Recommend
10 
 Thumb up
 Hide
7 Posts

Amun-Re» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Born in Arizona... moved to Babylonia - King Tut. rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Benjamin Maggi
United States
Clifton Park
New York
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Introduction

Who hasn't seen a movie featuring the pyramids or the Sphinx and daydreamed about what it would have been like to live during that time period? Thankfully, times are different as for most of us that would have meant being a slave who toiled through the long, hot days to construct these mammoth stone structures or plow the farmlands for the economic benefit of the Pharaohs. Still, there is something that allures and draws the imagination of everyone to this location and era. For me, it was studying the pyramids and their frequently ingenious "security systems" by which pharaohs would safe guard the contents through the implementation of secret passages, counter-balanced security doors, duplicate rooms, and curses. Aside from the last, which has been the biggest focus of Hollywood but perhaps the least amount of foundation in reality, there really were lots of cool ways of keeping the treasure buried in side secure. With this in mind, any game that is designed to reflect this exciting period of time should be a hit, right?

In this game, each of the players gets to assume the role of one of the pharaohs along the Nile River in ancient Egypt. Throughout the game, the players will get the ability to bid for territory sites that can later be developed by constructing pyramids and farms with the end goal of earning money to be later given to Amun-Re, the reigning god. In return for their loyal contributions to him, Amun-Re then blesses the pharaohs based on what they have accomplished throughout the year. This game has two different phases ("kingdoms") and each is scored separately, with the final score determining the winner.

This game is definitely a eurogame, which is the favorite among my local gaming group. Sometimes these go over really well with me and sometimes they fall flat, and usually it has to do with one word: "interaction." I have played enough eurogames which could best be categorized as "multiplayer solitaire" where players sit around a table only occasionally speak to find out what a certain card says or for a rules clarification to decide that those types of games are not for me. Gaming for me is just as much about the experience as the playing of the actual game, and I like ones that have a bit of "screw your neighbor" built into them. I like it when one player's actions can influence and dictate another's moves. Sure, most eurogames have lots of this but is usually takes the form of, "Gee, you took the spot I wanted."

Thankfully, even when playing the purest of euro-games our group is pretty close and we laugh and taunt each other for their decisions- or more likely the results of poor decisions. There is always TONS of interaction during our gaming sessions, even if it isn't part of the game itself. Since I mostly collect light wargames it is refreshing to get a chance to try out other people's titles because I get a broader perspective of the hobby as a whole. I also am introduced to games I normally wouldn't buy but later discover I enjoy. Will I play regular eurogames? Sure, I will play anything at least once and I enjoy the occasional diversion from my typical fare. This is one game where it might look at the onset to be a normal eurogame but which I have discovered possesses a bit more interaction to it. I have taken a while to write up this review because after one play I wasn't sure why I enjoyed it, but now with two games under my belt I can safely declare it is the player interaction that makes it fun for me.

Game Components

How well a game is produced can make or break a game for me. Is that a fair standard? Probably not, but while it is possible to play Battleship on a piece of graph paper instead of the plastic folding boards with cool miniature ships I know which one I prefer. When board games are colorful and the components are easy on the eyes I think the gaming experience is better. When the price of a game is "high" (a relative term which varies per person) one also expects more in the box. Another consideration is how well the pieces aid in the play of the game or help a person remember rules, which to me is a big consideration. To that end, I found this game to meet all of my expectations.

The game plays on a large, sturdy board which is colorful and well laid out. While the color choices are muted tans, browns, and greens it does look like a lot of pictures of Egypt. Some might find this a bit lame but when you are trying to replicate a sandy desert you are limited in what you can do. The actual board is divided into 15 territories which are printed with different symbols and this includes some cool looking black hieroglyphics. There are symbols used throughout the game including on the board and on the cards to represent certain things such as power cards, building stones, farmers, and territory areas which makes this game extremely easy to play if English is not your primary language. Aside from the rules, I don't think anything itself is language dependent. And, unlike some games (I am looking at you Ghost Stories) the symbols are easy to distinguish and interpret so referencing the rules constantly isn't required.

In addition, each player receives three cardboard player markers which are used to show which player controls which territory. They are thick and sturdy and I like how they are rounded at one edge like a tombstone. Normally I don't prefer cardboard pieces but these at least mark a change from boring squares, so they are fine in my book. Players also receive two plastic tokens which look like pieces of gum- one is used to track victory points along the edge of the board and the other is used to mark bidding on the individual territories. Just be careful with kids (of all ages) since they may inadvertently try to eat them! Farmers are also printed on the same cardstock as the player markers and have held up well.

One of the cool things included in this game are the resin/plastic pyramids and stones, which are molded in a sandy-textured tan color. There are two different molds for the pyramids representing small and large and they are fun to look at and use. Cardboard would have worked but I am glad they went the extra step to make it three dimensional. For a game about building pyramids I am glad it came with actual pyramids. Finally, the game comes with lots of thick cards which are broken down into territory cards, power cards, and currency. While I think coins would have been cool in this game the cards work well and for the blind bidding process are probably a better option. You cannot bluff whether you are bidding 1 coin, 10 coins, or -3 coins when you have a stack in front of you! No fault there. There is also a towering statute of Amun-Re which is used to mark the first player. He looks pretty upset and creepy but if I had my treasury robbed every turn I would be too.

I have no idea how well laid out the rules are because I didn't read them, but the game did come with some simple player aids that listed the steps of each "Kingdom" and what things cost. The rules are easy to understand and I don't believe we made any mistakes in either game we played- though understanding how to score things can be a bit confusing. One recommendation I have is to photocopy the last page of the rules that explains what each power card does and pass them out. Otherwise, how will you know that a symbol looking like a chicken or sizzling bacon represent bonuses for having all of your territories touching this symbol or along/not along the river? Not knowing how much the game cost, I think it was well produced and to even a non-gamer the pieces and board would probably draw them in and maintain their interest.

Game Play

The game could essentially be broken down into five steps for each phase/Kingdom, and while I don’t to bore you with a long rules explanation I will briefly discuss each as they are important to understanding why I like the game. (These are the rules for playing with four players, which is the only way I have played). Keep this in mind: there are two Kingdoms or years and each is divided into three rounds. Thus, there are six chances of earning money but only two- the ones at the end of each kingdom- can actually earn you victory points.

First Step: four territories out of the 15 total are randomly drawn from the deck and then evaluated. Some give immediate bonuses for controlling them like power cards or money; some have spots for farmers which are essential for making money in this game and others don't have any but might be prime locations for building pyramids. A few have temples on them which score points at the end of each kingdom, and two have camels which only pay off if the harvest that round was low. Finally, if you have power cards which reward you for building in certain areas (ex: touching the Nile River, all on one side of the board, etc.) you may be inclined to bid on certain ones.

Second Step: Players bid on the provinces using an open auction system by placing their bidding token on the price they are willing to pay. Certain power cards can block further bids on that spot or require them to bid much higher than desired. If you are outbid you can bid on another area but cannot rebid on your own. Thus, the scenario of every office Christmas party where someone opens a great gift and everyone else tries to steal it takes place here. Someone will always get the last territory for free but it will probably be a dud. Players then pay for what they bought and collect any immediate bonuses listed on the territory.

Third Step: Players then, in turn order determined by who is player #1 and working around the table, purchase bonus cards, farmers and stones- and they can only be placed on their most recently acquired territory. There is a unique system of pricing whereby the more of anything you purchase the more costly it becomes. Thus, focusing on only one thing will cost you a lot more then if you diversified your holdings. What you purchase is also dictated by what your territory allows: if it doesn't have room for farmers you cannot buy any; if it only lets you purchase one power card you can only purchase one power card. But, pyramids can always be erected anywhere.

Fourth Step: Sacrifice to Amun-Re. This involves each player in turn order giving gold to the god in hopes that the total amount of offerings will influence the economy however they want. The value of each farmer is 1-4 and dependent on the amount of total gold collected. If you have a lot of farmers you want them to be worth a lot (4) so you should give a lot of gold. If you don't have any farmers you want their value to be low so you might not bid anything or even use cards to reduce the offering. Whoever gave the most to him earns the first player marker and the ability to break all ties, in addition to three special gifts which can be more farmers, stones, or power cards; other generous patrons also receive smaller rewards. Thievery of the coffers is sure to displease Amun-Re and only earns you a puny three coins. If the total donation is really low, the region

Fifth Step: During the harvest, each pharaoh receives money for each farmer that is owned depending on the value determined in the previous step. If the economy is low, those who own places with camels receive bonus. If this is the third or sixth round, additional scoring is done to award victory points based on the number of pyramids each person owns, whether they own matching sets of pyramids, who owns the most pyramids, who owns the temples in certain regions, and some other things.

Though there are a lot of ways to score points which I cannot really remember, it isn't as hard or as boring as it might seem at first. If you take your time with the rules or play with someone who knows what he is doing then you will be fine. Our games typically take 90 minutes or so and that includes a refresher of the rules.

What I like About This Game:
1.) Interactive: For me, I love this game because it has some interaction. True, this isn't a wargame and you are not trading and attacking other players but you do have more influence on other people's turns besides the "taking their spot" possibility. For example, during the auction phase you are not only bidding based on what you want to pay but also because you are trying to prevent other people from stealing your turf, or at least getting hit with a high bill if they do. Power cards further hinder opponents from doing this. When building pyramids you are not only trying to build enough to make sets but also to have the most on your side of the board, and going last gives you an advantage there. But the most important example of this is during the sacrifice step, whereby you can drive up or down the prices paid out to farmers. True, if you want it high and put in a lot of money it will be high but in a tight game your decision to play a minus-3 gold bid can hurt everyone else. The ability to break ties if you are the first player is another example. These game mechanics take the game to a different level which I like and which makes the game somewhat unpredictable.

2.) Quick: our games lasted around 90 minutes with the rules explanation and we could probably reduce it a bit more if necessary. There is some downtime during the phase when each player chooses what to buy but because there are so few options (power cards, farmers, and stones) it doesn't last too long. And that is with four players. Some games can just drag on forever it seems and this one doesn't suffer that fate, though the victory point scoring phase can take awhile- around 10 minutes for us- because there are so many possible ways to score points. Still, this game plays relatively quickly and is probably a good choice for kids.

3.) Well Produced: The game is well made and the pieces are top notch which is very important to me. I think my non-gaming friends and family would enjoy this too. It isn't "dripping with theme" as the tired cliché goes but the color choices, use of symbols and hieroglyphics, resin pyramids, and game mechanics do remind me of ancient Egypt. Nothing seemed tacked on or out of place, and there weren't any unnecessary pieces or rules added just to make it more complicated then it had to be.

4) Simple: this game isn't so deep that your brain will hurt trying to figure out the optimal move. That isn't to say that it is easy or boring. Instead, it is well thought out and light enough that it can be easily understood in a few minutes and yet it has enough strategy to encourage some complex decisions. The game comes with player aids but I didn't refer to them all that often. Without the GM having a sound grasp of the rules it could seem complex but after one round it all should be clear.

5.) Open: I like this game because there isn't a rush for everybody to try and take the "family management"/have a child spot on the board. While some decisions are clearly better then others aside form bidding on your initial property there are few times when what you want to do is hindered by other people beating you to it. They can still influence your turn but there is rarely a "oh man, he took what I wanted and now I have to wait another round to do something good" moment in this game.

6.) Luck: Sometimes referred to as randomness, this game has a little and I enjoy it. Primarily, the draw of the property cards and the draw of the power cards are the two biggest examples. For the first, since you can always rebid up to what your pocketbook will allow you can try and mitigate poor land options. As for power cards, they can be very powerful but only if you are in a position to benefit from them. I haven't seen a situation where one person won solely because of the cards I am sure that if you neglect purchasing any you will be hard pressed to win. The last example of luck- what the farmer's are worth- is huge and while it can be influenced by giving more it can still make or break a person. But I don't mind, as this is probably my favorite mechanic in the game.

What I Don't Like About This Game:
None of the things I am mentioning below break the game but they are things I sometimes wonder about ...

1.) Not many options: considering this is a eurogame I don't mind that there aren't a lot of options in this game, but since you can really only purchase stones, farmers, or power cards I wonder how long the game can be replayed before it gets dull. I haven't reached that step yet but if the same group of people play the game over and over I imagine it will get boring fast.

2.) No climax: To me, I felt that after playing two rounds the game just ended without anything big or special happening. Since the game only lasted 90 minutes (not multiple hours like a few) I wasn't expecting much but perhaps something like the Nile River flooding or another mechanic could have been introduced. To me, I just felt like it ended without much thought. To play another round of the same wouldn't change it, but perhaps if Amun-Re somehow rewarded players or otherwise had a special action it might be more interesting at the end.

3.) Money is relatively worthless at the end: In our second game playing I had the last two harvests in the second kingdom pay out handsomely, to the tune of $56 for the last one (I did have to offer $24 to ensure that the value of farmers would be 4). Another player also earned $56 that harvest too. But, when the final scoring came around he earned 6 points for having the most cash and I only earned 4. I eventually placed second by one point and he lost by a lot. My point is this: I worked hard to earn a ton of money during the last harvest and only earned four victory points for my trouble. Now, I didn't have to work so hard for this (I did spend $24 to get there) but if the point of the game is to farm and earn money to give to Amun-Re then I wish there more incentive at the end game scoring if you can then give more back. What good is making a killing during the last round if the benefit is only a few victory points?

4.) No catch up mechanism: One of the players didn't build many farmers during the first kingdom and I am not sure why, though a few of his land areas didn't allow them. Perhaps he didn't understand the scoring system in the game or maybe he thought he could win in a different method, but once he was behind he couldn't catch up. This is the same player who made a killing during the very last harvest and if the game had gone on for three kingdoms he might have been able to. I think if players maneuver and strategize their way to first place based on skill a game shouldn't have special rules to help others do better, but there is little incentive to play the second half of the game if you are really far behind.

5.) Scoring system: This game used a hidden scoring mechanism in the way of power cards to allow players to earn more for their land. I don't mind this at all but it does mean that pure strategy alone will not work and randomness and luck of the draw of cards can change the game. What I didn’t particularly like was how after the kingdoms were over there were lots of bonuses to try and keep track of for scoring. They are not "hidden" as they are in the rules but I didn't memorize them all and though I thought I would win by a wide margin I was disheartened to lose by about 15 points and only beat the next player by one. As I play it more I will remember different ways to earn points so it will go away, but new players might claim "shenanigans" over all of the scoring bonuses.

6.) Anti-Thematic: I have no idea if Amun-Re is a real god or what he can do to people, but I think the fact that robbing the offering has no real consequences is somewhat of a let down. There were times in this game were people would steal from him and yet earn three coins (the fruits of their thievery) and yet this frequently caused them to benefit economically. How? Because if you offer $4 to Amun-Re and others steal (and earn $3) you may have your farmers worth only 1 or 2, and when your farming income has your initial offering subtracted you may end up with less then #3 profit. I think a cool thing might be to roll a die or draw a card if you rob from him with various "bad things" that could happen. I mean, common... I saw this movie one where someone ticked off a Mummy and he went crazy on everyone! Here? He shrugs his shoulders and loses $3.

Final Reflections

I like this game for a bunch of reasons and think that it is an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. If it were any longer my opinions might change, but as is it strikes a nice balance between with the heart of a light eurogame and enough randomness and interaction present to appeal to others. While I won't be running to the store to purchase it (too many games on the list already) I look forward to playing it again. It has a lot of interesting things to offer, isn't bogged down by a lot of rules, has a good integration between theme and mechanics, supports up to five players, is not language dependent, and allows you to stick it to the others. I recommend it!

Now when he was a young man he never thought he'd see.
People stand in line to see the boy king. (King Tut)
How'd you get so funky (funky Tut), Then you'd do the monkey
Born in Arizona moved to Babylonia- King Tut.

Now if I'd known the line would form to see him.
I'd take up all my money and buy me a museum.
Buried with a donkey (funky Tut), He's my favorite honky
Born in Arizona moved to Babylonia- King Tut.

Tut Tut ... Dancing by the Nile...Ladies loved the style (waltzing Tut)
Tut Tut ... Rocking for a mile (walking Tut), He ate a crockodile.

Now when I die now don't think I'm a nut
Don't want no fancy funeral just want one like King Tut.
He coulda won a grammy, Buried in his jammies
Born in Arizona got a condo made of stone-a - King Tut
- Steve Martin

4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Darrell Hanning
United States
Jacksonville
Florida
flag msg tools
We will meet at the Hour of Scampering.
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
3.) Money is relatively worthless at the end: In our second game playing I had the last two harvests in the second kingdom pay out handsomely, to the tune of $56 for the last one (I did have to offer $24 to ensure that the value of farmers would be 4). Another player also earned $56 that harvest too. But, when the final scoring came around he earned 6 points for having the most cash and I only earned 4. I eventually placed second by one point and he lost by a lot. My point is this: I worked hard to earn a ton of money during the last harvest and only earned four victory points for my trouble. Now, I didn't have to work so hard for this (I did spend $24 to get there) but if the point of the game is to farm and earn money to give to Amun-Re then I wish there more incentive at the end game scoring if you can then give more back. What good is making a killing during the last round if the benefit is only a few victory points?



I think it should be pointed out that the 6 VPs for most cash that you consider "worthless" is actually more VPs than any other, single item in the game will get you. Granted, you could have sets of pyramids worth more, but doesn't it seem fair? After all, those pyramids took two, entire dynasties to build, and you're only talking about your revenue from a single turn, and expecting it to be worth more.

Not, you know, as if anybody thousands of years later will give a crap how much you made on your last harvest, but will never tire of marvelling at the pyraminds you built.

The thing you probably most missed on is the Power Cards. These are incredibly important in maximizing your scoring for the game.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Benjamin Maggi
United States
Clifton Park
New York
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
You have some valid points but consider this: Had I earned $50 dollars in any of the first give harvests I could have purchased so many pyramids, farmers, power cards that even with some set aside for the offering I would have made a killing that round and had some for later rounds. But, because my huge turn took place on the last turn of the game it gets me 6 victory points (or, in my case, 4).

Your historical notes make sense that perhaps it is thematic, but it still feels a bit hollow to me.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alex Bove
United States
East Lansdowne
Pennsylvania
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I think you (and your group) value farmers too highly. It's a shame that Amun-Re is no longer available on Spielbyweb. The prevailing groupthink there tended to be that camel provinces were far more valuable than farming provinces, particularly in the first Kingdom/phase, where earning money is much more important than earning points.

Benjamin Maggi wrote:
Some (provinces) give immediate bonuses for controlling them like power cards or money; some have spots for farmers which are essential for making money in this game and others don't have any but might be prime locations for building pyramids.


A player can earn a lot of money without buying a single farmer. Berenike earns 8 gold per round with no additional expense (remember that in order to earn money from farmers a player must first *buy* farmers). Abu earns 4. Dakhla averages 4 per round, and the camel provinces are good money makers even if they only pay off twice out of three rounds. Plus, when you have camel provinces, you earn even more money when you steal from the sacrifice while other players spend money in order to try to raise their farmer values.

Quote:
3.) Money is relatively worthless at the end: In our second game playing I had the last two harvests in the second kingdom pay out handsomely, to the tune of $56 for the last one (I did have to offer $24 to ensure that the value of farmers would be 4). Another player also earned $56 that harvest too. But, when the final scoring came around he earned 6 points for having the most cash and I only earned 4. I eventually placed second by one point and he lost by a lot. My point is this: I worked hard to earn a ton of money during the last harvest and only earned four victory points for my trouble. Now, I didn't have to work so hard for this (I did spend $24 to get there) but if the point of the game is to farm and earn money to give to Amun-Re then I wish there more incentive at the end game scoring if you can then give more back. What good is making a killing during the last round if the benefit is only a few victory points?


A couple of points here. First, the 6 VP for most cash at the end of the game is nothing to sneeze at. But unless you had temples to go with all those farmers, you were better off bidding less in the final round. Ending with lots of money because the sacrifice value reaches 4 is only good if you also have temples. Otherwise, you're giving 4 points to every other temple-holding player, so even if you get the 6 VP for most cash, you've only gained 2 VP in the process.

Second, how did two players build/buy 14 farmers each during the second Kingdom? You said the other player was cash poor during the first Kingdom. How could he afford such extravagant spending in the second Kingdom? Did you remember to remove all the farmers from the board after the first Kingdom scoring?

Quote:
There were times in this game were people would steal from him and yet earn three coins (the fruits of their thievery) and yet this frequently caused them to benefit economically. How? Because if you offer $4 to Amun-Re and others steal (and earn $3) you may have your farmers worth only 1 or 2, and when your farming income has your initial offering subtracted you may end up with less then #3 profit.


Yes, but the players who sacrifice get the value of free bricks, cards, or farmers. If the sacrifice is negative and I am the only one who made a positive bid, I'm not going to take three farmers. I'm going to take three cards. One of those cards might be worth 8 gold, or a +1 to my other farmers, or it might help me during the auction, which could be especially nice since I'm first next round. At worst, the cards are worth $1 each if I sell them.

In general, it's bad to be the only one farming if the sacrifice is low. But if everyone else has camels or low-farming provinces, you can predict that they will steal from the sacrifice and you can get your three free items for maybe $1. That's not a bad deal.

I think that after you've played the game 10 or 20 times, you'll begin to see that farming is not the only money-earning strategy and that the sacrifice mechanism is balanced pretty well. Amun-re is a wonderfully balanced design, especially when 5 players are playing.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Linneman
Canada
Vancouver
BC
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
montu wrote:
It's a shame that Amun-Re is no longer available on Spielbyweb.


I silently shed a tear every time I am reminded of this. Amun-Re is a brilliant game, especially when played by skilled players as was usually the case on SBW. Stupid iGadgets.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Linda Baldwin
United States
White Plains
New York
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Sob! No more games on SbW!

You have much replayability ahead of you, young PadawanPharaoh. Don't be too taken in by the thematic tie-in. Amun-Re is a game of strategy, with a large poker element. (Not only "What is my opponent holding?", but "What is he going to do next, and how can I use it to my advantage?" Learning to value the provinces, and to time your moves, is crucial.

One of the first strategies most people pick up is "Money in the First Kingdom, points in the Second." That is, put yourself in a position to grab all the scoring opportunities in round two with all the cash you rake in in round one. There are excellent strategy articles on here, but if you play this fairly often, I suggest just trying something different each time, and see how changes things. And by the way, there aren't really THAT many ways to score; with frequent play, you'll soon have them down.

I love this game, but don't get too blinded by the theme. Knizia's all about -- I hesitate to say "the math", and scare people -- let's say the optimization of resources. You're not really trying to impress Amun-Re so much as gather up those mysterious "Victory Point" thingies. (Hey, maybe they give you better bennies in the afterlife!)
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bruce Linsey
United States
East Greenbush
New York
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmb
Benjamin Maggi wrote:
Introduction

Third Step: Players then, in turn order determined by who is player #1 and working around the table, purchase bonus cards, farmers and stones- and they can only be placed on their most recently acquired territory.


No -- cards aren't placed in a territory at all, and farmers and stones can be played in any of the buyer's territories, not only the most recently acquired one.

Great review just the same!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.