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Just beyond the horizon Aapep lies coiled in wait, greedily charting Ra's progress across the heavens. At dusk, as the setting sun brushes the western mountains, he prepares to strike...
In Aapep you play either demon Aapep, trying to swallow the sun, or the god Ra, fighting to escape the underworld.
Players try to place Pyramid Tiles so that from any one edge of the board, there are either four light Tile sides visible (Ra escapes and wins) or four dark Tile sides visible (Aapep swallows the sun and wins).
- 1 game board
- 11 pyramid tiles
- 4 player chips
- 2 shadow chips
- 12 color markers
Average Rating: 2.5 in 1 review
I'm sure that some people will find the theme of Aapep and Ra in eternal combat as interesting - the battle between light and darkness really is a good thought for a strategy game. Aapep (Cambridge Games, 2007 - Paul A. DeStefano) is an abstract strategy game in which two players feud off on a sixteen square grid, attempting to shine light (or darkness) in one direction.
"Wait!", you may cry, "I thought this game is for two to four players!" This is true, but the game really only works well with two players, and even then I'm starting to have my doubts about the fun factor of the game. Aapep takes place in two distinct stages - the first in which players fill up a grid board; and the second in which they rearrange the pieces, attempting to win. Aapep is the sort of game in which the first player who makes a mistake loses, which may be okay for some folks; but that's not really my style.
Aapep takes place on a four by four board, next to which are placed eleven tiles - which are a combination of yellow (sunlight) and black (darkness). The player playing Yellow Ra (light) goes first, and the play alternates for the rest of the game. Each game has two phases, the Daytime phase and the Nighttime phase.
During the Daytime phase, players simply place one of the tiles in any open space on the board. They then take one of two shadow chips, moving it to an empty space of their choice, preventing tiles from being placed there. This continues until one player wins, or until all event tiles are on the board; at which point, the game goes into Nighttime phase.
During the Nighttime phase, players first must move a tile on the board to any open space, rotating it in any direction. The player then places a marker of their color on the tile, preventing any other player from moving that tile until the player's next turn. After this, the player moves one of the two shadow chips to the spot from which the moving tile originated.
This continues until at the end of any player's turn - there are four light tiles visible from any of the four board's edges, in which case Ra wins. If the same thing happens with dark tiles, then Aapep wins. Shadow chips do not block visibility.
The game can be played with three or four players - with the third player becoming White Ra and the fourth player Red Aapep. Game play is the same, except that the winner is determined by which side of the board the four light/darkness tiles come from. For example, Yellow Ra wins if the light tiles line up at the top or the bottom of the board, while White RA wins if the light tiles shine from either side of the board.
Some comments on the game...
- Components: I understand that Cambridge Games is putting out
affordable games (although their new Glory to Rome edition I'm quite
pleased with) over superb components, but I found the components in
this version a bit lacking. Perhaps that's because I'm spoiled by
beautiful, abstract games from other places, such as Hive, Pentago,
and Yinsh; but also because when there is no theme, you have to
concentrate on the pieces. The artwork I have no problem with - with
a black snake threatening to swallow the yellow sun - it's nice and
the contrast works well. But the tiles, which are moved constantly
throughout the game, are very thin cardboard - easily bent and
annoying to pick up and move. The other chips and counters included
with the game work fine, and the plastic case it comes packaged in is
functional; but I just can't kick the feeling that the game should
have better production values.
- Rules: The rules are very simple, printed on only two pages with
clear formatting. The game itself is very simple to explain, but some
folks may have a bit of trouble understanding how light and darkness
"shines" completely across the board. Still, it's one of the easier
abstracts to explain, reminding people that the tile they move is
replaced by a shadow chip. Many times a new player will feel a
growing excitement, as they set themselves up for the win, forgetting
that they are placing a shadow chip where they move the chip.
- Phases: The game is composed of two phases; but the designer
mentioned to me that he considered the first phase to be a "set up"
phase, and I agree. I can't imagine anyone losing in the first part -
each move can be easily countered, although, obviously it can and does
occur. The night phase is the more intriguing part of the game, as
players have to set up moves in advance - sometimes three or more
moves. For me, I actually found the daytime phase more interesting,
but it's over quite quickly - almost too quickly.
- Strategy: At first, strategy seems quite simple. Place the tiles
in such a way as to line up sunlight (or darkness) on one or more
sides and block your opponent's tiles. This is the basic strategy,
but it's soon compounded by moving the shadow tiles and realizing that
you can't move the tile just moved by your opponent. The board begins
to feel more and more crowded, and you soon realize how important the
initial placement was. The main problem is that very rarely can a
player make a "killer move" - a move that will outright win the game.
In every game that I've played, the winner won because the other
player messed up, allowing them to slide in and win. This, for me,
makes for an unsatisfying experience. I want to win a strategy game
because of something that I've done, not because of an error by my
opponent. Well, I don't mind the occasional victory by error, but
more often I want the satisfaction of seeing my well laid plans come
to fruition. In many games I would set up a scheme to win, but every
time it would lead to a mistake on my part causing my loss. It seems
almost easier to play defensively and wait for your opponent to get
- Players: The game works well with two players, but I'm not sure
it's as interesting with more. With only one side of the board to
concentrate on, the game takes a long time, and often, I found the
game to be annoying because one of the other players made a mistake
that gave the game to a third or fourth player. My play had no
bearing on the outcome - and that can be a bit frustrating.
Multi-player abstract strategy games rarely work, and although
simulated teamwork makes this slightly interesting, it's still too
chaotic with an extra player in the mix.
- Fun Factor: Aapep will likely entertain those who want a
completely silent game, in which each player analyzes the board.
However, I'm not necessarily amongst that group; and I found that the
game could occasionally get monotonous, as we moved back and forth
until finally someone goofed up. I want to play a game that has
occasional bursts of excitement, and the only time that happened in
Aapep was when I realized that I won/lost. The rest of the game was a
fairly dull affair.
Look, the theme is okay; I can live with the lower component quality, but there is nothing that I find just fun or exciting about the game. Aapep isn't like any other abstract strategy game - I appreciate the novelty and thought put into the game; it's the completed package that fails to stimulate me. Perhaps some will find it exciting - I found it more mediocre - and with the growing number of quality, fascinating abstract games in existence; that means it will see very rare play.
"Real men play board games"