English language edition
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Everyone knows of the pyramids on the Nile - eternal monuments of a powerful and beautiful culture, that can still take our breath away. The pharaohs choose their sites, build their pyramids, and thank Amun Re and the other Gods for their bounty.
Each player wants, as pharaoh, to build the most pyramids. To accomplish this, he must first acquire a province, where he can trade and farm. With his profits, he can buy new provinces and building stones to erect pyramids. For all his actions, the player must make clever use of his power cards. And always offer appropriate sacrifices to Amun Re. But, will it ever be enough? Whatever happens, a player must always keep his eyes on his goal: the building of eternal pyramids. For when a player loses sight of his goal, he will surely lose the game!
We keep coming back to Amun Re. The game is a lot of fun, especially with 4 players, as it makes the bidding in the New Empire cut-throat. The game is very balanced, and no two games are the same. In addition, the theme is omnipresent, and the game materials are fun to play with. We also like Puerto Rico, San Marco, and The Princes of Florence, but this is the most entertaining, in our view. Have fun!
Amun Re is a very rich game, with a central theme (pyramid building) that is complicated by a multitude of side elements requiring careful thought and decision making. There are many strategic choices to be made, and each province has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. So, a careful selection is required, depending on what strategy you're pursuing. And then, there is the element of dividing the game into two parts, with only the pyramids remaining after the first, which further complicates matters.
The game is not too complex ruleswise, but it is quite intricate in its strategy and in player interaction. Highly recommended.
Rounds start with auctions in which everyone acquires a Province. The Provinces' different advantages blend superbly with Knizia's impressive improvement on the ingenious bidding mechanism of Evo (our Game of the Year two years ago).
You start with 20 gold units to buy Farmers and Stones for your provinces (three Stones let you build a Pyramid) as well as randomly drawn Power Cards that offer free Farmers, gold, bidding privileges, and bonus points for completing strategic objectives. Rounds end with players secretly discarding an amount of gold. The total discarded determines the income earned by each Farmer. Highest discards earn from one to three Farmers, Stones, or Power Cards.
Scoring occurs after three rounds, when provinces are abandoned--with their Pyramids and Stones left for future successful bidders. Most points wins after the sixth round of scoring. You earn points for your pyramids, for having the most money, and for meeting a Power Card's objective, (e.g., having at least nine Farmers in your three provinces). Reiner Knizia still rules!
Golden Ages are only really appreciated when they come to a stop and we had one that ran from Autumn 1997 to Autumn 2000. In that period Reiner Knizia's published output included Euphrat & Tigris, Durch die Wüste, Samurai, Ra, Rheinlnder, Stephensons Rocket, Die Kaufleute von Amsterdam, Taj Mahal, Traumfabrik and Lord of the Rings. Ten high quality gamers' games in a period of four years, it was an astonishing run and we were all so pleased that it was happening that we convinced ourselves that it would continue indefinitely. It didn't, of course. From the start of his career he has always produced games in all the various fields and he now turned his attention to some of the others. With Amun-Re he is back on our patch and, not only that, he has returned in high form.
The first things that spring to mind when you think of Ancient Egypt are gods and pyramids and those are the main elements here, placating the former and building the latter. The game lasts six rounds and in each one you acquire a province, which is then yours for up to three rounds. While it is yours, you will use it to generate the money that you will need to win the favour of Amun-Re and to do the building which will enhance your prestige. The brevity of the stewardship means that "too little time" - the characteristic feature of Reiner's more strategic games - is again an issue for the players to wrestle with.
There are fifteen provinces and they divide into two groups in three natural ways: Upper Nile and Lower Nile; East of the river and West of the river; riverbank and non-riverbank. These groupings will play a part in the scoring and so are an ingredient in the strategy. The game also splits into two, with a scoring at the end of each half and this interim scoring is not just a matter of logging some points. In thematic terms it marks the end of the Old Kingdom and the start of the New and with this transition the records of who owns what are wiped clean. In other words, the provinces you bought in the first half of the game cease to be yours once this halftime scoring has taken place. This is the source of the time pressure problem that I referred to in the previous paragraph. In order to score the points for your pyramids they need to be finished by the time the whistle blows for the break and while building quickly is possible, it is also expensive and money is the other thing of which you don't have quite enough.
Each round begins with the turning over of province cards, one for each player. These are then bid for simultaneously using a novel and ingenious system which ensures that everyone ends up with one. On each card is a set of little boxes containing the numbers of the triangular series - 0, 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, etc. Bidding is a matter of putting your marker on one of these boxes on one of the cards, with the restriction that if someone else has already placed a bid on this card, yours must be higher. In the first round of bidding everyone places their marker in turn. Thereafter, if, when your turn comes round again, you find yourself the underbidder on a card, you must remove your marker and use it to make a new bid, but on a different card. I wouldn't have thought it was possible to come up with a new bidding mechanic that managed to be both simple and interesting, but this is. Usually an auction is just a matter of deciding what you want and how much you are prepared to pay, but this offers scope for tactics as well as judgement. You can be fairly sure that the last player to place or move their bidding stone will be putting it on the '0' space of the remaining empty card, thereby getting something for nothing. The other thing you know is that if there is a province that you particularly want, you will almost certainly only get one shot at it. Bearing both those facts in mind, how are you going to play it?
An auction in which everything on offer was identical would be of no interest no matter what the bidding mechanic was and so, as you would expect, the provinces have varying characteristics. Some have more agricultural land than others, some have income from sources other than farming and some come with dowries in the form of gold, building materials or bonus cards.
The next stage is to buy things in the form of peasants, building stones and power cards. Peasants are placed on the agricultural land in your provinces, where they will generate income. Building stones also go into your provinces and whenever you have three of them in a province, they are exchanged for a pyramid. Pyramids are the main source of victory points. Power cards are drawn from a face-down deck, meaning that you don't know exactly what you are getting, but they bring a variety of benefits. One type gives you tactical advantages in the bidding, another reduces the cost of a pyramid from 3 stones to 2, a third group will bring extra income and a fourth offers the chance of bonus victory points provided you can meet the condition stated on the card. This last group are a significant strategic ingredient in the game, since the points they offer will be important in the final scoring and the conditions they require will help determine your choice of targets when bidding for provinces. For example, one card requires that you have more than a certain number of peasants and if you are to collect on this one you will need to buy the more fertile provinces and get people into the fields. Others require that all three of your provinces meet a certain geographical condition, such as all being on the same side of the river. Both in their effect and in their importance the cards in this last group are rather like the prestige cards in Die Frsten von Florenz.
The prices in all three categories of these items are on the same non-linear scale as was used in the bidding for provinces, that is to say, one peasant costs you 1, two cost you 3, three cost you 6, and so on. Likewise for the other two and so if you bought four building stones, two peasants and two power cards, it would cost you 10+3+3=16. These costings are a key element in both the success and the feel of the game. They force you to plan your purchases and they mean that items are appropriately valued. There is no question of saying "How much are pyramids? Right, I'll take six".
Now the god puts in his appearance. He determines the size of the harvest and hands out presents to those he favours, which he does in return for cash. Each player secretly selects either a number of their money cards or the special "-3" card which you each have. These are then revealed simultaneously and the total computed. If the combined offering is high enough, there will be a bumper harvest, with the peasants raking in four gold per head, but if you are more parsimonious, that figure will drop to three, two or even one. Now, being nice people, you probably feel that a plentiful harvest is a good thing, but that is because you spend too much time doing good works and not enough reading the financial pages. All economic circumstances are good for some and not for others and an income of 4 per peasant is only good if you are the man with lots of peasants. Players who don't have these resources are better served by keeping this type of revenue down and this is made even more true by the fact that several of the provinces which have little agricultural land have other sources of income which only pay out when the harvest is below average. So the players will go into this phase hoping for different outcomes. However, it is not a simple tug of war between two obvious factions, because to complicate matters a little more there are also individual outcomes that follow from the cards you played. Those who played their "-3" are considered to have stolen from the offering and they collect 3 gold from the bank. The others will get a reward from Amun-Re, with the person who made the highest donation receiving three items, the next highest two and the others one each. These items are taken from the menu you chose from when you were buying things in the previous phase: peasants, building stones and power cards.
After this all that remains of a round is to collect your income and move on to the next one, unless this was round 3 or 6, in which case you also score points. Here there is a basic 1 for each pyramid and then a number of extras, some tied to provinces, some to power cards and some to the way you have organized your building between your three provinces. To have a chance of winning you will need to do well with these extras and so pursuit of them will have been influencing your decisions throughout and, as you'd expect in a Knizia game, they pull you in different directions.
After round three all buildings remain on the board, but the peasant and ownership markers are removed. In addition, any province cards that didn't appear in the first half of the game are put back in the box, so that the second half will feature exactly the same areas as the first. Rounds 4-6 then follow the same pattern as rounds 1-3, only this time your valuation of each one is likely to be different, because this time it will almost certainly come with real estate already in place.
Amun-Re does not have the multiplicity of layers or strategic options that you got with last year's Nuremberg hit, Puerto Rico, but we found it just as enjoyable. In both these regards I'd put it on a par with Die Frsten von Florenz. That was my choice for "game of the year" in 2000 and, though there are a number of the new ones I have yet to play, I wouldn't be surprised to see this one carrying off the same title this.