Kemet by Matagot is my favorite area control board game and it’s one of my favorite games, ever. Over multiple plays, I’ve come to really appreciate (yes, that’s the right word. APPRECIATE!) the game’s mechanics and design.
Is Kemet a game you, too, will APPRECIATE? I don’t know, but let me run down the reasons why I like it and then you can decide if those things appeal to you or not. First though, if you don’t know what Kemet is, we’ll start with the vendor’s description.
Vendor’s Description (yawn)
In Kemet, players each deploy the troops of an Egyptian tribe and use the mystical powers of the gods of ancient Egypt – along with their powerful armies – to score points in glorious battles or through invasion of rich territories. A game is typically played to 8 or 10 victory points, which may be accrued through winning attacks, controlling temples, controlling fully-developed pyramids, sacrificing to the gods, and wielding particular magical powers.
The conquest of the land of Kemet takes place over two phases: Day and Night. During the day, choose an action amongst the nine possible choices provided by your player mat and perform it immediately. Once every player has taken five actions, night falls, with players gathering Prayer Points from their temples, drawing Divine Intervention cards, and determining the turn order before the start of the new day.
As the game progresses, they can use Prayer Points to acquire power tiles. Some of these enroll magical creatures and have them join their troops. In addition to intimidating enemies, these creatures provide special powers!
Detailed miniature components represent the combat units and the supernatural creatures that are summoned to enhance them. Combat is resolved through cards chosen from a diminishing six-card hand and enhanced by bonuses.
My 12 Reasons Why I Think Kemet is Awesome
- All players start out equal. Same number of troops, powers on the pyramids (for buying power tiles), and same amount of prayer points (money). Even the locations of the player’s cities are equidistant from other players most of the time. That sounds generic and boring but it changes because of reason number 2.
- The Power Tiles players can acquire are remarkable and most are very interesting. They could be as vanilla as to grant you a single permanent victory point or they could provide you with a huge scorpion that moves with your troops on the battlefield, adding to their strength, damage, and movement. And there is everything in-between and more extreme, too. What’s most interesting to me is that often, there is only one of a certain power tile so once a player buys it, he/she alone has that ability.
- Power tiles can complement each other. Red Power Tiles are mostly aggressive, empowering attacks. Blue Power Tiles favor defensive and protective actions. White (ahem!) Tiles (yeah, I think it’s unwise to refer to them as Power Tiles for this color) enable “Command Actions” that generally increase production, reduce costs of doing things, or give you bonuses when certain actions are performed. The Ta-Seti expansion adds Black (ahem!) Tiles that add even more variety to the “Command Actions” and add my favorite monster in the game, the Devourer, a weird beast that moves with the troop and makes them immune to any damage. If they destroy two enemy units and win the battle, they get an extra permanent victory point. Brutal.
- There are two types of victory points you can have in the game – permanent and temporary. Permanent are points that you can’t lose, as the name implies. Temporary points are points you hold as long as you maintain a certain position, such as controlling a temple on the board. As soon as someone rolls in and chases you off the temple, it goes uncontrolled or more likely, controlled by the victor. Of course, you can take it back. I like that the game has this built-in encouragement to draw players out to these various locales on the board and to fight for them.
- The main way of scoring permanent victory points in the game is to attack another player’s troops and win, having at least one survivor. This scores you a permanent victory point. If you are attacked and successfully defend, you don’t get a victory point. The game is built around the player’s attacking each other, repeatedly and often. If you aren’t into confrontational games – probably can just stop reading here.
- Combat is conducted through card selection. Each player has exactly the same variety of combat cards in their hand. Some have high attack but low damage and defense. Others favor defense, and there are some that are balanced. When entering combat, both players (and there are always only 2 players in each combat) select a card from their hand to play and another to discard. Then the cards are flipped over simultaneously and combat is tallied. It’s simple, but the played and discarded card go into a pile and won’t be available to that player for the next combat. Only once all the combat cards are in the discard deck can the player pick them all up again. This makes the card you play and maybe even more importantly, the card you discard, impactful on future battles.
- If a player can control 2 temples on the board at the end of a day phase, they get a permanent victory point, in addition to the temporary VP’s they get for occupying the temples. This prevents players from sitting back and building up – you have to go after that guy before he just builds up so many points you can’t prevent a win.
- The Divine Intervention (DI) cards are the one element of randomness in the game. These might offer an advantage in combat or perhaps more prayer points when played. They vary and do indeed add a random component to an otherwise entirely strategic game but they do not imbalance the game in any way. They aren’t powerful enough to do that, but played at the right time can be meaningful.
- The miniatures. They are fantastic and detailed, especially the monsters. Even the troops for each faction are unique. The pyramids in the game are reimagined D4 and utilized brilliantly to indicate the power level (1-4) a player possesses so as to buy a tile of that same color and level. The board is tasteful and well delineated. All the components are top quality.
- Kemet plays at all players counts, from 2-5, thanks to the two-sided map and simple rules that exclude some regions. While Kemet plays fine at lower player counts, it excels at 4 or 5 players. “The more there is to kill, the better the killin’,” said some psychopath, somewhere. He was just out of his skull nuts but he was right when it comes to Kemet.
- The Ta-Seti expansion adds the black pyramid and a fourth set of power tiles for players to choose to buy. It also adds a few new Divine Intervention cards and Combat cards, which integrate seamlessly into the base game. There is a new method of determining the player order that I find cumbersome and easily omitted. Finally, there is The Path to Ta-Seti which is a separate board in which you move your priests along from location to location when doing a move action in the base game. They advanced along the path and you can recall them at any point in their journey, collecting the object or skill token of the location they occupied. If the priests make it all the way to the end of the track without you recalling them, to Ta-Seti, they become equivalent to a monster that then joins your troops on the board, empowering them in battles. The Ta-Seti expansion is NOT required to enjoy Kemet but if you do enjoy Kemet, you will probably want to pick it up at some time.
- Matagot also makes a game called Cyclades, based around Greek legends and it features great miniatures of monsters like Medusa or The Kraken. There is the C3K: Creatures Crossover for Cyclades/Kemet that allows the monsters from Cyclades to be used in Kemet via power tiles, and the monsters in Kemet to be used in Cyclades as well. I do not own this but I think it’s infinitely cool that it exists.
So, that’s it. I could elaborate in detail on all of these points but really, why? My goal was to give you an insider, slanted overview of the game and what resonated with me. That doesn’t mean it will resonate with you and that’s perfectly fine. If Kemet does seem to be your thing, maybe I’ll see you at the table and as always, I’m interested to hear your opinions