Kemet - Ta-Seti: Kem’et me bro
Strategy games tend to always have at least one thing in common : Time. The majority being grueling, if not pleasant, games that require you to wipe the agenda clean for an afternoon/evening. So it was that, when I sat down to play Kemet for the first time not so long ago, I was expecting the game to last well into the wee hours. So imagine my surprise when, just over 1h later, we had managed to fight our way to a rather thrilling conclusion.
Kemet is a fast paced strategy game by Guillaume Montiage and Jacques Bariot for 2 to 5 players, published by Matagot. It eschews some of the other paths to victory present in some games (trade, knowledge, political…etc) to concentrate on a brutal military conquest that rolls around the board at such a tempo that you’ll have to try not to blink less you miss something.
As one of the gods of ancient Egypt, each one controlling a major city, you must direct your followers to victory. The best way to describe Kemet is to run through the actions available to you, of which each player can execute 5 per turn, alternating between players.
Move: Allows you to move a unit one zone. The board is composed of zones, each one being a fair size and connecting to many others so you can generally go from your city to your opponent’s front door in only a few moves. You can also, for a cost, teleport to one of the many obelisks on the map, making things even easier. This is a game where things can escalate very quickly.
If you move into a zone with enemy models then you must battle. Each player has 6 tactics card which contain 3 different stats: Victory points, offense and defense. Each one chooses one of these cards and discards another. Once he has no more cards in hand he recuperates the cards in his discard pile. Victory points are the deciding factor of a battle, the one with the most points “wins” the battle. You add the number of models you have participating and any other bonuses to this, as does your opponent, before determining a winner. Offense is the amount of models you remove from the opposing army after the fight and defense is the amount of wounds you can prevent on your own troops.
The losing side can either retreat to an adjacent zone or sacrifice his remaining troops to recuperate their cost allowing you to pull weakened formations off the board and regroup without losing resources. The winner gains a victory point, 10 victory points are required to win the game.
Temples are also scattered around the map and can be captured, these provide revenue each turn as well as giving you a victory point for as long as you hold them. There are also a few other elements that can acquire you victory points, combined with getting them from successful battles, these can rack up quickly and go a long way to making the game more fast paced and nervous.
Pray: Generates prayer points, the game’s currency. You receive two of these every turn and can also gain them from the prayer action as well as holding temples and other effects. This amount Yo-Yos a lot during your turn as you spend swaths of it before getting it back through one move or another.
Recruit: Deploys troops to one of your districts. Each player’s city has 3 districts and troops can be deployed in whichever one you wish however a zone can only contain 5 troops at a time. Each side can only field 12 troops at a time. These are your main forces, nothing special on their own, but, as soon as you start racking up upgrades each player’s troops will have their own unique strengths and weaknesses.
Upgrade a pyramid: increases the level of one of your pyramids. Each district in a player’s city contains a pyramid of a different colour. Pyramids allow you to purchase upgrade tiles based on the colour of the pyramid and its level. Also, at level 4, a pyramid grants you a victory point. Pyramids are also the only place that you can teleport from, making them essential to your troops’ mobility. If an enemy invades your city and controls a zone with a pyramid, they get all the benefits of it until you take the zone back.
Purchase a Red/White/Blue upgrade: The tiles at the side of the board can be purchased via this action. Red is offence, blue is defense and white is utility. These tiles are the combo side of the game and, as much as they may all start out on equal footing, this is what allows the player to diversify and choose their own specializations as the game progresses. There are 4 levels that can be accessed depending on the level of your corresponding pyramid.
These go from being simply extra stats in combat to allowing you to control fearsome beasts in combat that can bolster your troops’ speed, resistance and power to giving you additional actions each turn and sometimes even victory points. Each tile can only be purchased by one player so you have to be sure that your enemy doesn’t beat you to the punch! There are a LOT of tiles and one could argue that the complexity in Kemet comes from knowing how to make them work best together but the tiles are easy to understand once you’ve understood the different symbols present on them and the combos are not too hard to find and very flexible depending on your preferred style.
And that is the essence of Kemet. It’s a very fun, very fast board game that takes the traditional elements of a strategy game and mixes them up to produce a fast and furious counterpart, perfect for those strategy game lovers that don’t always want to spend an entire evening deciding who should be the ruler of the universe.
So why am I talking to you about Kemet? Well it’s because an expansion is on the way!
Ta-seti is the first expansion for Kemet that is going to add more options to improve the replayability of the game as well as a layer or two more of gameplay that should appease those that wished the game to be slightly more complex.
So what does the game bring to the table?
Dusk til’ Dawn
The original game had two phases: Day, where you performed all your actions and Night, where any automatic effects such as gaining prayer points or act of god cards happen. Dawn is a new game phase where players get to bid on the turn order. Before, the player with the least amount of victory points went first. Now, each player plays a combat card and can add to it dawn tokens to boost his score. Dawn tokens are acquired when you lose a battle, therefore giving players that suffered in previous turns a chance to swing things back in their favor by going first. The player with the highest score decides when he want to play, then the player with the second highest score, etc.
The Dark side
The game adds a new pyramid colour to the game: black. With 4 possible colours but only 3 slots available, players must now make a choice of which colour upgrades they intend to use for the game, as one of them will therefore become inaccessible to them…unless they go capture a pyramid of that colour!
With a new pyramid comes new tiles and the black tiles include a host of new strategic choices and combos including new mercenaries, more monsters and other effects that can influence your game.
The path to glory
The title of the expansion comes from the lost city of Ta-seti and its sudden apparition. Each city will therefore send a group of priests to bring back it’s mysteries. This “pilgrimage” will be played out on a separate board where priests will advance along paths and collect both temporary and permanent upgrades for the rest of your forces. Once finished they can travel back and integrate your army to lend your forces their newfound strength.
The end times
The victory conditions for the game have also been slightly modified, or rather the point at which a player is declared winner. Now, as soon as a player obtains the required number of points to win, the end of the game is set off. This will be the final day phase of the game. If, at the beginning of his next action, the same player is still the one with the most points, then he immediately wins, however, if one of his opponent’s has equaled or overtaken him then the game continues until the end of the turn. A small change but an important one that allows the game’s tempo to keep on rolling until the very end.
Also included in Ta-Seti are 2 new battle cards for each player, taking the total to 8 and giving them more tactical choice for each fight. The downside is that it now takes longer (one more fight) to get your full hand of cards back.
There is also a new host of Divine intervention cards included so that you can mix your battles up and dispense some heavenly justice on your opponent as needed.
The release date is set for October/November time, which should give you plenty of time to acquire and test out the original before adding Ta-Seti into the mix. In the means time, Matagot should be coming in soon to show Ta-Seti off so we’ll have more info for you then. If you’re a fan of strategy games or ifyou try to avoid them because of the time investment but still enjoy the playstyle/theme then you have to try out Kemet. It’s a “big” strategy game that plays and feels like something a lot faster, light-hearted and boisterous!