A brilliant boardgame designed by Jacques Bariot & Guillaume Montiage
MATAGOT have published some good games over the past years and I have been lucky enough to have played and reviewed a few of them.
When I was given KEMET to review I was immediately impressed by the large heavy box and action-based cover art, but then the critical side of me kicked in and I remembered that I had seen, in my 32+ years of reviewing games, several large heavy boxes with exciting cover art and that so many of those games turned out to be poor reflections on the promises made by the components and packaging.
KEMET is NOT one of those heavy boxes masquerading as a game, KEMET is excellent !
KEMET is a game for 2-5 players aged 13+ and, according to the box, takes 60 minutes to play. I would argue that it is not really a 2 player game, and until you can remember what every Power Card does and how each Divine Intervention card can be utilised there is no possibility of 5 veteran gamers ever finishing a full game in 60 minutes, it just ain't gonna happen !
Noting that there is a 32 page rules booklet may make you think twice but then a quick look at it reveals there are only 8 pages of rules, but in four languages - English being one of them, the others are French, Dutch and German.
The board is double-sided (yes I know all boards are double-sided) by which I mean there is a game map on each side, one side for 5 or 3 players and the other for 2 or 4.
Depending on the number of players you play one side of the board or the other and also either the West side of the map or both sides.
Each player has their own Action board showing a pyramid with 9 sections; each of these sections represent an Action the player can select in their Turn. Players have 5 Action Points per turn which are played one at a time in player order; so the first player selects and
performs an Action, then the second player selects and performs an Action and so on etc..... Most Actions can only be performed once per Turn so to help you remember the Actions you have chosen you place a Token on the section as you select it.
These Actions allow you to "buy" Power Tiles (3), Build your personal pyramids, Move your Troops (2), Reinforce or Pray (2). Praying gets you Prayer Points which is the monetary system in Kemet.
Each player begins with a City of 3 regions into which you place 10 units, never more than 5 in a Region. In each region you can build your own Pyramid, this is represented by a large D4 (four-sided die) the level of which is shown by the number in its top angle. The dice are
placed at the game's start; you begin with 3 points of power but must place the pyramid (dice) with values of 1, 1 and 1 or 2, 1 and leave the last die off the board to be brought on later. The dice are Red, Blue and White which coincides with the three colours of the Power Cards.
There are 16 Power cards for each colour, set into 4 cards per level. You can only purchase Power Tiles of a colour and level that matches your Pyramids - a level 2 Blue pyramid being able to buy level 1 or level 2 Blue Power tiles. Players may never have 2 Power Tiles that perform exactly the same action even if they (the Tiles) are of different colours.
The Power tiles cost one Prayer point for level one, 2 for level 2 etc. You are given 2 Prayer points during the set up phase for each Turn. This is the Night phase where you also get a Divine Intervention card and determine turn order for the next turn, then it is the Day phase.
During the Day phase you spend your Action tokens, perform tasks in association with them and move your units on the board.There are three phases when you can use the Power Tiles. Each Tile has an icon for the phase in which it can be used. Some are for Night only, some
for Day only and the third icon is for Battles.
Seven of the Power Tiles give you a creature, represented by very well detailed plastic miniatures. Players can own more than one creature but they can only place one with each deployment, though they don't count towards the 5 limit of a Troop. Creatures can help with moving and battles but must always have at least one unit in the space with them. Each creature has a different power.
Battles occur when someone attacks another player's units in a space on the board. This will usually be to take control of either one the other players Regions, thereby giving the attacker (if they win) full use of the Pyramid in that region, or the attack will be to control a Temple or the special Sanctuary of the Gods. The combat system is basic and fast, being the player with the highest Strength wins. Strength comes from the playing of a Battle card, the option of playing Divine Intervention cards to modify the Battle card and the use of Power Tile powers. There are also some creatures who can help in Battle. The result will be a win for the attacker in which case they get a Victory Point, a win for the Defender (no VP for defending unless you have something to change that) or a Tie, in which case the Defender wins but still gets no VP. Units in the battle on both sides may take damage but are not necessarily destroyed - shields block each damage point - and any left after the battle are retreated to an empty space or back to their home city.
Winning requires the successful collection of a preset number of Victory Points. There are 2 types of VPs - Permanent VPs and Temporary VPs. Temporary VPs are those you collect when taking and holding a Temple but you lose them if another player later on defeats you and wins the Temple from you.
I suppose if you play KEMET and then play it again and again you will find a strategy of some sorts that may be a game winner. We haven't done so yet and we have played it many times. If you see someone going for the same tactics they used previously someone will almost certainly by the Tiles out from under them and force a rethink of plans. There are so many options open to Players each turn that it is likely never to be the same game each time. The game is so very well balanced and with a preset winning condition - 4, 8 or 10 VPs is usual depending on the length of time you want to play - new strategies are required each time of playing.
I would not be surprised to see a new set of Tiles coming out for KEMET in the not too distant future so that you can mix and match new and old Tiles or completely change the game by putting out a whole new set. If new tiles do become available and more creatures join then this game is ultimately extremely expandable for a good few times.