Tuesday, 2 April 2013

KEMET - A fantastic game of beating up your friends, and riding around on mythical beasts. Can you think of a better way to spend your time?

I was first introduced to this game by a Tom Vassel video review on DiceTower.com and knew immediately that I wanted it. The ancient Egypt theme, the light war game mechanics and the gorgeous mythical creature miniatures…its love. 

Unfortunately it has taken nearly 3 months for this game to arrive in the UK; during which time I more than once considered getting it delivered from Europe or America. I held off and finally the game arrived last Friday morning, just in time for our next game night. Was the game worth the wait? and the £45 price tag?

I’ll say this now to save time, if you do not like combative and aggressive games, you probably won’t like this. This game not only encourages attacking, it’s necessary and key to the game. You will take on the roll of Egyptian gods battling each other for supremacy of the ancient land of Kemet (name for Egypt at the time, kinda). Your goal will be to gain 8 Victory Points, and keep them until the end of a game round. I say ‘keep’, as some of these Victory Points will only be temporary, which can, and probably will, be stolen by another player.

Throughout the game you will be able to gain permanent Victory Points, mainly through combat, and temporary Victory Point, mainly from controlling one of the multiple temples around the board. If another player seizes control of these temples from you, you have to hand over that Victory Point.

Each game round will start with the night phase (which is in effect an upkeep stage) in which you will gain 2 prayer points, the sole resource of the game. Players will take it in turns to perform an action (such as move a troop, buy an upgrade, or recruit new units) until everyone has taken 5. Unlike many similar games, such as Game of Thrones, everyone starts the game on an equal footing, with the same amount of resources and units. The board is designed in such a way that everyone is the same amount of spaces from each other, and you can teleport from you cities to important locations around the map for a minimal cost. All this comes together to make a very balanced and strategic game.

While you may all start the game on an equal footing, you won’t stay that way for long. The element that will make your forces play different from everyone else’s, and what will make the game different every time you play, is the 48 upgrade tiles. When you buy one of these tiles you will get a permanent ability/upgrade/mythical creature that once bought, is yours for the rest of the game. Other than a few low level tiles, once you have a tile no one else will be able to acquire it. In this way you will be able to tailor your army and play style, making your forces completely different to other players.

Seeing as it’s a key part of the game, I really should take about the battle system. I won’t go into too much detail, it’s a simple system, the main thing to know is that it’s not luck based. For each battle you select two of your 6 battle cards (1 to use, 1 to discard), adding the combat value of the card to the number of your units in the battle, plus any modifiers on your upgrade tiles. The winner stays where they are, the loser retreats and a victory point is awarded if the attack won. As well as a combat value, these cards might also kill enemy units, or protect your unit’s form being killed. Once all 6 cards are in your discard pile, you pick them all back up again; meaning that you have to plan for what battle card you’ll need in a future round.

Everyone has the same cards as you, so you can go into a battle fairly confident of a result, and can plan accordingly. Know your going to loose? play a battle card that will kill off lots of their units after the battle. Have an easy win? play a card that will protect your units from being killed. Or like me, have a tile that gives you resources for killing units, so always go in trying to do the most carnage.

There are a number of other elements to the game that I’ve not covered in this review, such as:
·        The lovely marble effect 4 sided dice, used to show what level your pyramids are at, and in conjunction, what level of upgrade tiles you can buy.
·        The number of other less common ways to gain Victory Points, such as upgrade tiles, and upgrading your pyramid to the highest level.
·        The “Divine Intervention” cards which can be used as extra help in battle, or in a number of other ways.
·        You can only have 5 units together in 1 space, as a Troop. There are only 12 units available to each player, so you can build up massive forces.

The heart of this game is a light war game, layered on top of that is a clever action selection mechanic, and a deep upgrade system. It shouldn’t take long to teach to new players, and after your first play you should be merrily slaughtering each other without having to consult the rules at all.

As you will have already noticed, I am very enamoured with this game. I do tend to get very enthusiastic about a game, and can overlook any issues it has. So before I get onto more praise, these are only three negatives I can think of:
·        You do need a group where people don’t mind aggressive games, and won’t take it to heart as you stop on them mercilessly.
·        All players need to play well, it’s not something to play if you want to relax and not think too hard. If a player makes a few bad moves, it could lead to another player scoring 2 or 3 easy points and winning the game. This shouldn’t be an issue after the first few plays, as you’ll soon get to understand how to avoid giving players easy points.
·        The rules, while not terrible, aren’t prefect. I would recommend watching a video (either a review or walkthrough) to get everything straight in your head and consult the BGG forums if you need any further clarification.

I would recommend watching the Dice Tower review for a bit more info, and have a look at some more pictures of the game being played. My words alone don’t do this game justice, its as much fun as any game I’ve played in the last few years and combines very balanced and strategic gameplay with a great theme and gorgeous presentation. The first play went over very well with my game group; though our group does tend to like the more aggressive and competitive games (read: games where you can screw each other over), so it was always going to be a hit. This is a game I can see being in my collection for a long time to come and a staple of our game group.

**** One small note, when you buy this (and yes I did mean to write ‘when’), print off some reference sheets from BoardGameGeek for the upgrade tiles, it will save a lot of time if everyone has a copy to browse through. Like having your own little Argos catalogue of death and destruction.****

Below is a brief summary of our first game:

David (me): I was dogged by pre-emptive buying by Jay throughout this game, every time I planned to get an upgrade, Jay got their first. My first move was to send a troop to secure the Sanctuary of All Gods (where you can sacrifice 2 units at the end of a round for a VP). I only managed to hold this for 1 round, before attacks by both Matt and Jay forced me out. I spent the next few rounds upgrading (the best of these was an upgrade that game me lots of Prayer Points every time I killed another unit) and rebuilding my forces before going on an all out offensive against Karl & Rebecca, grabbing multiple temples, and upgrading my pyramids to reach 10 VP. No one was going to be able to steal enough temporary VP to deny me the win, so the game was called at that point.

Karl: Took an early VP lead, grabbing the two central temples, and started gaining a lot of prayer points every round. He accelerated ahead of everyone else, buying lots of upgrades (giant scorpion anyone?) and consolidating his position in the temples. Unfortunately for Karl, this did make him a target for the rest of the game, and due to a lot of attacks on his forces, he stalled at around the 5 or 6 VP mark.

Matt: Had an aggressive start, initiating the first attack of the game, against myself. Making a move on the Sanctuary of All Gods, but soon left the fighting there to myself and Jay, and moved into the Delta temple (where you can sacrifice 1 unit at the end of a round for 5 prayer points). He controlled this point for the rest of the game. After a few rounds of upgrading and beard scratching, Matt launched his main force (led by a giant scarab beetle) at Karl and then Jay. While he had some success against Karl, by this time Jay had become quite strong, and was able to swat away Matts attack with a Mummy Priest backhand to the face. Matt ended the game on 4 VP (I think).

Rebecca: Flew under the radar for a while, grabbed one temple and spent the first few rounds building up. Then with a twinkle in her eye, spend the rest of the game continuingly attacking Karl and myself. I think, even more so than me and Karl, Rebecca was the most aggressive player. She grabbed one of the central temples from Karl, and despite multiple unsuccessful attacks, she kept rebuilding and attacking some more. However, as quite a few of these attacks ended in defeat, she didn’t build up enough VP to win. She ended on 6 VP.

Jay: Took a slow approach, building up a strong resource generating base, and upgrading his armies. Other than a few small attacks, Jay wasn’t very aggressive until the last few rounds where his forces stormed out of his city, attacking Karl & Matt. However strong Jay was at this point, he has left his move too late, and ended on 5 VP. If we had played a longer game (10 or 12 VP) I think Jay probably would have won.

Game Time: about 100 minutes, including setup and rules explanation.

Judging from the threats and calculating looks I suspect that I’ll be a target next game. Bring it on! my giant snake army will take you all…..whimper….

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