Amun-Re

I wrote a review of Amun-Re. It was kind of a request, really — I implemented a search box on my game review site and someone had searched for it.

Amun-Re kind of puzzles me. I find it’s mechanics interesting and while the Egyptian theme is a bit boring, it is woven well with the mechanics. I have a hard time figuring out another theme for this game. That’s untypical for a German game and very rare for a Knizia game.

What’s odd is that I don’t like the game a lot. Sure, I’ll play it if someone suggests it but I probably wouldn’t suggest it myself. I ended up selling the game, despite my early interest towards it.

A detailed description of mechanics isn’t necessary. Shannon Applecline’s RPGnet review explains the game thoroughly.

The game is about buying land and building pyramids in the ancient Egypt. During three rounds, players buy one area each turn. These auctions are the main point of interest and excitement of the game. The auction mechanism is neat, offering some scope for tactical bidding.

Knizia has managed to build a wonderful dramatic arc in the game. After three rounds players own all of Egypt and have built pyramids and farmed the land. Scoring occurs and after that, the old kingdom is history. Time leaps forward to the new kingdom. All land ownership is forgotten and farmers are removed. Only pyramids remain, reminding of the glorious past. The latter half of the game plays like the first, but with all the valuable pyramids on the play, the land auctions get a new twist.

That’s very neat and one of the best features in the game. I also like how Knizia has handled the important issue of Nile flooding. Players can adopt a farming strategy if they wish but as is the case with Egypt, success of farming is related to the flooding of the Nile. How much the Nile floods depends on the moods of the god Amun-Re, whose mood, in the other hand, is related to the generosity of the sacrificial offerings he receives.

Thus, players find themselves offering money to make Amun-Re satisfied — or not. If one has no farming endeavours, why bother with sacrificing? Fortunately there’s the option of stealing from the pot. That doesn’t aggravate Amun-Re, for some reason, but there’s no divine gifts coming to those players either. Still, it can be a good option.

One thing that’s good about Amun-Re is the replayability it offers. The different provinces of Egypt are very different and the order they appear in can shape the game a lot. If the provinces are farming-heavy, sacrifices to Amun-Re will be high and that affects the value of certain other provinces and so on.

With all the good things I’ve said about the game, it’s easy to see why I don’t understand why I find it so lukewarm. Something just doesn’t click the right way. I still would recommend it to anyone looking for a heavier gamer’s game with a stronger theme. For non-gamers, it’s probably too heavy and complicated so skip it, unless you love the theme and are willing to spend time and effort learning the game.

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2 thoughts on “Amun-Re”

  1. I have only played once, but I found it very dry while being full of ceremony. It is an odd mixture, that I am not sure works. No one can accuse it of being fun. It reminds me of reading boring 19th century literature at school — you do it because you are told it is good for you.

  2. Well put. Amun-Re is missing the mystical ingredient X, the fun factor, which is notoriously difficult to describe and pinpoint.

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