Egizia is a worker placement and resource management game set in Ancient Egypt for 2 to 4 players. Each player has a team of work crews that will help to build the various great monuments, scoring points as they do so. The winner is the player with the most points after 5 rounds. The game plays in approximately 1 1/2 hours.
The components of the game are of the usual good quality you would expect from a Rio Grande Game. There are wooden pieces in each player colour representing the boats the player sends down the Nile and the stones they use to build with; individual player mats to track the strength of the respective work crews and the amount of stone a player has; a nicely illustrated board showing the Nile, the monuments and the various locations each player can stop at; Sphinx cards which are used to score bonus points at the end of the game and round cards which are used to give variety to the actions available each round; and cardboard tokens to represent the work crews.
I found the rulebook slightly confusing when I first read through it but that may have been because I didn’t have the game right in front of me. After playing through the first round of an actual game it all clicked into place and became very intuitive, with the only reason to check the rulebook being to get clarification on what the individual cards do.
The game is played over 5 rounds, with the winner being the player with the most points at the end.
Each player starts with three work crews of strength 1 and a ‘wild’ of strength 2. They also start with a quarry producing 3 stone per round and a green field producing 6 food each round. Depending on turn order (initially randomised) the players also start with a number of stone (between 2 and 5).
Rounds – At the start of each round cards are placed from the appropriate deck onto each of the available spaces on the board.
Take actions – Players then act in turn order placing one of their boats onto a space on the board, with the possible options being onto a card, one of the round spaces, or one of the building sites.
1) If they place onto a card they take the card and either place it face up in front of them for an on-going permanent effect, immediately resolve it and discard it, or hold onto it for a later one-time use.
2) If they place onto a round space then they immediately perform the action of that space.
3) If they place onto a building site then nothing happens until later in the round when we get to the building phase.
Once one player has played a piece onto a card or round space then it is not available for the other players to use. However, each building site has space for up to three players (less if not playing with four players).
The players continue placing boats onto action spaces until everyone passes, either because they cannot place any more or choose not to. There is a further restriction on the placement of boats, however. Each action space is next to the Nile, with the river flowing down from the top of the board to the bottom. When a player is placing a boat they may not place one upriver of their previous placements.
Obtain stone and feed work crews – Once each player has passed they then get stone from their quarries and must feed their work crews. Each quarry a player owns will produce a number of stone, so the players advance their marker on their own stone tracks accordingly. Each work crew (including the ‘wild’) has a strength, and this value is also the amount of food that the work crew requires. Each player must see how much food they are producing and if it is not enough to feed all their work crews they must pay victory points in order to make up the difference. Also, each field that provides food only produces if the irrigation is at the right level. There are three types of fields: green, green/brown, and brown. Green fields will always produce food but the others will only produce if the water ring is at the appropriate level. The water ring can be moved by the use of certain action spaces.
After each player has obtained their stone and fed their work crews we move onto the building phase.
Build – In order, the three building sites are resolved, with each player having a boat there getting the chance to build part of the monument. To build part of a monument the player chooses one of their work crews, and may add the strength of the ‘wild’ if they wish to and it hasn’t already been used this round. This total strength is the maximum amount of building they can do on this monument this round. When used, the work crew is flipped over to show it cannot be used again this round.
Sphinx – the player draws cards equal to the strength of their work crew, and reduces their amount of stone by the same amount. They keep at most one of the Sphinx cards and place all others underneath the deck. For each card returned they score one point.
Graves/Obelisk – The Obelisk has a set number of spaces, each with values on them. The player can build several spaces in one build, not more than the total strength of the crew used, and must work from the bottom upwards (i.e. a space may only be built if the spaces below it are built). They reduce their amount of stone by the amount they build and score points equal to the total values of the spaces they built. For the graves, the player may build any number of grave tiles, as long as their total value is less than or equal to the strength of the work crew. The player reduces their amount of stone by the total value of the grave tiles they built and score the same number of points. Whether a player builds graves or the obelisk they then get to advance down either the stone track or the food track. These two tracks can provide bonus stone or points, and can make it cheaper when players have to pay points due to a food shortage.
Temple/Pyramid – Similar to the Obelisk, players may build a number of spaces, whose total values are not more than the strength of the work crew. They reduce their stone accordingly and score the same number of points. There are similar build restrictions in that spaces below must be built first, and there are bonus points for the player that builds the most spaces in each row of the pyramid.
Bonus points are then paid out to each player who built on at least one building site.
The game ends after 5 rounds, when all the Sphinx cards are then scored and players may cash in excess stone. The player with the most points is the winner.
The worker placement mechanism is nothing new but this one has an interesting twist with the fact that you cannot place up-river. This can mean you sometimes have to miss out on certain spaces in order to secure a particular space or card that you really want. There are various strategies to try, such as increasing your work crew strength a lot and hoping you can make up the points that you will inevitably have to lose by not being able to feed. Sphinx cards can give quite a few points and can direct your strategy somewhat as well. The fact that each building site can only take 3 players also makes the decisions on where to place your boats that much more difficult. The water ring adds something else to think about, and means it’s possible to screw the other players sometimes if they aren’t careful.
The limited rounds also mean that you know time is short and missing out on building in the final round can be pretty devastating.
This game is pretty easy to learn and play but has some very agonizing decisions along the way. There is a lot of indirect conflict in choosing the action spaces, with the possibility of screwing other players with the water ring, or by blocking them out of building at a particular site. The cards that come out each round offer good variation so that each game will play out differently, and the Sphinx cards mean that players will sometimes have to adapt their strategy in order to maximise their points.
Overall I think this is a great little game that offers a lot of interesting decisions in a fairly short space of time.