Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Board Game: Kemet

There are many strategic boardgames that encourage a strategy usually called "turtling": you build up an army and surround yourself in defenses. You know, just like turtles. Just without the army. Not many strategy games really encourage aggressiveness, and the reason for this is that it's hard to pull off in the game system in two ways: first, you need everyone on board with this, because many people don't react well to aggression, and second, you need a system that actively incentivizes aggression while hurting the defensive guys. If that description appeals to you, Kemet is your game. 

In Kemet, you take on the role of an Egyptian god, out there to defeat all the other Egyptian gods. The acknowledged way to do this is to reach a certain number of Victory Points (as so often in these games), at which point the other gods accept you as the most badass god. There's a number of ways to gain points, but the most important is by winning battles as the attacker. Note that you don't get shit out of beating back an attack. Only attacking yourself is the charm. 
Onward, Egyptian soldiers!
To do this, you acquire a host of minions that aren't really remarkable. The strength is in the numbers, and they will die very often and very quickly. Luckily, the minions can be respawned for a bit of the universal coin, mana. Said mana is also used to purchase upgrades, and boy are those vital. In many games with upgrades, some are useless, most are useful, and some are straight overpowered. Not in  Kemet. In Kemet, all upgrades are overpowered. This makes so much of it fun. Most upgrades can only be purchased once, by one person, so you have to carefully choose which overpowered thing you want. Ignore movement restrictions? Gain additional mana? Add battle strength? Gain Victory Points for free? It's all there. But the stars are, of course, the creatures. 
Like these.
Some upgrades confer mighty beasts to you, like a giant scorpion, the Phoenix or a war elephant that puts the Lord of the Rings to shame. Those beasts confer equally mighty bonuses to the army they accompany, and they are more or less immortal. Pays off to be a god, after all. Again, everyone can have overpowered creatures, so all is fine. You just have to choose one. 

When the armies finally meet in battle, the fight is resolved by determining final strength. Every player plays one card that confers certain values to the army (additional strength, damage or protection thereof), adds the number of figures in the army and possible upgrade effects, and whoever has the higher number wins. One Victory Point! The loser may either retreat all remaining units (usually a bad idea, because they're just a target for some other warthirsty god) or dissolve them, getting back the mana he paid. That mechanism ensures a great turnaround in troops, constantly getting killed or dissolving and then being resummoned. 
Yellow god against blue god.
Another beautiful thing in the design is the board. Not only is it gorgeous to look upon; it's very cleverly designed. All areas on the board are in the same distance to each other. Even if you start in the middle of the damn board, all enemies are at the same distance to you, thanks to some clever gerrymandering in those areas. This further discourages turtling and the tedious alliance building that usually goes with it: everyone can always attack you. There is really no way to be safe. 

Just to drive this message home, the game board features a number of obilisks, which serve as destination point for the teleport you can totally undertake thanks to your godly powers. Any army in your home base can teleport to any obilisik on the board for a small fee in mana, and yes, preferably right on top of an enemy army. It must be suck to be one of those small little plastic men fighting it out for you, but since you're god, you don't have to care about that. 
About one third of the available upgrades.
If you like a little bit of aggressive strategizing that can be played by 2-5 players in about 2-3 hours, Kemet is the game for you. If you are a more sensitive guy, you should perhaps refrain from playing. Ye have been warned. 

1 comment:

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