Imhotep: the Duel embodies the qualities of good two-player design. You don’t have to have played or enjoyed its 2016 predecessor, Imhotep, to enjoy it. Both were designed by Phil Walker-Harding, whose pedigree includes many excellent and well-loved games such as Sushi Go!, Bärenpark, and Gizmos. The man knows how to make a good game.
A good two-player game has to be tight; there should be no room to hide. But it can’t be a simple zero-sum game either. There should be opportunities for players to control the tempo of the game, and for one player to wrest initiative from the other. Otherwise, the game will feel monotonous and bland.
I:tD borrows the theme and basic ideas of its predecessor. Players take the role of opposing builders in ancient Egypt, competing for resources to build four different types of monument. Each monument scores in a different way at the end of the game. Claiming these resources is the crux of the game, and the mechanism for doing so is original and simply elegant.
The focus of the game is a small central board divided into a 3 x 3 square grid representing a harbour, with spaces for six boats along the outside each row and column. Each boat holds three tiles--usually monument resources, but also various action tiles that can be used to break the rules of the game in some way.
On your turn you have to choose between playing one of your “workers” (ie slaves) into the grid, offloading a boat and clearing the workers from a chosen row or column, or using up one of the action tiles you’ve claimed earlier in the game. Each worker in a row or column gets to claim a tile in order from front to back, but because of the square grid each worker can potentially claim from two different boats. Either player can choose any row or column that has at least two workers on it regardless of who they work for, so you may not get the tile you want.
When a boat is unloaded, new tiles are drawn to refill it, and when the tiles run out the endgame is triggered, with the game ending when all but one of the boats empties for the last time.
One of the great things about I:tD is how much depth there is for such a simple setup. Plus, each of the monument scoreboards is double-sided so there are actually 16 different possible games to play.
Imhotep: the Duel is a great choice for a quick and cheap two-player game with a minimal footprint that is easy to learn and play. Click here to order your copy of Imhotep: the Duel.