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Board Game Review – Imhotep

2017 June 11
by Michael Schroeder

Who would have known that sailing other people’s ships of stone would upset them so much! That’s what you get in Imhotep, by Phil Walker-Harding.

Number of players: 2-4

Age: 10+

Playing Time: 40 minutes


What’s the game about: A description from the publisher…

Imhotep. The legendary architect of the Egyptian monuments. His awe-inspiring structures and brutal tactics earned him divine status among ancient Egyptians. Can you match his ruthless determination to build the most revered monuments?

To do this, you will need to transport stone blocks on ships from your quarry to different construction sites. But you alone do not choose where the ships go. Your opponents have monumental plans of their own and want to prevent your success. A fierce competition for the precious stone resources plays out. Only with the right strategy and a little luck can you succeed.

In Imhotep, the players take on the roles of ancient Egyptian architects. Over six rounds, they try to transport their stone blocks to end up in the most valuable positions at five construction sites: pyramid, obelisk, chamber tomb, temple, and market. But a player can only choose one of three actions in a turn: excavate a new stone block from the quarry, load a block onto a ship, or move a ship to a construction site. From there, the massive stone blocks must be unloaded in order from bow to stern and placed on the sites in preset sequences. Depending on where the blocks end up, players earn different point values either immediately or at the end of the game.

In each turn, you must weigh your options for getting your own stones into place and thwarting your opponents’ placement plans. You must get your blocks to the right places, in the right order, at the right time to be the greatest architect.

Basic idea in my own words:

In Imhotep, you are attempting to get the most points by the end of the game by delivering your color stones to different construction sites. The problem is, your opponents are attempting the same thing so you’re not always going to get what you want. The focal point of the game is a mechanism of delivering stones from the quarry on randomly drawn ships and timing the ships movement for your own gains just right. At the same time, it’s wise to keep note of what your opponents are trying to do and screwing them over. There’s a lot of screwing over other players in this game.


Imhotep board game

Setup (paraphrased):

  • Give each player a sled board, these boards have spaces for 5 stones of a particular color – this color determines the player color
  • Each player will use stones of the color on their sleds, but don’t give the stones to the players really, they can be set aside. Depending on what the player order will be, this will determine on how many stones can initially be set on the sleds. One stone per spot on a sled.
  • Determine which side of the construction sites you will use, A or B. Then place all the sites of that side out in the middle of the playing area.
  • Separate the boat cards and the market cards. Shuffle the market cards and place them as a face down stack next to the market board/construction site
  • Place the score board aside and take 1 stone of each color and place on the 0 spot on the board
  • Go through the boat cards and you’ll see a player number icon on them. Only play with the boat cards that represent the number of players you’re actually playing with and put the rest away in the box. Randomly shuffle the boat cards you will be playing with and set them down in the playing area, face down.
  • The game is going to start soon so it’s time to turn over the top 4 market cards and place them on the open spots on the market board
  • Finally, turn over the top boat card – this shows you which boats are in play. Place them opposite the construction sites on the sides with the notches in them (the boats are sailed and land in the notches on the boards)

Imhotep board game

How the game plays or, “a turn” (paraphrased):

You can do one of 4 different actions:

  1. Sail 1 ship to a site – Take a ship that has not already been sailed and sail it to a construction site that has not been visited by a ship yet. Another rule though, is that there must be the minimum required number of stones on that ship – this is denoted by a small marker on the ship. This is one of the most critical aspects of the game, sailing these ships. Because even if you don’t have any of your stones loaded onto a ship, you can still freely sail a ship and screw over the other players as they didn’t want to necessarily go to a specific construction site. When you sail a ship, the order of stones placed onto construction site stone spots, must be in the order they are located on the ship (first in, first out).
  2. Place 1 stone on a ship – If you take this action, you are placing one stone only from your sled, onto a free space of a ship that has not been sailed. This is important because the order of the stone placements on the shop matter. You must place your stone on the first available spot (toward the front of the ship) and when the ships get unloaded during the sailing step, they get unloaded in the order they are situation on the ship.
  3. Get new stones – take 3 stones from the general supply of your color, and place onto your sled. If there is not enough available spaces on the sled, you lose out on those spaces, so time this right!
  4. Play 1 blue market card – If you have a blue market card from a previous turn of taking it from the market, you can play it and resolve its effects

Construction Sites

  • Market – For each stone you sail here, you get a market card
  • Pyramids – for each stone you sail here, you immediately score points indicated on the board
  • Temple – for each stone you sail here, you get points at the end of each round. Only the points visible from the sky get points.
  • Burial Chamber – for each stone you sail here, place it in order, in the chamber, you get points at the end of the game. You get points for having more connected stones.
  • Obelisks – the player with the highest obelisk gets more points, there are points awarded for 2nd, 3rd place, etc.

End of game

The game ends after 6 rounds. At this time, all the players score points for the boards that indicate at the end of the game then count of their total scores. The highest score, wins!


Component Quality: 4/5

The components are top notch in this game. However it’s not, “blow me out of the water,” which is why it’s not a 5. But I love the huge stone cubes! I also love the box insert. It is very thematic and fully colored. The rules are simple and easy to read and the cards and punch out board quality is all good.

Theme Ranking: 4/5

I love euro game themes like this, especially building ones. It’s a family friendly theme and plays well with the mechanics of the game. The only reason why it’s not a 5 is because, it’s not medieval! Eh, not really.


Luck Scale: 2/5

There’s actually not a lot of luck in this game. Really, it’s a matter of the drawing of the market cards, but really, you shouldn’t be depending on them so much that counting on a particular card won’t affect your game entirely.

Strategy Scale: 4/5

This is practically a perfect information game. There’s really no hidden information. The strategy is light but there’s a good amount of thought you need to play the game. Such as, how much do you really want to or need to screw opponents over, and the timing of your actions. I think the timing is critical in this game. When do you take certain actions. If you take stone, will the next player be ready to pounce on the sail ship action and ultimately screw you over?

Overall Feelings: 4/5

I like Imhotep a lot. It’s a fine addition to my gaming library. I love themes like this and the game play is light and thoughtful enough. It’s certainly not a filler game but it fits a good playing time that it could easily be played to pass the time while waiting for more players to come over for your game night. I highly suggest giving Imhotep by Kosmos a try. I want to throw this image in there too, that’s it’s the recipient of multiple awards/nominations!

Imhotep Awards

Thank you Kosmos for providing this review copy.

Michael Schroeder is a board game enthusiast, has written an eBook entitled, “Beyond Monopoly: A Beginner’s Guide to Modern Board Games” (Kindle, Apple iBook), is busy designing games and owns an eCommerce board game store, Meeple Village! He also has a podcast that complements this blog, “Board Game Dialog (also available on other podcast aggregators).” He is mike6423 on BGG.

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