Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: Valley of the Pharaohs

by Nathan Stout

Today I am reviewing Valley of the Pharaohs by Front Porch Classics. This board game comes in a handsome wooden 'book-like' box that you can place on your bookshelf along side their other games.

Valley of the Pharaohs is a game set in the year 1926. Just think of the Mummy movies... it's set around that time period. You play the role of an adventuring hero setting out to search for the fabled Scepter of Aumn-Ra. You must first find three scarab markers that are spread out around Egypt and then when you have found them you may collect the scepter and return it to Constantinople being careful not to be attacked by your enemies.

The game concept is fairly simple and takes very little to get going. The game comes with a cloth map, several metal player pieces, a metal mummy, some cardboard markers, a deck of cards, a spinning wheel, and some metal coins that you use for currency (to buy cards with).

Each player takes a metal camel and starts at Constantinople. They look at their scarab key and then set out across the board to collect the 3 correct scarab markers. Before you can claim your marker you must 'pay' for them with cards that you buy that represent things like equipment, weapons, medicine, etc. Once you have moved all over the board and have collected your 3 markers you can then move to the middle of the board and collect the Scepter of Amun-Ra. Once you have this you must make your way back to start (Constantinople) to win the game...
Sound simple? Not so...

The other players are trying to do the same thing you are. They also have the ability to slow you down or even steal from you. If doubles are rolled at any point the rolling player starts controlling the mummy. They can make the mummy come after their opponents and make them loose their turn. Other players can also 'attack' you and try to steal your scepter (if you carry it) and they may place cards that hinder your movement as well.

All around the board are excavation sites where the scarab markers are waiting. There are also oasis as well as towns all over the map as well. In the towns you can buy cards, in the oasis you can sell cards or spin the wheel of fortune (which will give you stuff or take stuff away). While you are in a town you are safe from the mummy as well.

There are a few advanced rules for the game as well. You can hide the scarab markers so each player has to go visit the excavation sites to even see whats there. There are also character cards that allow the players special abilities. There is at least one card in there that Chris and I feel breaks the game. One of the character special abilities allows the character to sell the cards for 2 coins (instead of the standard 1 coin). This gave the player way too much power in the long run. Other than that that cards worked well.

Chris and I have played a few times now, trying out various advanced rules and it has worked out well and we have had some fun. For some reason or another when Chris activated the mummy one time (when he rolled doubles) he made this mummy-type groan saying the work 'chuuuunk'. It struck me funny and we have been using that term each time the mummy gets activated.... Chuuuuunnnnnkkk!

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