After being in the hobby for a good number of years now, my gaming preferences have definitively drifted in the direction of heavier euro games. Or in other terms, strategy games with complex rulesets and interlocking mechanisms. There’s no doubt that Daniele Tascini has established himself as one of the best euro game designers in the industry right now. He has his fingerprints all over numerous game designs, but his most popular by far are Tzolk’in, The Voyages of Marco Polo, and Teotihuacan. So when I heard that he had designed another game, with the same publisher as Teotihuacan, I was immediately interested in going it a try. Thanks to some connections with publisher Board & Dice, I have now had the opportunity to play the game 3 times, once in person on a prototype board and twice more online using Tabletopia. The game itself is set to be released at the end of July, so I thought a quick preview of the game might help you decide if it’s worth keeping your eye open for when it does hit retail.
Like most euro games, the theme of the game is more of a setting than an actual driving force behind the game. Although you’d be hard pressed not to notice the giant obelisk that adorns the middle of the game board. While it definitely gives the game “table presence”, it is also a physical representation of the most unique parts of the game. You see, each player is a…something important….in ancient Egypt. You will be building quarries and workshops, erecting statues to the gods, building out the temple, and overseeing your people’s population and happiness. All of this is done though the dice drafting, a mechanic many of us are quite familiar with. So what makes this game different?
Remember that obelisk? Well, it leaves casts a metaphoric shadow on the action wheel. Depending on whether the dice lie in the light, the shadow, or the dark will determine whether they are pure, tainted, or not even available. There are five colored dice, and as the game progresses and the shadow moves circularly around the various actions, the status of these dice will continually change. So, not only much we consider the color of the dice, the status of the dice, the location of the dice, and also the pip value. The color will determine what resource they allow you to produce; papyrus, bread, limestone, and granite. The status determines which side of your scale they will go on. And the location provides you with one of six very different, but equally important, actions.
The game is broken out into 8 rounds, wherein you get to draft two dice each. After every second round, or after having drafted 4 dice, there is a phase in which players must check the balance of their scales. Depending on whether their dice where pure or tainted will place them one one side of the scale or the other. Ideally the pip values of both sides should be as close to equal as possible, as this determines turn order and may result in negative points. After the 4th round is an intermediate scoring, as well as a final scoring after the 8th. So, in case you opted out of doing the math, you get to draft only 16 dice over the course of the game. 16 actions is all you get to score the most points possible, and you will probably end up using 1 or 2 of those dice to merely produce some much needed resources.
I won’t go into too much detail about the various actions, but just know that they all are quite different while remaining important. The key is making sure you have the proper resources when the correct die is available for the action you want. since you can see the available dice and how their statuses will change, you can easily plan a round or two ahead. The only thing that may throw a wrench in your plans is the players sitting around the table with you.
I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of my three plays. Each game I have focused on a slightly different strategy, all of which have felt both challenging and rewarding. There is just enough information available to make planning ahead possible, but also enough uncertainty to keep the tension high. The game continues to ramp up until it suddenly screeches to a halt at just the perfect time. The greatest compliment I think I can give to the game is that when it ends I feel completely satisfied, and yet somehow still wanting more. I highly recommend checking the game out later next month, maybe even putting in a preorder if you like what you see. I can safely say that I will most definitely adding the game to my collection.