Red Light Spells Danger – Khet 2.0 review

Ahhh, Chess. The noble game, two warriors facing each other on opposite sides of the board, their armies ready to sacrifice all for one purpose – to save the King. Years of study by some of the greatest minds on the planet, epic battles taking place over the space of hours…

I bloody hate Chess.

It’s a game that can be won by simply remembering patterns. If you’ve got a better memory than the other guy, you’re more than likely able to defeat him and that’s why I don’t like it. It’s not fun. I remember Chess Club at school – I even went for a couple of weeks – but I stopped because I was so bored. I’d much sooner have had Escape From Atlantis Club.

I got a game in the post a while back that a few mates had played before. When it was described to me as Chess-like I immediately went on the defensive. A big Do Not Want alarm went off in my head… but I was placated for a couple of reasons.

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Number one: it’s a made up game with an Egyptian theme. Number two: it’s got LASERS. Who doesn’t love lasers? Ladies and gentlemen, the future of abstract games is here. In this house it’s called Egyptian Laser Chess but the rest of the world refers to it as Khet 2.0.

The start of a game is generally pretty safe for both players. Soon, though… laser-y madness.

First of all, there’s a couple of vague similarities to chess. The objective is still to topple the opponent’s King (though with this being Egyptian themed, it’s the Pharaoh). Players have a range of pieces at their disposal but rather than moving them to “take”, attacking is very different. Each turn a player either moves a piece one square in any direction or rotates one by 90 degrees. Then, using the single Sphinx that sits in your corner of the board, you shoot a laser straight ahead by pressing down on its head.

If that laser hits and lights up a non-mirrored side of a piece it’s off the board immediately, whoever controls it – and it’s very easy to wipe out your own side if you don’t pay attention. You’ve got a load of Pyramids which bounce the laser 90 degrees but have two sides that can be attacked. A couple of Scarabs – basically double-sided mirrors – are also available to you.

Your Pharaoh is also protected by a couple of defensive Anubis pieces. These don’t reflect the laser but can absorb a direct hit from the from the front so are very strong indeed – hits to the side or rear still mean they’re out though. In a game where destruction is a constant companion, a huge amount of thought is needed when manipulating your pieces and redirecting the laser around the board.

The various tools of your trade: Sphinx, Pharaoh, Anubis, Scarab and Pyramid.

Playing Khet 2.0 really demands your full concentration. As there’s a possibility of losing a piece on both your turn as well as your opponent’s thanks to all those lasers flying about, you need to be thinking several moves ahead. Sure, you could just go for it turn by turn, but the player who considers their actions will be at a definite advantage.

The manual gives suggestions of three different starting set-ups, each of which offers a slightly altered experience in early gameplay. Players are also encouraged to experiment with their own start formations but after a few turns it does feel like the start doesn’t really matter that much – the pieces have moved around so much that every game is much like any other, a descent into organised chaos with lasers.

It’s a very simple abstract game that most players will pick up in next to no time. I’m not sure about the Egyptian theming, it must be said – personally I’d prefer it if it were entirely abstract, maybe along the lines of something from GIPF Project? However, the designers have made their decision and fair play to them, Khet 2.0 is brimming with pyramid-inspired goodness. The playing pieces and board are built to a high quality and production throughout is grand.

Death! Death to the traitorous Silver Pharaoh! Flawless victory to the mighty Reds!

By the way, the 2.0 in the name refers to the fact that this is actually a remake of the original Khet. That version also had a couple of expansions, a beam splitter and additional section that added an extra layer to the board. The makers of 2.0 promise that these enhancements will be available sometime – in fact, the instructions even say that the splitter is out now, but it’s not – but for now the game offers a decent enough challenge for lovers of abstracts. It’s a good little two-player game that will appeal to those who want a quick workout for their brain.

Khet was designed by Luke Hooper, Michael Larson and Del Segura. Originally published in 2005, Khet 2.0 was redesigned and reissued in 2011, and is published by Innovention Toys. Available from your FLGS as well as many toy and book stores, it’ll set you back around £28 / $40.  It’s also available online from the official Khet site.