Tal der Könige
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Of the many Egyptian pyramid theme games, Tal der Konige (Valley of the Kings) is unsurpassed. As is the hallmark of other similar games, such as Euphrat and Tigris or El Grande, the fun, strategy, components, and uniqueness of play are exceptional. Each player bids for building blocks and tries to construct pyramids worth the most points on sites you have previously acquired. The larger and more of one color a pyramid is, the more valuable it is. However, do you construct your pyramids for quantity or quality? Do you aggressively pilfer other opposing sites and incur their wrath, or finesse an advantage through deceptive bidding on construction materials?
Play proceeds at a quick pace with each turn basically consisting of bidding, moving, then building. The bidding phase is the crucial part of the game. Building blocks in groups of five are randomly drawn from a bag and set aside to be bid upon by all of the players. Each player has an identical set of bidding tiles totaling ten points, but range from zero (for bluffs) to four. Players, in turn, simply place their tiles in front of the piles of blocks they wish to bid on. Highest bid wins. The focus of the bidding is based upon the composition of the piles. Do you concentrate your bid on a valuable pile consisting of blocks of the same color, risking losing the bid and getting nothing for the turn, or can you bluff your way through and gain two piles?
Before building any pyramid, each player plots the movement of their two overseers which then move to preprinted map sites. The overseers are there to claim any uncontested site, and to guard against having blocks taken from the site. Workers are then moved to a claimed site to build the pyramid. But, with only two overseers and five workers, managing construction causes frustrating decisions.
Each worker can only place two blocks per turn. Unused blocks go into the construction of the Pharaohs pyramid, which is the wonderful mechanism by which the end of the game is determined. Once the Pharaohs pyramid is completed, it signals the last turn of the game. Its always a close contest.
As with all of the great games, player interaction is constant, the components are super, and play is easy, but the decisions are challenging. Even at the high price, its worth every penny.