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Heir to the Pharaoh» Forums » General

Subject: Brief description of game play. rss

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United States
Las Vegas
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I was fortunate enough to get a chance to playtest this game quite a few times with both my 10 (now 11) year old son and my wife, as well as the designer.

I just want to perhaps shed some light on how the game plays, and provide a little insight into the game's mechanisms.

As a caveat, my wife and I love everything Alf Seegert designs, so we're not only playtesters, but also self-admitted, full-blown fan-boy/girls.

To that end, I've explained the game play and how the game flows instead of providing a "review" since I obviously love it.

Each player is one of either Bast or Anubis, Egyptian gods represented by cats and dogs respectively. The whimsical theme we all expect and love from one of Alf's designs is here as well, and the artwork does a great job of integrating that whimsy into the Ancient Egyptian theme.

The Gameplay

Each player will have the same starting hand of cards, numbered 1-10, but with alternate sun/moon symbols on them (for example, one side has 1-sun, the other has 1-moon, one has 2-moon, the other has 2-sun). This is important because the sun is a tie-breaker if both players play the same card. Each turn most of the gods are randomized (Thoth always comes last) and players bid on them as they appear from the stack.

Here is where auction-lovers will have their hey-day! A god is flipped over from the stack, then the players each have the option of playing one (1) animal magic card, which can affect the bidding, Pharaoh's favor, and other aspects of this phase. Once both players either pass or play an animal magic card, they bid for the current face-up God with the winner placing the god in front of them.

The bidding cards are set aside for now, but there is strategy here as well! Whatever card you use to bid THIS turn will be in your opponent's hand NEXT turn! You have to balance how much you want to bid with how much you want your opponent to be able to bid during their next turn!

This process continues until all of the gods have been bid on. (The Pharaoh is a bit different: players bid on the Pharaoh every turn, but his effect is only resolved every other turn, with the effect that you lock down one of your bidding cards for an extra turn! The pharaoh allows the winner to construct the next level of the pyramid, which scores points right away and can allow for a bonus at the end.)

Once all the gods have been bid on by both players, the player with the fewest number of god cards that turn receives Thoth, then the action round begins.

Action Round

The board!

The gods' effects always go off in the same order, and allow you to place, move, score, or otherwise affect the gameboard, which is a representation of a pyramid on the Nile River, as well as the surrounding monuments. Points are scored at the end of the game for the facing of all of your monuments (points are based on which types of monuments they point at, including the Great Pyramid!).

The first god flipped over each turn has a bonus ability (called Pharaoh's favor) that can make that god particularly useful in a turn.

For example, Seshat usually only allows placement of a monument token a space or more away from any other monument or the pyramid, but if Seshat has the Pharaoh's Favor, the player who wins that bid is able to place the monument immediately next to any monument or pyramid. This can make a huge difference in endgame points!

The placement and movement of these tiles is affected by which gods you won favor with during the bidding round (Seshat places monuments, Geb & Nut decide who owns that monument), and scoring for the monuments is handled at the end of the game, so you'll have to do some planning along the way. Also, there are magic cards and other effects that can change even the most perfectly laid plans, so be ready to counter those as well!

Monument Cards!

Another factor in scoring is the monument card. These are obtained by winning the favor of Ptah. This is a set collection aspect that allows you to gain points by collecting different monument cards. Each card of a type is worth 1 point for the first one, 3 for the second, 5 for the third, and 7 for the fourth. These are scored immediately, unlike the monuments on the board!

Sun Tokens

Ra allows a player to place a marker on the current turn's sun space on the board. This is immediately scored as well, but that's not all! Whoever has the longest unbroken chain of tokens on the suns at the end of the game gets double the number of their unbroken chain in points!

Animal Magic

Wadjet allows players to draw valuable Animal Magic cards from the supply. These cards do many different things, and must be played before placing a bid during the bidding phase. Examples of effects are: making the lowest card bid win the current god instead of the highest, exchange bids with the opponent, add one of the bonus bid cards (11 or 12) to your hand for use, and so on. These are powerful effects!

The other way to receive Animal Magic cards is to place a monument on one of the tokens placed on the board during setup when you use the effect of Seshat.

Building the Pyramid

The Pharaoh god card, when it comes up in the stack, is different than the other gods. The Pharaoh's bid is only compared during even-numbered turns, so on odd-numbered turns players place a bid on that side of the board and then the card is stuck there until after the next turn.

Whoever wins the bid for the Pharaoh is then able to claim the next level of the pyramid to be built. This will score a different number of points for each level (3/4/5/6) and the bonus is that whoever has the most levels of the pyramid gets an extra 7 points at the end of the game! (Ties go to whoever built the top!) Again, a lot of different ways to score points in this game!

Resetting the turn

The final god, Thoth, sets up the next round, and gives the player who had the fewest god cards that round the chance to pick the next monument card to be available for the next turn.

There are 8 turns in a game.

Ending the Game

At the end of the game, you receive the bonus points for the longest unbroken chain of suns around the board, the most steps of the pyramid, any unused animal magic cards (1 point each), and points for all of your different monuments based on what monuments each of your own monuments point to, except for the pyramid: if any of your monuments points at the pyramid you score the points for your monument instead!

The game has a lot of different ways to score points, so if you feel like someone is running you around with the suns, for example, go for the Pyramid instead, but don't let them get too far with those suns! The Animal Magic cards can help you keep your opponent on their toes and psych them out, and can shake up the bidding rounds when you know an opponent is holding on to some higher bid value cards.

The scoring may seem a little complex, but it's really very easy to track on the board since everything is very easy to see thanks to the way Alf laid out the suns, the pyramid, and the score-values for the monuments themselves.

As I said in the beginning, this post is primarily designed to give some insight into what to expect from the game and to hopefully help people find out how it flows and what to expect once they actually play it!


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Alf Seegert
United States
Salt Lake City
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Wow, thank you, Jacovis!

You've covered Heir to the Pharaoh's gameplay way better than I could hope to do!
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