After reading a great review on the game from Tabletop Together (http://tabletoptogether.com/2016/06/21/review-imhotep/) prior to Gen Con, I added Imhotep: Builder of Egypt to my list of must demo games! Boy, am I glad I did! We loved the game even though we only received a 10 minute demo/review of the rules and a look at the various components. Even after this brief look, I could already tell that this was a game for me.
What is Imhotep?
So what is Imhotep all about? Imhotep is an area control/area influence game for 2-4 players where you are cutting and shipping large stone blocks in order to build the great monuments of ancient Egypt. Over the course of six rounds, players will obtain stone from the quarry, moving that stone, represented by colored wooden cubes, on their sleds to the waiting ships, and then sending those ships to one of five areas to score points. These areas include the Market, the Pyramids, the Temple, the Burial Chamber and the Obelisks. Each area has its own method of scoring points. To make things even more intriguing and to add variety, these five areas each have their own board with an alternate side that scores differently, allowing you to change things up between games (I love games with variability and replayability!). A round ends when all the available ships have docked and unloaded their stone at one of the five areas. After six rounds, points are totaled and the player with the most points wins.
I also found the event cards that are available at the Market to be very interesting and game changing. These cards can be obtained by unloading a stone, which then is returned to the quarry for later use, and can be used for immediate actions or held in your hand until later to use them at the right time to move a stone, score end game points or build additional improvements for end game points such as statues.
What I Liked about Imhotep
Rules were very simple – The rulebook is very clear and well written and also has many images and examples of play. In fact, the basic rules of the game take up only four pages, most of which are images. Then there are two pages that give a detailed explanation of the A side of the five area boards, three pages that give a detailed explanation of the B side of those same boards, and then one page that gives a detailed explanation of the Market event cards. I like simple rules that are well presented. In my opinion, calling a game simple is not a bad thing! Sometimes games add complexity just to seem important!
A plethora of interesting and painful choices – I enjoyed that you could choose to send your stone to various docks/areas that are specialized and you score based upon the order of placement of the stone on those boards. Some of them score at the end of each round or at the end of the game so you have to make the best choice for the circumstance to maximize your points. So you have questions that need to be asked each round including what order do I want to place my stone on the boats? Where can my stone be placed on the boards to score me the most points? Or how can I stop my opponent from scoring the most points? Lots of choices but will you make the right one?
Lots of player interaction – I really enjoyed the action where you can move another person’s boat to a dock of your choice even if you don’t have cubes on that boat. This causes some very interesting “gotcha” moments but is definitely an important and strategic part of the game. This can come off as mean but it is a main part of the game and all who vie to become Egypt’s greatest architect should expect competition and underhandedness from their competitors. After all, if you fail Pharaoh, you usually lose your head!
Just the right length – at a playtime of only 40 minutes, it is perfect for an end of night game where you have wracked your brain for 2-3 hours trying to outscore your opponents and simply want a cool down!
Love the components – I loved the fact that the stone cubes were HUGE and chunky. Because you have to stack these cubes, it was a great call to make them so chunky as it makes them easier to stack. A great component as these are the bits that you will handle the most. I also really liked the area boards as they were interchangeable and each have a reverse side to give variety to games offering replayability.
What I didn’t Like about Imhotep
Cards are too small – the event cards were the miniature sized cards and seemed to be a little flimsy. I doubt that they will wear well and will be very prone to bending. I also have fat fingers/hands and the cards just seemed too small for me.
Painted on theme – while I love the theme of the game and feel that it works, it simply seemed painted on. You could be delivering anything on those boats including fruits and vegetables, animals, etc. and it wouldn’t necessarily change things. I guess you can’t stack cows on top of each other though, right?
Overall I really liked my experience with Imhotep and would love to get my hands on a copy of my own. In fact, I should have bought it at Gen Con as they were offering it for $40 with a $5 off coupon for a steal of $35….and also gave us this FREE mini expansion called “The Stonemason’s Wager” to add a betting mechanism for additional bonus points. I will definitely get the game and be enjoying it with my group soon!
One final note, the game has been nominated for the 2016 Spiel des Jahres Award – Game of the Year so you know it cannot be bad!