Cleopatra and The Society Of Architects Board Game
by Gary Walts
(Montreal Board Game Meetup)
Cleopatra and The Society Of Architects
Board game manufacturer:
Days of Wonder
Number of players:
Simple game play and outstanding production make Cleopatra and The Society Of Architects a jewel in anyone’s collection!
The game and gameplay
Players take the role of architects commissioned to build a temple for the famous Egyptian Queen, and are racing to be the greatest contributor to the project. After all, being a favorite of Cleopatra has many benefits. But the competition is fierce, and dirty deals are made to get ahead. The winner will be named the Royal Architect, while the underhanded will become food for her crocodiles…
Cleopatra plays three to five players, and plays in about an hour. Each turn, a player decides if they want to ”Visit the Market” or “Visit The Quarry.” The Market is where players can collect cards representing the materials needed to build up of the temple. The Quarry is where these cards are traded in to actually build up the temple (and is how “Talents” are scored).
The game has a unique card drawing mechanic. When the deck is shuffled, half the cards are face up, and half are face down. When you Visit The Market, cards are drawn from one of three “Market Stalls.” When a player chooses a market stall to draw, that player takes ALL the cards in that stall, then add one card to each stall from the deck. This set up lets you see some of the cards available, helping you find what you need. The stall with four face down cards and a face up “Marble” resource looks attractive, but if you need the two “Stone” cards that are showing in a smaller pile, a decision must be made.
Also, some of the cards have a “Corruption” symbol on them. These cards can give you political advantages or extra building materials. If a player uses these cards, they gain a Corruption Token. Each player has a Pyramid where acquired Corruption Tokens are stored, and no player can see how many tokens that they or their opponents have collected during the game. Corruption is also gained if you hoard too many cards in your hand. Whomever has the most corruption at the end of the game becomes crocodile food. In real life terms, their score is disqualified.
There is also an auction round that can be triggered after a player visits the Quarry. There are five dice, each with a single Ankh and five blank sides. After a player is done building pieces of the temple, that player rolls all the remaining blank dice. Any Ankhs rolled are not rolled again. Once all five dice show Ankhs, an auction round triggers where each player secretly chooses a number of talents they are willing to wager. Whomever wagers the most loses one corruption, while everyone else will gain corruption. Wagered talents are not returned, regardless of ranking.
But where Cleopatra shines is in the actual building of the temple. For example: when you build one of the two Obelisks in this game, you add a six-inch tall plastic obelisk to the board. No cardboard makers that say that you just built a Sphinx statue, just a set of six molded plastic Sphinxes that are placed on the board for all to see.
Cleopatra and the Society of Architects looks spectacular. From the detailing on the plastic parts to the artwork on the cards, not to mention the clever use the the game’s box, you can’t ask for a better looking game.
Pros and cons
The game is fairly easy to teach. Get these cards, build this, and get that many points. The corruption mechanic does add intrigue to the game, and as the temple’s construction near the end the tension mounts.
There is a lot of downtime between turns, however. Save for the occasional Auction round and four cards (out of 110), players otherwise don’t interact with each other over the course of the game.
But the game’s major hindrance is that the game play is repetitive. Nothing in Cleopatra changes from game to game. This one won’t come out of the box very often.
This is a very good game game to play… once in a while. As well produced as this Cleopatra is, and as simple as the rules are, it just lacks replay value. This game is a gem. Magpies will be totally enamored… until another shiny thing draws their attention. 3.5 gem-encrusted footprints out of 5.
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