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(Worth 1,295 Funagain Points!)
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The great Pharaoh Put-n-Tut has issued a decree that a pyramid building competition will be held; one in which builders may also trade and exchange building supplies. Once a pyramid is complete, the builder must decide whether to keep adding to it or present it to the austere Score Keeper for scoring.
Of course, the bigger the pyramid, the more points you score. But don't wait too long, or you risk being caught by those blasted thieves!
Players: 3 - 4
Time: 40 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Weight: 272 grams
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.
- 90 playing cards:
- 79 building stones
- 5 thieves
- 2 tax collectors
- 3 pharaohs
- 1 game end
- 1 game board
- 1 overseer
- 1 stealing die
- 1 rules insert
Average Rating: 2 in 1 review
When Kosmos makes a game, I take notice. Many of my most favorite games have been published by Kosmos, and so expectatiions are always high. The famous 'Games for 2' series that they publish with Rio Grande games has been very popular, and I consider myself a big fan of the series. Several years ago Kosmos tried to do a similar series for multiple players that has mediocre results (Bucket King being an exception). Here we are, a couple years later, and Kosmos is trying a multi-player series again, this time in smaller, slicker packaging. Oh Pharaoh is one of the first releases in the series (this series being co-published with Uberplay Games of Issaquah, WA) and I was pretty excited to try it. Uberplay has started picking up some really good games, and with the rights to this new Kosmos series, I was chomping at the bit to get several of the titles!
Oh Pharaoh! seems simple enough: cartoony artwork, a deck of cards depicting building stones with numbers on them and special action cards, a small board and marker for tracking the number of rounds, and a die. And as one reads through the rules, they quickly realize the game is just about that simple.
Players are attempting to get building blocks (cards) in their hands that they can use to construct pyramids worth many points. Most of the cards depict very cute Egyptian slave-types lifting heavy blocks with numbers on them. The cards are numbered from 1-9 with a few wildcards. There are more 1's than 2's, more 2's than 3's, etc., making the construction of a pyramid with high numbers more difficult than with the more plentiful low numbers. And since numbers help contribute to point value, high is good.
Pyramid construction is simple: players lay down cards from their hand to either start a new pyramid or expand an existing one. A pyramid must have at least 3 cards (2 on the bottom of the pyramid, 1 on top) but can be much larger, especially after expansion. Whether building or expanding, players must always keep each level with the same number (so a level with 2's must only have 2's), and each level must be one value higher than the level underneath (so 2's above 1's, or 5's above 4's, but NOT 5's above 3's), and each level must have at LEAST one card less in it than the level underneath ('cos that's what a pyramid is, silly!)
Since a player only has 8 cards at the start of their turn, hand management is important, and scoring often to use up otherwise useless cards is important too. A player may only have 1 pyramid at a time (until several rounds into the game where each player is allowed to then have 2). If he had a pyramid from his previous turn, he may score it or continue. Then he draws a card to go to 8 cards, then either expands his existing pyramid or starts a new one. Players may trade cards with the active player freely, and the active player may also use one of his special cards.
Special cards add a little spice into the game. The Robber card lets a player attempt to steal a building stone from another player (the success of which is determined by the die); the Tax Collector let's the player take one card from each of his opponents' hands; the Pharaoh is a 'void' action that prevents a player from using one of the other two cards.
The game sounds like it should work fairly well as a light game. And I suppose it does -- to a point. Let me first say that the artwork is great: Cartoony, beautifully colored, perfect fit for the game. But the game itself has many deficienies.
First, the amount of luck in the game can be astronomical. You keep drawing cards, but what if you don't get that key number you need to expand? If no one will trade it and you never draw it, while they at the same time keep getting exactly what they need, you are in trouble. (I was more than 250 pts. ahead of an opponent with a few turns left, and she managed to beat me by 2 pots. though neither of us had done anything particularly noteworthy. Early on I got the cards I needed, later one she got what she needed and I did not!) And the thief card, which should be an equalizer, is die-dependant and therefore completely random. So if you get unlucky on the die and cards, another player could run away with it. Also, the board and wooden pawn that come with the game are essentially useless, merely keeping track of how many scores there have been. This game could have been much cheaper (and more appropriate marketed) if sold as a card game for half the price. Lastly, the game is far too long for what it is. With the amount of luck in it, the game just drags on as players keep thunking through cards hoping Lady Luck will smile upon them. The worst part is that no one I have played this with likes it. I can't get anyone to play it more than once. It's not a bad game at all, but it is fairly boring, especially by German standards.
Oddly enough, I will say that this game, for what it is, plays very well with 2, and I don't understand why they didn't include that on the package. 3 or 4 players adds a bit more trading, but since trading is rather pedestrian in this game anyways, it works well enough for two. Maybe acceptable for families that enjoy games like Uno, and Kuduuk, but just not a lot here to get excited about. I still look forward to the rest of the Kosmos/Uberplay 'Games for Many' series in hopes this game was an anomoly.