Imhotep is one of Phil Walker-Harding’s most popular, successful games. Nominated for the Spiel des Jahres in 2016 (it lost out to Codenames); it’s thought of in high esteem. While it may not have won the coveted game of the year award, Walker-Harding and Kosmos Games knew they’d struck gold. They grew the Imhotep family and in 2018, Imhotep: The Duel hit the tables (a two-player only variant). But before that, in 2017 – one year after the base game – Imhotep: A New Dynasty entered the scene.
A New Dynasty is an expansion to the base game, not a standalone product (like The Duel). This add-on promises “ambitious new building projects”. Here, “even the Egyptian gods are paying attention to your achievements”! Are you a fan of Imhotep? Can’t get enough of sailing your opponents bricks to the ‘wrong’ locations? Let’s excavate what wonders lie inside the box…
A History Lesson: What’s Imhotep, Again?
I’d wager all my hard-earned deben that the fact you’re reading this means you’ve played the base game of Imhotep before. But in case you haven’t (there’s always one!), here’s the scoop. Imhotep is a 2-4 player set collection game. (It has nothing to do with Arnold Vosloo, Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz.) Your rival architects, contributing construction towards five ancient Egyptian monuments. Over six rounds, you’ll challenge each other to try and score the most points off of each monument.
Your turn is super-simple, wherein you pick one action of three:
- Place one of your bricks onto a ship (if there’s space on it).
- Sail a ship to one of the five monuments, providing its harbour is vacant. (Plus, providing a minimum amount of bricks are on board the ship);
- Take three more bricks of your colour from the supply.
The middle action of those three – sailing ships – is the heart of the game. You decide where the ship sails, regardless of whose bricks sit on board. In this regard, some could argue it ventures into take-that waters. When you dock the vessel, the bricks leave the boat bow-to-stern, in order. This is crucial because every monument scores in a different manner. The order in which the bricks exit the boat has a direct impact on how said bricks score.
Lifting The Lid Of The Sarcophagus
So, what does A New Dynasty chuck into the mixer? The headline act are 5x two-sided site boards. You get a whole new set – the Market, Obelisk, Temple, Burial Chamber, and the Pyramid. These are double-sided, meaning these are the ‘C’ and ‘D’ sides. (The base game’s site boards are also double-sided; these being the A and B sides.) These new boards come with a variety of extra components, many of which are specific to certain sites.
There are 14 extra Market Cards. Some are new, and there are four extra purple Statue Cards (identical to those found in the base game). New cards include a Cargo Card, providing you with extra sled spaces for bricks to sit (seven, instead of five). This dovetails with the new, green, Stone Ornament.
That scores you one point per brick you have left on your sled. There are two new blue cards, the Raft and the Loading Plank. Both demand you give brick(s) back to the supply, but let you do a powerful action. The Loading Plank even lets you sail a boat to a monument, even if another boat has already visited it this round. That one’s a real game-changer!
There are also seven Prophecies Of The Gods cards, and Scarab Tokens for each player, for the Prophecies variant. The C- and D-side site boards retain the crux of what makes Imhotep tick, though. They’re more of the same, but different. Let’s look at what these 10 new sites offer…
Oh I Do Like To Be Beside the C-Side
The Luxury Market replaces the standard Market in the base game. Four cards sit face-up on it as per usual, but this time each player starts the game with two coins. If you unload a brick here, you can spend a coin to take two adjacent cards from the market. Coins offer zero end-game points, so you might as well spend them.
I have mixed feelings about this site. On one hand, if there’s a super-appealing card duo, it’s all hands on deck (so to speak!) to try and sail a ship there that suits you. Whether it’s over-powered or not depends on the draw of the deck. If you feel it is, you’ll need to place bricks at bows to try and enhance your odds of getting them. But what if they don’t end up at the Luxury Market? And does it remove part of the decision-making though, compared to when you normally take one card?
The Pyramid – Scaffold comes with five Scaffold Tokens. You remove one at random from play, meaning you play with four per game. They’re rectangular, 4x1-shaped, with four rewards on them for when bricks arrive. One sits face-up, and bricks sit along with it, earning the reward they cover. (1-3 points, a card from the market, or getting stones from the supply.) Once all four spaces get covered, you reveal and sit the next Scaffold Token on top of the previous one. But first, you award three extra points to the player with the most bricks on the just-filled Scaffold, area majority-style.
I enjoy this site; theme-wise it’s smart – scaffolds were present to build the pyramids, after all! A big appeal of Imhotep, for me, is the chunky wooden blocks and how you build things up out of them. The bricks look great sitting on the Scaffold Tokens. All the rewards are appealing, so everyone will nod if their bricks end up here. It’s reminiscent of the regular Pyramid boards, but with added area majority assessments.
Is That Burial Mound A Wannabe Pyramid? Or Is It In De-Nile?
The Temple (of Ra) has a familiar vibe to the B-side Temple from the base game. It scores at the end of the round, viewed from above. The rewards it offers are two points/four bricks from the supply or take three cards from the deck (and keep one). The main difference though is that it’s only three squares long. This isn’t as huge a deal in a two or three player game, but it’s a big deal in a four-player game. Why? Because the first brick of the boat ends up getting covered by the fourth brick! This is clever, causing an extra plate to spin because no one will want to lose out due to this.
The Burial Chamber (Burial Mound) ends up looking more like a pyramid than the C-side Pyramid site does! There’s a 1x5 line of bricks available at the start. Players have a bit of freedom about where they place their bricks in this one. It either has to be on the lowest level or sitting centred on two bricks. As a result, a triangle will occur (five bricks on the base, with four above it, then three, two and a solitary one on top).
You score points at the end. It’s the number of touching bricks of your colour, multiplied by the number of levels they span. Scoring gets capped at four (rather than all five) levels, alleviating fears it could be over-powered. You can score many connected sets of stones, and this can – and will – happen. It provides you and your rivals with the age-old question: do you block your opponents from scoring? Or do you focus on your own connected area? Turn order is still crucial, despite you having an element of freedom with regard to your placement.
For every stone that gets sent to the Great Obelisk, it covers a meandering 15-spaces path. On each one is a shape, almost polyomino in nature. You earn the corresponding tile according to the shape. You then try to fit these tiles onto your own base card, building them ‘upwards’. This is pure and simple Tetris: you score two points per horizontal row you fill.
The player with the most completed rows also earns an end-game bonus. This is a fun, albeit straightforward mini-game, but it’s the right kind of simple. Imhotep is like juggling five mini games all at once, but this isn’t Trajan levels of thinking. It’s got a 10+ age rating, and this feels apt.
D-Sides, Too? With These Pharaoh Rocher, You Are A-Spoiling Us
What about the D-side sites then, on the reverse? The Black Market is a much-improved version of the B-side Market from the base game. Two of the four cards sit face-up, as per usual. The other two spots have three face-down cards on them. You can opt to look at all three of these (from one space), keep one, and return the other two face-down. If someone else visits that space later, they only have the two to look at and pick between. The interesting difference is that usually at the end of the round, all cards at the Market get wiped. Not at the Black Market. Any face-down cards remain, replenishing back up to three. This means memory skills enter the fray…
The D-side Pyramid – the ‘Corridor’ features a meeple: Imhotep, himself! There are 16 squares here in a loop, all which have 1-4 points on them. Imhotep starts by covering one of these spaces. When bricks visit here, they cover the next available space clockwise after Imhotep, earning the points. If that were it, the Corridor would be a bit dull…
But there’s an extra, cool decision here, though. Every time a player takes bricks as an action, they can opt whether to move Imhotep to the next free space, clockwise. This means he blocks the next space of points, which could help you or hinder your opponents. The timing of this is key, depending on when you feel a boat is about to depart for the Corridor.
Horses At The Hippodrome: A Welcome Change Of Scenery
The D-side Temple isn’t a temple at all: it’s an arena! This comes with amazing custom-shaped chariot meeples, and this is a mini-race. Bricks that get sent here sit on a track around the Arena, which looks like a drop-down view of Rome’s Circus Maximus. On this outer track are 1-3 arrows. These depict how many spaces your chariot moves around the actual race circuit. No two chariots can share the same space, so they leapfrog (like divers in Deep Sea Adventure).
Players score points according to their race position at the end of each round. They also score end-game points in accordance to how far they’ve progressed. This is a lot of fun, both visually on the table, and as a concept. At the risk of being a querulous pain though, the theme of it being a race and not construction feels a tad out of place. (Not that you’ll care! It’s a neat alternative.)
The Burial Chamber – Tomb features a 6x4 grid, numbered 1-24. It also comes with 24 square tiles, with numbers 1-24 on them. You have them all face-down and reveal four of them at the start of each round. If you send a brick here, you get to place said brick on the matching number in the tomb. You score points at the end of the game for connected stones. You also lose four points if you ignore the Tomb altogether.
On face value, this might feel like a form of blackmail into visiting it. However, chances are that someone might end up sailing a ship here, which happens to have one of your bricks on it! (Or will they cotton onto this, and refuse to sail your brick there? Because that one brick alone is worth +1 to you – or rather a five-point swing up from -4!) It can be a gamble visiting the Tomb. There’s every possibility that not all Tomb tiles will get claimed if smaller boats visit it. This means your bricks could get stranded. It’s a lot more specific than the regular Burial Chamber.
The Alley features six opportunities to build Obelisks. Once you place your brick down on one, you’re committed to ‘finishing’ that Obelisk. Some have taller requirements than others, but if you can complete it, you can score mega-bucks. Building the tallest, six-high obelisk nets 18 points! But if you fail to complete one, obelisks score their owners one point per brick in the Obelisk. There’s an element of push-your-luck involved here.
Prophecies: Written In The Stars? Or Destined For Doom?
As I mentioned earlier, you can also play with the Prophecies of the Gods mode. This adds an extra string to Imhotep’s bow, in the form of gambling to appease the gods. You pick three (of seven) Prophecy cards for set-up, each one featuring a different deity. Each card has on it a target to achieve (such as ‘have the most bricks in the temple’). Players can place their scarab tokens onto a Prophecy Card if they feel they can complete said goal by the end of the game. The earlier they place the scarab, the higher the reward. But beware: the gods do not suffer boastful fools lightly. The earlier you bet – and if you fail – the more points you stand to lose…
This is a pleasant additional push-your-luck game within Imhotep. It gift-wraps part of your strategy on a plate for your opponents. This could paint something of a giant crosshair across your chest. Or could you use it as a bluff? It adds an extra layer of intrigue into the mix, without becoming one distraction too many.
Final Thoughts On… Imhotep: A New Dynasty
The card stock and playing card quality is on par with that of the components from the base game. Each site has a written description of how it scores/functions – there’s no iconography. You can fit all these extras that come with A New Dynasty into the main box for Imhotep without a problem. I’ve separated all the components for particular site tiles into individual plastic baggies, which helps for setting up. If you know the base game, you will slip into the swing of things with ease.
I love the fact you can mix and match these extra five double-sided boards in with the base game. Picking five of the 10 boards, all of which are double-sided? According to the back of A New Dynasty, you can now play Imhotep 1,024 different ways. That’s extensive, and then some! I still feel that some of these boards start to shine with three and four players, rather than two. That goes for regular Imhotep too, though. It’s the nature of sailing the boats, with your opponents’ pieces on them. One could argue, this is why Phil Walker-Harding and Kosmos released Imhotep: The Duel, which is specifically for two players.
Love base game Imhotep, but feel like you’ve taken it as far as you can go? In that case, A New Dynasty is the expansion for you. This doesn’t take Imhotep in a radical, different direction. But it does inject a pleasant range of variety with regards to new set collection challenges.