Ankh: Gods of Egypt is the third game in the Blood Rage trilogy, following Blood Rage and Rising Sun. Published by Cool Mini or Not and designed by Eric Lang. Previous games in the trilogy have been very highly rated.
I recently got the chance to play the Kickstarter version of this game with 3 other players and thought I would give my first impressions.
Ankh: Gods of Egypt has the best miniatures that CMON has produced so far. There are few mould-lines or gaps, and the Gods of Egypt themselves are tremendously imposing and detailed. If you are a miniature painter, just the base game components will keep you satisfied and occupied for a while.
Seeing pictures I thought the board would look bland. But in person the detail is amazing. It does a great job identifying the different terrain, whilst not overwhelming the models.
We also played with the deluxe tokens and monuments from the Ankh: Gods of Egypt – Tomb of Wonders expansion. The tokens were plastic but looked metallic, and the large monuments really added to the theme of the game. Ankh: God of Egypt base game comes with all the tokens you need. Although functional, these could get lost amongst the fantastic miniatures.
We very rarely had to refer to the rulebook. Your player boards have all the information you need on them. Each player also has their own 2-sided reference card, which was extremely useful during the game.
Overall, the Ankh: Gods of Egypt components are some of the best I’ve seen. I would recommend the upgrades if you can afford them.
At its core, Ankh: Gods of Egypt is an area control game. It has a hex-based board that is split into several regions based on player count. The aim is to be the first to reach the top of the devotion track. This is done through winning battles, controlling the most Monuments in an area, and playing cards.
The area control is supplemented by an engine-building mechanic, with Ankh Powers you can unlock throughout the game.
Ankh: Gods of Egypt can be described as having 2 phases. An action-taking phase, where you position your models, build your engine and gain currency. And a battle phase, where your play cards to manipulate the results of battles in each of the regions to score the most devotion.
These phases are linked by a track system. The game time is managed on an event track, which moves as several actions are taken by players. Each of the four actions has its own track, which is moved when one player takes an action. When it reaches the end, it triggers an event on the event track.
In the action phase, you can take two actions, but the second must be different and below your first on these tracks. For example, I can move my troops and do any of the other 3 actions. But if I want to summon units, I cannot move my troops that turn.
In the battle phase, each region is resolved in a set order. The highest strength wins the battle. The strength is determined by the number of models you have in the region, and playing a card from your hand. These cards can enhance your strength, build new monuments, or allow you to gain benefits if you lose. Once a card is played, it cannot be played again until a certain card has been played to bring back your discarded cards.
Easy To Teach; Strategically Deep.
Ankh: Gods of Egypt is very simple to teach. The actions themselves are very easy to understand, and the tracks are simple to grasp. The battle system is not convoluted, as the cards themselves are easy to explain.
These mechanisms combined result in deep strategy and decision-making. The track and event system means that you must keep an eye on your opponents, and who is going to trigger an event. There is usually an optimal set of actions on your turn, but you are often forced into sub-optimal decisions for you to stop your opponent from gaining the benefit of an event.
You also want to build your Ankh Powers up during the game, creating your own unique engine. Each god has a special ability, which can help drive your strategy, but all gods have the same Ankh Powers. Unlocking these Ankh Powers allows you to gain benefits from specific board states or controlling monuments. You can also acquire guardians, powerful monsters that add to your abilities.
The turns flow very smoothly, and the action phase can often feel quick. The decisions it provides are awesome, and you feel challenged every turn.
Knowing when to start a battle is key. I managed on one turn to start the battle phase whilst dominating a region which resulted in a large score for me. The cards themselves lead to the same experience as resolving conflict in Blood Rage, but with the twist that you can get your cards back to help you in future battles. More than once I found myself cursing the fact my opponents had more options than me or trying to guess their goals.
The game took around 2.5 hours with 4 players, but it didn’t feel slow at all. This was also our first play and would expect this to be quicker next time.
When Two Become One…
Ankh: Gods of Egypt unique mechanism is the Merge. At a point in a 3+ player game, the lowest 2 players on the devotion track will become one God. All the lowest players' models and monuments are removed from the game, and their board will be set to match the higher players. Then the higher player's God will gain the powers of the other, and their score marker set to the lowest player's.
This merged God will be controlled by a team of 2 players, with each player getting one action a turn.
I found this to be an interesting experience. Avoiding the merge gives a sense of tension, and at several points it felt like we were going to have a different set of players merging. You feel as though you are clawing to survive, as devotion is hard to come by in the first few turns.
Once merged, our players were close to each other on the devotion track, so the effect was not as strong as if the last player was further down the track.
The new merged God had an advantage as they had the freedom to choose whatever action they wanted, so they could summon and move, or summon twice. This led to them catching up with the leaders quite quickly, but they still finished last.
This mechanism provides Ankh: Gods of Egypt with a unique hook, and one that I was sceptical of, but it does work well. I'm looking forward to seeing how it affects future plays.
Racing To The End.
Our game ended quite abruptly, as the winning player got his last devotion halfway through a round. This did mean that a long game ended quite suddenly, and we were all a bit deflated as to how it came about. However, we should have been keeping an eye on the leader and working to stop the devotion.
The ending condition does mean that the game won’t drag though if there is a stand-out leader. We will see in future plays if that affects how we play the game.
I’ve played both Blood Rage and Rising Sun, and Ankh: Gods of Egypt is right up there with them as some of the best area control games I’ve played. Ankh: Gods of Egypt stands out with its models and component quality. It takes elements from both previous games and creates an extremely satisfying experience.
The owner of the game was extremely happy with the investment he had made in the large Kickstarter pledge, and there is still so much replayability in the base game. You don’t need the deluxe components, but they do add significantly to the experience.
I would highly recommend checking out Ankh if you like its predecessors and other games, and especially if you're a fan of Egyptian mythology.