What: A point-scoring construction game set in ancient Egypt
Players: 2 – 4
Time: 30 minutes
People: Perhaps requires the most basic of interest levels in board games
Available: Get it on Amazon here for under £30/$40
Why we recommend it
It feels like the last few years have seen board games experiment with new ideas like never before. That has included unique spins on narrative-driven gaming, board games without boards and countless other innovations and deviations for the medium.
So when something like Imhotep comes along, it can seem like quite a simple thing. And, in truth, it is. But that’s also what’s so special about it.
We don’t normally like to detail the rules of the games we recommend, but with Imhotep it’s pretty much a case of pragmatic, rules-driven play. So here goes.
The game goes something like this. Each player has a different colour stone that they must gather. They can then either place one of their stones on the nearby idling boats, or they can move one of these boats into a port.
Believe it or not, that’s it. That’s the whole game.
Of course, the reality of playing it is far more intricate (and fun) than that description suggests. Filling up boats will ensure your stones will make it to a harbour, but which boat should you choose? The big ship with all the other players’ stones already on it, or something smaller that perhaps only has yours?
This is where it starts getting strategic. You see, the critical factor at play is that there are usually four different boats, and always five different ports. Each port grants players points in a unique way. One awards points for each stone unloaded, but distributes higher scores depending where that stone was placed on a slowly-constructing pyramid. Another asks players to stack their unloaded stones into a pillar, and doesn’t reward players with immediate points at all. At the end of the game, the highest towers will be priced up, potentially meaning the stones of players with shorter towers get nothing.
This dynamic changes things. It means that players will constantly be weighing up the merits of getting their stones onto boats quickly (and thus maximise their chance to score points) against the risk that their stones will end up getting ferried to an undesirable or strategically inconvenient port. It also means you’ll be thinking about your position on each boat – trying to work out whether it’s better to be first to be loaded off one boat, or grabbing the last seat of another.
This offers opportunities too. See a player eyeing a particularly lucrative spot in one of the ports? Ship the boat with his stones on it off to the marketplace, where he stands to gain nothing. It’s not only advantageous to you, but also pretty funny to ruin the careful plans of your opponents.
Thematically, players are building ancient Egypt. But that pretense doesn’t hold up for long, and this is a pure eurogame of point-scoring and mechanically-sound gaming. It’s a shame the theme is so lightly intertwined with the gameplay, but it does feel finely balanced and can provide heated, intelligent fun.
The closing rounds are often calculated affairs, with players shafting one another in a flurry as they frantically work out how best to crank up their scores with the options available.
You can pick up Imhotep on Amazon, and if you use this link you’ll be doing us a favour 🙂