Imhotep: The Duel is a new 2-Player board game from Kosmos Games. The original “Imhotep: Builder of Egypt” board game was released in 2016 and was nominated for the coveted Spiel Des Jahres Award (which is kind of like the Academy Awards for Board Games).
We are big fans of the original Imhotep board game (as well as the expansion A New Dynasty). We enjoy those games so much, we bought the Imhotep playmat at GenCon one year for our gaming table.
What / Who is Imhotep?
According to Wikipedia: Imhotep (27th century BC) was an Egyptian chancellor to the pharaoh Djoser, probable architect of the Djoser’s step pyramid, and high priest of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis.
In the Board Game, you take on the roles of Egyptian Architects and assist in the building of Pyramids, Obelisks, Tombs and more.
The Original Imhotep board game (Builder of Egypt) is for 2-4 players. And players use wooden cubes (representing stones) to build 3 dimensional pyramids and other structures. The players share in building a common city using stones from all players. Each player has their own stones that they load ‘turn by turn’ onto varying ships, and players then send those stone-ships to the Pyramids, Obelisks, Temple and Burial Chambers and unload them. Players score points based on how many stones they contributed to various monuments. There is a little more to it, but that is the gist of the game.
The original Imhotep is extremely easy to learn, teach and play. You basically only have a few choices on your turn:
- You can take a stone block from your rock sled and place it on any ship in the harbor
- Or you can sail any ship to a destination (like the Pyramids) and unload the stones, and help build the architecture there.
- Or you can refill your rock sled with stones from the quarry
The strategy is to try to score more points than your opponent by placing your stones in varying places on the boats, knowing which boats to place them on, knowing when is a good time to sail a boat, and determining the best monument to sail that boat to. Example: It’s your turn, and your opponents might be loading a large boat, and they are obviously trying to get to a taller Obelisk than you, so you might use your turn to sail their ship of stones to the Pyramids or Burial Chambers instead. You might not have any stones on that particular boat, but you have the tallest Obelisk, and you want to keep it that way.
The original Imhotep board game is simple and easy, but requires planning, cunning and sometimes ruthlessness! It’s a brilliant game.
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What is Imhotep: The Duel?
Imhotep: The Duel is for 2 players only, and based off the original. The original Imhotep board game can be played two players as well, and actually plays very well with just two players. I guess for “The Duel“, the designers were looking for a lighter version or a travel version?
The wooden stones have been replaced with 2 dimensional cardboard tokens. And each player now builds their own individual kingdoms, instead of a common group kingdom.
The ships’ cargos are more than simple stones in The Duel. The Cargo are dedicated Obelisk pieces, Pyramid pieces, Temple pieces, Tomb Pieces, and Action Tiles.
What’s in the Box?
60 Cardboard Cargo Tokens:
- 12 Obelisk Tokens
- 12 Temple Tokens (with point values on them)
- 12 Pyramid Tokens (6 light and 6 dark)
- 12 Tomb Tokens (numbered 1-12)
- 12 Action Tokens
8 Cardboard Site Boards (split evenly between the two players)
- 2 Obelisk Boards
- 2 Temple Boards
- 2 Pyramid Boards
- 2 Tomb Boards
8 Wooden Meeples
- 4 Black
- 4 White
6 Cardboard Ship Tokens
And 1 Harbor Board – the game board (with 1 reserve space, 9 harbor spaces, and 6 moorings)
The box itself has a smaller footprint than the original game. The box is only 7.75″ x 7.75″ x 1.75″. It’s not quite a stocking stuffer game, but it is a fairly small box.
How to play Imhotep: The Duel
Here is a brief overview of gameplay. The goal of The Duel is to score more points than your opponent by building a better city consisting of Tombs, Pyramids, Obelisks and Temples.
The Cargo Ships are randomly filled with Cargo Tokens for each structure. There are also Action Tokens that don’t help you build structures immediately, but can help you take bonus actions on future turns.
Similar to the original game, you only have simple choices to make during your turn:
- Place a Meeple on the Harbor Board (the Tic-Tac-Toe board)
- Unload one boat (if possible and allowed).
- Or play and resolve 1 Action Token
That’s it. Turns are as simple as that. The strategy and difficulty come in the form of determining which choice is best for scoring points?
You do not ship boats to structures like you do in the original game – Instead, ships are simply unloaded. A player can unload a boat in a “row” or “column” as long as there are two or more Meeples in that row or column. And those Meeples do not have to be your own, there just needs to be two or more Meeples of any color.
Looking at this image again:
If it was your turn, and you were black, you could:
- Unload the boat in the upper left row (from left to right) and get a tomb piece and a dark brown pyramid piece (and then the obelisk piece would be discarded as there is not a 3rd Meeple in that row)
- Or you could unload the boat in the middle column. White would get the dark brown pyramid piece, an obelisk piece, and black would get a 4 star point Temple token
- Or you could place another meeple on the board
- Or you could play an action token if you had one.
If you decide to unload a boat, then all the meeples in that row or column on the tic-tac-toe board are removed from the board and returned to their owners, and the Ship’s Cargo is refilled with tiles from the Supply pile.
Play continues until you can’t load more tiles onto a ship. If a ship is empty it is removed from play. When only one ship remains, the game is over.
At the end of the game, your city board might look something like mine does here:
- 5 Obelisk tiles
- 3 light pyramid tiles
- 3 dark pyramid tiles
- 5 tiles in my tomb
- and a stack of tiles in my temple
Each site board will tell you how to score your tiles. If you have more points than your opponent, then you win the game. It is very simple to add up the final scores with a pen and paper.
Likes, Dislikes, and Final Thoughts
- This is a very simple game to teach, learn and play. You can teach this game to someone in less than 5 minutes
- Gameplay is 30 minutes or less. Unless someone suffers from analysis paralysis, this game can be played in 15-20 minutes.
- This version of Imhotep feels slightly less cutthroat than the original game. In the original version, you often sailed a cargo ship of other people’s stones to locations that might hurt their plans. You can still do that here, but it doesn’t seem to hurt them nearly as much as in the original game. Your opponent is probably going to get something good for their city regardless.
- The game has a small footprint, and will travel well. Except that these little cargo tokens might be lost.
- For a simple game, there is still a good amount of strategy here. You have to do a little tic-tac-toe math, and determine which goods you want, and which good your opponent will want. You also have to plan for your opponent to unload cargo in a row, while you are hoping to unload cargo in a column, and they may return those meeples to your hand.
- The box and components are nice quality. The cardboard cardstock and wooden Meeples are good.
- Your “Site Boards” are two-sided, and each side is scored differently. This can breath new life into replaying the game if it starts feeling a little “samey” to you. And you can mix and match the sides, like Obelisk “A” and Pyramid “B”.
- I miss the wooden stones from the original game. I know this is more of a travel game, but for some reason I feel more like an Egyptian builder watching a 3D pyramid get erected by everyone.
- I miss sailing the ships from the original gameplay. The ships are not sailed in The Duel. They are simply unloaded. The strategy feels different. The mechanic of taking a ship, and sailing it to its destination was always dramatic in the original game. “Where is he going?!” Opponents would be on pins and needles watching you sail a cargo ship across the board.
Final Thoughts on Imhotep: The Duel
This is nice little two player game. It is incredibly easy to teach. It plays quickly and offers a decent amount of strategy. Luck is only slightly apparent in this game. Your strategies are not ruined by luck, they are ruined by your opponent and you have to do your best to plan for that.
If you like the gameplay of the original Imhotep, but thought the original game was a little too cutthroat for your tastes, then you might really like this version.
If your gaming group mostly consists of playing with 1 friend or your significant other, then this is probably the version for you.
The game retails for about $19.95, and that’s a reasonable price for this game.
I personally prefer the original version of Imhotep, but “The Duel” makes for an excellent 2 player travel game. It is much simpler to set up and get gaming. I can easily see myself tossing this game in my luggage for a vacation. With it’s small footprint, you can easily play this at a small pub table while throwing down some cold ones.
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