Still in the Nile

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When I was in school there was an interesting sporting endeavor undertaken by students called “in for the boot” played on rainy days. The name is misleading as we all wore running shows in the school. Some eager player would shout out the aforementioned game title and everyone would plaster themselves to the wall staring intently at the center point whilst simultaneously avoiding pushing and general jostling. Well healed students would then start to throw coins into the center until one plucky chap would quickly make their way to retrieve the small treasure pile….. Now (and this is where it gets interesting) players attempting to take the money could be targeted with kicks from the other players and indeed kickers would now also be open to a kicking themselves as they would have to leave the sanctuary of the wall to administer their kick. It generally turned out to be quite… Kinetic. As an aside, the players being teenage kids and therefore build from kevlar and elbow rarely got seriously injured. Rarely.

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Kemet is based on this game. I’m sure of it. I wouldn’t be surprised to find the designers went to my school and having taken the prize fund from the center used it to fund the design of Kemet. It makes sense.

I spoke about Kemet some months back having been lucky enough to bag a copy for xmas. It hadn’t seen the table in a while which is a pity because it’s just so much fun. It did once again grace our table last Thur after much debate on what to play. The game plays up to five and I reckon five is the perfect number for it. Odd numbers in conquest games always work well.

Kemet (from the Ancient Egyptian “Ke” meaning “in” and “met” meaning ” for the boot”) sees you and your godlike chums trying to get to either 8 points in a short game or 10 points in a long one. Truth be told you could play to anything you like, but 8 will see a good Larry, Curley and Mo style slapping around for 90 minutes or so. 10 will run to 2 hours plus depending on how you play. Add in smack talk, coffee, food and pauses to laugh at other’s misfortune and you’ve a full evenings entertainment right there

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First and foremost this game is all about attacking, none of your namby pamby turtling here, attack attack attack and if it doesn’t work out well then sacrifice your surviving attackers to your god and get your money back.  Repeat again.

The map depicts an Egyptian like region with your cities and pyramids and a dozen or so desert locations on the map some of which contain temples. Temples are like King of the hill spots and give you a temporary victory point IF you control it at the end of the round. Lose or leave the temple unoccupied and you return the temporary point. Controlling a temple also gives a little bit of cash (ankhs) and controlling two at the end of the round will give you an additional more important permanent victory points. Ankhs are used to recruit troops, pay for teleports, upgrades and tech cards.

Like most games, it’s all about the points, winning a battle gives you one (oh err missus) as does controlling the temple of day and night if you sacrifice some of your men to it at the end of the round. Holding onto stuff is tough and everyone else is waiting in the wings to stomp on you when you weaken. Battles are bloody, it’s quite possible for you to win a battle but all the combatants to die. Couple this with a tight map and easy teleportation and it’s domination meets free for all. Every round will see multiple battles but they tend to be quick and simple and don’t hold the game up. Battles don’t rely on dice, a set of Game of Throne style battle cards make it a little more predictable. Divine intervention cards drip fed to you each round can be thrown in to the mix to add bonuses and buffs.

While not busy murdering everyone else you can spend ankhs on upgrading your three pyramids (cleverly depicted by big four sided dice in three colors) which grant you access to more powerful tech cards some of which grant you access to the always popular Monsters. Monsters act like a big brother and accompany your mannish armies into battle and add to you attack abilities. They also grant other boons like increased speed, negation of other monsters, better defense and so on and of course they’re monsters!

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What I love about the upgrades is it’s a bit of a grab fest. Each is unique so once you get a tech card it precludes everyone else from taking it. None of them are particularly overpowered, well some of them are better than others for sure but if you lose this game it wasn’t because someone had better cards than you. The tech cards are suitably themed, with three different branches open to you and enough variety in there that every game will play out a little differently.
There’s a nice level of vindictiveness in here. Battle cards picked before a tussle can see you losing but giving the attacker a sufficently bloody nose that they’re now presenting to every other grinning player

The build quality is excellent. The models and cards are on par with anything Fantasy Flight have released, mine could certainly do with a good painting (that said my car could do with a good vacumming out and the grass could do with a good cutting but only two of those are likely to happen anytime soon). The theme is perfect, you can picture the clashing armies, blood and boiling sands and the gods above directing it all and loving the specticle. Artwork is excellent. Each faction features different types of humanoid models. While not on par with say Blood Rage they’re more than sufficent for the job at hand.

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What I like about this game is the offensive nature. If you’ve played a lot of map conquest games you may have developed a conservative expansionist play style. This game will shake all that up. It is possible to defend your spots and win, in fact no one path will win, but glory and more importantly points are in attacking. There’s a hard limit on units so having more than two armies in the field is risky but then again in this game what isn’t. A single round can see everyone’s armies knocked down like nine pins and one player standing tall, just to be dragged down the round after by freshly renewed enemy armies.

Games are always close, 8 points for a win leaves a lot of players losing by one point and someone just being pipped at the post is always great in games. For a conquest game there’s unusually a urge to play again straight away and at 90 minutes that’s perfectly ok.

I highly recommend Kemet. It you’ve played Cyclades there are similiarites but this has it’s own vibe going on so buy both (and eat cake) and combine them. You can do that.

Great game, great fun.

Huzzah!

Vic

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