The designers of Kemet decided that they’d inject some life (or, at least, undeath) into one of the best DoaM games of all time by making some small revisions to the rules. Wade and I decided to take a look at the changes and speculate on what the designers’ intent was and what the implications may be for future plays.
(Links to new rules and player aids can be found at the bottom of this article.)
First, the cosmetic stuff. The power tiles were given name changes, from Red, Blue, and White to Ruby, Sapphire, and Diamond, respectively. (One assumes that the Black tiles from Ta-Seti can now be referred to as Onyx.) Several of the tiles were given individual name changes, as well; phasing out rather indelicate terms like ‘Slavery’ for the Diamond tile that reduces the Prayer Point cost of raising a pyramid, in favor of ‘Magical Support’, for example. (All I can think about now is SU&SD’s gushing review of Kemet, while mentioning that the ‘white power’ tiles included ‘slavery’ and ‘crusade’.) I think the intent here was to make the game a bit more approachable to newcomers, especially given how aggressive the overall design is. Inis can be played almost without combat of any kind and Cyclades is as much an economic game as it is one of combat. Giving a stylistic adjustment to Kemet might reassure some players that it’s not all blood and guts, in addition to adding a bit more lore to the game. Among the Ruby tiles, ‘Teleport’ becomes ‘Portal of Toth’, for example. I think they could have carried this a bit further. Like, you don’t think there’s a better name for getting your combat cards back and getting a powerful new one other than ‘Offensive Strategy’? But, now, the rules:
Some of the overall picture is simply a case of clarification. Priest of Mafdet (formerly God Speed) is now written: “During your Movement actions, your troops gain +1 Land move.” That clears away the murkiness that led some to believe it might also include teleports. There are many clarifications like that, such as rather than having the game start in the Night phase and have people draw another Divine Intervention card alongside the one they “started” the game with, you simply start with two DI cards and 7 Prayer Points.
There is now a Dawn Phase that begins each round, where victory is checked for and players determine turn order. Players may slot themselves anywhere in the turn order they like, beginning with the player with the fewest VP, rather than having that person determine the whole order.
Marc: This removes a kind of psychological impediment to the player lagging behind, such that they don’t have to be the “kingmaker.” It also keeps people from feeling screwed just because they’re winning or have been the one beating on the player lagging behind.
Wade: Obviously this was culled from the Dawn phase they attempted to introduce in the Ta Seti expansion. The took the general idea and probably decided that all that card play and balancing with tokens was unneeded. Totally a fan of this change, I don’t think there has ever been a turn order decision that made any of the players happy and that usually included the last place player who was likely to get grief on how they choose to put the other players. This is a great solution.
End of game is triggered by someone reaching 9 VP, rather than than the old 8 (short game) or 10 (long game.) The victor is determined in the following Dawn phase.
Marc: This is, almost literally, a happy medium. Eight point games often felt too short. Ten point games could become a grind. (It’s crazy how fine the margins are, which often speaks to a tight (and good) design.) It also gives everyone what is potentially almost an entire round to try to catch up if someone simply grabs a VP tile to trigger the end.
Wade: Seems like a good change on paper. I’ll be happy that I don’t have to waste time by having everyone decide if we are playing a short or long game.
In your city, you win all ties in battle, attacking or defending.
Marc: This seems stylistically appropriate and it makes it easier for newer players to stay in the game, rather than be raided and virtually eliminated by veterans.
Wade: Right? If someone is in your city, things have obviously gone awry. I’ll be interested in how it plays out because I have seen a few exciting actions taken by desperate players when I’ve “abandoned” my city to make a final push to hold multiple temples.
You can use only one teleport per movement action, regardless of cards or powers.
Marc: This is a good thing, even though it cuts down on some of the more elaborate moves that old hands of the game can conduct. It’s straightforward, keeps situations clear, removes rules arguments and, again, keeps newer players from being overwhelmed by veterans leaping from across the board and destroying them.
Wade: I agree. It is a good thing. There have been a few instances where someone has leapfrogged around the board and everyone questioned if it was legal or not. Before, we had to grudgingly say “Well, it is not expressly forbidden in the rules, so we’ll allow it.”
You can exceed the five unit limit of board spaces as long as that limit is heeded by the end of your Movement action.
Marc: Conversely, this is great. It’s going to free up Land movement actions (the reason that ‘Land’ label was added, to distinguish from teleports) such that the obelisks aren’t always required to make serial movements across the board. If you’re trying to reinforce a position, you can have 4 units move into a space with 3 units as long as 2 of them continue moving to another space by the time you’ve finished your action. Pretty simple and a solid change.
Wade: Again, like almost every one of these changes, it makes me think “Yes, of course. That makes perfect sense.”
Recalling troops after a battle gives you x-1 Prayer Points, rather than x.
Marc: It was often quite easy to establish a dominant position and spring from there into a major purchase or recruitment by simply sacrificing most of your guys at the last battle and getting just as many of them for the next one. Now this action has an actual cost. It’s not a huge one, so it’s still a viable technique, but you have to consider the loss of PP economy when doing so. That adds depth.
Wade: This is the one I was expecting when I heard there would be a rules update. It was hinted at in Kemet: Seth. One of the “Aha!” moments for me, in Kemet, was when a player was lamenting the “lack of prayer points” early in the game. I quit looking at the armies you start with as troops and looked at them as “money in the Prayer Point bank.” Before, you literally could “change” them into PP, win or lose, after a battle. Now, while you still can, you have to pay interest. And, of course, it is one that directly impacts the opening strategy I discussed in our Trinity article. That opening strategy was virtually unblockable. It didn’t matter what action any other player took, outside of having the perfect storm of a few DI cards that they HAD to have, there was no way you weren’t going to have a level 4 Ruby Pyramid by, at the absolute latest, the first turn of the second day phase. Now, it puts the burden on the player making the play to assure it comes out correctly instead of leaving the other players virtually helpless to stop it. I grudgingly give it a “Thumbs up” (only because it messes with my favorite sneaky opening).
But, by far, the biggest change is the one to card play. Day Phase DI cards can now also be used in battle, unless it specifically stipulates a use outside of battle (like “During your Movement action”) and have some alternate abilities in the battle step. Enlistment, for example, still recruits two units that you may spread across city districts or troop locations. But in battle, Enlistment allows you to directly add two units to a fight before a winner is determined OR after casualties are determined. This has massive effects, allowing you to win a battle you would have otherwise lost or allowing you to reinforce a retreating troop as they retreat or allowing you to reinforce a position that you won, even though all your units were eliminated. Transfer and Open Gates, since they specifically note a Movement action, can’t be used in battle. Meanwhile, Mana Theft is now Mana Duplication and is played directly after an opponent’s action, allowing you to gain 1 PP for every 2 that they spent.
Marc: This is huge. I think they understood that DI card play was often fairly simplistic and that strategies for their use didn’t really vary. I mean, this is divine intervention, right? More should be happening than simply: “The gods say I do one more wound to you.” Also, it’s no secret that the Diamond powers, with only a couple exceptions, are among the most lightly regarded. Kemet is such a fast game that using actions to improve your PP economy isn’t horrible, but it doesn’t play into what’s happening on the map until later, at which point your opponents may be on their way to a few permanent VP. This makes powers like Divine Boon, Vision, and The Mummy more viable. With the number of battle card plays increased by some 60%, the game changes quite a bit.
Wade: Were “you people” not treating DI cards with the proper respect? Now, everyone is going to want The Mummy. The changes to using the Enlistment card alone is freaking amazing. Mana Duplication is a much more interesting card than Mana Theft was. But talk of DI cards brings me to the one change that I can’t say I’m on board with. And that is the “removal” of three of the DI cards: Veto (the deck contains two of these) and Escape. Veto are the “Cancel” cards. I mean, come on, Divine Intervention that is literally the hand of the gods reaching down and saying “Nay, Mortal, you may not do that.” is something I totally dig.
Marc: I agree. I was a Black and Blue mage in MTG. I love Counterspell. I think I can see their argument in removing Veto, though, in that encouraging more card play only to have it countered is kind of working at cross purposes. I don’t, however, see the point of removing Escape, since it does make the opponent waste an action that they may have put serious effort into, but it also means that you had to leave whatever piece of territory you were holding on to (like, say, one of your temples for the permanent VP.) There are pros and cons for both sides in an engagement that brings out Escape, which makes it distinct from Veto.
Wade: Escape was always good when paired with owning the Ruby Power tile “Initiative.” It was the “Hold my beer, I’ll be right back” card. Actually, maybe this is why they removed it? Many of the Ruby tiles focus on being on the attack and Escape let you exploit those tiles? Still, someone teleporting across the world to attack you and you stepping to the side and kicking them in the ass on your next turn still makes me smile.
Marc: I guess improving offense might be an angle they took? Although it’s not like, of all games, Kemet was ever hurting for offense. I think they probably looked at Escape in the same way as Veto: it really sucks to have built up a whole strategy for the round only to have it utterly foiled by one card that’s more a deus ex machina than any other card in the game.
Wade: I’m not sure it is improving offense. What I was attempting to say is that Escape allows you to turn the tables on an attacker, avoiding a planned attack that might hinge on that player being the attacker due to the power tiles they hold. It would then allow you to counter attack on your next turn. Removing Escape, in that sense, would be more of a defense enhancer instead of an offense boost. Does that make sense?
Marc: Yeah. That is what I meant by it having more of a give-and-take situation than Veto, since the use of the card means that you’re giving up a space that you may have wanted to hold on to for points or other purposes. But, you’re right that setting up a situation where you move and then attack where you had just been (thus earning a permanent VP for (presumably) winning as the attacker) is another use. I think Escape just has too many angles to dismiss it in the same way that you could argue Veto should be dismissed. Plus, there is only one copy of Escape..
Wade: So, how do you go about introducing/implementing these new rules? I guess it wouldn’t be too bad giving the updates to a veteran Kemet group. Or would they be the worst ones to use the new rules with?
Marc: That’s a good question. I’m going to bring them to a weekend gathering that I’m trying to tempt a friend to, who says that Kemet is his all-time favorite game. I know there will be some people there who’ve never played it (kind of a Euro crowd), so it will be an interesting experiment, since he (and I) will have to adapt to a new way of looking at things at the same time as others are learning. Could be a blast. Then I’ll see if I can tempt them into Inis with the expansion…
Wade: Oh, you mean the Inis expansion that introduces Obelisks? Sorry, I mean, “Ports.”
*fade to black before we accidently start another article*
Links to New Rules and Player Aids
Final versions are expected after Essen, and will be included in future printings of Kemet. No news at this time regarding upgrade kits for current owners, other than downloading and printing new rules and player aids.