Thursday, May 4, 2017

Imhotep (KOSMOS)

The 2016 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) was a hotly contested battle with three very fun games - Codenames, Karuba, and Imhotep. Codenames ended up winning, but the other two were equally worthy in the discussion. I have already reviewed Codenames and Karuba, so today I would like to tell you about Imhotep. In Egyptian history, Imhotep was the legendary architect responsible for creating amazing structures. In the game, named after him, you and your fellow opponents will take on the role of Egyptian architects. You will try to outsmart and outmaneuver your opponents and carefully contribute to the building of ancient structures. The game plays 2-4 players, ages 10+. It takes approximately 40 minutes to play and retails for $40.

Setup
1. Place the five Site Boards in the middle of the table, arranging them top to bottom in this order: Market, Pyramids, Temple, Burial Chamber, and Obelisks. For your first few games, put them on their A side, not their B side.
2. Place the Scoring Track Board to the right of the Site Boards.
3. Place the eight Ship Tokens next to the Site Boards.
4. Shuffle the 34 Market Cards, making a face-down pile next to the Market Board.
5. Take the seven Round Cards specific to the player count. Remove one at random, and shuffle the remainder. Place them face-down in a stack next to the Ship Tokens.
6. Have each player choose a color Stone, and give them a Supply Sled Token in that color. All the Stones are then placed in a pile to form the Stone Quarry. Have each player take one of their Stones and place it on the 0/40 space of the Scoring Track Board.
7. Randomly determine a starting player. That person gets takes two Stones of their color from the Quarry and places them on their Sled. Each subsequent player gets one additional stone, so Player Two would get three Stones. Player Three would get four Stones. And Player Four would get five Stones.
Game Play - The game is played over six rounds. At the start of each round, you flip over the top Round Card to determine what four Ship Tokens will be used. You then turn over the top four Market Cards, and place them face up on the Market Board. Players then take turns performing one of the four actions, and the round ends when all four Ship Tokens have sailed to the Site Boards.
1. Get new stones - Take three Stones of your color from the Quarry, and place them on your Sled. (Note: You may have a maximum of five Stones on your Sled.)
2. Place one stone on a ship - Take one Stone from your Sled and place it on any empty space on a Ship Token that has not sailed to a Site.
3. Sale one ship to a site board - Slide one Ship Token to a Site Board. The ship must be loaded with the minimum number of stones, which is indicated on the front of the ship. (Note: You may sail a ship that you don't have any stones on, and the site you sail to must not already have a ship located there.) You then unload the ship from front to back and follow the rules of the site you visit. The Market and Pyramid are scored immediately. The Temple is scored at the end of the round. The Burial Chamber and Obelisks are scored at the end of the game.
4. Play one blue market card - If you have a blue Market Card, you may play it and gain its benefit. These benefits allow you to break the normal rules of the game, i.e., placing two Stones on a Ship or sailing a Ship and deciding the order the Stones are unloaded.

After all four Ships have sailed, discard any remaining Market Cards on the Market Board. Flip over, the next Round Card and gather the designated four Ships. Lastly, reload the Market Board with four new Market Cards.

When the sixth round ends, the game has ended. Score the Burial Chamber and then the Obelisks. Lastly, score the Decoration and Statue Market Cards according to the chart printed on them. All unused blue Market Cards are worth one point each. The highest score is the winner.

Review
Modern board games, particularly Euros, are known for better or for worse, as cube pushers. You take a cube, which is supposed to symbolize something, and put it in a spot. The game stereotypically has little theme and bland artwork. Well, at its heart, Imhotep is a literal "cube pusher," because the cube is your main piece. However, the cube is appropriate, because it represents what it is, a building block. Also, these aren't your normal tiny cubes in other games. These are monster cubes, which have both a nice feel in your hands and make for good building pieces, because they don't fall over when stacking. As for the theme, it comes through with some of the sites, particularly the Pyramid and Obelisks, which are built as such. The other sites, you are just unloading stones, which don't bring the theme out as much.

As for the game play, it is a very simple game with a decent amount of strategy. Do you sail a ship that isn't all the way full, so that you can get the best spots at a site? Or do you maximize the ships and get as many stones to as many sites as possible, even if you don't get the best spot at every site? These are the decisions you have to make every round. If you can get to the Market, you definitely want to pick first, so you can either complete your set or get the rule-breaking cards, which help eliminate one tough decision per round.

The game seems like a simple, family-friendly game, but it can get pretty cutthroat moving ships that people have stones on where you don't or to a place they have no interest in visiting. Because of the nature of this game and the rules, I would say that the ideal player count is three players. At two players, you can basically each focus on two ships and leave the other person alone. At four players, it gets a bit chaotic, feeling like there is no strategy to stone placement, and you'll just end up where you end up. Three players adds the right amount of tension with much less chaos. This was a deserving nominee to game of the year, as it is simple without being able to master it, fun if you don't get your feelings hurt over moved ships, and has a good replay value.

This game was provided to me for free by Thames and Kosmos in exchange for an honest review.