Imhotep. The legendary architect of the Egyptian monuments. His awe-inspiring structures and brutal tactics earned him divine status among ancient Egyptians. Can you match his ruthless determination to build the most revered monuments?
To do this, you will need to transport stone blocks on ships from your quarry to different construction sites. But you alone do not choose where the ships go. Your opponents have monumental plans of their own and want to prevent your success. A fierce competition for the precious stone resources plays out. Only with the right strategy and a little luck can you succeed.
In Imhotep, the players take on the roles of ancient Egyptian architects. Over six rounds, they try to transport their stone blocks to end up in the most valuable positions at five construction sites: pyramid, obelisk, chamber tomb, temple, and market. But a player can only choose one of three actions in a turn: excavate a new stone block from the quarry, load a block onto a ship, or move a ship to a construction site. From there, the massive stone blocks must be unloaded in order from bow to stern and placed on the sites in preset sequences. Depending on where the blocks end up, players earn different point values either immediately or at the end of the game.
In each turn, you must weigh your options for getting your own stones into place and thwarting your opponents’ placement plans. You must get your blocks to the right places, in the right order, at the right time to be the greatest architect.
Imhotep, designed by Phil Walker-Harding, of Barenpark and Archaeology fame, puts you into the role of rival master-builders competing for the favour of the pharaoh in ancient Egypt. You compete to build burial chambers, temples, obelisks and pyramids in honour of your ruler.
We Built This City
During the game, you will be transporting stones to the various sites to erect monuments in such a way that you score the most points. The game takes place over six rounds and each round you will either be acquiring stones from the quarry, placing stones to be transported to the monument sites, sailing a ship to a site or playing cards acquired at the market
There are a couple of twists that add depth and a competitive edge to Imhotep, however. Each space on a given site yields different points and the points are scored in the order that your stone blocks are off-loading from the boats. What begins is a quietly furious jostling for position on the boats as you second-guess your opponents’ desired locations. You can sail a boat to a location of your choice, for example, sending it to the obelisk site when you know full-well that your opponent would be sailing to the pyramid on their turn.
Boats are of different length allowing for varying loads, but all have a minimum load capacity denoted by block icons – once that capacity has been met they are free to sail. You have to think on your feet, adapting your strategy as you go; yes, your schemes can be dashed but there is something so charming about the game that you don’t really mind.
Player's scores are tracked on a separate board and the player with the highest score after six rounds is the winner. There is rarely a run-away winner in Imhotep and it is very amusing to leap over your opponent on the tracker when you have fulfilled the criteria on a card purchased at the market.
Then there are the market cards, which give you either an in-game advantage or bonuses at the end of play for meeting particular criteria. Are you eager to speed up your quarrying? Then use the hammer card, which enables you to excavate three stones from the quarry to your supply sled and place one stone on one ship. Do you want to go mad on obelisks? Choose the card that gives you one point per three stones in the obelisk site (your own + others).
These cards add a wonderful sense of satisfaction, even if you lose as you fulfil your own sub-text to the game.
As always with Kosmos, the components in Imhotep are beautiful and add to your immersion in the theme. The reed boats and illustrations of the tombs and monument site help to evoke the Egyptian atmosphere and the building blocks, which come in different colours for each player, are satisfyingly tactile and solid.
On the reverse of each monument card there is a different version of the site with an alternate way to score points; this even includes the market. This variety adds greatly to replay-ability as you try different configurations. Your group will often find their favourite configuration through this process.
Four players are given as the best player-count for Imhotep on Board Game Geek, but we found that three was the sweet spot. It scales well for varying player-counts but the laughs and unpredictability rises with more players.
Final Thoughts on Imhotep
There is something cosy about this game. Imhotep is a lovely game for you to play with your family as its elegant design means that it is accessible for all. Simple rules lead to deep gameplay rewarding those who adapt their strategy as the game progresses.
The box states 40 minutes and ages 10+, and Imhotep certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome; also, the ease of set-up and the relative speed of the game means that it will hit the table frequently. I didn’t feel that the player conflict was a problem as each turn offers you a variety of ways to score points.
I have played this game with players who love Euros and can’t abide conflict in games and they thoroughly enjoyed it. We have had great fun with this game and I am now eyeing any expansions that have been released.