Friday, March 7, 2014

♪♫ "War L-i-i-i-ke An Egyp-tian" ♪♫ - "Kemet"

Ages ago I had a chance to play Cyclades and I liked it so much that I had to physically restrain myself from rushing out right away to buy it. My collection has gotten so out of hand lately that I gotta play these expensive / physically huge games a coupla times in order to get past the honeymoon period. If it lingers with me and I catch myself molesting every single copy I come across in a retail store, then I know that I should probably pull the trigger on it.

For me, Cyclades managed to scratch that light wargamey / civ angle but with an extra dollop of Clash of the Titans on top. I really liked roping these powerful creatures into servitude for a short period of time, even if your sway over them was tenuous at best. 'Cuz, as you well know, the kraken ain't nobody's bitch.

Now, even though Kemet was designed by different people, both games were published by the same company and share a lot of the similar trappings. There are regular (and very squishy) ground troops, optimal areas to capture, limited resources,evolutionary upgrades, and a slew of legendary creatures which can be (hopefully) bend to your will. As a result, I expected Kemet to play just like Cyclades but with an Ancient Egyptian overlay.

Well, pinch my butt and call me Nefertiti, I was quite surprised to find out that the game is actually rather differently then its Grecian counterpart.

Here's how publisher Matagot brags up this spiffy-looking title:

"Incarnate a god in Ancient Egypt: maneuver your troops to defeat your enemies, control the best territories, and enter the legend thanks to your military victories!

"A game with the same epic feel as Cyclades, with a strong theme which will transport you to ancient times. Through battles and magic, be the finest of all the strategists!"

Looking to decipher the full wall of hieroglyphics? Then point yer Ankh at the following link and the wisdom of Thoth will be yours!


With Dean out for this week, we needed a new temporary home for the eight rabid gamers who were expected to show up. Since Kemet was Mike's pick it seemed apropos to gather in his expansive basement last Wednesday in order to to throw down. While Kris coached Matt and Jonathan through their first game of Agricola ("But I wanna play too!"), Andrew, Chad, Jeremy, Mike and I decided to get our Tutankhamun on.

Andrew...Ouadjet (Green) 
Chad...Sobek (Blue)
Me...Anubis  (Red)
Jeremy...Bastet (Black)
Mike...Horus (Yellow) 


Before the game began, Jeremy decided to place a Level One White Pyramid and a Level Two Red Pyramid, which he soon ramped up to Level Three. He then split his ten Units between these two Districts in his City. During that first Cycle he decided to teleport the Troops guarding his White Pyramid to the closest Temple which earned him a Temporary Victory Point and two Prayer Points, I.E. the all-important currency used to buy Power Tiles in the game. Right at the end of his turn Jeremy decided to spend a few of these spiritual shekels on a huge, dung-packin' Royal Scarab which gave him +2 to Troop Movement and +2 to Strength.  

According to the designer's own tactical advice "one of the most common ways to earn Victory Points is to win a fight as the attacker". I decided to thumb my nose at this and opt for a defensive strategy, at least initially. In doing so I hoped that my rivals would beat themselves up, allowing me to swoop in wherever I saw fit. Once again, a strategy that served me very well in my olde skool wargaming days would end up kicking me right in the amulets.  

During setup, I placed a Level Two Blue Pyramid and a Level One White Pyramid and then split my ten Units amongst these two Districts. My first priority was to invest in Pyramid improvement, cranking the Blue d4 up to Level Three. Then I turned my attention to Power Tile acquisition, the first of which gave me a Permanent Victory Point and another White Tile (the "Priestess") lowered the cost of all my future purchases by one. 

On the board I Teleported a Troop from the White Pyramid to the "Sanctuary Of All Gods" in the northwest. Just as I predicted, everyone else was preoccupied with sniffing each other's butts so my presence there was virtually ignored, giving me an opportunity to swipe another quick permanent Victory Point. 

Chad gambled and dropped all three of his Pyramids on the board at Level One, guarding the White and Red structures with five Units apiece. Eschewing any Pyramidal improvements, he decided instead to invest in a "Recruiting Scribe" which gave him two bonus Units, a "Priest" which blessed him a +1 Ankh bonus on Play Actions and "God Speed" which gave his Troops a +1 Movement Bonus.

So equipped he decided to pick a fight with Mike over the super-valuable northernmost Temple which gives its owner a whopping five Prayer Points plus a temporary Victory Point whenever you sacrifice a single Unit. In the resulting melee Mike was sent packing and Chad only lost a single dude. He also snapped up a veritable freebee: one of the mid-board Temples. Needless to say, this instantly caught Andrew's attention.
Like me, Andrew decided to specialize in a Level Two Blue Pyramid right from the get-go. Unlike me he wisely decided to augment this with a Level One Red structure for a little dash of offense. After placing five Units apiece in each District he then snatched up the Red Power Tile "Charge!" which instantly gave his Troops a +1 bonus in battle when attacking. More importantly, he went out for some Deep Desert Snakin' via a killer Level Two Blue Tile.

If Andrew could be accused to exploiting his superior knowledge of the game in order to get an edge over the rest of this, this last move could arguable be called "Exhibit A". Indeed, the Snake's ability to nullify the effect of rival creatures turned out to be pretty clutch. 

Andrew then went to work, driving Chad out of his mid-board Temple with an eleven Strength Troop!  Even though Chad was forced to slink away down south, the exchange wasn't particularly bloody and he only lost one Unit in the skirmish. After capturing the adjacent Temple, this gave Andrew a grand total of six bonus Prayer Points, two temporary Victory Points, and a Permanent Victory Point for holding on to two Temples at the end of the Cycle! 

Finally, Mike also placed all three of his Pyramids at Level One, guarded by three Units on Red, three on Blue and four on White. Over the course of the Cycle, he also acquired two basic Power Tiles: a "Priest" and a "Stargate", the latter of which decreased his Teleportation costs by one! Mike kept a pretty low profile on that first Round, securing the eastern Temple with three Units and bringing two reinforcements onto the board to guard the Blue Pyramid. 


Andrew's momentum continued after he snagged the initiative away from us. This time he concentrated on home improvement, driving his Blue Pyramid up to Level Four. He managed to do this just ahead of me and steal away with the precious Sphinx! Not only did this give him an instant Victory Point, his newly-acquired titan would henceforth add two Strength Points to any Troop that fought along side it in battle!  

Despite these infrastructure improvements, Andrew found himself locked into a defensive posture. His acquisition of the Snake seemed to send Jeremy into a homicidal fit and Andrew was forced to shore up the defense of his Level Four Pyramid with the aforementioned Sphinx and five new Units. Later in the round Jeremy would make a point of denying Andrew a hold on two Temples. 

In preparation for his Holy War on Andrew, Jeremy jacked his Red Pyramid Level up to four. He then poured every single Prayer Point into acquiring new offensive weapons including the "Open Gates" Power Tile and the incredibly bad-ass "Giant Scorpion". This gave Jeremy everything he needed to waltz right past Andrew's defenses with an eleven-Strength Troop and deliver a pretty nasty serving of ass-beatery. This was definitely a battle of attrition what with Andrew losing three Units to Jeremy's two. In spite of his genocidal obsession, Jeremy kept the south-west temple well-garrisoned.  

I continued my measured approach, building my Blue Pyramid up to Level Four and scoring a Victory Point in the process. Still bitter over Andrew's blatant theft of my Snake, I had to settle for a consolation prize: the not-nearly-as-badass Ancestral Elephant. Admittedly, he was pretty cool since he added a point of Strength, Damage and Protection to any Troop he was embedded with! 

After levying two new Units to guard my White Pyramid, I decided to test-drive my new Oliphant by descending on the now-deserted Temple in the middle of the board, splitting both sides of the river with Andrew. Even though he's not particularly keen on sharing himself, Andrew began to ask me to disclose my current Victory Point total over and over again. By some miracle, I managed to hold on to the "Sanctuary Of All Gods, even after sacrificing two more Units and collecting yet another permanent Victory Point.

Meanwhile, Chad successfully increased his Red Pyramid to Level Two and purchased the "Carnage" Power Tile, giving his Troops a pivotal +1 Damage in battle. Armed with this schmancy new upgrade he went on a tear, and by "went on a tear" I mean that he got his ass kicked by Mike in the northern Temple and quickly crawled back to his City to regroup.

After dialing up his White Pyramid to Level Three, Mike purchased the "Hand of God" Power Tile, giving him the ability to raise one of his Pyramids by one Level during every Night Phase. He then proceeded to boot Chad out of the northern Temple, even after he was forced to lose two of his own valuable Units in the process. Largely unchallenged, Mike also had no problem holding on to the easternmost Temple. With a single Unit sacrifice up north, he managed to net a grand total of seven Prayer Points, two Temporary Victory points and one Permanent Victory Point! Not too shabby...


After augmenting his Troops with the "Defense!" Power Tile, Andrew once again let slip the dogs o' war (the puppies of pandemonium?), winning a key battle against Jeremy with with the help of a ten-Strength Troop and A GIANT FUCKING SNAKE. Jeremy followed this up by instituting a ruthless pogrom against Andrew which left ol' King Hiss with virtually no Troop presence on the board by the end of the Cycle!    

By now my clearly-distasteful strategy of using peace and non-violence to quietly collect permanent Victory Points was starting to raise eyebrows (and hackles) around the table. The first person to come a-knockin' was Mike, but I managed to eke out a narrow victory with seven Strength to his six for the win. Unfortunately I didn't have enough dudes left to pay the sacrifice cost and collect a third Victory Point, so I decided to Recall what was left of my forces there.

Lamenting the fact that I didn't score a single measly Victory Points in my humble victory against Mike, I decided to add the "Defensive Victory" Power Tile to my repertoire. I then jacked up my White Pyramid to Level Two. In spite of these improvements it didn't prevent Jeremy from swooping in and taking my one remaining Temple away from me. Arsehole!  

In addition to wrestling control of this central Temple on the east side of the Nile away from me, Jeremy also kept a stern and resolute vigil over his highly-prized western Temple. Once again, by retaining possession of two of these holy sites he earned himself another Permanent Victory Point. To cap off a subtle and effective turn, he celebrated by procuring a "Priestess" which reduced his future Power Tile expenses by one.

Smarting a bit from his narrow loss to me, Mike added the "Charge!" Power Tile to his arsenal. It was also a pretty tame turn for Mike since he spent most of the time shoring up his Troop count and protecting his holdings. It was a sound move though since he once again finished the Cycle in possession of two Temples, scoring another Permanent Victory Point in the process!  

With an end to the game in sight, it made sense that the two players who were lagging behind at first made the most aggressive moves during this Cycle. Chad started by ramping up his Red Pyramid to Level Three and then scoring a bonus Permanent Victory Point by snatching up the matching Level Three Red Power Tile.  He also went right after Andrew, ousting him from the centrally-located Temple on the western bank of the Nile. 


Bolstered by the fourth-level Power Tile "Reinforcements", Andrew surged back after being assailed by multiple foes. After all was said and done, he managed to pry the great northern Temple out of Mike's mitts thanks to a reconstituted / Snake-assisted Troop. At the end of the Cycle Andrew was quick to sacrifice a Unit, gaining a temporary Victory Point and five key Prayer Points as well.

Mike flirted with triumph after he used his "Hand Of God" ability to cap out his White Pyramid and score a Temporary Victory Point. He also used his surplus of Prayer Points to buy a Permanent Victory Point on a White Level Three Power Tile. His control also remained resolute over all three Districts of his home City as well as the easterly Temple. With a possible seven points waiting to pile up by the end of the Cycle, Mike was definitely a threat!         

Still mourning the loss of my precious "Sanctuary of All Gods" I bombed back into the region with a small crack team of commandos led by a giant Ancestral Elephant. So much for stealth; this move really created some chatter around the table. Not long after I was forced to accept the fatal flaw in my grand plan: I'd claimed w-a-a-a-a-a-y too many Permanent Victory Points without improving the nuts and bolts fighting power of my Troops.

As a result I quickly turned into the table's punching bag. Mike clobbered me twice on my own turf, seven Strength to two and then six Strength to five. Then I barely held my ground in a dust-up with Andrew at seven Strength apiece. Finally Jeremy took a crack at me and won with ten Strength to seven. By the end of the Cycle I'd bounced back to field a new five-Unit Troop in the desert which put pressure on both Mike and Jeremy's captured Temples.

Jeremy continued his resurgence by increasing his White Pyramid to Level Two and purchasing a brutal Red Power Tile called "Initiative" which let him destroy two enemy Units before a battle even began! He then channeled this pack of crazed hooligans towards destroying every last man, woman and child Andrew had on the board. He attacked the Level Four Blue Pyramid District in Andrew's City but the wily defender managed to conjure up twelve points of Defense to Jeremy's eight and cast the invaders back outside the eastern wall. Even though Jeremy lost the fight he did manage to wipe out all of Andrew's Units during this particularly nasty fracas!

He fared a lot better against me, but then again, who didn't? He also managed to hold on to the east bank of the Nile Temple not knowing that Chad secretly harbored nefarious designs on the Temple to the south-west, which Jeremy had occupied since the beginning of the game.

Taking note of how tight the race was, Chad knew that victory would probably go to the player who could score the easiest and quickest Victory Points. As such, he hastily invested four Prayer Points into maxing out his Red Pyramid for a temporary Veep. In an effort to bolster the final stages of his military comeback, Chad then retained the services of the Level Four Phoenix which gave him a bonus Movement and +2 to combat Strength. Even scarier: he now had the ability to ignore City Walls!  

Anxious to test out his new toys, four of Chad's Units swarmed Jeremy's Temple to the south west. He also kept careful watch over the mid-board Temple on the west bank of the Nile.


The turn order remained identical for the last Cycle of the game. To aid in his eleventh-hour military campaign, Andrew invested in the Level Three Power Tile "Prescience" which forced his future opponents to reveal their Battle Card before he played his own. Tricksy! He used this ability, along with his other cumulative assets, to engage in several key scraps, one of which saw Mike ousted from the western Temple he'd lovingly held since the start of the game.

"The Hand Of God" continued to serve Mike very well and he succeeded in capping out his Blue Pyramid at Level Four.  Denied the benefit of holding two Temples for a permanent Victory point, Mike struck back, knocking Chad out of his perch in the Temple to the south west.

As for me, I might as well have been sitting there with a sign that read: "CHEAP VICTORY POINTS HERE - PLEASE ATTACK." I tried to protect myself with the Level One Blue Power Tile "Defense!" but it was too little, too late. As a result I had to suffer the indignity of Chad waltzing into my City District and sponging off of my Level Four Blue Pyramid. Apparently I was the only one who noticed how close Andrew was to victory, which inspired a sad, final "Hail Menhit"-style attack on his eastern Temple. But in the end I just couldn't compete with his juiced-up forces.

With a war-footing fueled by the Level Two White Power Tile "Divine Intervention", Jeremy retained the eastern bank of the Nile Temple and his three City Districts. Unfortunately he just couldn't get traction anywhere else on the board and his forces were rebuked in an invasion attempt on Mike's Temple to the south west.

Knowing that it was now do-or-die, Chad raised his White Pyramid up to Level Four, netting a Victory Point in the process. He then decided to go for the el cheapo win by using his recently-acquired Phoenix to air drop a Troop into my Level Four Blue Pyramid District. As you can well imagine, my efforts to stop him were like Sansa Stark challenging Sandor Clegane to a bare knuckles fist fight. Instead of mounting a spirited defense my army proceeded to roll over and ask for belly rubs.

At the end of that fifth Cycle someone at the table proudly boasted that the game was over and that they'd won. There was nothing left to do now then verify everyone's Victory Points and confirm if the declaration was true!


Jeremy...5 Victory Points

Me...5 Victory Points

Mike...8 Victory Points

Chad...8 Victory Points

Andrew...9 Victory Points




  • The Battle Cards add some very interesting aspects to this light war game. The fact that you discard a Card every time you play one adds a tremendous amount of guesswork. Timing an attack is critical, since you want to tackle an opponent when they have less Battle Cards then you do. Also, if you think that the upcoming battle is futile, you can either play a card that minimizes your loses or costs your opponent some extra casualties. Bonus points: since most fights consist of throwing down a single Battle Card apiece, scraps are usually over in a flash.  
  • Since landmarks are all nicely equidistant from one another and you have the ability to Teleport, player interaction is pretty constant and there isn't a lot of down time. 
  • The Power Tiles add a nice evolutionary arc to the game.
  • Prayer Points are a simple, effective and thematically-appropriate commodity to fuel the game's economic engine.  
  • The Divine Intervention cards add a dash of chaos and unpredictability to the game.   
  • Annihilate your opponents in style with these gorgeous components! The board is brilliantly designed with Regions, Temples and Districts clearly delineated from one another. The iconography on the Power Tiles is clear and the accompanying artwork is just stunning. The Victory Point chips are durable and easily distinguishable from one another. The d4 Pyramids are great and I'd love to bust 'em out in D&D session just to give my dagger damage rolls a bit more flair! The Player Boards are colorful as well as functional. The Battle and Divine Intervention cards are made of quality card stock and don't require a hieroglyphics expert to interpret. Finally, the miniatures are awesome! Just look at these things; it's like playing Iron Maiden's Powerslave: The Board Game!     

  • Turtling should never be an optimal strategy in any war game but in Kemet going defensive is a joke. If I ever play the game again I'm going to ignore the Blue Power Tiles because you only get Victory Points for winning offensive battles right from the start. Sooooo, why purchase the Blue tiles when the Red ones help you optimize this disparity right away?
  • Honestly, I kinda hate the whole "Teleportation" thing. IMHO, the ability to just pick up your Units on any Pyramid space and then dump them wherever there's an obelisk is completely anathema to an area-control war game. Strategic maneuvering goes right out the window and the game starts to feel like an endless string of rock / paper / scissors contests. Yes, Teleportation should have been included in the game but perhaps on a Power Tile with limited use. Put it this way: standard movement was barely used in our game in lieu of all the rampant Stargate crap.
For me, Kemet pales a bit when compared to Cyclades. Notwithstanding the fact that I prefer the ancient Greek over the ancient Egyptian theme, Cyclades feels more war gamey and less fighty, the strategies make more sense, the movement is more reasonable and the titans are more headstrong.

Nevertheless, Kemet is a fun way to spend an evening. It's quick to play, gorgeous to behold, the battles are fast and furious and the "civolution" aspects are fun and light. Plus: MONSTERZ!!! 

Kemet scores four pips out of six with a neck-craning tilt up towards Ra, the sun god!  


Looking for an excuse to flaunt your Deep Desert Snake? Click on the mirage below to look upon ye mighty copy of Kemet whilst paying tribute to this humble scroll of bloggery.  


  1. I've recently gotten into Kemet myself and have played it three times over the last week, each game with a different group. I completely agree with your assessment that going defensive isn't the way to go--the game heavily incentivizes attacking. However, I've still found value in the blue tiles, particularly the sphinx, war elephant, and the tile that gives you 7 units in a troop instead of 5.

    Also, in the first game I played, the obelisks were heavily used, and normal movement hardly ever was. But in subsequent games (particularly last night's game, I hardly ever used the obelisks. I didn't want to pay for them, so I found ways to increase my movement capability, and I marched all over the board for free without restrictions. I didn't dominate, but I did win. I'd recommend giving that a try.

    1. Sounds like some solid, road-tested strategies, Jamey. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great review, and I agree with almost everything. The teleportation doesn't bother me that much, but I can see how it could. And, the Blue powers only really come into play when you are playing with people that don't realize that aggression is the key to winning.