Designed by Reiner Knizia
2-6 players, about 20 minutes
Reviewed by Mike Siggins
Tutanchamun is the second of three recent Reiner Knizia games reviewed this issue. It is the best of the batch and has already been nominated for Game of The Year honours which might give you some idea of its worth. Despite the plaudits, it is a bit of an oddball. While it makes itself out externally to be a 'big' game, there is no real substance or theme beyond the use of an Egyptian veneer to camouflage a 'small', filler game in an oversized box. As such it is overproduced and overpriced to the tune of 50%. Nevertheless, it works extremely well, is among the very best of the light games category and I suspect it will not disappoint.
The layout of the game goes a long way to explaining how it works. At the head of the table is placed a pyramid (which is purely decorative) and in front of this, snaking away for some distance, is a string of Egyptian artifacts, each one on a separate counter. These treasures will be collected by the players who aim to make sets and achieve a majority holding to score points. Behind the pyramid is placed the scoreboard, on which each player has a marker showing how many points he must score to win. The first one round the board, regardless of the potential scores of other players, is the winner.
The treasure counters have artwork to show what it is you are collecting and a single figure between 1 and 8. The figure represents both the number of artifacts in that set and also the points scored if you attain a majority. Players each have a marker which they place at the start of the chain. They take it in turns to move as far down the snake as they like, land on a counter and take it into their collections. The catch is that they can never move backwards so any pieces passed over are lost for good (with one exception, see below). When the last piece of any set is taken, and in a one element set that is immediately, the collections are compared and whoever has the majority scores the full value of the set, whoever is second, even with just one piece, receives half value. The markers are moved around the scoreboard and play continues until the last piece is picked up or someone wins.
There are two special counters, the coins and the Sphinx. The coins allow a player to steal an artifact from another player's collection (which is a neat trick if you have overshot a crucial artifact) and the Sphinx breaks ties when majorities are being decided. For instance, two players may have four ankhs each but if one player has a Sphinx, he will earn eight points to his opponent's four.
The first appealing ingredient in the game, and something of an ice breaker, is the artifacts themselves. There are several types and some of them manage to look like modern day items. There are, for instance, magazine racks, '50s radios, a set of pink condoms and candelabras. This quickly gets people chatting away about 'Oh, Mike's collecting hifi cabinets as usual'.
Like En Garde, Tutanchamun is a game that you can play, think, 'Yes, okay but too light' and then start to uncover previously hidden facets of play and strategies. This is an interesting policy but one that works for Knizia only because his games are good enough initially for you to want to stick with them. Only by playing several times will hidden depths emerge (well, they do for me anyway - others may spot them immediately). In En Garde I had some doubts whether the depths were built in or fortuitous, but given that Tutanchamun and Revolution are almost certainly designed that way, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on all three. What we have is a clever designer who is not only building this stuff in, and playtesting it well to ensure it works, but also leaving it to be discovered by repeated play. And they all play in less than an hour. What a guy.
There is a fair bit of scope in how you play Tutanchamun. You can either rush ahead and collect just enough to win, or build up a steady portfolio scoring points in many sets, or somewhere in between. Some players greedily snap up the low value sets, even the 1s, while others stick to the 8s in the hope they will come good quickly enough. You also need to watch carefully what the other players are collecting, project forward to see when they might score and, most importantly, check the distribution of the artifacts you need to grab. Treasures laying right up against the pyramid are unlikely to be resolved till late in the game, unless you personally collect them thus taking you out of the game, and you may end up not scoring at all if someone has gone for the quick route.
Despite my gripes over the price, this is a first rate light game with superb components and I'm sure it will appeal to almost all gamers. It packs in an almost uncanny level of tactics for a game lasting no more than twenty minutes and gamers round this way are more than happy to play it again and again. Knizia, like Teuber, seems to be on a roll and I am more than hopeful that it continues. Tutanchamun comes highly recommended.
On to the review of Fibonacci or back to the review of Tal der Könige.
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