I have not played a glut of games that are set in Ancient Egypt but have played enough that I think I can pick out my favorite three games that integrate this theme well into the game mechanics. Ancient Egypt is a mysterious land steeped in speculation and we possess such a limited understanding of how they actually accomplished what they did and for what reasons they did it. From their worship of the scarab, to the use of mummification to prepare their dead for the afterlife, from their desire to build large pyramids of huge stone blocks to hide tombs or to their possible use of electricity, there is a lot about this ancient land that can be used to create fun and thematic games. So let’s take a look at my Best 3 Games with…Egyptian Theme!
3. Kemet from Matagot Editions
Our group has really enjoyed playing Kemet over the years and I believe it incorporates many elements of Ancient Egypt into its gameplay. The first point that it incorporates very well is the use of pyramids and temples, as religion was a big part of Egyptian culture. Each player has three colored pyramids (represented by oversized 4 sided dice) in their city that provide them the opportunity to develop improved technology (such as better armor, weapons and tactics to increase their combat values) which is represented by the ability to build special tiles that grant these abilities. As the player invests their limited prayer points into increasing the size of their temple, they have access to better and better tiles. These tiles even grant them access to powerful creatures of myth, such as the Mummy or Giant Scorpion, to aid in their conquests or simply provide victory points. The other point of Egyptian theme that the game does well is the emphasis on capturing and holding ancient temple sites in order to gain future prayer points, which act as the currency in the game, as well as victory points. Controlling these temples brings players the favor of the ancient gods and can be the difference between winning and losing. I also really like that movement is limited in the game. My guess as to this selection was that it is tough to move across sandy, arid terrain where water is scarce and mostly impossible to move an army. So, when you are frustrated that your massive army can only move 1 space, you might want to look at it from a thematic perspective. All in all, a game that makes you feel as if you are battling it out for control of the sands of north Africa.
2. Imhotep from KOSMOS
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, onto waiting barges, and then sending those barges 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 barges 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 really liked the use of the idea of having to ship stone to the construction sites and felt as if it was integrated well into a 40 minute game that is on the lighter side but has some really interesting choices for players. I also really liked the use of those chunky wooden cubes to represent the massive pieces of stone. Great thematic element that made me feel like I was having to move those gargantuan building blocks in an attempt to become the greatest architect of Ancient Egypt!
1. Giza: The Great Pyramid from Mayfair Games
There is a lot to like in this BIG game in a little box! Mayfair Games usually makes great thematic games that are fun to play (such as Five Points Gangs of New York and Asgard’s Chosen) and Giza: The Great Pyramid is no exception to that rule! This game is a well put together journey that requires players to focus, at least somewhat, on each aspect of Ancient Egyptian culture, including moving large blocks of quarried stone on sleds along a track to eventually lift to build the great pyramid of Giza, to praying to the gods in the Temple of Ra to score points when levels are completed, to the Artist’s Support Camp where art decorations for the completed levels are created. I also really like the focus on the need to feed your workers as well as there is a nifty mechanic where players can farm, which gains them the most amount of food, or fish, for those times when you simply need a few extra food to take the actions that you desire, in the very same spot depending on what action was chosen. I really also like the miniature plastic temple that you must construct. There are three levels, the base, mid level and the capstone, and players score points when they deliver them from the quarries, when they are lifted into place or when they are moved from one lift camp to another, such as the capstone that must not only be delivered to the end of the quarry track, but also must be lifted twice to be set into place. Overall, this is a great game that immerses you in the theme of raising the pyramid at Giza.
I hope you enjoyed my look at these great games. You might be wondering why I chose them. I have played several other Egyptian themed games that I have enjoyed, such as Amun-Re (those little pyramids are the bomb), Valley of the Kings and Ra, but these games didn’t make the list as I enjoyed those chosen more. If there are some good Egyptian themed games out there that I should try, leave those suggestions in the comments.