Boardgame Review: Cleopatra and the Society of Architects


Cleopatra and the Society of ArchitectsRegular gaming readers may have gathered that I’m a big fan of the games produced by Days of Wonder; they make beautiful and fun games that don’t strain the brain and are perfect to play with a few friends and a few drinks. Cleopatra and the Society of Architects is their newest production, and it raises the bar yet again. While some gamers would call it over-produced, since DOW have managed to pack in a lot of plastic components and kept the price at the usual level, what’s wrong with a little bit of overproduction I say?

Cleopatra is a great game to play with non-gamers as well, as the rules are easily picked up. It basically follows the Ticket to Ride model of collecting cards in order to get points, only instead of building train routes across America or Europe, you’re an architect in ancient Egypt building parts of Cleopatra’s palace. First, you turn over the box and it becomes the framework of the palace, along with two boards that go on top of and in front of the box. The players can visit the market (draw cards) or trade combinations of their artisan, stone, marble, lapis-lazuli and wood cards for plastic pieces that are placed on and around the palace—a processional of sphinxes, two obelisks, the main doorframes, the walls of the palace, garden mosaics and the pedestal and throne—receiving money, or talents for each piece they build.

Cleopatra and the Society of ArchitectsThere are ways of speeding up the process with special cards and cards with double the usual number of resources, but they’ll cost you Corruption Amulets, as you participate in shady deals to get ahead of your architect rivals. Your Amulets are kept secret in a cardboard pyramid and revealed at the end of the game, and the most corrupt of the players is immediately fed to Cleopatra’s pet crocodile—or, in less prosaic terms, loses. The richest of the remaining players wins the game.
There are ways of getting rid of Corruption however. Occasionally, an Offering to the Great Priest may be made, where players blind bid Talents in an attempt to lose Corruption. And you can build Sanctuaries in the palace garden where Corruption Amulets are placed at game end.

In our first game, I managed to come out the richest architect—but unfortunately also the most corrupt. Pet food.
Four hieroglyphs out of five.

Cleopatra is a fun game, and well worth purchasing. Some die hard gamers might wish for more choice and strategy and less luck, but this is a game for the family and for a bunch of friends spending an enjoyable hour together. The rules are simple but I’ve whipped up a one-page rules summary that includes the official two player rules posted on the DOW website. As always, it’s available in the Freebies section here.

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. anaglyph
    Sep 11, 2006 @ 13:56:02

    Hey, so when are we playing??

  2. UniversalHead
    Sep 11, 2006 @ 13:58:59

    First chance we get!

  3. steelbuddha
    Oct 03, 2006 @ 01:16:07

    I needed a creepy game for the Halloween season, so I picked up Barrow Hill at my local games store. I noticed that your name appeared in the credits for package redesign. I was just curious as to what of the work was yours.
    Pretty decent game, too.

  4. Universal Head
    Oct 03, 2006 @ 08:47:27

    Yep, they’re one of my regular clients: Got Game Entertainment. I do package re-designs for their computer game releases. I get a whole bunch of assets – screenshots, sometimes a logo (or I have to design one), 3D graphics etc, and make up the packaging in the same style, adding original touches as much as I can. Sometimes it’s a pretty close rework of the original box (eg Bad Mojo) sometimes I do a whole new 3D cover illustration and do the lot almost from scratch (eg Squad Assault). Other examples here:
    So how’s the game? Packaging turn out OK? (I haven’t seen a final copy myself yet.)

  5. steelbuddha
    Oct 04, 2006 @ 01:13:48

    Ha! I have Bad Mojo (redux) as well!
    I had a choice between a couple of games, this and Scratches and I chose Barrow Hill based on the more “solid” feel to the packaging. So, I’d say you did a stellar job.
    The game’s interface is reminiscent of Myst in its hypercard infancy – nothing wrong with that – but with a creepy feel. The sound and overall production design is very impressive and actually made me jumpy, which is a rare thing. I’ve never been afraid of a stone before.

  6. steelbuddha
    Oct 04, 2006 @ 01:46:54

    Heh. I just noticed that GotGame did Scratches, as well. Was I choosing between two of your pieces?

  7. Universal Head
    Oct 04, 2006 @ 08:54:34

    No – I didn’t do Scratches, so I’ll pass your comment on to my client! 🙂

  8. pil
    Oct 05, 2006 @ 14:12:37

    I can testify as a UniversalHead test case – it was really easy to learn and LOTS of fun (especially as I won both times). What’s next, Head?

  9. Universal Head
    Oct 05, 2006 @ 14:25:07

    Peruse my game collection and see what strikes your fancy Pil!

  10. Universal Head
    Oct 05, 2006 @ 14:33:19

    Actually, after some thought, I reckon ‘Shadows Over Camelot’ is next for you and William.