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"Every Board Game I Reach Is Dead"
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This is a review for the Atmosfear: Khufu the Mummy DVD game. Khufu's is the second DVD Atmosfear to be released, and stands alone from the first DVD game. Despite being easy to obtain where I live, it seems to be quite rare and un-heard of! Well this review will shine a bit of light on what to expect should you ever buy it...

As with the other Atmosfear games (there was several VHS releases through the 90s as well as the more recent DVD game), Khufu Atmosfear is an interactive board game for 2-6 players in which you must compete with your opponents to beat the game within a certain time limit. The star of this game is Khufu the Mummy, who has escaped from his underworld prison and opened a rather cool casino inside his pyramid! The aim of the game is to travel around Khufu's casino and beat the table in each of the four chambers, before playing against Khufu in his Ultimate Challenge to win the game. This must be done within 45 minutes, for if the time runs out all players lose and Khufu wins automatically!

As with the previous DVD game in the series, Khufu Atmosfear has a sturdy and attractive game board. The colours are strong and vibrant, and the squares are larger then in the previous game and much easier to identify. This game also features four raised platforms that sit in the centre of the board and represent the four gambling chambers of the casino. These platforms are made of good, solid plastic with card sheets placed inside to identify the different chambers. The overall appearence of the board is eye catching to say the least, and it is clear that the makers have gone for a "Vegas casino lights" kind of look.

The playing pieces included in Khufu Atmosfear are the same symbolic moulds of horror monsters as those found in the original DVD release. Whilst this seems a little unoriginal, it feels nice to take control of your favourite character from the last game. Once again though, it seems a shame that the pieces are only representations of the monsters and not actually monster shaped! The usual selection of horror monsters appears (vampire, werewolf, zombie, witch, poltergeist) apart from the new monster; Medusa the Gorgon, who replaces Khufu as a playable character whilst he is busy hosting his own game. Each of the monsters comes with a character card showing a picture of the monster and giving a little detail about the urban legends that each is based upon. It's also worth noting that the playing pieces are made of semi-transparent plastic in this game (rather then solid colour plastic as is the case with the original game). This means the playing pieces can glow with colour in the right light- once again adding to the casino theme of the game.

The DVD works in an almost identical way to the original. It acts as both a timer and as a way for Khufu to appear and trigger events throughout the game. Just as with the original, the DVD features an entire rules explanation, meaning the game owner can sit back and let the DVD explain how to play (awesome), there is even a "Khufu's Casino School" feature that teaches you how to play the Ultimate Challenge as well as explain how to gamble during the game. This system is undoubtedly smart, and DVD technology means that there is not only more events then you will see in a single game, but they appear in a different order each time you play (unlike the original VHS versions where events always appeared in the same order and at the same time each game). The soundtrack is also particularly good, with soft but thematic Egyptian tunes playing whilst Khufu isn't about that builds to a motivating and heart-pumping Egyptian rave in the final minutes of the game! The DVD really shovels the theme of the game.

Other components include Scarab beetle markers which are made out of the same transparent plastic (and in the same variety of colours) as the playing pieces. These are used to mark which chambers you have beaten during the game. There are two pairs of dice; one normal set of pretty, transparent-red dice, and two special symbol dice, featuring different Egyptian symbols and used for various games throughout the game. There is also a Treasure deck and a Curse deck, six Egyptian symbol cards, a large, transparent-yellow sarcophagus which is used to represent Khufu's current location and a metal coin featuring a cobra on one side and Khufu's face on the other.

The overall quality of these components is good to excellent, and everything fits very snugly into the box meaning nothing falls out of place when carried on it's side (a common complaint I have when transporting games to a friend's).

The game is simple to play. Once the timer starts, the players each take turns to roll one of the number dice and move that many spaces clockwise around the board. They must collect treasure and gamble it to win at each of the four chambers of the pyramid. Once they have beaten all four of the chambers, they must head to the chamber with Khufu's sarcophagus and challenge Khufu to his Ultimate Challenge. If the player loses, the game continues until a player finally wins or until the time runs out and Khufu beats everyone!

There are only a couple of different (but important) types of spaces on the board. Treasure spaces let a player who lands on one draw a treasure from the treasure deck. Some treasures are marked with a cobra that will protect the treasure from other players using a steal space to try and take it. Steal spaces allow players to take a treasure from an opponent, unless the treasure has a cobra on it, in which case they must return the treasure along with one of their own! Then there is Curse spaces, on which you must draw a Curse card. They are mainly bad for either you or everybody, but there are plenty of Curses you can save and cast on other players during the game. Since there are only a couple of blank spaces on the board, you will find that players rarely have any trouble building up Treasure cards (and a few curses!). This is essential, as treasure is required for betting in all of the chambers and any other events that occur in the game.

The chambers can usually be entered from multiple points on the board (each chamber has between two and four ways into it). These chambers are revolved during the game (as Khufu's command) meaning not all points of access are normally available, particularly in the case of the King's chamber, which is not only the hardest and most expensive chamber to beat, but will occasionally revolve so that it can only be reached by going through (and playing in) one of the other chambers first. Each chamber requires betting a fixed amount of treasure (ranging from one in the servant's chamber to four in the king's chamber) and playing a simple game of chance. In the Servant's and High Priest's Chambers you need to roll either an odd or an even number (respectively) on one of the number dice. In the Queen's chamber you must flip the coin and get cobra side up to win. In the King's chamber you must draw the top two treasure cards from the deck and place them face up (each treasure has one of the six Egyptian symbols on it), then you must roll one symbol dice and try to roll either one of the treasure card symbols to win (nasty if you draw two of the same symbol). The first time you win any chamber you place one of your scarabs into it as a marker that you have beaten it. You may (and should) enter and bet in the chambers as many times as you like as long as you have the treasure to keep on playing. Any further wins in a chamber after you have already beaten it allows you to double your wager of treasure cards. The simplicity of these games means you can play quickly and bet away to your heart's contempt- and you should, for it is much easier then the original DVD game to get on your way to winning as long as you hit a chamber whenever you have the money. Players who refuse the risk to gamble will just circle the board hopelessly until the end of the game- sounds foolish but I have seen it happen several times with greedy players who think they are doing really well because they have hoarded loads of treasure.

As with all of the previous games in the series, the host of the game (Khufu in this case) will appear on screen from time to time to trigger events. In the first DVD release, the host was the Gatekeeper (an Emperor from Star Wars look-a-like). He would appear and insult players, laugh at them and generally cause them problems such as making them return useful cards and objects, and banishing them to the dreaded Black Hole for what could turn out to be several turns. Khufu is much more friendly...ish. Played by the same actor as in the first DVD game, he is more of a jovial casino tycoon then the cranky Gatekeeper. He is a little less insulting, cracks jokes more often, won't make players miss more then a couple of turns in a row and offers a lot of gambling opportunities. Of course, he will also hand out plenty of curses, rip players off, stall them whilst the timer ticks away, and effect the movements of the chambers and his sarcophagus. He is all round a much more likeable character though, and really adds to the party atmosphere this game creates. It should be noted that this interaction with the DVD works well as long as you play with people who are willing to get into the spirit of the game. When Khufu appears he will sometimes shout "Who is the mummy!?" to which you must all reply "You the Mummy!". Sweet banter like this will sadly flop with boring and sensible people that don't like embarrassing themselves- don't invite them!

Once you have all four of your scarabs placed you need to get to the sarcophagus with some treasure to play Khufu's Ultimate Challenge- the timer stops whilst this is played, allowing the player to take his time over the bet. The Ultimate Challenge is technically a quick game of Poker. Your treasures are shuffled up and five are dealt to you. You then pick your best three cards, Khufu's three will appear on screen. You then roll the two symbol dice and see who has the best hand of five including the dice results. Wins go from one pair being the lowest and five of a kind being the highest. If you draw or lose, you lose your five treasure and the game continues. If you win then the game is over and you can bask in your gambling glory!

This is a great game for me. It has a really good party atmosphere and everyone always has a great time playing. The winning condition seems easier to achieve then in the original, but the end game is hard. This means most players get near to winning and there is a real sense of competition. This game generates a lot of laughs too, whether it be from Khufu's wise cracks and antics, or from ending up with the curse of humility in which every time you win any treasure you must say "I am a mummy's boy!" to claim the prize! I rated this game 8 out of 10; it is easily as good as the original DVD Atmosfear, and even better in some ways. Plus it only costs around £12 (about $24) at the moment from my local store making it quite a catch. Avoid this game if you do not like gambling, dice fests or acting the fool, but otherwise find it and try it now! He IS the mummy. goo

Additional Note 29/11/09- It's worth a mention that my rating of this game has since lowered to a 7/10. This doesn't mean I think less of the game, but more that I thought the definition of a 7/10 sounds more like my personal view of it ("Usually willing to play"). This game sometimes has very intense gameplay (as you rush to win) that you're not always in the mood for after a hard days work or late in the evening. Still great when you ARE in the mood though! goo
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