry, NIN, Stabbing Westward, Orgy, etc.)
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #314872 07 Oct 2020 09:07
Great review! I think the "flipping" song you are referencing is Bell Biv Devoe, Do Me:


I had this CD on constant repeat while playing Golden Axe on my Genesis. They are entwined in my brain. I got to the point where I could beat Golden Axe on one life.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #314874 07 Oct 2020 09:18
That sounds... awful. I'm kinda surprised it got three stars. It's basically four people playing slap jack.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #314876 07 Oct 2020 09:48
“Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, is someone, possibly myself, going to knock over my Scotch when we are playing this?”

Matt is now my second favorite reviewer on TWBG.

This is an exceptionally well written review, moreso in how it says than what it says. I often skim reviews looking for bits and pieces (and oddly enough from bottom to top for some reason.) But you really had as much to say between the lines as in them. Your last sentence sealed the deal.

I'll assuredly never play this game, as I detest worker placement and rarely care for real-time titles. But Stonemaier offered up a target for a sharp pen, I'll give them just a little credit for that.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #314878 07 Oct 2020 11:09

hotseatgames wrote: Great review! I think the "flipping" song you are referencing is Bell Biv Devoe, .

Shit, you are right. I...uhhh...fudged that reference to see if you were paying attention.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #314879 07 Oct 2020 11:11

Jackwraith wrote: That sounds... awful. I'm kinda surprised it got three stars. It's basically four people playing slap jack.

It's not awful, per se, it's more been there, done that with a real time twist.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #314890 07 Oct 2020 15:38
My recollection is that so very wrong about games mentioned something about there being a reminder in the rulebook not to worry about it, that no one would consistently play the game correctly in real time anyway.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #314892 07 Oct 2020 15:44

Gary Sax wrote: My recollection is that so very wrong about games mentioned something about there being a reminder in the rulebook not to worry about it, that no one would consistently play the game correctly in real time anyway.

It does have that in the rulebook. It's almost as helpful as telling someone with anxiety to stop worrying so much.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #314893 07 Oct 2020 15:59
I get the motivation to put something like that in but... I would not feel happy about that.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #314894 07 Oct 2020 16:08
"more grabbing and flipping than a Bel Biv Devoe song.”

Love it! Not this game, it doesn't sound like my kind of thing at all. But yeah, I was a fan of Bell Biv Devoe, Wax Trax, and Sub Pop at various points in time.
RobertB's Avatar
RobertB replied the topic: #314895 07 Oct 2020 16:08
Isn't there a real-time game out there that used a bajillion sand timers to time events? For example I need a brick, and they take 1 minute to make, so I put a 1 minute timer on it. The 'game' part is managing all this stuff simultaneously. Plus there is some Take That, where you can stick another timer next to their timer, to slow them down. I thought someone in this very forum talked about it.
Jackwraith's Avatar
Jackwraith replied the topic: #314897 07 Oct 2020 16:37

WadeMonnig wrote:

Gary Sax wrote: My recollection is that so very wrong about games mentioned something about there being a reminder in the rulebook not to worry about it, that no one would consistently play the game correctly in real time anyway.

It does have that in the rulebook. It's almost as helpful as telling someone with anxiety to stop worrying so much.


"You might remember me from such self-help videos as 'Smoke Yourself Thin' and 'Get Confident, Stupid!'"
dysjunct's Avatar
dysjunct replied the topic: #314902 07 Oct 2020 23:21

RobertB wrote: Isn't there a real-time game out there that used a bajillion sand timers to time events? For example I need a brick, and they take 1 minute to make, so I put a 1 minute timer on it. The 'game' part is managing all this stuff simultaneously. Plus there is some Take That, where you can stick another timer next to their timer, to slow them down. I thought someone in this very forum talked about it.


Space Dealer. I didn’t care for it; the base game was a cube conversion exercise. Adding time pressure didn’t make the core more fun.

It was remade into “Time n Space” which is supposedly better, and also cheap on Amazon.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #314910 08 Oct 2020 11:12

WadeMonnig wrote:

hotseatgames wrote: Great review! I think the "flipping" song you are referencing is Bell Biv Devoe, .

Shit, you are right. I...uhhh...fudged that reference to see if you were paying attention.

The Funny thing is I had Boyz II Men on the brain because I was batting around using the line from Motownphilly "Doin a little East Coast swing..." because...Pendulum.
RobertB's Avatar
RobertB replied the topic: #314931 08 Oct 2020 16:33

dysjunct wrote: Space Dealer. I didn’t care for it; the base game was a cube conversion exercise. Adding time pressure didn’t make the core more fun.

It was remade into “Time n Space” which is supposedly better, and also cheap on Amazon.


Cheap is right - $13 on Amazon Prime. I have too many games I'm not playing already, though.