Now the first thing you must understand about Pyramid is that it is very old, and there are truths buried in it. The name it carries today is probably not the only name it has had, but it comes from the pyramid shape we build with the cards, see? They say the game came about to tell the story of Ammun's waning days, built a great pyramid from stone gathered from around Arad... but I ain't never been there so who knows how true that is. Might have been inspired by a merchant's route or a war. Most of what sticks today is the pyramid, even though you build it the wrong way.
First I deal the top card face down, you don't know what it is, neither do I. People call that the holdout, or the bodyguard, all sorts of stuff. It can save you later, but it won't always. Next I deal two cards face up under the holdout. Add them together, double it if they match, and this is where the game gets more interesting. You can either take that payout as is, most of the time you'll be losing riln but not always, or you can push your luck and build more of the pyramid.
If you choose that, I deal out three more cards under the two. If any of the three match the cards they're touching in the row above, it's bad news. Call it betrayal, plague, taint, corruption, raid or assassin - plenty of names on it, I call it betrayal because that goes along with the tale. When you've a betrayal, you look across that row for a guardian (or templar in Ivial, or wyrvardn out here, sometimes). If you have a face card - some use fools or masters, but any will do - that'll save you for that row. If you don't, you flip your holdout and place it over the betrayal. If it still matches, your holdout was part of the conspiracy and you've lost, otherwise you're safe for now. If you have two betrayals on a row and no guard, you've probably lost, because the holdout can only save you from one of them unless it's a guardian (face card). If you've lost, that's not so rough, you lose your bet and that's life and you play again maybe.
If you're still going, then you figure out your payout, it's the total of the cards in the third row, tripled if they all match. A matching row is called a crew or team, and you keep your largest crew until you take your payout or lose. So if your third row doesn't all match but your second row does that's a crew of two and double payout until you make a better crew or the game ends. Most of the time though your payout will just be as is, what you see is what you get, and guardians can save the day plenty but they don't add anything to the payout. If your payout is less than your bet you can take it and lose small, if it's bigger you can take it and win small, or you can push your luck and add another row. You carry on like that until you get to the bottom row of eight cards. You carry your biggest crew, and matching on that last row isn't likely but it can happen and then its eight times your total and that can be a lot. If you make it to the bottom AND you still have your hold out, you get "Ammun's glory" - that's the big score, you add up all the cards on the board and then multiply by your largest crew. Now you can see the shape of the tale, eh? You want to know what happened in Ammun's fading days, why not play to find out? Oh, no more riln? Well, it so happens I'm out of story and you're out of riln, perhaps you come back tomorrow with more riln and we'll see if I've managed to find more story, eh?
Pyramid is played "against the house" with two or three decks, but thinned out to a smaller subset of the cards. There are only four face cards in the dealer's deck and eight to twelve of the number cards (2-8 or 3-9, I'll finalize that after I calculate payout odds). The bet is a multiple of the breakeven point (I'm guessing around 20 but probably less for 2-8, so that's used in the examples below), and that gets a separate built in multiplier that sticks for the whole game and stacks with any crew multiplier you get in a game. Above your breakeven you're getting more than your bet back, less and you get less than your bet back. It's a game of luck and skill. It is also a reskin (and minor redesign) of another game, and I'd be very curious to know if anyone recognizes it (please send me a tell in game or DM on discord if you do).
Examples of play
> play pyramid
You put 20 riln on the table and the dealer places the holdout card face down, and deals out the second row: 2, 8
The current payout is 10 (2+8).
> play deal
The dealer plays out the next row: 8, 6, 3
The current payout is 17 (8+6+3).
> play deal
The dealer plays out the next row: G, 5, 6, 6
Betrayal at 6 is blocked by the row guardian. (because there was a guardian, the holdout isn't used)
The current payout is 17 (0+5+6+6).
> play deal
The dealer plays out the next row: 5, 4, 2, 5, 6
Betrayal with 6, the dealer flips the holdout: 4, the holdout saves the row.
The current payout is 20 (5+4+2+5+4).
based on using up the holdout and getting to breakeven (maybe?), I decide to take the payout
> play take
You receive 20 riln. The dealer deals out the next row: 3, 5, 5, 8, 8, 4. The game would have ended here in betrayal (fives).
It is customary for the dealer to deal out the rest of the game (to the eighth row or until it would have ended in betrayal).
time for another game, with higher stakes
> play pyramid bet 3
You put 60 riln on the table and the dealer places the holdout card face down, and deals out the second row: 7, 4
The current payout is 33 (7+4=11, 11x3=33).
> play deal
The dealer plays out the next row: 5, 4, 5
The row has betrayal on 4, the dealer flips the holdout: 5, the holdout saves the row.
The current crew size is now 3. The current payout is 135 (5+5+5=15, 15x3x3=135).
The holdout replacing the middle 4 results in the row being a crew of 3, so the payout is increased based on the bet multiple and the crew multiple.
> play deal
The dealer plays out the next row: 3, 4, 6, 5
The row has betrayal on 5, and the holdout has already been used. The game has ended in betrayal.
and it becomes clear I should have taken that sweet pot of 135 and run.
last example game
> play pyramid
You put 20 riln on the table and the dealer places the holdout card face down, and deals out the second row: 6, 8.
The current payout is 14 (6+8).
> play deal
The dealer plays out the next row: 6, 2, 5
The current payout is 13 (6+2+5).
> play deal
The dealer plays out the next row: 3, 3, 3, 3
The largest crew is now 4. The current payout is 48 (3+3+3+3=12, 12x4=48)
> play deal
The dealer plays out the next row: 6, 2, 5, 6, 8
The current payout is 108 (6+2+5+6+8=27, 27x4=108).
> play deal
The dealer plays out the next row: 5, 3, 7, 2, 3, 7
The current payout is 108 (5+3+7+2+3+7=27, 27x4=108).
The dealer plays out the next row: 7, 6, 5, 8, 8, 4, 8
The current payout is 184 (7+6+5+8+8+4+8=46, 46x4=184).
The dealer plays out the last row: 5, 2, 6, 4, 6, G, 8, 6
Betrayal at 6 and 8, with a guardian to save the round. The holdout is still in place, the total payout is 704 (5+2+6+4+6+0+8+6 + 46 + 27 + 27 + 12 + 13 + 14=176, 176x4=704).
Note that the holdout doesn't get flipped and added to the payout, it stays a mystery. Also note that if the holdout had been played the payout would only have been 148, less than the row before. This is also a sizable win for a single bet, but by risking more riln, the payout each round can be increased (middle example).
I also deliberately aimed for more concise (and boring) wording here, but it would be fun to see more detail ("The dealer plays out the seventh row, revealing 7 of cloaks, 6 of cloaks, 5 of eyes, 8 of moons, 8 of coins, 4 of eyes, and 8 of eyes.
Artifice in Pyramid
As a player there is very little opportunity to cheat, probably why a gambling house would love the game. You might be able to peek at the holdout, but that's about it.
As a dealer you could try to deal specific cards (maybe `deal 3 5 3` would try to deal out a 3 then 5 then 3 then the rest of the row randomly from the deck) but that gets harder the more you do it. You could also try to rig the deck when you shuffle before the game to move guards to the bottom (`shuffle rig guard bottom`) of the deck where they don't see play or to the top (`shuffle rig guard top`) so they get exhausted early. That kind of cheating is a little easier, but also less reliable.
I include this not necessarily because I expect players to work as dealers, but because I expect that gambling houses may eventually sell (or offer as prizes) Pyramid sets for players to use elsewhere. Maybe.
A gambling house will usually win in the long run by choosing what games they offer and who they offer them to. A reputable gambling house won't hire dealers that cheat, and will get rid of them if they do. A shady gambling house will absolutely hire dealers that cheat, but only if they can cheat really well, and they'll be gotten rid of if they get busted too many times. Gambling houses would also set maximum daily winnings (ie you cannot play any more against the house after your net wins for the day exceed ten thousand). In games played against other players, the house simply takes a cut so they're happy to let people play that as long as they like, but cheaters would be kicked out of most gambling houses, as the service the house offers in games against other players is several sets of watching eyes and an assurance of consistent enforcement. Reputable gambling houses might not permit disguises inside, while shady ones might but they'll find another way to keep tabs on who has won how much during their stay. Any gambling house will get rid of workers (sometimes permanently) that take bribes against the house, but shady gambling houses might take bribes to rig the game against other players.
I plan to make some more posts in this thread, including
- a dice game against the house
- a dice game against other players
- how to set up betting events (fights and races)
I don't plan to post odds for games, I'll email those directly to Rias after I calculate them. I'll recommend that the games only be a little rigged though, no fun if they're too rigged.
Some basic ascii art
This post ends with some very basic ascii art for Pyramid, so feel free to skip this bit if you're using a screen reader. It probably shouldn't auto-display ascii art, because that'd be spammy, but maybe use `play look` to see the ascii art or `play count` to get a text summary ("The holdout cart is in place (or gone), the first row is 6 and 8, the second...")
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|X| |6|8| |6|2|5| |3|3|3|3| |6|2|5|6|8| |5|3|7|2|3|7| |7|6|5|8|8|4|8| |5|2|6|4|6|0|8|6| .___. | | | | ._|_._|_. | | | | 2 | 2 | ._|_,_|_._|_. | | | | | 3 | 3 | 3 | ._|_._|_._|_._|_. | | | | | | 4 | 4 | 4 | 4 | ._|_._|_._|_._|_._|_. | | | | | | | 5 | 5 | 5 | 5 | 5 | ._|_._|_._|_._|_._|_._|_. | | | | | | | | 6 | 6 | 6 | 6 | 6 | 6 | ._|_._|_._|_._|_._|_._|_,_|_. | | | | | | | | | 7 | 7 | 7 | 7 | 7 | 7 | 7 | ._|_._|_._|_._|_._|_._|_._|_._|_. | | | | | | | | | | 8 | 8 | 8 | 8 | 8 | 8 | 8 | 8 | | | | | | | | | | `~~~"~~~"~~~"~~~"~~~"~~~"~~~"~~~´