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Part of acclimatising to the board game culture is experiencing some of 'those' moments. You probably know what I am talking about, buying enough plastic baggies to bring you to the attention of the local police, trying to sneak cardboard boxes of various sizes into your house without your significant other noticing (I'll take the recycling out again this week love!), and so on.

Kemet represents two of those moments for me. The acquiring of a long sought after game and the discovery that said game has been used as a football by your lovely local delivery person. After suitable compensation, Kemet now proudly sits at the top of my favourite games list - bearing scars worthy of the battles it seeks to emulate.

Kemet take my eyes off of you...

Kemet is part of the loose 'Matagot trilogy' including the well respected Cyclades and 2016's darling Inis. Set in mythical Egypt, Kemet tasks you with earning victory points through aggressive expansion and control of various points on the large double-sided playing board.

Two to five players will duke it out with small plastic miniatures that are individually sculpted for each army. To bolster your troops there are a number of mythical creatures, from the giant scorpion that almost guarantees victory in an otherwise even fight, to the wily serpent that neutralises the powers of opposing creatures.

To gain possession of a creature or anyone of a number of other useful abilities players must buy power tiles. These come in three colours which can be broadly categorised in terms of their effects; Red power tiles are generally attack minded, blue defensive, and white currency generating.

Along with their army players will take one large three sided dice of each of those colours representing pyramids in their home city, over the course of the game they will upgrade these pyramids to allow them to purchase better power tiles. Rounding out the components are player boards and tokens to choose your actions each turn and record your prayer points (the currency in the game), battle cards for each player, and divine intervention cards, which are one time powers that each player gets each round.

To gain possession of a creature or anyone of a number of other useful abilities players must buy power tiles. These come in three colours which can be broadly categorised in terms of their effects; Red power tiles are generally attack minded, blue defensive, and white currency generating.

Along with their army players will take one large three sided dice of each of those colours representing pyramids in their home city, over the course of the game they will upgrade these pyramids to allow them to purchase better power tiles. Rounding out the components are player boards and tokens to choose your actions each turn and record your prayer points (the currency in the game), battle cards for each player, and divine intervention cards, which are one time powers that each player gets each round.

Playing the Game

Despite these components, particularly the almost overwhelming number of power tiles, Kemet is a relatively simple affair. Player boards show a pyramid with an increasing amount of actions shown on each of the three levels. Players will choose one action each turn for five turns, and by the end of the round they must use at least one action from each of the levels, and are not allowed to use the same box twice. This is tracked by action tokens, and a further token tracks your prayer points across the top of the player board. Of course the power tiles and divine intervention cards mess with these basic actions, allowing you to permanently improve them or giving you a one off boost.

There are too many rules and mechanics to go into fully, so I'll just highlight some of the best. The first is the victory point (VP) conditions. To win the game you have to have eight VP at the end of a round. Seems low right? However VP are separated into types - permanent and temporary. Permanent victory points initially seem more desirable and are achieved through power tiles, controlling two temples at the end of the round, sacrificing troops at the Sanctuary of the Gods and, deliciously, winning a battle as the aggressor. This last point means that attacking is actively encouraged, as is avoiding making your troops look like easy pickings.

Temporary victory points however are earned by taking over one of a number of temples on the board. As soon as ownership is changed the VP changes hands, or goes back on the board. This is hugely powerful should you be able to time your aggressive play correctly. In one game I careful set myself up to take control of three temples towards the end of the round.

I moved in and secured all three obtaining the three temporary VP plus the permanent VP for the ensuing battles and owning at least two temples at the end of the round catapulting me to a surprise (to my foes at least) victory.

Although satisfying this is usually a rare occurrence!!!

The second thing is the battle system itself. Each player has six identical cards. Each battle they will choose two, one to discard and one to play face down. The card will have up to three stats - strength, damage and defence. The battle is won by the person with the most strength - number on battle card plus number of troops plus any relevant power tiles, if that person was the attacker they gain a permanent VP.

Damage and defence are resolved next, your damage is played off against the opponent's defence and they lose that many troops off the board - and vice versa. This means you can, and probably will, win the battle but lose your board presence. Is it worth it for that solitary victory point?

Battles are further nuanced by the use of divine intervention cards, which can be hidden under the battle card and add to any of your battle stats. A cheeky surprise for that smug giant scorpion welding clown who picked a fight with you! When all six battle cards have been played (after three battles for the mathematicians among you) you simply turn over your discard pile and start again. Therefore there is a level of information available to you. To start with you all have the same cards, so if you know that player A has already played her high attack cards, then you know they might be a good person to attack.

Lastly the board itself is a work of genius, set up so you are always an equal distance from everyone else. Choosing who to mess with is a true choice that takes into account a number of factors, not just the person who annoyed you most or who it is funny to wind up.

Temporary victory points however are earned by taking over one of a number of temples on the board. As soon as ownership is changed the VP changes hands, or goes back on the board. This is hugely powerful should you be able to time your aggressive play correctly. In one game I careful set myself up to take control of three temples towards the end of the round.

I moved in and secured all three obtaining the three temporary VP plus the permanent VP for the ensuing battles and owning at least two temples at the end of the round catapulting me to a surprise (to my foes at least) victory.

Although satisfying this is usually a rare occurrence!!!

The second thing is the battle system itself. Each player has six identical cards. Each battle they will choose two, one to discard and one to play face down. The card will have up to three stats - strength, damage and defence. The battle is won by the person with the most strength - number on battle card plus number of troops plus any relevant power tiles, if that person was the attacker they gain a permanent VP.

Damage and defence are resolved next, your damage is played off against the opponent's defence and they lose that many troops off the board - and vice versa. This means you can, and probably will, win the battle but lose your board presence. Is it worth it for that solitary victory point?

Battles are further nuanced by the use of divine intervention cards, which can be hidden under the battle card and add to any of your battle stats. A cheeky surprise for that smug giant scorpion welding clown who picked a fight with you! When all six battle cards have been played (after three battles for the mathematicians among you) you simply turn over your discard pile and start again. Therefore there is a level of information available to you. To start with you all have the same cards, so if you know that player A has already played her high attack cards, then you know they might be a good person to attack.

Lastly the board itself is a work of genius, set up so you are always an equal distance from everyone else. Choosing who to mess with is a true choice that takes into account a number of factors, not just the person who annoyed you most or who it is funny to wind up.

Final Thoughts

Kemet is a master piece, but as with all master pieces beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The Mona Lisa is a fantastic work of art but it is not to my personal taste! And while Kemet is a simple engine, there is a veneer that gives a complex impression.

In early games you will spend a lot of time handing the leaflet that explains all the power tiles and divine intervention cards around and waiting while someone chooses which one of these largely useful powers they want.

In these situations an experienced player can win quite quickly which may leave a bad taste with new players, as they barely had time to buy any powers let alone the top level ones.

Yet this variable game length is also somehow part of the draw of Kemet. The fact that you always feel near to victory, that you just need a couple of clever moves away from the VP you need, but then so is everyone else...

Kemet encourages you to take risks, to spread out towards those temples, but not in a way that offers easy VP, almost every game I have played has been really close, where a number of people could have won and this keeps the game in your mind as you wonder about what you could have done different, and look forward to the inevitable rematch.

While newcomers to the hobby may be overwhelmed by the options available, the essence of the game is approachable and rewarding. The rule book is well laid out and easy to read, and the included smaller power guide a welcome addition.

All in all Kemet is a great package, easy enough to get into, and deep enough to last. With one expansion already out and another on the way, there is plenty here to keep your interest and if you like aggressive but clever area control you might just have found another board game 'moment'.

In early games you will spend a lot of time handing the leaflet that explains all the power tiles and divine intervention cards around and waiting while someone chooses which one of these largely useful powers they want.

In these situations an experienced player can win quite quickly which may leave a bad taste with new players, as they barely had time to buy any powers let alone the top level ones.

Yet this variable game length is also somehow part of the draw of Kemet. The fact that you always feel near to victory, that you just need a couple of clever moves away from the VP you need, but then so is everyone else...

Kemet encourages you to take risks, to spread out towards those temples, but not in a way that offers easy VP, almost every game I have played has been really close, where a number of people could have won and this keeps the game in your mind as you wonder about what you could have done different, and look forward to the inevitable rematch.

While newcomers to the hobby may be overwhelmed by the options available, the essence of the game is approachable and rewarding. The rule book is well laid out and easy to read, and the included smaller power guide a welcome addition.

All in all Kemet is a great package, easy enough to get into, and deep enough to last. With one expansion already out and another on the way, there is plenty here to keep your interest and if you like aggressive but clever area control you might just have found another board game 'moment'.

The Good

  • Accessible but deep.
  • VP system drives forward battles and area control.
  • Massive mythical creatures!
  • Clever board keeps everyone in the thick of the action.
  • Variable play time, often with close finishes.

The Bad

  • Despite accessibility it can be overwhelming a first.
  • Large table footprint.
  • Lots of power tiles necessitate the need for the power guide leaflet.
  • Experienced players may have advantage in early games.

 

The Good
Accessible but deep.
VP system drives forward battles and area control.
Massive mythical creatures!
Clever board keeps everyone in the thick of the action.
Variable play time, often with close finishes.

The Bad
Despite accessibility it can be overwhelming a first.
Large table footprint.
Lots of power tiles necessitate the need for the power guide leaflet.
Experienced players may have advantage in early games.

 

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