Cost:$30.00 From: Playco Hawaii, (808) 946-2996 Players: 2-4 Playing Time: 15-30 minutes Type of game: Family Complexity: 4 Skill level: 4 Reviewed by: Peter Sarrett, Issue 1.3, Feb./March 1993
Games magazine presented its highest honor, the Game of the Year award, to Pipeline in 1992. Trumpet, last year's winner, was a superb game worthy of a place in any game collection. Naturally we decided to check out this year's honoree.
Pipeline is a quick game for 2-4 players. Of special note is that it actually plays well with any number within that range-- a rare trait indeed. From the very outset Pipeline suggests itself as a family game. Its box has approximately the same dimensions as a Monopoly set, perhaps the quintessential family game. Inside awaits a traditional bi-fold game board, a black tie-string cloth bag full of plastic tiles, and 4 day-glo plastic tile racks. The object of Pipeline is to link the wellhead at the board's center with one of the three loading docks on your side of the board. Players draw 5 tiles from the bag and take turns placing them on the board. When your rack is empty, you draw 5 new tiles. Tiles contain one of 5 different pipe configurations-- a straight pipe, a T, a cross, an elbow, or a plug. Tiles must be placed to form a continuous pipeline from the center wellhead, which branches in four directions. You're allowed to place a tile on your loading docks at any time, but you can't build backward from them toward the wellhead. Any play which would prevent a pipeline from eventually joining up with a loading dock or another branch of the pipeline is illegal-- so, for example, you can't place the open end of a pipe against the edge of the board.
Typically, a game begins with players greedily building pipelines towards their own loading docks. Obstacles on the game board must be circumvented, however, and it's not uncommon to lack the pipe shapes necessary to further your own goals. Since you must play all your tiles (with one exception described below), you'll inevitably be forced into playing your tiles on the pipelines being constructed by other players-- hopefully ruining their plans. Often players face a terrible dilemma-- should you use your only elbow to turn a line toward your loading dock, or should you use it to turn an opponent's line away from his?
The exception mentioned earlier is that you're allowed to pass your fifth turn in each round, retaining your final tile and drawing only 4 more. This is particularly handy for holding onto plugs until they're most effective-- when another player is just a space or two away from their loading dock. But if your opponent plays a T or cross pipe near his loading dock, you'll need more than one plug to stop him...
Pipeline moves quickly and takes very little time to play. Luck does play a significant factor-- if you get a rack full of straight pipes (and, believe me, you will), your options are severely limited. But it's so much fun (and cutthroat!) you won't care. And there's always time for just one more game.