08 September 2013

Cleopatra (boardgame review)

This will be a "boardgame review - light" since it's not my game but something that is owned by the club which means I could not take pictures of everything inside the box as I usually do. Cleopatra is a Days of Wonder title, and if you are familiar with Days of Wonder they are producing games that are very family oriented, they often have solid core mechanics and offer a good deal of competitive gaming.

Cleopatra is no different, in this 2-5 player game players take on the role of Egyptian architects working on a temple. Each player uses a constant stream of resource cards that are picked up and collected to build various parts of the temple. Once you finish working on a part you get paid, and every time a larger part of the temple is finished Cleopatra moves one step on the turn track. Once 5 parts of the temple are fully finished she enters the temple and the game ends.

The player with most gold at the end of the game is the winner. There is however one twist. Many resource cards and characters that you can use in the game vastly speed up your work - but also taint you with "corruption". This means that you can easily race ahead of all other players but if at the end of the game you are the most corrupted architect you are simply sacrificed to the gods and automatically lose/end up last.

The gameplay is very similar to that of Ticket To Ride in that it revolves a lot around picking up cards. There is a constant flow of cards distributed on 3 separate piles which players can pick up during their turn. Each time the cards from one of these decks is picked up 3 new cards are picked from the main deck and distributed among the 3 decks so that there is always at least 1 card in each deck. 50% of these cards are face up and 50% are face down meaning players will have to take a chance -but this also means that their opponents won't know what card the player picked up.

Players can instead of picking up cards, opt to spend cards during their turn. Spending cards follow the guidelines of each building block of the temple. The Sphinx statues may require a player to discard 1 artisan, 1 stone and 1 marble card. The player discards his card, places the new element on the board and cashes in money for his work. The more impressive or simultaneously numerous work performed by a player the more money you get.

And so it goes, around and around, each player taking turns in either picking up a handful of resource cards, playing characters with special abilities, and/or build something for the temple.

Some resources and most characters add corruption tokens to the active player, corruption is gathered in a small pyramid and kept hidden from the other players until the game ends. You  do not only get corruption for spending "tainted" cards, but also suffer corruption points if you at the end of the game have unspent corrupted cards in your hand.

Another way to accumulate corruption is when the game calls for sacrifices to the gods. Whenever a player uses the quarry where you build pieces for the temple, 5 dice are rolled - if the Ankh symbol comes up the die is locked and is not re-rolled by the next player who uses the quarry. Players roll these dice until all dice are locked with the Ankh symbol face up. When this happens there is a ceremony which calls players to offer money to the temple. This is a secret bidding where you hold out your hand and turn it up with the money you are offering at the same time as everyone else. The player who offered the most can reduce his corruption level, while all other players suffer corruption for their cheapness.

Corruption can also be removed by working on the terrace level in the temple, by placing marbled floor tiles and creating small isolated spaces which you claim by placing an Anubis statue. The bigger this isolated space the more points of corruption you will get to remove at the end of the game when corruption is counted and disclosed between players.

So it's a pretty simple game, easy to learn and is on the same enjoyment and competitive level as Ticket To Ride. The plastic pieces could perhaps be a bit nicer, but definitely add to the visual aspect as players add new elements to the temple. It's definitely something which you can play with the family or with friends who perhaps aren't regular board gamers, it's one of those "gateway" games which can present what modern boardgames can offer and be like.

We managed to play this game right after a session of "Kolejka" and finished both games within 3.5 hours. I enjoyed it and think the rest of the guys liked it too. Just enough complexity for 5 tired guys playing on a Sunday afternoon.

I would rate it somewhere around 7.5/10

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