Imhotep is one of those games that took me by surprise. It’s actually a simple game but there is lots of strategy to it. There is a lot of love for this game and if you have been part of the board game community for a while, you probably have heard of it. It was nominated for the highly coveted Spiel des Jahres in 2016, which is one of many top awards a board game can receive. In a highly competitive field, being shortlisted goes to show how good this game really is.
Imhotep sees players competing to be the most famous builder in Egypt by building temples, obelisks, pyramids and burial chambers.
You start the game by placing the five site boards in the centre of the table. Each side has an “A” side and a more advanced “B” side. In your first few games it’s best to use the “A” sides and progress to any combination of “A” and “B” sides once you’ve played a few games.
Place the score tracker to the right of the site boards and have the eight ship tokens ready to use. Separate the 21 round cards and the 34 market cards, then shuffle the market cards and place them as a face-down draw pile next to the market tile. There are seven round cards each for 2, 3 and 4 player games. Each card shows 2, 3 or 4 head symbols at the bottom so you will know which ones to use. Take the cards that correspond to your game, shuffle them and return one at random without looking at it to the box. You now have one card for each of the six rounds.
Each player chooses a colour and takes the corresponding sled token. Place the stone cubes close by, this will form the stone quarry. Each player then places one of their stones on the zero space on the score track. Determine the starting player and give them two stones of their own colour. Moving clockwise, give each player one more stone than the last i.e. player two gets 3 stones, player three gets 4 and so on.
The game play is very simple in Imhotep. At the start of the round, you flip over the top round card which shows which types of ships are available for this round. Then each player plays one action. You can take up to three stones from the quarry, play one blue market card and gain the benefits listed on the card, load one cube onto a waiting ship or cause one ship to set sail. Each ship has a minimum number of stones to be loaded before it sets sail but it does not matter if you personally have stones on board. Ships are docked next to one of the five sites and then are unloaded by the owners of the stones starting from front to back. The round ends once all ships that shown on the round card have sailed and docked.
Every round, benefits are paid for the market and temple sites (blue market cards and points respectively). The other three sites are only assessed during final scoring when points are awarded for building pyramids, for the tallest obelisk and for contributions towards decorating the Pharaoh’s burial chamber.
The game ends after six rounds, then you enter final scoring. The player with the most points wins.
Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
Artist: Miguel Coimbra, Michaela Kienle
2 – 4 players
Weight (according to Boardgamegeek) : 2.03 / 5 (Medium light)
I’m going to say it again about Imhotep; I was very surprised how much I liked this game. There is more strategy than initially meets the eye. It was little things that swung it for me, like sailing a ship containing opponent’s stones to a site which would give them less benefit and hopefully protect the tile you hope to claim for yourself. In a two player game it can be very aggressive. I’ve only played it as a two player game so far and that’s definitely how it was for me. I can see how the game would improve with a higher player count. It will definitely be hitting the table for me again soon so I can try out the expansion.
Meeples People’s Circus rating 6 1/2 out of 10