Join the race to be the best builder in ancient Egypt!
by Maria Godfrey
Publisher: Designer: Artist: Year:
Theme and What is it?
In Imhotep, players act as builders in ancient Egypt, trying to match the accomplishments of the ultimate architect (Imhotep) by building their own monuments over a series of rounds. The aim is to excavate stones from the quarry and place them into one of five areas, in the most lucrative position for scoring victory points.
This is a game that had been on my radar for a while before I got to play it, being nominated for the 2016 Spiel des Jahres. Aesthetically, everything looked appealing – lovely artwork, components and what seemed like very straightforward gameplay. All in all, it looked like an ideal family game.
Each player starts with three stones in their quarry. These stones can be placed onto ships, to be transported to one of five available sites to build monuments. Ships have differing amounts of storage spaces available, ranging from 1 to 4. A card is turned over at the beginning of each of the six rounds to indicate which boats will be played in that round.
On their turn, players have four options. They can excavate 3 stones from the quarry (providing they have space on their storage tile), place one stone onto a ship, sail a ship to their choice of unused destination (if it has reached its minimum sailing requirement), or play an action card (taken from the market).
Each of the five building sites allows players to score points in varying ways. The market allows players to take cards, which can be used to score victory points at the end of the game, or take additional actions. The pyramid scores points immediately on placing the stones, the temple at the end of the round, and the burial chamber and obelisk both score at the end of the game. Only one ship can dock at a destination at once, and only four ships are used so that there is always a choice of how to score points.
Quality of Components and Insert
The components in Imhotep are substantial – including chunky blocks used to build the monuments, and robust boards. Cards have stood up well so far, although to be fair there isn’t a massive amount of shuffling required. The insert is basic – one large area to hold all components, so bags are a must.
The artwork on the box is attractive, thematic, and makes it stand out, with a scene of Imhotep looking down on the buildings of Egypt. The colour scheme of the components fits in nicely with this theme, and the boards begin to look more and more impressive as the game progresses and the monuments are built.
There are lots of engaging elements in Imhotep, one of the most being that you can sail any ship, even if you haven’t placed one of your own stones on board. This allows for direct conflict by choosing to sail an opponent’s ship, so they don’t have control over where their bricks are placed. Depending on players’ preferences, games can become quite confrontational! Another positive is the placing of stones – you actually feel as though you are constructing monuments, particularly so with the pyramid, temple and obelisk sites, which can result in higher buildings.
Difficulty and age range suggestion
On the face of it, Imhotep is a simple game – the choice of only four actions makes it easy for children to grasp. More strategy arises in deciding which ships to sail and where to send them, so the level of complexity really depends on the players, hence 10+. Each destination tile is also double sided, with different rewards on each side. Side A is more appropriate for beginners, but when players are more comfortable, the B sides provide more variation in the game.
I think Imhotep could be a favourite with lots of families – it is very easy both to learn and teach, tactile, plays smoothly and looks good in terms of presentation. In my opinion it’s an effective tool to get younger players to think about forward planning and creating strategies, even if simple ones at first. While it can be seen as cut-throat because there is so much scope for affecting other players’ scoring, placing blocks will always gain some benefits, so nobody is left in a position where they lose everything or have their turn negated. More experience helps players in this game, so as far as I’m concerned it’s definitely worth giving a few plays!