Full disclosure: A review copy of Imhotep: A New Dynasty was provided by KOSMOS.
Doing expansions is always a weird business. They’re surprisingly tough to review if you want to be thorough about it, being honest. For one, you’ve got to play them (a given), but you have to have a pretty solid grasp on the base game before you even break out the expansion. For a game that I really only have, like, a 25% win rate at (oof), that’s saying a lot. Plus, then you have to find people to play with who liked the base game enough for the expansion to find a foothold. It’s a double-trouble sort-of-situation. Anyways, needless to say, it got done, and now let’s dig into Imhotep: A New Dynasty, the first major expansion to Imhotep!
In A New Dynasty, well, you’re just gonna keep building pyramids. Or scaffolds. Or a burial mound? Or just go chariot racing; you’ve decided to diversify your hobbies a bit, stay up with what all the kids like. Thankfully, you can still do that while commemorating the pharaoh. Just consecrate the chariot or something; I’m not really a super knowledgeable Egypt person. Anyways, how will you usher in a new age for your civilization?
Setup is basically the same, but there are new Site Boards! Get hyped. You can use the C sides:
Or the D sides:
Certain things are paired with certain boards. For the Luxury Market (Market-C), you’ll need coins:
Give each player two.
For the Scaffold (Pyramid-C), you’ll need … well, the scaffolds:
Shuffle those and remove one.
For the Great Obelisk (Obelisks-C), you’ll want to set out the various obelisk tokens:
And give each player an Obelisk Card:
For the Corridor (Pyramid-D), you’ll want to set the Imhotep piece in the top-left corner (or wherever you want; I’m a review, not a cop):
He’s on the bottom-left. The other tokens are Chariot Racers, and they go on the Arena (Temple-D). The Tomb Tokens should be shuffled and placed somewhere near the Tomb (Burial Chamber-D):
If you’re really feeling expansion content, you can also play with the Prophecies of the Gods:
Shuffle them, place three face-up, and give each player two Scarab Tokens in their color:
Beyond that, set the game up normally. You can basically decide which board type and which side you want to use for any configuration. I think that means there are like 1024 different combinations? Naturally, I didn’t play all of them for this review. If that upsets you, please email email@example.com. It’s a dead email address. Nobody’s monitoring it.
Finally, shuffle the new Market cards in. They look like the old ones, with some new ones. There are extra Statues, too, to keep the proportions accurate.
Once you’ve set the game up, you’re ready to start!
There are some general gameplay changes:
- Keep the Red Cards. They get used for one of the Prophecies of the Gods. Don’t discard them until the end of the game.
- Two player change. If you run out of stones, you can pull the stones for an unused color and use them. They still count as your stones. It’s fine.
- Prophecies of the Gods. These cards let you bet in various rounds on end game conditions. You’ll score more if you’re right and you bet earlier, but you’ll lose less if you’re wrong and bet later. There are trade-offs. On your turn, if you haven’t already placed a scarab token this round, you may place one on one of the three cards of your choice, provided it doesn’t already have your other scarab token on it. At the end of the game, give players points (or take them away) based on their placement. If the scarab isn’t placed, it doesn’t count for any points, positive or negative.
Now, let’s talk about the new boards!
So, there are two new Markets:
- Luxury Market (C): For this, every player will have two coins. When you would take a card from the Market, you may spend one of your two coins to take another card from the market that’s adjacent to the card you took. If you place a stone on the Market and there are no cards left, draw the top card of the Market Deck. You cannot earn additional coins during the game.
- Black Market (D): This one is similar to the Market (B) board from the base game. When you take cards, you may choose either of the two face-up cards or take the stack of three face-down cards and choose one. When you place the face-down cards back, however, you do not discard them. Instead, between rounds, refill those spots to 3 and discard the face-up cards. Now the cards will persist across rounds, so that’s fun.
Two new Pyramids, too:
- Scaffold (C): We talked briefly about this, earlier. Essentially, you have four scaffolds during the game. Start by flipping one face-up. When you deliver blocks, place them on the spaces on the scaffolds and claim benefits as you do so. They’ll be points, stones, and / or market cards. When a scaffold has been completed, the player with the most stones on the current scaffold gets 3 points (ties get 1 each). Start a new scaffold immediately. Once four layers have been built, every additional stone gives you 1 point.
- Corridor (D): This is one of my favorites. Whenever you place a stone, place it clockwise from Imhotep (skipping any filled spaces). This kicker is that whenever a player takes stones from the Quarry as an action, they may advance Imhotep one space, clockwise. So what you thought was a great Pyramid play might still be … just for someone else. Rough. If every space is filled, each additional stone gives you 1 point.
As you might guess, two new Temples:
- Temple of Ra (C): It’s just the A side with fewer spaces and different bonuses. That’s all.
- Arena (D): Now for the chariot races! Everyone starts with a Chariot on the start space (which will lose you four points if you’re still there by the end of the game). When you place stones, you advance the number of spaces corresponding to the spot you just placed a stone on. You skip your opponents, as well. Between rounds, give points to first place (and second place, if playing with > 2 players). All players on the finish space are considered to be in the lead. At the end of the game, players score points for what space they’re on. If the spaces are filled, move your chariot one space forward (or gain 1 point if you’re on the Finish).
- Burial Mound (C): It’s not a pyramid; it’s a mound. Stop asking. You’ll score at the end of the game based on the area of connected stones times how many levels those stones are on. It’s less advantageous to form an entire base as it is to form a gradually rising side. You can score for more than one area, but the maximum limit is four points per stone, otherwise the Burial Mound could get ridiculous. It still can, but you have to distract your opponents for a while to do so. Note that the base has 5 stones, then 4, then 3, etc. Every additional stone placed here after the last one earns you 1 point.
- Tomb (D): This one’s a bit weird. It’s essentially Imhotep Bingo. Each round, place four of the unused number tokens next to the Tomb, and when you’re placing, choose one of the Tomb Tokens, placing stones on the numbers corresponding to your spot. Like Burial Chamber-A, you score points for connected stones; unlike Burial Chamber-A, if you have no stones on this location, you lose four points. Rough. If there aren’t any more Tomb tokens to take, you score 1 point immediately (and you avoid the 4-point penalty).
- The Great Obelisk (C): Hope you like Tetris. When you deliver a stone, you get the token depicted on its space, following the path from top to bottom. You then place it on your obelisk card, as you’re trying to make as many three-block rows as possible. You cannot place a piece if there would be an empty block below it or if it sticks out off the side; if that means you cannot place a block, you just return it to the box. At the end of the game, every player gets 2 points per complete row, and the player with the most complete rows gets a bonus. If there’s a tie, split the bonus points evenly rounded to the nearest whole number. If the path is filled, each additional block delivered here earns you 1 point immediately
- Obelisks (D): Hope you like more than one Obelisk. When you place stones here, you must start a new obelisk. Once you choose a spot, you may only place stones on that spot until it’s completed, at which point you may start another obelisk. If you finish the obelisk, you score its points at the end of the game; if not, it earns 1 point per stone. If all obelisks are completed, every subsequent stone delivered here earns one point.
Player Count Differences
Same as the base game, really. You can’t really compete for the Prophecies of the Gods, so there’s not much new stuff that will produce contention beyond, say, the new boards, but they’re still similar enough that I wouldn’t say they particularly break down at any player count. At higher player counts you might notice players with the Luxury Market having to pull from the deck more frequently, which may change how you prioritize sending people to the Market as a dump action. Beyond that, though, not much new. I don’t really have a player count preference for this, though; I quite enjoy it at two, especially with the Corridor.
- Use all your Luxury Market coins. They’re not worth anything at the end of the game and you can literally get twice as many Market Cards on some pulls, which is great. Also, if there’s nothing you really want, you can always pull two so that you can pull from the deck randomly on your next draw. Or you can hate-draft cards your opponents want!
- Track what’s getting pulled via the Black Market. You should know what some of those face-down cards are; that’s useful information. Now you can make it a bluffing game; can you convince your opponent something that they want is in there when there really is nothing, causing them to waste a Market pull? That’s always fun.
- The Scaffold might be lucky for you; it might not be. If you flip a new scaffold so that you can place pieces on it, you might get the 3-point spot; you might get a 1 and some stones right after you refilled from the Quarry. Like the previous Pyramids, it pays to pay attention to the stone unloading order so you can dump on your opponents, but it may be worth getting a Lever here so you can make sure you get the good stuff.
- Turn the Corridor to your advantage by strategically pulling stones from the Quarry. Moving Imhotep so that you get those 4-point spots is critical. Just, be careful, because your opponents are going to be doing that exact thing, too. Try to slide in when someone doesn’t notice, or to pin them between choosing that and getting the stones they need.
- The Temple of Ra is the ultimate 4-stone dumping ground, especially if none of those are yours or you have the Temple Decorations card. If you dump four, it makes the first stone placed useless, which is a fun and cruel way to hurt your friends. It also just adds a bunch of stones which, for a discerning Temple Decorations collector, can be worth lots of points. Just make sure you stay on top of it.
- Note when placing certain stones will allow you to jump other players in the Arena. That’s a really useful way to make your placement really work for you, plus, bonus points, and double plus, points if you’re in the lead.
- Think vertically for the Burial Mound. A wide base is good, but it really starts to make you points when you add in the multiplicative factor that comes with going up the mound vertically. If you don’t take that seriously, you’ll get straight ruined on points.
- You can set up pretty fantastic blocks on the Tomb. Just take the numbers your opponent needs to set up their big runs of blocks. Like I said, it’s rude, but this is a rude game.
- A fun way to prank your opponents is setting up The Great Obelisk so that they get an S-piece first. Since the S-piece is unplaceable if you don’t have other pieces (it creates a gap no matter what), if you take it first you have to return it to the box, making for a rare 0-points placement in Imhotep. Again, incredibly rude, but sometimes you gotta.
- Taking a high-value Obelisk spot makes it hard for your opponents to use the Obelisks as a dumping ground. It means that if they try to dump your stones there, you run the risk of getting some ridiculous number of points by the end of the game. So they won’t.
- Be careful with the Prophecies of the Gods. The earlier you bet, the more points you stand to gain … but if your opponents get wise and can block you, you’ll lose a bunch of points by the game’s end as well. Naturally, you’d do well to avoid that outcome.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- So many more combinations! Like I said, 1024 different ways to play the game (up from 32, which is already a lot). Fans of the game will likely appreciate all the different strategic combinations you can make, now, which is awesome. I always like more modules.
- I really like some of the new boards. The Corridor and the Great Obelisk are my favorites, I believe, but I have a special soft spot for the Tomb. The Luxury Market is interesting, as well.
- More Market Cards are always welcome. There are green cards that reward you for having stones in your cart, red cards that let you immediately gain stones, and even blue cards that let you remove stones to place directly on boards (or sail a ship to the same location twice, which is particularly interesting). I could do without more Statues, but I understand why more were added; you need to keep the proportions right.
- Not significantly more complex than the base game. I think that’s sort of a nice thing generally about modular expansions; you end up being able to just teach the general game and the specific modules. You’ll have to teach the base game modules anyways, so teaching the expansion modules is hopefully the same amount of work (and that’s been my experience). Some modules are additive (like Roll for the Galaxy: Rivalry), so I generally try to avoid teaching those to new players if I can; they’re tougher.
- More Statues means you can have some really weird rounds. We had a Black Market once where all three buried cards were Statues. A Luxury Market where three of the face-up cards were Statues. It’s not the most exciting thing when that opportunity is right there, because it usually means that someone’s going to pull 15 points off of it.
- The Scaffold luck factor is going to irritate some players. Flipping a Scaffold only to get a terrible point spot isn’t the most fun, but that’s the game. Personally, I prefer the Corridor so much that I might actually only use that rather than the Scaffold. Lower setup!
- Some of the new boards aren’t that different from the old ones. The Temple of Ra and the Burial Mound are essentially just the base game Temple and Pyramid, with the Mound literally making a pyramid (just with different scoring rules). I get it, the strategy changes a bit, but not a ton. I’d have loved to see some things that were wildly different (like the Corridor and The Great Obelisk).
- There are a lot more moving parts. They aren’t that hard to use, but there are Tomb tokens and Obelisk tokens and scaffolds and coins and scarabs and chariots and Imhotep and we haven’t even gotten into the base game. Thankfully, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t think that it makes it harder to learn; I just think it makes it harder to set the game up. It also requires you to remember to refresh the Tomb tokens every round, which doesn’t always happen. Forgetting to move Imhotep can also be bad at higher player counts, but that should be the job of the person taking the stones (since it’s optional).
Overall: 9 / 10
Overall, I really like Imhotep: A New Dynasty! Some of the player boards are really fun adds, in my opinion, and I think you’ll start seeing almost Sushi Go Party-style setups where players have recommended builds for certain player counts and play styles, which will elevate the metagame, in my opinion. Currently, my favorite setup is Luxury Market / Corridor / Arena / Tomb / The Great Obelisk, but that’s just my love of Weird Spatial Puzzles talking. I think it also shows a willingness to think outside the box (though occasionally anachronistically, as it seems chariot racing was more of a Greek / Roman thing), which I think will do well for future expansions, should they go that route. It’s still got the same core elements, which I appreciate, but the expansion blends into and elevates parts of the game to the point where I was considering moving on after I finished these reviews but now want to keep the game in my collection. It’s a bit mean for my tastes, but, I can ignore that somewhat because the block configuration options and the strategy is so interesting. Either way, I’m a big fan of A New Dynasty, and if you’re looking for an expansion that I think really improves the base game, I’d definitely recommend checking it out!