…I’m tired, but I’m going out tonight for you! Braving the cold, for you! It’s taken me quite a while to finish this review and the week has come full circle and back to Board Game Club night. A night of beer, games and happy faces. Well, more concentrate-y faces but you get the point. What am I going to play tonight? Who knows! What am I going to take with me? I always spend a few hours mulling that over before taking my already full bag from last week with me. But before I go off and enjoy myself let me tell you all about the game I played last week…
I’m assured that Amun-Re is a good game by many people who have a similar taste to me. It takes long-term strategy to win but you still have to deal with rolling with some random punches and constantly coping with the decisions of the other players. This sounds great and it’s looking at the comments on Board Game Geek too. I’m all for it. Let’s play and see if it’s as good as people make out.
Amun-Re is all about building an Egyptian dynasty by gaining influence across 15 provinces that are around the Nile. At the start of a round provinces are randomly activated on the board, the number of which the same as the number of players, and you must all bid on them to build upon. Each province has different benefits. Some have more spaces to farm the land, maybe free farmers to farm that land, how many “power cards” you’re allowed to buy in a round, some offer free power cards once you take the land, others have temples that get you points at the end, or just cold, hard cash to collect at the end of each round.
The value of bids go up triangularly (0, 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21…think in pool balls set in a triangle) so bids can get stupidly high, stupidly fast. It has a nice mechanic where you can’t up your bid on a province if you already have a bid on it, and have to move your bid to another province. Once everyone is bidding on separate provinces you claim the land and get to the building stage.
You can spend your money on bricks to build pyramids (3 bricks = 1 pyramid), buy farmers for your land, or more power cards (depending upon your province quota).
Farmers reap money from the land. This is calculated at the end of a round where the number of farmers is multiplied by the number of points Amun Re grants you! The final stage of play in a round is sacrificing your money to the God to up that value by the amount you give. Or indeed steal 3 coins with a special card and drive that number down if you don’t have many farmers. Everyone who gives generously gets freebies from the piles of bricks, farmers or power cards. This proportional to the highest bidder getting the most stuff (number of player dependant) down to those who bid the least. Thieves get nothing!
So you total up your money for your farms and take take it in preparation for the next round of similar play. Power cards are now worth a mention because they can all twist the rules and scoring that I’ve just explained. You can get cards that can be use up to drive down the price of a pyramid to two bricks, or get extra coins for farmers at the end of the round …all the way to more long-term cards that can be used at the scoring stages if you have so many farmers, power card quota, etc.
The point scoring stages are where it gets very interesting. These occur at the end of the third and sixth round. At the end of the third round you calculate your points from your pyramids, temples or power cards you’d like to play and …YOU LOSE YOUR LAND, FARMERS AND PYRAMIDS!!! You get to keep your cash and power cards, but the farmers go back into the pile and the pyramids remain where they are.
Starting from scratch at the fourth round you are now bidding for the pyramids lying around in the provinces as well as the provinces themselves. This can make well developed plots of land very valuable indeed and you start to realise why bids can go up to silly numbers. You play again as you had before but now there is more emphasis on the end-game plan of earning as many points as possible by the end of the sixth round. All your money ends up going on pyramids and trying to complete the bonus tasks on your power cards.
Sounds good, right?
Amun-Re rubs me up the wrong way. I didn’t enjoy it. This galls me because looking at the back of the box the game should have been right up my street. Indeed, it is up a lot of streets walking the many highways and byways to the hearts of other board gamers. I realise I’m going against the grain in my dislike. All I can do is give you is my personal opinion and hope that it doesn’t put you off having a go in the future.
The game itself seems sound and each section of play is quite fun. It’s just doesn’t come together as one satisfying whole.
The initial bidding for different plots of land to build on is easily the best bit of interaction between players in the game. I took great delight in driving up the price of one bit of land, using a bunch of related power cards to be able to bid on the same plot of land repeatedly, and then just took whatever was left for nothing knowing I had more coin to spend that the other players.
The other big bit of player interaction at the end of the round to tribute money to Amun-Re for more points per farmers didn’t work as well. It would be nice to be a shifty bastard at this stage and steal some coins when the others need to up the farmer price but the flow of strategy in the game meant that we all rarely differed in opinion which way the points should go. That and it’s hard to bluff that you’re not using the special -3 coin card because you can only put one card down while others are putting down several coins worth.
The rest of the game is just …there. You buy stuff. You get points. Nothing to get too excited about.
The lack of difference in strategy between each of the players may have been because of the game’s major flaw. I could see the differences between farmers, bonuses and had a rough idea of money. The point scoring was easy enough to calculate too. In the first four stages of the six, I think everything is quite tight and there isn’t much between the players. YET! It’s very hard to judge just how well you’re doing at any point in the game compared to everyone else. It’s all about getting yourself into a position to really go for a point grab in the final stages by building them pyramids. Any crafted strategy goes out of the window.
Two of the people at the table had played it before and they easily did the best once the scores were counted. It dawned on me at the end of the game that perhaps I had given Amun-Re too much credit. In my head I was playing a much better game but the winners were just off in their own little game building as many pyramids as possible in a race rather than a competition. Someone not experienced at this game goes in at an utter disadvantage. There is only one real strategy here; when to stop preparing and when to build pyramids. It’s all about the timing and since you have little awareness of what is going on between the disjointed sections and everyone appearing to do much the same …you don’t stand a chance!
For all my personal dislike, Amun-Re is not a bad game. Please give it a go and you might like it. That said, Amun-Re is nothing special either and for that reason alone I urge you not to bother. There are much better games to spend your £30 on.
ADDITIONAL: it has been brought to my attention that the picture of the box says Amun-RA . I am the one in the right, as usual, and it is called Amun-Re. I might change the image later.