Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Cogs of Water Kemet

An excellent evening of gaming, with numbers rebounding up to a populous eleven for three tables of gaming goodness. The ebb and flow of NoBoG personnel saw somewhat of an uncommon roll call for the night - Ed made a welcome return after a good few months missing in action, Fletch was also back and the not always present Jimmy, Moritz and Nicky turned up too !

Two new games to NoBoG were present - the new and hot Kemet and the errr new and hot Lords of Waterdeep.

Eschewing the newness, Pete, Ewan, Jimmy and Tom settled in for some cog spinning action in Tzolkin, Jimmy putting on a fair hand of winning, but the experienced Pete took the victory instead. Jimmy then managed to get the excellent Tichu onto the table as a follow up game.

Lords of Waterdeep played at pace - the game finished fairly early leaving with a joint victory for Fletch and Nicky - Moritz and Dean trailing after them in their quest to farm ever more magicians, and so the four brought forth..... Race for the Galaxy. Which everyone except Dean had never played. No word on whether they thought Race was 'the best game ever'  or  'eh just a blah card game' - it tends to be a Marmite kind of game, although I have to say most people seem to scrunch their face up at it. Pete - prime evangelist for Race - is convinced you need to play the thing at least half a dozen times to truly begin to appreciate it.

Lastly myself Sam and Ed took a punt at Kemet - which played out perfectly in the time available, the final turn winding down as last orders were called. Kemet is a light area control / conflict game themed around a mythological ancient Egypt. The order of the day is moving your limited armies around a limited map, winning battles, occupying a few key map locations, teching up, and getting to 8 to 10 VPs before anybody else.

After playing the game, Kemet strikes me as a cross between Game of Thrones with a few elements of Civilisation - but, for me, it's better than either and does a nice job of being not too much of an action constipated Euro, and also not too much of a limited over simplified yawnafying conflict game.

Combat - for which every win earns you a victory point - runs very similar to Game of Thrones. Select a card from your limited hand ( that is one use only and cycles back when you have gone through them ) that has a strength and add it to the number of units in your army. Whilst in GoT you then roll a die to add some randomness to the mix, in Kemet you can play a number of fairly limited pickup cards that may have an influence on the combat and change numbers.

After a win / loss for the battle is calculated actual body losses are calculated via a damage done versus protection afforded and the battle loser retreats away. Astute readers may notice that as damage done is not connected with winning the battle, it's entirely possible to win or lose a battle and yet everyone dies ( or indeed no one dies at all ).

The board is fairly space limited, and army sizes are hard capped at a small population level - you have a total of 12 soldiers with a max single army size of 5. Recruiting soldiers is a fairly low cost task, so combat losses arent particularly devastating, and as you can't deploy Risk like levels of uber armyness its more the gaining or handing over of VPs thats the critical thing.

A few spots on the board give you something to fight over and think about - do you go for a VP site(s), for 'cash' ( prayer points - which the entire economy of the game runs on ), or attack an enemy army for a VP.

So far, fairly GoT-ish.

Now add in a technology stack. There are 48 technologies on offer - a handful of which are dupes of each other, which break down into three wide and not entirely accurate categories of Economy/Society , Attack, Defence. These offer fairly straight forward upgrades for things that you can pretty much guess. +1 strength to attacks. +1 to defence. Extra prayer. Free upgrade. Cheaper items. Yada.

This has subtle effects on your melee capabilities as well as pushing you into earning VPs or prayer in certain ways. Whilst one player might be earning prayer for each enemy slaughtered, another might be getting extra prayer during the overnight phase of the game.

Technologies are tied to a level - 1 through 4 - and you have a tech rating in each of the three categories that tells you what the highest level of tech you can currently buy is. It costs prayer points to upgrade your tech, and then more prayer points to actually buy a tech at that level.

Hero type units are available as a 'tech', which allow you to place special mythological creatures onto the table to help your armies out. In general they buff an accompanying army with extra strength, speed etc and make a creature lead army have an advantage over those with none.

Finally, what you can do on your turn is prescribed by a Euro style action placement - five* actions at your disposal, choose from a list of nine or so possibilities.

The game is nice, turn over is high, I think it's meant to have quite a high churn rate and although it sort of looks like it might be something of a turtle combat game that Risk can be, it's nothing of the sort - the disadvantages for losing your home city are fairly mild and it's weighted in the favour of the original owner to get it back - and with a fairly restrictive movement and unit cap, you arent going to be worrying that much about the state of your army. In short you can get cleared off the map entirely militarily, but in the end it's not much a of a big deal - next turn you will almost certainly win a battle and come back.

Final scores, Ed with a bucketful of techs - 16 or 17 at last count - marched home with 9 VPs, I had 7 and a measly half a dozen techs, and Sam had 6 VPs with around 9 techs. Sam offered something of a casual alliance at the last gasp to stop Ed from winning, but then promptly attacked me and kicked me out of Ed's city ( which I had been occupying and sampling the wine cellar of ). Ironically the last turn saw me and Sam attack each other and leave Ed largely alone.

Politics eh ?

Great game. I recommend you give it a whirl with Sam.


SamB said...

I agree with everything you said about Kemet. I enjoyed it a lot, despite losing horribly.

There was one rule we (by we I mean me) missed. After a fight, both the winner and the loser have to option to retreat all troops off the board, so you don't have to leave your weakened troop outside someone's city walls. Could make a lot of difference.

Minitrue said...

Ah interesting, I definitely would have used that a couple of times myself - I used an action at one point just to move a depleted winning army out of Eds city to stop him getting an easy victory VP.

Hmm, that's going to make it a deal more difficult to pick up easy follow up VPs from worn out armies.