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Subject: 1st impressions from Essen 2009 rss

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This review was initially posted in Essen 2009 - Strategic Gamer's review

Egizia - a game about monument building in ancient Egypt

Each player manages a building company with 3 building squads. These can support the construction of the sphinx, tombs, the obelisk, a temple and the pyramid and will be awarded with VP by doing so. The game is played in 5 rounds. The player with the highest amount of collected VPs wins.

The board depicts the Nile and the different construction sites. During each round the players sail the Nile downstream and will stop at its shores to take actions. In order to do so, the Nile is divided into 20 sections. Each section is assigned with one action. Half of the actions are standard actions and they are available each turn (they are marked on the board). The other actions are assigned semi-randomly by drawing cards and putting those face-up next to the shore (semi, because the deck is semi-randomly constructed based on the round). Except for the construction sites, the actions can just be selected by one player each round. In this clever mechanism, the players can chose to stop at any unoccupied shore downstream. They can pass as many shores as they want (e.g. to reach a specific action first) - but will never be able to get back to one of the shores that they passed.

The actions can generally be divided into the following categories:
- agriculture: the players can select agricultural land cards. These depict a number of food resources that are available to them each turn to feed the squads. 3 different terrains are available: grassland (produces always), irrigated land (produces only if irrigated), highland (produces only at high tide)
- quarry: the players can select quarry cards which allow them to produce the indicated amount of stones each round
- squad development: additional workers are added to one squad (thus this squad can add more stones at once to a monument). However, the more people in the squads, the more food is required.
- construction sites: 3 construction sites are available and several players can stop at them (one less then players in the game). Here the players can claim to add stones during the construction phase.
- weather field: the player can change the weather/water condition by one increment and thus changing the type of terrains which are fertile.
- 2 different development tracks (stone, VP): the further developed on these tracks, the players will be able to exchange VP to food or stones to VPs)

Once all players reached the Nile delta, they have to feed their squads. Unfed squads will lead to VP reduction.

Now the quarries produce stones which can be used for construction afterwards.

Construction is then done site by site in claim order. The 1st construction site allows to add stones to the sphinx. For each stone, the player draws a sphinx card. These cards will provide bonus VP at the end of the game if the indicated requirements are fulfilled (e.g. most stones in the obelisk). The player can select to keep one of the cards. The remaining cards are converted to immediate VPs. The second site allows to add stones to the obelisk or to construct tombs. These constructions are directly converted to VPs. The 3rd site allows to add stones to the pyramid or the temple => VP.

After 5 rounds and the settlement of the bonus points from the sphinx cards, the player with the most VP wins.

Egizia is a nicely composed strategy game. All ingredients are well woven into one another and require an elaborated action selection by the players regarding size of squads, feeding of squads, collection of stones, selection of construction sites, achieving bonus VPs. The "Nile"-action selection process is innovative, effective and greatly incorporated into the theme. All in all a very sound design !

However, except for the innovative action selection process, it seems that all other ingredients were somehow recycled from other games and newly mixed together. Hence, I felt that playing the game was slightly boring and not adding a really new gaming experience.
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