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Subject: Egypt + Knizia? (A creative day at the Acchitocca headquarters) rss

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Laszlo Molnar
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Unfortunately I don’t know who Update (see comment below) : It seems Ponton was the user that the title originates from. He commented something like Egizia=Egypt+Knizia? in an Essen 2009 geeklist when we didn’t really know anything about the game yet, only the name of the publisher – known for many great old Knizia designs –, its Egyptian setting and genre (worker placement).

Having played the game in December and some times since, I found this one is closer to the truth than first expected: Acchitocca’s design really has some Knizia ideas incorporated (which is fine by me, I do think modern board games could become so great especially because of the ability of designers to incorporate others’ ideas into their games).
Egizia might not have too many really original moments but it is really a great mix of familiar elements.

To illustrate what I think of it I imagined how the four designers (Antonio Tinto, Flaminia Brasini, Stefano Luperto and Virginio Gigli) could work together. Note that it’s all just using some stereotypes and it has nothing to do with the actual persons as I really don’t know them at all



A creative day at the Acchitocca headquarters

Boss stood up.
"Hi all" he said. "We’re all here because I thought we should design a new board game."
He looked at the others, they cheered.
"I thought we should design a medium light worker placement game", Boss said.
"It’s very trendy nowadays!" She agreed and crossed her leg.
"Yes it is. It would be about constructing buildings in the ancient times. You know, Caylus or Agricola style, but a lot lighter. I’d like us to make it so great that even Hans im Glück would like to publish it."
He looked at the member of the team who was known for his love and knowledge of Hans im Glück games so they called him Hans when they were together.
Hans shook his head.
"They have already published Stone Age", Hans said. "I don’t think they just want to publish Stone Age 2. And frankly, I even had some problems with Stone Age."
"I want it to be different from Stone Age.", Boss said.
"No freakin’ dice?", asked Hans with a hopeful tone in his voice.
"No. Players are going to build stone buildings and it won’t be depending on luck if you get more or less stones for your money. You can make the stones get cheaper though."
"So only one material, but still we’re constructing buildings?", Hans asked. "Big difference."
“No, I thought about other differences as well. Have I told you it’s going to be set in Egypt in the ancient times?”
“Egypt never goes out of style”, She said with a little smile. “Good idea!”
“And you won’t construct buildings of your own. Players are going to build those huge buildings together!”
“I like cooperation games”, She added.
“No, it’s going to be competitive”, Boss said. “So, lady and gentlemen, that’s all I know now. I’m waiting for your ideas how it could become an original and special game. Let's start the brainstorming."

Silence fell on the group. Then the fourth member, who is known to be a devoted Knizia fan so they always called him Herr K, slowly opened his bag.
“Oh no…Not again”, She murmured.
Herr K pulled out a huge book and put it on the table. The Huge Book of Knizia Board Game Designs, the title read.
“So….”, he started. “This book is always good if you need some ideas. Let’s see… you need a competitive game where players are building some buildings together… Let’s check chapter nr. 2: Building. Yes, I knew it would be here. Tower of Babel. Does anyone know this game?”
Hans nodded. “It’s an auction game where…’
She rolled her eyes. “Nooo… Auction games are so out of style. Even Herr K’s favorite author has reworked his so-called [family=93]auction trilogy[/family] into games that have no auction at all.*
*Note: see examples 1, 2 and 3.
Herr K sighed. “Damn, the longest chapter in this book is about auctions… Maybe it's not what we are looking for."
Once again, everyone was in silece.

"So… What do we know about those buildings?”, Herr K turned to Boss again.
“I thought they could be a pyramid, a temple and an obelisk”, Boss said.
“An obelisk?” Herr K asked. “Why didn’t you start it like that? Now I have some ideas!”
He turned the pages very fast in the Building chapter until he arrived to Blue Moon City.
“Can you see this image?” he asked, pointing to the pic in the book.

It’s an obelisk. It has a wide bottom. You place the cubes of your color on the obelisk, first to the bottom spaces then higher. The places in the bottom are cheaper, but the higher you go the more expensive they get.”
“Now that’s a good idea!”, Boss said, while images started to appear in his head. “I think this method can be used for each of our buildings. You can build the obelisk this way,

Also the temple – first the walls, then the columns, finally the top –

and also the pyramid.”

“If it’s a game located in Egypt, I think we should make the pyramid special”, She said.
“I agree”, Boss said, “Maybe we could add some bonuses for building a layer of the pyramid?”
“There’s an idea for that as well here”, Herr K said. “Here at Blue Moon City it says Place your cubes on the building squares. When the last cube is placed, the player who has a majority with the cubes receives a special bonus. In case of a tie, the special bonus goes to the player who placed the leftmost cube in that row.

“Excellent idea, Herr K!” Boss said
“It’s okay but…” Hans interrupted.
“But?”
“I still don’t find the game too special or too different from Stone Age, for example. It’s just one of the many worker placement games out there.”
“I agree”, she said. “It’s like buying a coat in a hypermarket. It might look trendy but it has no creative ideas to make distinction. I think its very basis should be different from other games.”
A depressing silence fell on the room. Everyone was trying to come up with something new but it just can’t be forced.

Finally it was Herr K again who broke the silence.
“Maybe I was looking at the wrong chapter. I’m going to check Chapter 6: Egypt now. Amun-Re, Ra, … Are we going to collect tiles as well?”
“Tiles or cards, possibly, yes”, Boss said.
“I have found it! I have found it! Tutankhamen!”, Herr K yelled. Everyone else was looking at him with a strange face so he repeated. “Tutankhamen! You… don’t know Tutankhamen?”
Boss and Hans shook their head but She didn’t. “I know it. A game from the beginning of the ‘90s… that’s an era that goes into style again!”
“It’s a game about collecting tiles”, Herr K explained. “There is a path formed out of the tiles. Each player places a pawn there and the game starts. When it’s your turn you can go ahead as much as you want (picking up the tile you arrive on) but you can’t return. You can even decide to jump forward to halfway of the path. Then others will decide if they want to collect what you’ve left behind and let you collect the best stuff ahead or they just keep the tempo and come with you. It’s a tricky little game.”

“I think I know what you are thinking”, Boss said. “I imagine a path where you have these cards to collect with a worker placement mechanism. So you can place your men wherever you want but can’t return: you can’t place your next men behind the men you have already placed. And of course no one can claim the cards or places you have already claimed.”
“What exactly are on these cards?” Hans asked.
“You know… stuff. You can choose to contribute to the three building sites, improve your men, have some special actions, get some stones, get some cornfields for growing crop to feed your men…”
“Feeding? But no starvation strategy!” Hans said.
“No, no. If you can’t give enough food to your men you can go to minus points as well. Maybe you can also adjust the price of food during the game, just as you adjust the price of stones you need for construction.”
“Fields for growing corn…” Herr K murmured. “In the desert?”
“Good question” Boss said. “Maybe we should change the path to the Nile?”
“And have ships intead of men! It’s going to look nice for sure” She said.
“But…” Herr K added, once again furiously turning the pages of The Huge Book of Knizia Board Game Design, then finally pointing at a picture of two blue tiles. “Everyone who has played Ra knows Nile is worth nothing without flood.”
Hans nodded knowingly.
“Even those who didn’t play Ra know that” Boss said. “But that’s a good idea again. Maybe you can get some cornfields close to the Nile and some fields far from the Nile and the latter provides food only if there is flood on the Nile? And then there are some cards or places by the river where you can adjust if there is going to be flood or not. I think this game is getting a shape by now!
“I agree!” Herr K added with enthusiasm. “But… as Knizia was a kind of beginner when Tutankhamen was released this mechanism had some problems. It’s a perfect information mechanism and as such, it allows some kingmaking.”
“The Hans im Glück development team knows that very well”, Hans said. “I guess they will find out something for this.”

“Or we can try to find something ourselves”, Herr K said after a momentary silence, once again turning the pages in his book. “Can’t we get some idea from Amun-Re as well? Wait a bit… Yes, we can! We should have some hidden cards as well with some endgame bonuses. Look at these, can you see? It says things like If a player has at least 7 power card symbols he gets 3 points, If a player has at least 9 farmers gets 3 points and so on, if some things are achieved he gets extra points. It also gives some ideas for the face-up cards like “you can get a free farmer”, that could be also used.”
“Just don't say hidden aims are Knizia's invention... But actually once again it's a good Idea… Especially the secret aim cards seem to be a really great idea! I just don’t know where to get them…”
“Maybe we should have a really special, sacred place where you can draw cards like this.” Hans said.
“It should be a Sphinx. They are so nice and I didn’t even understand why we didn’t think of building a sphinx as well in the first place”, She said.
“This meeting has unexpectedly great results, it has proved to be very productive”, Boss said. “I think we have the main structure of the game, also some great small ideas. We can start to work on the details.”
Herr K smiled.


About the game

After all this I’m not going into details about the rules of the game; you’ll find them soon in other reviews I guess. Egizia is played in 5 rounds and in a nutshell, each of these rounds goes like this:
1. You place cards on the board.

2. you take turns collecting cards and taking actions in the above explained tricky worker placement way, not returning for cards you have already left.

The actions can be immediate actions, actions that can be used only once or actions that can be used in each round from now on. With the cards you can get stones (mines, actually, so they produce stones each round), fields (far from the Nile, close to the Nile and in-between) that produce crop, you can adjust the price of crop and the price of stones (actually it's about getting the possibility to transform stones into VPs in the end of the game)

and get lots of special actions. With the pre-printed actions (every second action next to the river is pre-printed) you can adjust the number of men in your groups, adjust the Nile (which fields get enough water and which don’t) and take part in buildings at the commonly usable three construction sites (the first of which is the Sphinx that gives you secret aims).

3. When everyone has placed their pawns until they can't or don't want to "move" down the river anymore, you have food points for your fields and you get stone points for your mines. You feed your men.
4. In the order you have placed your ships there, you take part in the construction. You need stones and your men for this. You have 3 groups of men and one helping group (it can help one and only one of your groups during one turn).

So e.g. if you are at building site 3 and you want to place a stone marker on a value ‘3’ field in the temple and two stone markers on value ‘4’ fields in the pyramid you do use one of your group and you might choose to use the extra group here; you can choose to build these all only if their value (‘nr. of men’) is at least 11 (the value of the guy in black trousers and the helping group in the picture above is 7+4=11) and you have at least 11 stones to spend. You get points according to the values built (11 in this case).

5. You get some extra points in the end of the turn. Fittingly to the theme, you get triangular numbers of points (fun fact: for an even more fitting use of the triangular numbers, see Knizia’s Priests of Ra, released just at the same time as Egizia was) : if you have contributed to one construction site you get 1 points, for 2 sites 3 points, for 3 sites 6 points.

After the fifth round of the game you can get some extra points: partly for the remaining stones (that ‘price’ is in effect here: you may get points for the remaining stones) and partly for achieving the secret goals (have the Obelisk fully built, have the most men of a given type etc.).


What does it feel like?

The rules of Egizia are a bit complex for a lightweight family fare. Also you have different strategies to try (it seems sure though that you'll need lots of stones, and also the obelisk secret missions seem to be a bit overpowered until you play with experts).

But it really feels light in the end, partly because of the secret missions. You might even say they make the game a bit out of balance: you might be lucky when collecting these cards and you might be unlucky even if you have more cards to choose from. In the end when you reveal these cards and add up the points it feels like when you reveal your destination cards in the end of Ticket to Ride.

The rest is a bit less light and a lot less luck-dependent even with the random distribution of cards on the places next to the Nile. But the Tutankhamen-mechanism adds a really nice twist to the genre; while it’s a kind of strategy game, it also becomes a game of tactics where you want to get the best cards available but you have to make hard decisions each turn (should I take this one and then he surely gets that one or should I go for that one, leaving it here for others?).

So while the game has nothing revolutionary and is full of familiar mechanisms it just really works well. It’s quite possible that this is my favourite game of the genre; at least I’m sure it’s my favourite from the lighter half of it and one of the most enjoyable and fun ones.

(Edited for grammar, also for a more clear readability)
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Choubi Gogs
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Re: Egypt + Knizia?
Love how you explained how the game was created! I could just see myself in the room and god, would I want to have this book of Knizia!

Someone write it, now!!
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Martin G
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Re: Egypt + Knizia?
Great review! As a fellow Kniziaphile, you've put this right on my radar. The idea of an alternative to Stone Age that isn't terrible is very appealing too
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Laszlo Molnar
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Re: Egypt + Knizia?
qwertymartin wrote:
Great review! As a fellow Kniziaphile, you've put this right on my radar.

The rules of this game are more complex and less elegant than what you would find in a usual Knizia design. I also think I have never played any Knizia worker placement games. But the decisions you make are quite often hard and tactical like the decisions I love many Knizia designs for.

qwertymartin wrote:
The idea of an alternative to Stone Age that isn't terrible is very appealing too

To tell the truth I don't find Stone Age terrible. I just find the way it uses dice (and gives scores based on the numbers rolled) dumbs the game down just too much for my taste.
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Grzegorz Kobiela
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Re: Egypt + Knizia?
lacxox wrote:
Unfortunately I don’t know who was the user that the title originates from. He commented Egizia=Egypt+Knizia? in an Essen 2009 geeklist when we didn’t really know anything about the game yet, only the name of the publisher – known for many great old Knizia designs –, its Egyptian setting and genre (worker placement).


Hehe, I knew that I've posted something like this once, and, indeed, I have, but the list has been removed. You can still find my comment here: http://boardgamegeek.com/comments/listitem/Ponton/page/4 (middle of the page as of today)

BTW, great and detailed review!
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Laszlo Molnar
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Re: Egypt + Knizia?
So then, thank you for the title! That explains why I could not find that comment anywhere.
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euronoob

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Re: Egypt + Knizia? (A creative day at the Achitocca headquarters)
this is a really nice review. I especially liked how the pictures were woven into the first half to show the connections between this game and other games. It's a lot more expressive than just saying "game x is like game y in regard to z" - and since the only game I'm familiar with here is Stone Age, most of the references wouldn't have meant anything to me, anyway.

Classic "show don't tell" at work thumbsup
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Laszlo Molnar
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Re: Egypt + Knizia? (A creative day at the Achitocca headquarters)
Thanks!
 
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