Tag Archives: Egypt

Sandstorm – Kemet review

Kemet COVER

My good friend Chris O’Regen has been writing and talking about video games since pretty much the beginning of time, but he’s also got a passion of boardgaming that is unmatched by any regular human. Last weekend at our TableTop Day event, Chris showed up with a bag of games including a new favourite of his: Kemet. I asked if he fancied doing a review of it sometime. This landed in my inbox the next morning…

Kemet has a giant scorpion in it. This same scorpion can be used alongside armies to lay waste to all who stand before them. Buy Kemet. My work here is done. Good day.

I SAID GOOD DAY!. Why are you still reading this? I just told you Kemet has a giant scorpion in it. A GIANT SCORPION. Oh… you want to know about how the game plays and if it is worth your time and indeed money? Didn’t I just tell you about the scorpion? You want more? Fine. FINE!

kemet_creature_02

Kemet is an adversarial strategic combat game in which players send armies of ancient Egyptian warriors against one another in an attempt to make their mark in world of antiquity. If this sounds a teensy bit familiar to you then you may have played Cyclades, a game that is set in ancient Greece and is made by the same publisher. Unlike Cyclades, however, there is no bidding war in order to earn the right to launch attack. Instead Kemet relies heavily on timing, as the order makes their plays is crucial to their success. One miss-timed action can result in a cascade event against them that is very difficult to recover from. Even then such a recovery is reliant on another player making a similar mistake.

The aim of Kemet is to score either 8 or 10 victory points, depending on whether or not the short or long form of the game is being played. The ‘short’ game can take up to 2 hours to play and the set up can take a considerable amount of time, especially when having to lay out the shop front of power cards. Thankfully it is worth it as the game is terrific fun to play, especially when you’re offered the chance to take control of a giant scorpion.

kemet_divine_intervention_cards

Play is split into two phases, titled Day and Night. During the day all of the action takes place, with players carrying out a minimum of five actions per day. At night powers are bestowed to the players and they are granted favours by the Egyptian gods in the form of Divine Intervention cards. These are modifier cards that can be played based on the icon that is placed in the bottom right hand corner of them. Some can be cast during battle, others during the day on a player’s turn and finally some can only played on an opponent’s turn.

kemet_player_card

The actions a player can take are done one at a time. These actions are defined by icons in a character card each player has. On this card is a row of numbers from 0-11 that define the amount of prayer power that the player has gleaned from the Egyptian gods. This acts as currency in the game, as almost every action carries with it a cost in prayer power. Each action is placed into a three tier pyramid and at least one action in each level must be performed by the player by the end of the Day phase.

The actions vary from praying in order to gain prayer power points through to buying power cards. These cards modify the base rule-set of Kemet significantly, to the point that players are encouraged to grab as many of them as possible in order to make themselves a viable fighting force in the later stages of the game.

kemet_power_cards

Power cards are split into three types and are coloured white, red and blue. White cards are focussed with gaining and conserving prayer power. Red power cards are offense based and blue power cards are focussed on defence. They are in turn split into 4 levels of strength, with level 4 being the most potent. Players can only buy one type of power card and once they have them it is not possible for other players to remove them. The right to buy cards is dependent upon the level of power pyramid a player have in their control. These pyramids are represented by oversized D4 dice and are placed in the cities each player has control of.

kemet_pyramids_of_power

Combat occurs when troops from opposing sides are located in the same space. Troop movements have no cost attributed to them, unless you’re transporting them from one of your power pyramids to an obelisk, which will cost two prayer power points. This manoeuvre is what I like to call the ‘101st Airborne’ attack, as it results in a player’s army appearing, seemingly from out of nowhere on another location. It speeds up the pace of the game significantly as armies can only move one space at a time, unless the player has a power card that increases their movement.

The combat mechanism in Kemet is a little peculiar as it requires no dice, instead relying on players picking from a set of six cards that have different stats on them. They all have varying levels of strength of attack which is symbolised by a sword, and the other two stats are damage and shielding. When combat is initiated, which is when a player places their army into a space that is occupied by an opposing player’s army, both players select two cards from their hand of six. One of these cards is discarded when the other is used in combat. The strength is added to the number of army units in the space as well as any modifiers from Divine Intervention cards and power cards. Damage is then compared against the number of shields on both sides, which can result in the victor’s army being wiped out, even if they won the battle!

kemet_combat_cards

This combat system does have many layers to it, as the more player’s engage in combat, their effectiveness is diminished as they have fewer combat cards to execute their attacks with. The risk-reward for this is the fact that every battle won earns a player a permanent victory point. With a reward so great, Kemet actually encourages players to interact with one another as permanent victory points are hard to come by.

You may be wondering at this point what on Earth is a ‘permanent victory point’? Aren’t all victory points ‘permanent’? Well in most games that feature a point scoring system you’d be right. In Kemet, however, points can be stolen from players if they commit certain actions. Such points are called temporary and their tokens are circular in shape, while permanent points are square. Temporary points are earned once certain territories on the map are controlled. Temples, that litter the game board, all have temporary points attached to them. It is not uncommon therefore to see these points exchange hands between players throughout the game as the control of temples are succeeded to players following the resolutions of various conflicts.

kemet_point_tokens

There is one final feature that I wish to describe to you before I head off into the sunset with my summing up remarks on Kemet. As I explained earlier, timing is everything in this game and the designers have recognised this to the point where turn order changes at the beginning of every day. This turn order is determined by the player who is the least successful at that point in the game. This affords them the chance to reverse their fortunes by placing themselves higher up the turn order and thus determine the flow of actions in that day. It’s an ingenious system that is very similar to the result of the bidding system in Cyclades, where the player who failed to bid going first in the following round.

Kemet is as well built as it is designed; In other words, it’s excellent. Each of the player’s armies are not only a different colour, but they also differ in form. A nice little touch that again was found in Cyclades. The oversized D4’s act as a nice piece of tactile paraphernalia to the game and also maintains an appropriate level to the Egyptian theme of the game.

kemet_creature_01

Similarly the figurines of the creatures are well made although not of the same scale to the armies. If they had been made in such a way the armies would have to shrink or the creatures grown to stupidly large proportions. All of the figures have been daubed over with a splash of wash, which while a nice effect, does reduce the possibility of being able to paint them. This is not like Cyclades where the monster figurines can easily be painted. It’s a minor quibble, I grant you, but with many game fans being a creative lot, the removal of the opportunity of being able to paint figures easily is a little irksome.

As you may have gathered from this review I really like Kemet. It is a fantastic game that always has new players walking away from with a smile on their face. It takes the recent innovations in tabletop game design and brings them all together into an amazing game, with little to no down time for players and a pace that starts off fast and is maintained right up to the end. It’s not uncommon to realise a player has manoeuvred themselves into a position of certain victory, unless their opponents work together to head them off at the pass, just to prolong the game!

It also has a giant scorpion in it. I may have mentioned that in this review, I can’t remember though.

Kemet was first released by Matagot at Essen in 2012. The game was designed by Jacques Bariot and Guillaume Montiage and caters for between two and five players, with games taking between 90 and 120 minutes. Should you want a copy – and after reading Chris’ write up, why wouldn’t you? – Gameslore will sort you out one for £44.99. Thanks so much to Chris for the review! 

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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. 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

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Can You Dig It? – Archaeology, The Card Game review

Egypt! Home of myth, legend and The Rock. There are plenty of games out there based on the land of the pharaohs – the recently released Egizia has been praised,while the more creative amongst you may have picked up Reinier Knizia’s entertaining effort for Lego, Ramses Pyramid. Neither of those two are small enough for me keep in my bag as I travel around on my holidays, however. Archaeology – The Card Game, designed by Phil Harding and released through Z-Man games is a much more portable affair, and very entertaining as well.

Between two and four players are cast as archaeologists, raiding tombs to collect treasures in a bid to make their fortunes. A very simple set collecting card game, Archaeology sees you building groups of different types (fragments of parchment or pharaohs masks, for example) to sell on to the museum. Collecting more of a type will get you more points at the end – the plentiful pot shard will give you fifteen points if you submit a set of five, but a solitary point for giving in one. Manage to collect a full set of the four pharaoh masks in the deck and you’ll get a hefty fifty points, though going for the rarer card types might not always win you the game – remember to keep an eye on what your opponents are putting down, because the points for lesser sets will soon stack up!

You begin each turn by ‘digging for treasure’ (in other words, pulling the top card off the dig deck). If it’s a treasure card, it goes into your hand, but there are some surprises in there too. Eight thief cards are hidden away which entitles you to steal a random card from another player. Another problem are the sandstorm cards – draw one of these and you lose half the cards in your hand. You can get them back by visiting the marketplace, however. This is a group of face up cards that you may trade for ones in your hand – each card has a point value between one and four, so you can trade a pair of twos for something worth four, for example. This is a good way of building those sets quickly, especially if there’s a group already waiting in the market to be taken cheaply!

You can also pick up a special type of treasure – the map. If you like, each one can be traded in at the end of the game for a few points, but they’re much more useful for exploring… You see, at the start of the game, three piles of cards are placed face down, representing the tombs of the local pyramid. Discard one map and you can take the small pile of three, two maps will get you five cards, while three yields a massive seven cards to add to your hand. You’re never totally sure of what you’ll get, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a few points out of it, even if your hand is laden down.

The game ends when the dig deck is empty and no more sales can be made to the museum. Each player adds up the money they get for each set sold and whoever has the highest total amount is declared victorious, and that’s about it. As you can probably tell, Archaeology is simple to play and even easier to explain to those new to the game; it also works as a perfect filler, as even with a maximum four players you can finish off a game in less than twenty minutes. It’s far from earth-shattering, but Phil Harding’s little game of digging around is a decent laugh, and the ridiculously cheap price point (I picked up my copy in the States for a measly $10) means it should certainly be a part of anyone’s travelling games collection.

Archaeology is available through Z-Man Games, designed by Phil Harding and should be available for less than a tenner from your FLGS. And you should be impressed that I got through the whole review without referencing The Bangles.

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