Almadi board game: A four-sided review

The Almadi board game is a tile-laying puzzle game for 2-5 players, which takes about an hour to play. It is recommended for ages 10+, which feels about right.

While there’s talk of sultans, palaces and markets, this is a purely abstract game with a fresh-feeling combination of set collection and pattern building, where the ways to score points are far more complex than the vey simple rule set.

In the box you’ll find five small boards, 88 cardboard tiles, 120 cards, 30 plastic rubies, five player aids and a scoring pad. Looking at comparison site Board Game Prices, you can find it for just under £30. While this doesn’t exactly feel like a bargain, for the quality of components it feels about right.

Also, if you like what you read, note that the game is available to play on the website Board Game Arena. At the time of writing the game was listed as being in ‘beta’ on the site, but it appears to play perfectly.

Teaching the Almadi board game

The Almadi board game is extremely easy to teach in terms of mechanics. Over the course of 16 rounds each player will take one tile per round from those available and add it to their tableau. Both the tile board and your tableau have four columns and there will always be eight tiles for you to choose from (two in each column). The only restrictions are that the tile you take must go in the same row on your board you took it from. And that the tiles must be the correct orientation (easily determined by the tile art).

There are only four types of tile, each of which will score at the end in in different ways. What makes each tile different are the symbols on each of their four sides. These are either an activation arrow, or one of six activatable effects. Two are just for end game scoring (in the basic game). But the others have immediate (optional) effects. Two more give you cards, which again can help you score more points. One lets you reserve a scoring card (which can then be claimed during the game). While the last lets you move your tiles arounds in your tableau. Which is where the game often really comes to life.

Advanced rules

There’s also the option to play with the set of character cards. If you do so, the rubies (a majority scoring item in the base game) are instead used to pay for these characters. Once active, they’ll give you an ongoing ability or add an extra way for you to score end game points. Once you’ve got the base game down, they’re definitely worth adding to the mix.

The in-game scoring cards give you optional short term goals. they often want a tile type to be in a certain pattern, or for a number of a symbols to be active in your tableau. Once you’ve claimed and then scored a card, you can later change your tableau to a different configuration – it only needs to be correct in that moment. But if you reserve (but don’t score) a card, you’ll lose points for it at the end of the game.

When it comes to final scoring, again it’s all about positioning. Your yellow (caravan) tiles want to be in large sets, as that will give you more goods (green tiles, and some cards) capacity – and all the goods you can ship get you points. Blue (oasis) tiles score if paired together, but you’ll get a bonus for having the largest one. While red (palace) tiles will score points for adjacent markets and oasis – as well as for the other type of bonus card.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: While the Almadi board game doesn’t break new round, its combination of mechanisms does feel fresh and interesting. Unlike many tile games where you’re making your own tableau, you’re not restricted to a 4×4 grid. And the movement of tiles to be useful at different times can be truly mind-bending (in a good way) This can induce AP in some players, but for me it’s totally worth it.
  • The thinker: I agree the concepts on show offer an interesting puzzle. But there’s a little too much luck of the draw with very little mitigation. Eight tiles sounds like a reasonable amount of choice. But each tile can only go in one row. Being able to move tiles certainly helps. but only if you can trigger the action. So while this isn’t a game I will veto, it is definitely more for those who like to make the best of a tight set of constraints.
  • The trasher: There are slim picking here for those who love interaction. But I do like the mechanic of claiming (and possibly taking away opponents’) scoring cards. Triggering the action needed to reserve a card can be tricky, so if you get one you don’t want to waste it. But it’s much safer to meet the conditions of a card first. I like this tension, but it’s not enough to make this a game I’m overly interested in playing.
  • The dabbler: I found Almadi hard on my first play. Hard, but worth it. The simple rules lull you into a false sense of security, because beneath it’s a real brain burner! This is great for me, as a more casual player. Because the rules get out of the way quickly and let me try to work out what the hell I’m doing to get the most points. And while the theme is non existent it is pretty. Overall, I approve!

Key observations

The Almadi board game plays very well with three or four players, although there’s not much to do when it’s not your turn – except think! There’s nothing worse than studying the available tiles and finding the perfect one, only for your neighbour to snatch it from you the turn before yours. This obviously improves with less players. But with just two, I find it harder to specialise as there are only 10 of each tile type in the game. This isn’t broken, but it does feel like it reduces your options a little bit.

A common complaint is the difficulty in moving tiles and the generally getting around the constraints the design puts on players. Rather than being a game fault, this is clearly a ‘horses for courses’ situation. If you like making the most of a tricky set of options, this game is probably for you. But if you like to create the perfect, purring tableau engine you may well come away from Almadi frustrated. Often, as several commenters have said, you’re trying to make the least worst choice and hoping to trigger things later.

Which brings us to the ‘analysis paralysis’ (AP) debate. Especially with four, with a couple of slow players, Almadi can become a long game. I personally don’t mind this. I’m happy to chat, and drink, and pass the time. I don’t feel a time pressure to play X games in an evening. But I realise mileage will vary a lot on this point. There are so many combinations available, especially later in the game, that a slow analytical player may grind to a halt. Again, not a fault – just a fact.

Conclusion: The Almadi board game

I was immediately won over by Almadi over at Board Game Arena. And my enthusiasm hasn’t been dampened now that I have a physical copy too. Although I do like the fact it highlights your movement options when playing online. And I don’t tend to play live on the website, so can take my sweet time without annoying anyone! But the physical copy is a definite keeper for me. It feels both familiar and original and has carved its only little niche in my collection. Which is largely what I look for nowadays.

Sobek: Two Players – A four-sided review

Sobek: Two Players is (you guessed it) a two-player tile-based rethinking of 2010 card game Sobek. It takes less than 30 minutes to play and is listed for ages 10+, but I’m sure 8+ gamer kids will be fine.

It’s a small box game costing around £25 (find it via Board Game Prices). The colourful cartoony Egyptian-themed art won’t win any awards and has no wow factor. But the iconography is fine and everything works well enough. In the box you’ll find the main game board, two thin player aids/scoreboards, 65 cardboard tiles (and a cloth bag to put them in), 30 cardboard tokens and a little wooden ankh.

Like the original, Sobek: Two Players is very much an abstract set collection game. And again like the original, what makes the game tick is being able to delay taking a turn by playing a set, potentially leaving your opponent to take something they don’t want. That said, you need to play these sets before the end of the game. Because if you don’t, you won’t score them at all. Timing, and a little bit of luck, is everything in Sobek. You can play the game for free online over at Board Game Arena.

Teaching Sobek: Two Players

When the game begins, the 6×6 board is full of tiles. These are either goods (face up) or characters (face down). Each player starts with two randomised goods tiles. The starting player puts the ankh on one of the four central spaces and takes the tile that was there. As they take the tile, they note the orientation they need to leave the ankh in. Each goods tile shows either an orthogonal or diagonal direction. If you take a character, you get to choose the orientation.

The next player can now take a tile in the direction the ankh is pointing. If they take a tile directly next to the ankh, no problem. But if they take one further away, any tiles (gaps are fine) they pass over are removed from the board and added to their corruption pile. At the end of the game, the player with the least corruption will get a few bonus points. The amount will depend on the difference between the two players, so you need to keep an eye on it.

If your ankh placement means there are no tiles to collect (and you want/need to collect one), the board is refilled and you take one of the four central tiles. Once the tiles run out, you’re near the end of the game. But you continue until neither player is able to take any of the three types of action. Speaking of which…

Alternative actions

If you don’t want to pick up a tile on your turn, you may have one or two other options. You can instead play a character, if you have one. These have various abilities, but also a goods type, so can be used as part of a set. But of course, as they’re face down, you never know which one you’re going to get when you collect them.

Speaking of sets, the last thing you can do is lay one. This is the main way to score points. As you collect goods tiles, some will have scarabs on them. to lay a set, you need to have at least three of the same type of good (or character – and there are also some wilds). Your score will be the number of tiles in the set, multiplied by the number of scarabs on those tiles. If you complete two sets of the same goods type, bingo – you add them together.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: Sobek: Two Players is an interesting beast. The tile collection and direction system are much more nuanced than the original game’s card mechanism. And this feeling of a layer of extra care and attention to detail runs throughout the design. But importantly it doesn’t take away from the cutthroat fun, luck and tension that made the original a fun, light filler game. It feels like a tighter, cleverer design and I can’t see many people preferring the original over this one. It’s just a shame it is only for two players. But I’m not sure it would really work with more.
  • The thinker: There are some nice touches here that elevate the game above the original. Yes, there is still quite a bit of luck. But there are some useful extra mitigations. For example, some goods tiles have a marker on them and you can just trade those in for points. This can be useful if you’re forced to take something you really don’t want. but equally, it gives you the option to take something you know your opponent wants. Important in any head-to-head game where there’s always an element of zero-sum. So while it wouldn’t be a game I’d look to own, I certainly see its merits and will happily play it on occasion.
  • The trasher: I’ve enjoyed Sobek: Two players more than I thought I would when I saw the cartoony art and trading theme. It’s totally about timing – and screwing over your opponent by doing the right things at the right times. You want to save your sets, so you can use them at the optimum time – and get the most points. But there are five ‘piroque’ (bonus) tokens placed face down next to the board at the start of the game. When you first play a set, you pick up these tiles, choose one and play it, then put the others back. This knowledge is big, as those tiles can make a big difference! So you want to play sets early too. Cruel!
  • The dabbler: I really enjoyed this. Its bright and colourful, the rules are simple, but you have genuine choices to make. Non-gamers will probably take a full play to catch on to what’s going on, but I wouldn’t be scared to teach this to anyone. The set collection bit is nice and easy, while the clever bits (deciding when to play characters and sets, as well as corruption) help promote it above the competition. A keeper for me.

Key observations

I quite enjoy the original Sobek, but it’s hardly a classic. While I doubt anyone kept it for the art. You can read co-designer Bruno Cathala’s reasoning here (in his designer diary). But if it had been me, I’d have moved away from that IP and started afresh. That said, the game does feel very similar. The set collection, and tension of when to lay sets/play characters, remains very much intact. The tile board mechanism is a definite upgrade and I certainly don’t miss the icon-based scoring idea from the original. Overall, I see this update as a clear improvement.

It’s fair to say that this isn’t going to appeal to players who like their two-player games low on luck. As you’d expect from Cathala, there’s plenty of chaos. And the end game can completely catch you with your pants down. But in a 20/30-minute game, I view that as a positive. Also on the plus side, there are 12 piroque tiles in the box and you only play with five each game. It doesn’t sound like much, but the mix of these that comes out adds a surprising amount of variety to each play.

Conclusion – Sobek: Two Players

Sobek: Two Players is a really good two-player filler game. It takes the good ideas from the original Sobek and replaces the worse ones with clever new ideas, making for a really enjoyable two-player abstract experience. I’ve enjoyed all my plays so far and I can see this staying on my shelves for many years to come.

Ticket to Ride Germany: A four-sided review

Ticket to Ride Germany is the latest (2017) standalone version of the top-selling family game, Ticket to Ride. It comes with everything you need to play, so you don’t need the base game (or Europe) to play this particular map.

While it’s not an expansion per se, I’m not going to talk through the basic mechanisms of the game here. If you want to learn about those, check out my review of the original Ticket to Ride. Here, I’ll talk about what’s different in this version.

In the box you’ll find a large game board, 225 plastic trains, 200 full-size cards, 60 wooden meeples, 5 wooden markers and a cloth bag. Board game comparison site Board Game Prices lists Ticket to Ride Germany for around £30 with a variety of retailers. This is about the same as the original; great value, seeing as you get more components here. And importantly for some, it includes a purple train set (alongside the nicely German black, yellow and red – plus white).

Teaching Ticket to Ride Germany

I won’t go over the basics here. Please see my original Ticket to Ride review for a rules overview (linked above). Instead, I’ll focus on what the Germany edition adds. But it’s important to note this is a standalone game and the version described below is the only one you get in the box. These all add to the basic rules from the original. But there isn’t an option in the German rules showing how you could play this without the changes made below. So it may not be the best version to teach to, or gift, beginners.

The track in Ticket to Ride Germany is all standard, as in the original. There are no ferries, tunnels or whatnot. So locomotive (wild) cards also work basically, as in the original. There are a few countries to travel to, rather than cities. But the only mechanical difference with these locations is that two routes going into a country do not directly connect to each other. The end game bonus here is the ‘Globetrotter’, which awards 15 points to the player who completes the most tickets. Which, with the other changes below, makes sense.

Destinations and passengers

The destination tickets come in two sets, short (3-11 points) and long (12-22) routes. Whenever you draw tickets, you choose which combination of tickets to choose – announcing the ratio before you take any tickets. At the beginning you much keep any two (or more); while later, you only need to keep one (or more). This may sound minor, but it makes a noticeable difference and certainly helps gives you room to try different strategies.

The game turn is the same as in the base game: either draw two cards (or one face-up wild); claim a route, or draw new destination tickets. However, when you claim a route (put trains on the board) you can also claim some passenger meeples. These are ceded from the bag at the start of the game, with most stations/countries getting a single meeple. But with the main hubs getting three to five. If available, you can claim one from each end of the route just claimed. At game end, in addition to standard scoring, players score 20 points for any colour (of the six) they have the most meeples in – and 10 points for second place.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: I’m a big fan of Ticket to Ride Germany. The meeples have a similar effect to the shares on the Pennsylvania map, but are simpler to parse and score. But the effect is to give players a different way to score points. Sure, you still need to complete tickets. But it makes the end game decisions more interesting. Just spamming down track is a viable option, if you can get meeples. Or you can just go for four short routes, knowing you’ll have a good chance of getting simple ones to complete. It gives players a little more control.
  • The thinker: I see the value of Ticket to Ride to the hobby, but it really isn’t for me. There’s too much luck over skill, especially in the simpler versions. This version does give you an added route to victory, but you’re still largely at the whim of the card draws. If I had to play, I’d go for a more complex map, such as United Kingdom, which adds a little more strategy.
  • The trasher: I don’t mind this game. And the addition of the passengers in Ticket to Ride Germany does add more to think about in terms of your opponents. There are just 10 in each colour, so it’s easy for fortunes to change and to work out who needs what for majorities. This also means that potential blocking moves also come with a meepley bonus!
  • The dabbler: Even as someone who dabbles in board games, I found the simplest (original) version of Ticket to Ride did get a little tiresome after a while – especially with less players. This edition adds just enough to make things more interesting, without a new rules overload. The board is one of the prettier ones too, while also being easy to find things on. Even the new card art is a step up. So overall, this is definitely a positive upgrade across the board.

Key observations

I feel the passengers add a nice dimension to the game, but not everyone agrees. Some see them as overpowered (no need for tickets), while others see them as too much setup faff for little benefit. As always, it’s horses for course. But these extreme opinions clearly miss the point (and both can’t be right). If you don’t want to add a new way to score, you’ll want to avoid this and perhaps try TtR Europe (which adds a little complexity in other ways).

Is this version OK for beginners? Personally, I’d say yes. The taking of meeples is very simple and feels intuitive. And the extra rules only add about two minutes to the teach. Is it for more experienced players? Possibly not. The meeples are less involved than the shares in Pennsylvania, and you only get the one map, plus a load of content you don’t need if you already have a base game. So, you’re better off buying the UK/Pen expansion set.

It was pointed out to me (by Greg Darcy at BGG – thanks!) that the change in train colours is problematic when using the France/Old West expansion. That adds a sixth colour, as it is a six-player map – but the added colour, white, is one of the five already in this expansion. However, you can but new sets of trains in a variety of colours for around £5, so there is an easy fix if you decide you want to expand your TtR experience further down the line.

I should also point out (if it’s not already obvious) that this is a very different/simpler passenger mechanic to the one used in the Marklin edition. Which may feel odd, as this edition uses the same map as that (and the Deutschland) edition. That is a superior, but more complex, mechanism that makes that version unique.

Conclusion: Ticket to Ride Germany

I’ve very much enjoyed my plays of Germany. But it sits in a slightly odd place in terms of who should purchase it. for me, I think it will replace the vanilla (US) version, which I’ll probably pass on to a new gamer as a gift. So, for me it’s a keeper. And if you’re looking to buy your first Ticket to Ride, I would suggest this one – or Europe, if you’d prefer the challenge to come more from how to lay routes than in ways to score.

However, if you already have a base game you’re happy with, this is probably a pass. There’s only one map and a bunch of extra bits you don’t need. So you’d be better of getting one of the map packs (I’d suggest looking at Japan/Italy or the UK/Pennsylvania set mentioned above). But either way, this is another solid addition to the Ticket to Ride canon.

Essen Spiel 2021 reviews incoming: The aftermath

Essen Spiel 2021 reviews game pile

Despite a mountain of bureaucracy, the threat of ever changing COVID threat levels, and all the anxiety that went with both, I’m home. Now the more pleasant pressure of the Essen spiel 2021 review pile kicks in!

As the lovely folks over at the Semi Co-op webcomic so rightly point out in this week’s strip, its most definitely a first world problem. But with so many COVID restrictions still in place, getting games to the table is still a genuine issue.

I got through some hot titles while in Germany. I played Riverside with the Semi Co-op guys – a great roll-and-write with an added board element. I demoed euro game Hippocrates (solid) before it sold out and knocked Furnace off my wish list before I picked it up (nice auction mechanism, but the engine-building is meh and I can’t see any replay value). Ten was an OK (but unremarkable) lighter card game experience. While What’s That Sound? is a proper giggle of a party game (think charades, but you’re making noises to describe what the cards depict…). But there are a lot left to play…

Wednesday’s press event

A unique Essen Spiel experience

COVID clearly hit Spiel 2021 hard. There were around half the usual number of exhibitors. And an event that is usually heaving only occasionally felt busy, despite a marked increase in the spacing of stands and width of walkways. There was a noticeable lack of Americans, from press people to publishers. While Asmodee told all its companies to stay home (although a lot of them had representatives sneaking about having meetings).

It was a shame some hot games, and good friends, weren’t able to make it – but I loved the knock-on effect. A lot of smaller publishers got the extra love they so richly deserve. While it was much easier to get meetings. And once booked, they were much less stressful to get to! Moving around was a breeze and, generally, it all added up to a slightly more chilled con vibe. Without exception, those I spoke to about Spiel 2021 were really glad they’d made the (often considerable) effort to attend.

I usually avoid Kickstarters, but got a long overview of Federation, next year’s euro release from The Specialists (see below) publisher Explor8, at Spiel. It’s a colourful sci-fi worker placement game with several cool and unique twists.

It’s one of those games where the rules get out of the way quite fast, but the complexity comes in how and where you trigger actions. There are lots of ways to do the same thing – but each triggers different end game scores, majority influences or individual bonuses.

If you love this kind of passive interaction, this is a must to check out. The tense, interactive, clever and already funded Federation is on Kickstarter until October 30.

Essen Spiel 2021 reviews (and incoming)

This might be the highest number of review games I’ve brought home in one year. I filled an entire massive suitcase and that included most games being packed Russian doll style, with expansions and smaller boxes crammed into every nook and cranny. Sixteen games in total, alongside two expansions. Anyone fancy a game of something…?

I’ll link these titles to the reviews as they happen, so feel free to bookmark the page and check back to see how I’m getting on. I’ve already played four of them at least once, which is a pretty good start. But if you’re jonesing for any of these in particular, let me know on Facebook or in the comments below and I’ll sneak them to the top of the pile.

Kemet Blood & Sand board game: A four-sided review

The Kemet Blood & Sand board game is an area majority battle game for 2-5 players, taking around 2-3 hours to play. The box says ages 14+, but young gamers closer to 10-years-old should be OK. There are a lot of choices to make, but within a relatively tight rules system.

The original Kemet was released in 2012. This 2021 edition is largely an upgrade (new art, map, rulebook etc), rather than introducing large gameplay changes.

The theme evokes a mythical squabble between Egyptian gods, as soldiers go to war alongside mythical monsters in a (pre)biblical battle for dominance. In reality, there’s no depth to the theme in terms of gameplay. But the components and frankly, the fun of the fair, do enough to carry it off.

Looking at comparison site Board Game Prices, you can find it for around £50-60 delivered from a number of retailers. While some may see this as expensive, this is a large box packed full of high-quality components. You’ll find nine boards (one main board plus eight others), 76 plastic miniatures (plus 65 other plastic pieces), 64 cardboard tiles (plus 125 cardboard tokens), 90 cards, plus five player aids – which are actually fully blown eight-page A5 stapled booklets. Not to mention five plastic trays to keep all the components in. In short, you’re not getting burgled here…

Teaching the Kemet Blood & Sand board game 

The general rules are simple for anyone with a basic understanding of modern board games. Each player has five action tokens which they take it in turns to use (one token each following a turn order set each turn). The basic actions are gaining prayer points (currency); summoning units (soldiers); moving units, and building pyramids.

The pyramids come in four colours, three of which you’ll use in each game. Each player starts with a few levels in the pyramids of their choice, with each being able to be raised to level four. Each level four pyramid gives you a victory point. But more importantly, allows you to gain power tiles to their current level in that colour (the other action type).

Each set of coloured power tiles gives an array of benefits to those taking them. This varies from powerful creatures you can add to your units, through to bonus or enhanced actions. This version of Kemet comes with a handy booklet for every player, covering what every power tile does. This is incredibly useful, allowing you to take a good look at your options between turns.

Let battle commence…

This might sound like a euro game so far. But once the action starts, it is very much a ‘dudes on a map’ combat game. Sure, you can get victory points from building pyramids and controlling temples. But you also get a point for every battle you win – and you only need nine points to win the game. And points gained for controlling temples and your level four pyramids are temporary, while you hold them. Points from winning battles are permanent.

Battles are simple. Each player has an identical deck of eight battle cards, showing numbers for attack strength, troops killed and defence (reducing the ‘troops killed’ number). Simply move to a region with an opponent’s troops to initiate battle. You each secretly choose a battle card, add troop numbers and other bonuses, then resolve the outcomes. You may win and get your precious victory point. But at what cost to your troops? It’s a fine balance.

After each full round of five turns, the player with the fewest victory points (and so on) decides which turn order position they want in the next round. This continues until, at the start of any of their turns, one player has an outright lead on nine (or more) victory points. At that point, the game ends immediately.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: I’m not generally a fan of battle/area control games. But, much like Blood Rage, the Kemet Blood & Sand board game combines euro mechanics with relentless combat which constantly drives the game forward. Combat is essential and control always fleeting, so it doesn’t feel like you’re being picked on. And it is always easy to get back into the action. Everyone has a limited number of troops, so battles tend to be tight. While there’s just the right amount of variety in powers to make the game different each time.
  • The thinker: It’s nice to play what amounts to a war game where chance is largely removed. And where there is some – the battle cards – it’s actually a positive. Each time you play one, you also discard one face down. So players get a feel for what you have as they know what you’ve played. But when you’re down to two cards, they’ve only seen you play three – so the mystery remains. Building a strong tableau of power tiles is also an interesting balancing act. And I constantly find myself surprised by new combinations. A fine game indeed.
  • The trasher: Excellent game. Plain and simple. The plastic minis are great! And let’s not forget the ‘Divine Intervention cards’, which add a bit of bluff and villainy. You get some each round and while some are used elsewhere, many help in battle. They’re small cards you can slip beneath your battle card before a fight – or placed deliberately as bluffs to draw out your opponent’s cards. And they can genuinely swing a battle, adding attack strength or damage.
  • The dabbler: I expect Kemet is a good game, if you like this sort of thing. And I do appreciate the detailed, stapled, eight-page A5 booklet is a nice touch of detail. But all I see is a ‘cards with words’ game in board-and-tile-and-mini-plastic-dolls form. Not for me, ta. Also, the theme is fine but only really pasted on. And while the minis are nice, the board artwork is really underwhelming.

Key observations

The fact Matagot felt the need to give every player a booklet of tile descriptions highlights why Kemet will be a ‘no-no’ for many. Deck-builders such as Dominion do a great job of taking the collectable card game idea and reducing it to bite-sized chunks. Kemet goes half that distance, severely limiting its audience by keeping 30+ choices. Of which each player may use five or six per game. However, I’d argue the richness of the reward is worth talking semi-sceptics into it. After you’ve played once, the amount left to learn drops considerably.

While I’ve talked up the euro-ness of the game’s core mechanisms, there’s a definite smash mouth feel to the way it plays out. There’s no room for negotiation or politics, which also means there’s little banter beyond calling each other out. The game play is skilfully crafted and rewards good engine building, but via a pretty barbaric experience. And those with a love of all things ameritrash may baulk at the relatively cold ‘play a card’ combat system.

Which brings us to kingmaking and leader-bashing – regular curses of the battle game genre. Can poor play lead to another player winning? Sure. But that’s the same in most games of any genre. It’s just perhaps more obvious here. As for kingmaking, I don’t see it as particular problem – in fact it is often a feature of play, not a bug. The key is to score a flurry of points to get over the line, if possible, so you can’t be stopped. Or cash in from just behind if someone scrapes over the line. Again, not for everyone – but I think it works well here.

Conclusion: Kemet Blood & Sand board game

Kemet is an excellent game. It hijacks some pretty standard euro mechanics, throws them in a room, then makes them fight to the death. As with many great combat games, the basic rules quickly get out of the way and leave players to create their armies and strategies. Much like a deck-builder, you develop and react as the game moves forward. Which creates a delicious game arc of shifting loyalties. An absolute keeper and an instant Top 50 of all-time contender. And a recommendation for any euro gamer who likes games with varied player abilities and asymmetry.

  • Thanks to Matagot (via Asmodee UK) for providing a copy for review.
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