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Subject: Session Report rss

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Jonathan Arnold
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
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At the regularly scheduled game night, I got
to play a newer highly thought-of Reiner Knizia game, Amun-Re.
I'd been playing mostly two player games, along with a smattering of
lighter games, esp. card games, so I was anxious to bite into
something a little meatier. I posted a message to the mailing list
with a list of games I'd been compiling that I wanted to play:

* New England
* Amun-Re
* Alhambra
* Stephenson's Rocket

And we decided on Amun-Re.

It is another Knizia game with an Egyptian theme. There are 15
provinces on the board, with various attributes, like farm land,
temples, and gold. Each turn a number of province cards are turned up
equal to the number of players (in our case, 5, which is a good number
for this game I hear). Each player puts down a bid for a province
using a token placed on the province card in the space equal to how
much he wants to bid (in an geometrically increasing number: 0, 1, 3,
6, 10, etc).

The next person can either bid on another province or raise your
bid. This keeps going around until all 5 provinces have been claimed
by one player. If you get overbid, on your turn you must bid on
another province - importantly, you can't rebid on the same province
unless you have the special power card that allows you to do this.

Once all the provinces have been allocated, each player buys
stuff. The three things to buy are power cards, farmers and bricks.
Power cards allow you to bend the rules, like the aforementioned rebid
power, or they give you special victory conditions, etc. Farmers are
placed in your province(s) if there are avialable fields, as each
province has between 0 and 6 fields. Bricks allow you to build
pyramids - 3 bricks build one pyramid, with a power card that allows
you to build with only 2 bricks (in fact, each player starts the game
with one of these cards).

Then comes the trickiest phase. Everyone secretly commits money
towards a sacrifice to the gods, which brings rainfall. They bid at
least one card, which can be the -3 card, which gives you 3 gold
instead of paying for it. There is also an important power card which
adds *or* subtracts 3 from the total. The amount sacrificed is
totalled up and the god tokens ends up in the 1, 2, 3 or 4 space. The
1 and 2 space have an a camel in it, which means that some provinces
will generate extra gold due to trading necessary because of the
drought.

Then you collect money. You count up the number of farmers, multiplied
by the god token space, and you get that much gold. Some provinces
also generate a set amount of gold, while some will, as mentioned
generate gold if there is drought. There are, of course, power cards
that can affect this; for instance, one that causes a province to
generate a straight 8 gold, while another doubles the number of
farmers in a province.

Another interesting twist on the sacrifice bidding is that the high
bidder gets 3 things (card, farmer and/or brick), second highest gets
2 and everyone else who bid at least 1 gets one thing. Because the
cost of things is another geometrical progression (1 costs 1, 2 costs
3, 3 costs 6, 4 costs 10, etc), it can be a nice cheap way to get
multiples.

After the 3rd and 6th turns (6 turns in a game), you tally up your
score. You get points for pyramids, 1 per pyramid. You get 3 for each
"set" of pyramids - ie., if all 3 of your provinces have 1 pyramid,
you get 3 points. If they all have 2, you get 6, etc. You also get
points for the temples in your provinces. There are 3 provinces with
temples, 2 with 1 and one has 2. This number is multiplied by the
number of the god token space.

There are also special power cards which give you 3 vps if you can
match their terms. For instance, if all of your provinces are on the
north or south side of the board, or if all are on the east or west
side of the board, or if all or none touch the river that goes through
the middle.

And on the last turn only, a few points are given out to the top 3
finishers in gold.

So you want to get "sets" of pyramids, and you want to match up with
some victory point power cards. You need to spend money to make money,
as well as spend money on pyramids which don't generate any money. It
isn't as process rich as some Knizia games, which can be good and bad,
depending on your mood. There didn't seem to be as much "Geez, I want
to do these 4 things but can only do 1", which in some Knizia games
can happen in many different phases!

I got to games a little early for me, so even after the explanation we
got started before 8:30 and were finished up by 10:15. It looks like
about an hour and a half game with experienced players (only 2 had
played it before), which is a tad longer than most Euros. But it goes
by pretty quickly.

As is also the case with bidding games, it seems like the very first
thing you do is to bid on something, when you just have no clue as to
its value. You start with 20 gp and the 3 newbies probably
immediately overbid on things, esp. given we didn't know what was good
and bad! I also overbid on the first sacrifice, which left me way
short in building bricks. Sacrifice bidding tends to be low the first
couple of turns, as there aren't many farmers out there, so people
want to save their money, and also get their caravans cashed in. I
went for a farmer rich investment, a costly mistake.

After the first scoring round, I was waaaaay behind. I only scored 3
points, while the other 4 players were up around 15 or so. I didn't
even have a single set, as it is so costly to play catchup with the
increasing costs of things. Nor did I have a victory point power card,
leaving me to play bricklayer to the others emperors!

Another interesting twist is that after the first three rounds, the
board is cleared of everything except the pyramids. So you get an
early start on those for the next round.

I had a little better idea of what I was trying to accomplish the next
time and I was able to actually even match up with a victory point
card (all on the south side of the river). I also got several
provinces that already had 2 pyramids or more, so I got to 3 complete
sets. So I made a nice charge during the last scoring round, getting
right in the middle of 3 other players, while Paul left us all in the
dust. He was able to match up with 3(!) vp power cards (away from the
river, south side of the board, and at least 9 farmers), and have the
most gold.

Amun-Re is an excellent game, although like I said not quite as
brain twisting as some Knizia games. There are only(!) 5 phases and
really only in the sacrifice bidding phase do you have the ying-yang
of wanting to bid more to get stuff that you won't be able to afford
if you bid more! But I enjoyed it and hope to give it another whirl
soon.
 
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