The Kemet: Blood and Sand board gameis a re-implementation of Kemet, which was originally released in 2012. Now, I never played the original so this board game review is going to be entirely based in a vacuum from my experience with the reboot.
In Kemet: Blood and Sand, players assume the role of an Egyptian God, as they attempt to exert their influence over Ancient Egypt through worship and warfare! And since there are gods involved, know that there the likelihood of divine intervention is high.
Designed by Jacques Bariot and Guillaume Montiage, the Kemet: Blood and Sand board game is a satisfying wargame where you can acquire upgrade tiles and recruit powerful creatures to aid your endeavors. If you’re a fan of ‘dudes on a map’ style games, then it’s definitely worth checking out.
So brush up on your hieroglyphics because it’s time to dive into Kemet: Blood and Sand!
Kemet: Blood and Sand Gameplay
Kemet: Blood and Sand is played over a series of Rounds, each of which consist of a Day and Night Phase. During the Day, players are taking a total of 5 actions that can consist of the following:
- Build: Add levels to one of your Pyramids
- Recruit: Spend Prayer Points to add Units
- Acquire: Take a Power tile from the supply
- Pray: Gain Prayer Points
- Move: Move the placement of your Troops (and Units)
The Move action is one of the most important, because that is the action that can trigger battles with your opponents. Troops belonging to separate players cannot exist in the same Zone; if they ever do, a Battle takes place. Kemet: Blood and Sand doesn’t have any combat dice. Instead, players will play Battle a Battle Card and augment it with Divine Intervention Cards.
I won’t go through the entire combat resolution process, but it boils down to comparing the Strength of cards played (with any bonuses), and inflicting casualties accordingly. Winners get the option of staying and the loser must recall or retreat their Troop.
Once Night hits, players go through an extensive series of ‘cleanup’ steps, in which they can gain additional Fame Points (FP), Divine Intervention cards, Prayer Points, and more.
If a player has at least 9 Fame Points at the beginning of their Day Phase, and no other player has more Fame Points than them, they immediately win the game!
Of course, there are a lot more details to each of the actions and phases of the game, but in a nutshell this is a very tight wargame that rewards risk-taking. There are going to be a lot of battles going on!
Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on Kemet: Blood and Sand!
Since the Kemet: Blood and Sand board game is a game with troops on the board, everyone wants to know what those troops are like! Let me put your mind at ease; this game has really great table presence with its miniatures. Despite the small size of the normal units, there is a surprising amount of detail in the sculpts that would allow them to take well to those miniature paints that you’ve been sitting on.
The miniatures are packaged in plastic baggies and they all have the disclaimer that they were made from an elastic plastic to help prevent breakage. The tradeoff, of course, is that the miniatures are more prone to bending. Upon unboxing, there were a few miniatures of mine that had bent staves or things of that nature. Luckily, soaking them in warm water brings them back up to shape relatively quickly.
As far as the other components go, I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the player boards are double-layered! If you’ve read any of my reviews in the past, this is probably my number one favorite ‘board game component advancement’ of the past 20 years, so I love this addition.
Lastly, the design of the pyramids is really nice. There’s a fun little semi-opaque gem that tops them off, and it just really adds that little something extra that makes the game feel more like a premium experience.
There is plenty of strategy in the Kemet: Blood and Sand board game. Not only do you have to weigh your options when it comes to playing Battle cards and Divine Intervention cards, but just choosing the right time to attack is a mini-game in and of itself. Factor in the ability to teleport to Obelisks and you actually have decent range on the board at all times.
One of my favorite parts of developing strategy for the game comes from the theory-crafting with the Power tiles, which I interchangeably call upgrade tiles.. There are TONS of Power tiles to choose from, allowing you to go wide with cheaper upgrades, or choosing to go tall with the more expensive, more powerful ones. Both are viable strategies, meaning that you always feel like you can sculpt your gameplan and adapt to the changing conditions on the board.
Because there are so many Power tiles, it can be really daunting during the first couple of plays to see which ones that you should be going for. There is a definite advantage to seasoned players of the game who have had the opportunity to use trial and error in determining which tiles work out best with one another. It is helpful that each of the colors deals with specific aspects of the game. For example, Diamond tends to deal with Prayer Points and Divine Intervention, while Onyx tiles are more concerned with Strength and Defense.
Overall, the aesthetics of the Kemet: Blood and Sand board game work really well and evoke that ancient Egyptian feeling that you’d expect. The Battle cards have a very clean and clear look with their iconography. The Divine Intervention cards are the same way, although those almost feel a little too basic for my tastes.
My only other issue with the aesthetics isn’t something that affects gameplay at all, but the rulebook feels busy in its layout. There are a lot of boxes that serve as tool tips that break up the content, but they almost seem to fade away and not really stand out. Additionally, some concepts are described using acronyms (like PP being Prayer Points), but the places they’re defined aren’t intuitive. In the case of Prayer Points, the first acknowledgement of Prayer Points being PP is under the Night Phase rule.
But as far as the art is concerned, artists Arnaud Boudoiron and Pierre Santamaria absolutely knocked it out of the park. It reminds me a lot of the old Age of Mythology PC game, which has some really evocative Egyptian imagery.
So who is the Kemet: Blood and Sand board game made for? Well for one, if you were a fan of the original release from a decade ago, I’m sure that you would at least want to check out the improvements in the new version. From what I can tell, a lot of the components and artwork share similarities, but the gameplay has changed a bit.
Also, if you’re into the Egyptian theme or wargames, you’ll find a lot to like here. That goes for anybody who enjoys games like Risk or Smallworld, but who want a some more crunchiness to sink their teeth into. The game itself is mildly complex due to all of the options that you have, and the action lists seem quite lengthy. I’d also say that in today’s age of playing many board games once and putting them up on the shelf, you’d want to play this one a few times to really get the feel of its breadth.
Kemet: Blood and Sand has tension in droves! The map is only so large and all of it feels decently accessible at any point in the game. So the threat of warfare is immediate and constant. There’s no escaping it!
The combat reveals are always nerve-wracking as well. Did you pick the right card? Are you making the correct choices in playing Divine Intervention cards at the right moment? Are you choosing Powers that synergize well with each other? The board is also limited depending on how many players are in the game, which I’ve found keeps the excitement high; there’s just enough space for everyone to fight over.
I also really enjoy the Night phase, because it feels like you just get a bunch of stuff to help you out. Usually you have to discard Veteran tokens to get benefits, which only incentivizes players to keep the combat coming. There’s also a bit of gamesmanship when it comes to bluffing. Players are more than welcome to ask about whether you’ve played Divine Intervention cards, but you aren’t required to be truthful in your responses. If you have a good poker face, it’s time to break it out!
Kemet: Blood and Sand: Sun for the Sun God!
Kemet: Blood and Sand is one of those board games that helps define the wargame genre, and it has a more approachable feel than some other wargames in the hobby. This might be partially due to being able to recruit fantastical creatures to your ranks, but I’m not an expert!
If you’re looking for a board game with a lot of push and pull action, an Egyptian theme, and an abundance of theory-crafting potential for min-maxers, Kemet: Blood and Sand gives you all of that and then adds a sprinkling of wonderful miniatures on top.
You can pick up a copy of Kemet: Blood and Sand from Matagot directly, or look for it at your FLGS!
[Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Kemet: Blood and Sand from Matagot in exchange for an honest review.]