Can You Be a Grand Master?
by: Docktor

Can you be a Grand Master? The second in a series... Every week, I'll be writing an article explaining some of the details of how to become a Grand Master at one of the games here in Neopia. Please note that these are not "how to play" articles that list the keystrokes and all that. Rather, they are specifically designed to discuss how to best become a Grand Master at the game.

This week: Pyramids

This week, I'll be talking about the Pyramids game that has appeared in the Lost Desert world. It's a solitaire card game, fairly easy to play, very addictive, and maddeningly difficult to win. In fact, you actually get a bronze trophy for winning only twice! I've heard that you get a gold for winning twice in a row. My hat's off to anyone who can do that. I'll settle for the silver trophy you get at 4 wins.

Fortunately, you can earn up to 5000 NP a day playing it (minus however much you spend to play that many games at 50 NP per game), and after you reach the 5000 point mark, you get to play free for the rest of the day and can try to actually win the game.

That's the key, in this game, to becoming a Grand Master--keep playing even if you lose. This is one of the new games that uses your cumulative total of all the times you've played to determine your ranking. Scarab21 is another, though it also has a high score per game category.

You start out as a Beginner, then get to Amateur at 500, Novice at 1000, Expert at 2000, Master at 4000 and Grand Master once you get to 15000 points.

So, Grand Master strategy #1 is, play a lot. It's not hard to get at least 100 points per game, even if you don't do that well. Since it's so hard to win the game itself (lots and lots of luck seems to be the "skill" to develop here), I'll concentrate this article on how to make the most you can from the games you lose.

The scoring system is a bit complex, and understanding it will help you get a higher score. You'll see a "Consecutive Plays" box in the upper left corner. You always get double that value added to whatever the card score is for each card you clear from the Pyramid, and it resets to zero when you have to draw again. This means that if you can get a long series, that's very important to your score. A series of 10 cards would give you a 90 point bonus!

Some might advocate keeping track of all the cards that have been played, but I'm not that organised. However, I do notice when a particular card or two seem to have been used up. If I see that a run could go either up or down, I pick the direction that I "feel" like I've seen the fewest cards so far. So, if I had 7-8-5-4 on the tableau and got a 6 target card, if I had seen a bunch of low cards like 2s and 3s already, I might go 6-7-8 and hope to uncover higher cards to continue that series.

Of course, the main rule is to uncover as many cards as possible, so each turn you may be making new decisions and changing your plans. But how about which cards are worth more?

As you get higher and higher on the Pyramid, in addition to doubling the Consecutive Plays amount, you get more points for each card too. In the widest row, where there are 7 exposed cards to begin with, each one is worth 3 points. They increase as you get closer, like this:

Layer 7 = 3 points each, total 21
Layer 6 = 4 points each, total 24
Layer 5 = 7 points each, total 35
Layer 4 = 12 points each, total 48
Layer 3 = 17 points each, total 51
Layer 2 = 27 points each, total 54
Layer 1 = 500 points and you win and you faint...**

** I fainted when I won, so there might be some additional points over the 500 for that last card. My total for the game was 838.

So, if you have a choice between two cards, neither of which will expose any new cards, and either one would be the last card you play, play the one highest on the Pyramid. You could get 10-12 points difference just in that card.

Looking at the totals above, without any consideration of the Consecutive Plays bonus, winning a full game will get you a bit over 700 points. Losing 5 games with a fair score of 150 each gets you about the same total. It's really just a matter of time whether you win or lose (and of course the cool trophy if you win several games).

So, in this game, just keep playing. You'll be a Grand Master in no time, have a lot of fun playing the game, and who knows? You might win some games and get a trophy for your cabinet!
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