Cats are wankers. It’s a simple truth. Their cute, furry façade is little more than a thinly veiled cover for their treacherous, evil ways. Oh sure, they’re adorable and look great when asleep, but as The Oatmeal has thankfully identified, cats are clawed, plotting deathtraps that just eat, sleep, vomit and poop in strategic locations specifically chosen so that you’ll stand in it and trail the remains all over the house. The two felines in my life definitely fall into this category. Kipling is an evil, maniacal genius that will nuzzle you one minute and chew your nose the next. Banjo is much more personable, but has the rectal precision of a laser guided air-assault. Between them, they rule the roost and a good night’s sleep is very much at their behest.
It seems that the ancient Egyptians did not share my philosophy and revered these diabolical fuzzballs as goddesses for their grace, poise and vermin killing abilities. In fact, the personification of this ideal was Bastet. Presumably as some kind of precursor to the term “bastard” which is far more appropriate given my experience of the aforementioned devious fluff-machines. “Why the history lesson?” I hear you ask. Well, it turns out that the ancient Egyptians weren’t only concerned with cats, but they also enjoyed building monuments in their time between cat-worship and sandcastle enthusiasm. You may be familiar with a few – an oversized D4, giant stone phalluses and a big lion-type affair missing its nose, amongst others. They also seemed to enjoy painting on walls and giving Stargate and the tinfoil hat-wearers a lot of source material. Thankfully, I’m here to focus on the building aspect of this great civilisation with the 2016 release of Imhotep, who was the Egyptian god of board games.
I first encountered Imhotep at UKGE in May and during said Expo, it appeared to be more popular than moonshine at a rehab centre. A few things caught my eye – primarily the appearance of the game. It attracted people to it like Cleopatra to Caesar’s asp. Its main draw is the hefty blocks used in the game to build structures, but also the spread out setup of the board and boats when playing. More on this later. Imhotep is not what you’d call heavyweight, unless you count the actual weight of the blocks used in the game – there’s 120 of those beasts: 30 per player and they’re not what you’d call small. They make the cubes from Pandemic look like Danny DeVito next to Jeff Capes. Based on those numbers, the more mathematically inclined reader can probably work out that there’s a limit of 4 players. For those less numerically agile, the game suits 2-4 players.
The idea behind Imhotep is that you play as a construction foreman in ancient Egypt and you’re responsible for building, or contributing to building, a series of monuments conveniently located next to the beach. You have a quarry (pile of rocks), a supply raft and access to a varying set of boats used to ship the rocks from your raft to the building sites. The available boats are determined at the start of each round by drawing a card. Players then take it in turns to place rocks on boats, move the boats to the relevant ports to unload rocks and then score according to where the rocks end up. The strategy is determining where on the boats you put your rocks (they unload from the front) and which boats to move. Once a boat is in port, it can’t be removed until the final boat has sailed and they are cleared for the next round.
And this is where the fun starts. For you see, whilst there is a lower limit to the number of rocks that can be in a boat before it sails, you don’t need your own rocks in a boat to sail it. You may well have planned for a barge full of your stones to arrive to a trumpet fanfare at the Pyramid site, but your opponent can take control and send it off to the market where it’d be greeted by a few mangy donkeys and a dodgy trader trying to foist off his trinkets like some kind of sand encrusted Del Boy, likely ruining your well laid plans. Points are scored by putting your blocks into the various sites in a particular configuration. The Pyramids score instantly so you can go for the cheeky quick grab, Temples score at the end of the round so you can play a medium term game or the Obelisks and Burial Chambers score at the end of the game for the forward thinking amongst you.
And that’s about it as far as mechanics go. The Market allows you to grab cards which can allow special actions or give you suits of cards which turn into points at the end of the game. The simplicity of Imhotep is a major attraction to it and the double sided nature of the sites allows a great deal of customisability of your games so you can mix and match. The game scales well, although it’s best with 3 or 4 and it’s easy enough for the entire family to play, assuming you can handle being beaten by the family cat. Plus, if you’re like Polyhedron Collider’s Jon, you’ll rather enjoy the chance to screw your friends over again and again. Although whether they’re your friends by the end of the game is another matter entirely.
So I can confidently say that Imhotep deserves the awards it’s already received. It can now add the Polyhedron Collider “Seal of Excellence” to its plethora of accolades – obviously this one being the most prestigious. I can hear the phone ringing now as my inbox fills with praise and thanks.
And now, you’ll have to excuse me, I need to end this review and perform clean up. One of the furry nemeses has performed a tactical carpet bombing.
Honestly, I love them really.