Egyptian Kings is an expansion to the popular card game Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North. This expansion comes with two new clans (Hatshepsut Clan and Amenhotep Clan), three nearby islands, and two distant islands, along with various ship tokens and clan markers. The expansion can be integrated with ease into the core game. The two new factions bring new mechanisms and new ways of playing Empires of the North.
The Core of the Game
Empires of the North is a 1-4 player hand-management, tableau/engine building game which its successors are known and loved for. However, instead of shared card decks, players take on the role of a different faction, each of which comes with its own variable deck of cards, specific to that particular faction. Gone are the shared/common cards in favour of these faction-specific decks, which are more thematically linked to how the particular faction plays. The core game comes with six different pre-constructed decks that can be played with straight out of the box.
Players will harvest resources which they can use to build location cards, action cards and one time event cards. Resources and workers are also used to activate action cards and gain bonuses. There is also a circular action selection/worker placement wheel that clan action markers can be placed upon to perform various actions such as gather, sail, construct and recruit. Ships are a new addition to Empires of the North and players can conquer or plunder nearby and distant islands. Plundering islands grants the player resources/points and conquering islands are added to a player’s tableau and can be activated/used on future turns.
Each of the factions in Egyptian Kings plays differently and is better at one facet of the game than another. Players will take turns until they either cannot or choose not to perform any additional actions. At this point, the round ends. Play continues until one player reaches 25 victory points. If you want to know more about Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North then you can check out a review of the core game here.
The Hatshepsut clan is located on the river Nile and the deck is created around this. The main twist on the game play for this clan is that you can assign workers to Field cards to make them more effective. There is a slight change to set up in that the two out of the initial five cards drawn are placed beneath two of the Field cards (these are called Soil cards). In addition, one worker from the general supply is assigned to a Field card.
Other changes come in the Lookout phase as unchosen cards are placed beneath Field cards, once again, as Soil cards. There are two types of Soils cards depicted by the tree icon on the card back. The assigned workers and the Soil cards come into effect when the player Harvests a Field card. If the Field has a worker assigned then they gain additional resources (either Food or Wood) for each type of Soil card attached and the Soil cards are discarded.
It's a simple enough mechanism to add into the core Egyptian Kings gameplay, yet it's one that makes fantastic gameplay. There are now additional decisions to be made when deciding which cards to discard during the Lookout phase as these will ultimately provide you with resources later on. The Clan also has cards that allow you to move assigned workers to other cards which can help pull them resources off additional Field cards. The Hatshepsut Clan is a difficulty level 8 so not one that I would necessarily introduce to new players but it is one that is easy to pick up and play for people who are familiar with the game.
Amenhotep is a king. A king that has unraveled the secrets of time and the afterlife. A king that is destined to become a god. The Amenhotep Clan deck is centered around the passage of time; locations will decline and be discarded if not sustained with resources.
Set-up is slightly different here as well. The Amenhotep Clan starts off with four basic Field cards in play rather than the typical three. There is also a Special Clan pawn and a third ship that can be gained throughout the game.
The Locations cards play on the Boost mechanism more than other factions and can be used for their Boost effect instead of being used as a Location card. In addition, the Location cards in this deck have a sustainable cost. A certain resource must be assigned to the card, if not, then it's discarded at the end of the round. The Amenhotep Clan is a difficulty nine and, in some ways, is one of the more complex Clans currently available. The rules are fairly straightforward, but the management of sustaining Location cards and effective play is complex. The Amenhotep Clan is a fascinating clan to play with. I really enjoy the puzzle of sustaining the Location cards and think it adds a decent level of complexity. A level that I find challenging but still fun.
Both of these two new factions in the Egyptian Kings expansion are a great addition to the game. They take the core mechanisms of the game and morph and tweak them so that they feel unique and different. I think these factions are a good addition for people who want a complex experience without a huge rules investment. The complexity comes more from the way to play them effectively and exploit their uniqueness.