Designer: Jacques Bariot and Guillaume Montiage
Publisher: Asmodee and Matagot
It would be easy to overlook Kemet because it’s similar to a lot of games in that you have some units who try to take over some territories in pursuit of some victory points. The thing about Kemet is that it is very polished, balanced, and keeps everyone in the game until the very end. It’s perfect in a lot of ways. As usual, I am assuming you know the rules to this game so I can focus completely on the strategy. Check out the video above or the text analysis below!
After playing dozens and dozens of games, I am happy to report that White, Blue, or Red strategies are all very viable. What will make one better than another is which track your opponents choose because you simply want the biggest selection of powers available as possible. The red strategy involves attacking as much as possible, the blue strategy revolves around always holding two temples, and the white strategy is about winning on technology. I’m going to cover each power, when it is useful, and then go over a happy path of turn order for each color’s best strategy.
White Power Tiles
White tends to be used as support to another strategy because focusing on white will give you more prayer than you can use and not enough battle advantages. I would have liked to see a white power that drained prayer from other players to make it viable as a primary strategy.
This power is OK, but really not very good compared to others at level 1. Depending on your strategy, you will average about 1 action point being spent on praying each turn, so this will let you pray a bit less frequently, but otherwise it is not providing a benefit.
The Priestess is better than Priest because it is passive and it gets you off to a quick start. The 1 prayer discount helps tremendously for the first few turns when prayers are not coming in very quickly. You do not need to spend an action to use its ability and you can see benefit up to 3 times per turn (and will average around 2 per turn). You can use the Priest’s ability at most twice per turn and you have to spend an action to do it, so the Priestess is way better. This should be your first purchase every time.
A player will usually raise a pyramid around 6-7 times in a game, so if you buy this right away, it will gain you about 5 prayer in total on average in a game. Of course if you buy this right away and you raise three pyramids to level 4, you will save 9 prayer. It is very passive because you will be raising these pyramids anyway.
This provides 2 prayer during the night phase of every turn, which is another passive way to get some extra prayer. A game will usually end in 7-8 turns, so this will provide 14-16 prayer spread evenly throughout the game, so that’s a lot.
This is great for an aggressive strategy because when this is activated, you also probably lost a unit or two and will be needing prayer to recruit replacements. It will keep the prayer streaming in consistently instead of in a big burst.
DI cards will turn the tide of many battles so they are extremely powerful. It is very nice to have an extra one each turn but it is a little risky because you never know if you will draw something useful. This can be combo’d with Divine Wound to add strength to your troop after cards are shown.
Hand of God
This is certainly an interesting buy and can save a ton of prayer and action points along the way. If you get up to level 3 white early, this is a very wise purchase, allowing you to take over the technology game.
Often times you will get stuck with DI cards that just do not help you with your strategy. This will effectively guarantee that your card will be useful. It’s just a little too spendy at 3 white prayer.
This will solve your prayer shortage issues. But by the time you get up to level 3 white, prayer shortages are just not much an issue, so this one can be avoided.
Obviously, this one is very good because it’s a VP no one can take away from you. It’s usually the most available one in game since many players never get a white pyramid to level 3.
Priests of Ra
Even more than Holy War, this will solve all prayer shortage issues. You usually want to play this in conjunction with Act of God.
Priest of Amon
5 additional prayer at night is good, but I would rather get Priests of Ra so that they come gradually instead of all at once because sometimes you will lose prayer when you hit your maximum.
This is the only white creature, but he is a badass. If you can get him early, the extra DI cards will really pay off, but even getting him later will give a troop +2 strength in battle. I just wish he had +2 movement because that is WAY better than +1.
Act of God
If you can afford the prayer, which you probably can if you have a level 4 white pyramid, this will be the biggest edge you can get in the game. This is amazing.
Red Power Tiles
This is excellent to have in the game to give your troops an edge in battle when attacking. It is critical in an aggressive red strategy, but a decent pick-up for any strategy. If this is available and you have a red action point spot, grab this guy.
You will usually use a teleport at least once per turn so this will save you a bunch of prayer. It’s so frustrating to have a movement action point left but not enough prayer to use it because you will be leaving a point on the table. This is GREAT in an aggressive, red strategy because you will always be hurting for prayer and you will be moving around a lot. It won’t be very useful in a defensive strategy.
Although this is great, the board layout, creature movement bonuses (which all red creatures have), and teleporters will allow players to move around fairly easily, so this is the least useful level 1 red power tile. Although having +2 movement is very good because it allows a troop to move from any temple or city to a center temple without teleporting, so this can make a +1 movement creature much better.
This is going to take a toll on your opponents over the course of the game and will discourage them from attacking you. The fewer the number of players in the game, the better this one is, because it means that a larger percentage of your opponents will be taking losses from it.
This will allow you to mold your available combat cards so they are a little more beneficial to your strategy. It’s usually not worth the prayer to buy this, but if I do, I will usually replace the +2 strength/+2 protection card.
You will usually use this to take over level 4 pyramids for your final victory point(s). You can also get this ability through a DI card (there is only 1 in the deck) or through the Phoenix creature. It really opens up your options, but isn’t critical for any particular strategy. This usually won’t be used until the final turn, so it isn’t one you need to hurry up and buy early in the game. If you choose this one, you will want to pair it with movement bonuses from creatures or powers to take full advantage of it.
This is very powerful for an aggressive strategy as it will allow a player to easily gather battle victories by jumping around the board from temple to temple preying upon the weakest troops.
This guy wins the best creature value award. For 3 red prayer, you get +2 strength and +2 movement. He is the only creature with +2 movement, which allows its linked troop to move from any temple to a center temple without spending prayer to teleport. This will save a lot of prayer that you would otherwise spend on teleporting, let alone the +2 strength. So good.
Blades of Neith
An aggressive player will have a hard time deciding between level 3 red powers because they are all amazing. This one being as good as the Royal Scarab, but I will usually grab the Royal Scarab first because players over-value the creatures and that gives you a chance to get the Blades of Neith the following turn.
This gives a player flexibility to add strength only when needed, the problem is that it costs a DI card to do it, and DI cards are awesome! Losing a battle hurts SO much in this game because it takes away a permanent victory point, so having the ability to put yourself over the top is extremely valuable. If you get this, you will usually want another source of DI cards, like The Mummy or Divine Boon.
This is always a great buy. You usually don’t want to buy this until you are about to win though so you do not make yourself a target earlier than is required.
The +2 damage can be used to attack the player in the lead to really hurt their troop and probably force them to recall and re-recruit them. This can be a win-the-game move.
This is my favorite level 4 red power because it’s usable immediately and usually is purchased near the end of the game. Not only does it give your troop a 2 strength advantage by killing 2 units before combat, but killing those units will really slow down your opponent. Combining this with other damage dealing can easily wipe out a whole troop no matter whether you win or lose the attack.
The Phoenix is great in battle because of the +2 strength, but the primary ability is to use the +1 movement to fly into an opponent city to steal a level 4 pyramid to cripple them and hopefully win the game. The Giant Scorpion is better if there are a couple turns left, but the Phoenix is better to end the game quickly if you are about to win.
Act of God
Since this is in the red track, it is likely that anyone who gets it will be low on prayer and not be able to use it for prayer-costing actions, but you can always use the extra action to pray.
Blue Power Tiles
It’s very frustrating, and costly, to try to rebuild your army after taking heavy losses. Any turn in which you don’t have two good-size armies on the board, you are leaving points on the table.
Any strategy can utilize this power because you will frequently find yourself defending, but it is very important in holding temples, both by defeating attackers and for giving would-be attackers a reason to look for another target. It is critical for a defensive strategy but decent for others.
I love this one. It is critical for the defensive strategy and will make it very hard to defeat a troop of 6 or 7 units. Unfortunately, players have a maximum of 12 units total, so it will only expand your units by 2 total. Still, there’s something particularly menacing about a temple full of 7 units, moreso than 5 units with a +2 strength bonus. Combo’ing this with Reinforcements will make it easier to keep your 12 units on the board.
This, along with the Snake, is the least expensive creature available. It’s the only creature that gives a protection bonus so it will give your units a longer lifespan. It’s an excellent purchase.
This allows the player to craft their battle hands to make them more protective and possibly strong. I will pretty much always replace the +2 strength/+2 protection card. This one usually isn’t worth the money.
Deep Desert Snake
This creature is pretty bad early on and only gets better near the end when players start acquiring level 4 creatures, but it never provides a creature edge in battle, it only levels the creature playing field so that the winner will be determined by sheer numbers, DI cards, and/or passive strength powers. He is not terrible for a defensive strategy, but you usually don’t want this one.
Shield of Neith
This will increase the longevity of your troops and may even prevent you from ever having to recall them after a battle, which will save you recruiting action points and prayer.
This is great for a defensive strategy, as it will discourage would-be attackers, but it will rarely result in a VP – it just makes it more likely you’ll be able to get the VP for holding two temples. Everyone will just leave you alone.
With this one, it will be very rare for you to lose a battle and will allow you to keep your higher strength battle cards until you really need them. Excellent card.
Obviously, permanent victory points are awesome. Always a good buy, but wait until buying this until just before you win so you do not make yourself a target earlier than needed.
Bolstering troops with 4 additional units is very nice, especially in conjunction with Legion.
A creature and a victory point in one? Yes, please. A blue strategy should always involve getting both the Victory Point power and the Sphinx power since getting battle VP will be less common.
This is another nice, extra-action power. Update: Per comment below, Matagot confirmed that you can use this on a space that already has an action token on it.
Act of God
Of course, this is amazing. A defensive strategy doesn’t need a lot of extra actions because they are not moving, attacking, or recruiting very often, but I am sure you’ll find a use for it.
Red – Agressive
Here you go for strength bonuses, frequent attacks, and your try to advance the game quickly before others can develop their powers. You may never hold two temples and will often recall troops after you win battles. This reminds me of a burn deck in Magic or maybe a zerg rush in StarCraft.
Use your move actions to attack as much as possible, hopefully twice per turn. You will be short on prayer so you need to be economical with it and only buy powers that will give you an important edge in battle. I like this one a lot because it gives a lot of permanent VPs through battle victories and Battle VPs are the first end of game tie-breaker, so a player using this strategy basically just needs to either have the most or tie in VP to win the game, and many games end in a tie for most VP.
To counter an opponent playing strategy, let them beat you in battle, but play high damage-dealing combat cards so they have to recall and re-recruit their units all the time. They will be prayer-poor and this will really slow them down.
Start with a red pyramid at a level 2 and a white pyramid at level 1 because you want a shot at the Priestess and you also want to raise your red pyramid to level 3 ASAP because those level 3 reds are your bread and butter.
Crusade (2) (or High Priest)
Royal Scarab (3)
Blades of Neith
Phoenix (or Giant Scorpion)
Red Victory Point
Blue – Hold Temples
This strategy is focused on getting two temples and holding them throughout the game to keep the permanent temple VPs piling up. Players attempting this one should make sure to grab the blue Victory Point power and the Sphinx because they will not have the luxury of getting as many Battle VP as more aggressive strategies.
When facing this strategy, you can beat it by getting battle VP at a rate faster than they gain from holding two temples. They are not going to be very strong when attacking, so make sure you aren’t leaving troops in temples that they can beat, because that will allow them to both gain battle VP while also holding two temples. Also try to add some damage to your attacks against them, so even if you lose, you’ll at least weaken them for the next battle.
Start with a blue pyramid at level 2 and a white pyramid at level 1. You could also go blue/red to get powers like Charge, God Speed, and Carnage. God Speed would allow you keep a temple within walking distance of your city so you can reinforce it when it gets attacked.
Priestess (or Priest as a backup)
Divine Boon (2)
Shield of Neith (or Reinforcements)
White – Powers and Prayer
This strategy quickly climbs the white power technology tree, then expands to the red or blue trees. Hand of God and The Mummy are critical. This build order shows red as the support color, but you could do this using blue as support too.
Start with a white pyramid at level 2 and a red pyramid at level 1.
Priestess (or Priest as a backup)
Hand of God (3)
The Mummy (4) (Hand of God raised white pyramid to 4)
Priest of Ra
Blades of Neith (3) (Hand of God helping raise red pyramid to 3)
Act of God
White Victory Point
More players in a game means your power selection will be lessened, so this will increase the importance of grabbing powers critical to your strategy before someone else gets them.
You only have two movements per turn, so use them wisely. Wait as long as you can to attack on a turn for your best chance at not being attacked by someone else afterwards. Also, do not just think about whether you can win a battle, but also what you think you will lose unit-wise because of it.
If after a battle, you will be left with a troop of 3 or less units, pretty much always recall them because they will be an easy Target for someone else to defeat them for a Battle VP.
Do not over-estimate the value of temporary victory points. When counting VPs of opponents, do not count temporary VPs until they are anywhere close to getting 8. They change possession way too often to worry about until the game is on the line. Having VPs makes you a target, so going after temporary VPs early will make others try to bring you down, even though temporaries don’t mean anything until later.
Do not creature collect. Never buy more than two creatures because there is no reason to have more than two troops on the board.
When placing actions on movement and praying, carefully choose where you place it to distribute them among levels as much as possible and keep your options open for later phases. It sucks to be left without anything on your top action pyramid level in the final phase when you would rather buy a power.
Going last is almost always best so that you have the best chance at holding two temples at the end of the day and so you have potential targets that are the most battle-worn from battles earlier in the day. The only time you would not put yourself last in turn order is if you really need a specific power tile and you don’t want someone to steal it. Then you may want to put yourself before anyone who has the pyramid level to afford it.
The best part about Kemet is the beautiful board layout that puts all cities the same distance away from the other cities and temples, no matter how far away they look at first glance. Each color track is also VERY well balanced, which is no easy task considering how many powers there are and how different the strategies are for each track. Also, the final day allows anyone within a few VP of the leader a chance to achieve victory if they make some brilliant plays, so it is always extremely exciting. The only slightly negative comment I could come up with is that Kemet has an apparently steep entry barrier for new players in that the powers are hard to understand at first, especially because there is no text on them – it’s all symbols. A player’s strategy is completely dependent on these powers and new players are immediately intimidated when the powers are spread out on the table before them. It’s just something you have to keep in mind when teaching a new player. I usually just describe the level 1 powers of each color and let them explore the rest on their own. The entry barrier is, in reality, not bad at all, but new players will definitely be intimidated in their first play. Overall, the design of Kemet is amazing and I have yet to leave a game disappointed.