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Angela Kincaid
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Colorado Springs
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CHEOPS
The inheritance of the desert sun

Game by Klaus Paal
Reviewed by Angela Gaalema

Published in 1998 by Hans im Gluck, Cheops is (as near as I can tell) Klaus Paal’s only published game. The theme is pyramid building in ancient Egypt. The players represent the hard working Ahliman family. This family is fortunate, in that it actually receives payment for building the pyramid!

The components of Cheops are typical for a Hans im Gluck game, namely, fantastic. There is a large board which features walls of hieroglyphics. Superimposed on the wall is the outline of a pyramid, with 11 stone spaces at the bottom. Each row going up has one less stone. There are various Egyptian icons scattered about. While the art is not as sophisticated and highly realistic as the current Amun-Re, the colors are well suited and the styling is rather evocative of the theme. There are 66 treasure tokens, each shaped and like little scarabs. They are engraved with detailing on the top, Hans im Gluck on the bottom, and have been ‘washed’ in a gold paint which has settled in the engravings. Very nice. There are many types of tiles, all thick and sturdy, with the theme carrying through on each. There are 16 price tables (shaped as cartouches) which determine the final price of the treasures, 64 Ahliman family blocks (16 each of four different types), 12 neighbor blocks, 12 law boards, and various piasters.

Game Preparation:

While there are sixteen price tables, only six are used per game, adding to replayability. The randomly chosen tables are distributed on the price columns on the board. Each price column represents a particular color of treasure, as indicated by the circle above it, and a representative treasure of each type is placed on the circle for clarity. The front of each price table contains several numbers. At the end of the game, the topmost uncovered number is the market price of that treasure type.

Six of the twelve law boards are randomly chosen and placed on the law spaces of the pyramid, indicated by the eye of Ra. The 60 remaining treasures are distributed (randomly) on the remaining stones of the pyramid.

The neighbor blocks are placed next to the board, and each player takes one of each type of family member and places them in front of himself. The remaining family members are shuffled and placed into three piles. They are the same on both sides, so there is no face-up or face-down controversy to worry about.

WHEW! Finally the game is ready to begin. Similar to Colvini’s Clans, this game takes a lot of preparation. Also like Clans, however, it is worth the effort.

Game play is simple. Each turn the player has exactly two actions: take a treasure or law board from the pyramid, and decide to sell/keep the treasure or perform the law board action. These are mandatory actions, and must be performed in exactly this order.

Take a treasure or law board:
• The player places a [family member] block on the pyramid space he just emptied. Because this simulates building a pyramid, blocks must be placed starting with the bottom row. To place on a higher row, the new block must be fully supported by blocks underneath.
• No two blocks which touch each other can depict the same family member.
• If a legal play is possible, the player MUST place a block! If a player cannot place a block, he must pass his turn (including the taking a treasure/law board part).

Decide to keep the treasure or perform law board actions:
• If the player took a treasure, he must decide right away whether to sell it or keep it. All decisions are final.
o If he keeps it, he adds it to his stash. He is speculating these treasures will sell for more than the quick sale rate at the end of the game. The stash is public.
o If he sells it, he earns the quick sale rate (10 piasters at the beginning of the game, may be changed by law boards). The sold treasure is sold, it is placed on the appropriate price table, covering the topmost uncovered number. This changes the “market price” for treasures at the end of the game. The bottom-most number cannot be covered.
o Money is not public knowledge.
• If the player took a law board, the effects take place immediately, if warranted. These effects range from changing the quick sale price to preventing the quick sale of a particular type of treasure to an extra turn.

If a player wishes, at the beginning of his turn he may pay 20 piasters for a neighbor block, place it on the pyramid and take the corresponding treasure/law board. Afterwards, he must immediately take his normal turn. If he has no legal plays and cannot take a normal turn, he cannot buy a neighbor block!

At the end of his turn, the player may draw his block stash back up to 4. He may pull from any of the three stacks to accomplish this. The draw is not required. If a player ever finds himself with a short block stash, he must wait until the end of his next turn to replenish.

The game ends when one of three conditions is met:
• The pyramid is completely built (i.e. there are no more treasures/law boards).
• No player has a legal move.
• Two price tables are full (i.e. only one number is not covered). [Reviewer’s note: If you feel the games are too short, extend this to three.]

To score, each player sells the treasures in his stash. The number of treasures of each color is multiplied by the market price indicated on the corresponding price table. There are a couple of special conditions indicated on the price tables; one benefits the person with the most of that type of treasure, one rewards everyone with that type of treasure by multiplying in the number of that treasure owned by all players. The player with the most money wins.

This game is simple in execution, yet rife with interesting decisions. Which family member should I play? Choosing family blocks in a manner to limit the options of opponents is fun and can cause consternation. While overly tense, there are plenty of tense moments (d’oh! Don’t sell that one, Joe! Gaaaaaa you just ruined me!). Keeping an eye on the treasure types other players are keeping (in order to devalue their treasures while improving the value of yours) can be quite fun. There’s enough to keep track of and sufficient relevant decisions that acute analysis paralysis prone folks could suck the fun right out of this title.

In short, Cheops is a great, overlooked, thematic filler. It takes less than a half an hour, it has interesting decisions and some very tense moments. It’s suitable for gamers as a light aperitif, and suitable for families and non-gamers as something completely different. The treasures alone are worth the price of admission.
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Scott Alden
United States
Dallas
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Re:User Review
hinj (#17619),

I agree...Great game! Thanks for the review of this classic.
 
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Kevin Whitmore
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Re:User Review
hinj (#17619),

So how would you rate Tal der Koenig compared to Cheops?
 
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Angela Kincaid
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Re:User Review
Kevin_Whitmore (#19506),

perhaps I should answer my mail sooner.

I would rate Tal der Konig much higher on the Strategy/Tactics scale. It's a much meatier game than Cheops. It's also less thematic, and much more abstract. In short, it's difficult to do a side-by-side ocmparison. About the only thing they have in common is the Egyptian theme.
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Richard Lea
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Quote:
At the end of his turn, the player may draw his block stash back up to 4. He may pull from any of the three stacks to accomplish this.


This is wrong. The English rules uploaded here have been mistranslated.

Only one pile of tiles is in operation at a time. Only when that runs out is it permitted to move onto the next one. So you have no choice about which tile(s) you can draw, although you can of course choose to postpone your draw.

This actually makes the game much more of a challenge, especially in the later stages. And perhaps the mistake has resulted in a lower average rating than the game deserves.
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