Panic Tower is a stacking game for 2-8 players (depending on how patient the players are in waiting for their turn). You get three different sizes of pieces which have to be placed in different positions on a 3×3 board, where what you have to stack where is determined by what is commonly called “the luck of the draw.”
There are 60 wooden blocks: 20 small, 20 twice as high, and 20 three times as high as the small blocks. What goes where is determined by 114 playing cards. Each square of the board is a different color and each card shows you what piece or pieces you have to use, and on what square you have to place those pieces. The cards are completely graphic, so no reading is required.
Once you figure out what the cards are telling you to do, and certainly by the end of the first game, the meaning of each card becomes clear. There is a learning curve, as there are no words and many different kinds of cards. Some cards tell you to put pieces on different parts of the board. Others might require you to move an entire tower to another square, on top of (or below) whatever tower is already on that square. And others might simply allow you to pass your turn (which can come as a great relief), or to give your turn to the player of your choice (which, depending on the stage of the game, can prove to be devastating to the other player, and rather delightful to everyone else).
As the game progresses, it quickly becomes more and more challenging to follow the instructions on the cards. The towers get higher, the balance more precarious, the precision and control required more exacting. The mounting challenge, so to speak, guarantees that sooner or later someone (hopefully, someone else) will cause the blocks to fall. The higher the towers, the more spectacular the fall. Whoever makes a tower fall gets a Chip of Failure, and a new round is played. First to get three chips loses.
Panic Tower is fun building on more fun. It’s fun to build towers. It’s fun to watch them fall. It’s fun to pray that someone else will make the towers fall before your turn. It’s fun to watch the expressions on other people’s faces when they get a card that will ask them to do something bordering on impossibility.
Panic Tower was designed by Andrew and Jack Lawson and is available from Gigamic.