Imhotep: The Duel Review

You know what I look for in my world leaders? Competition. I want my world leaders to treat society as a game that must be played to win. I want giant monuments erected just so that they’re bigger than the other guy’s monument. I want to build pyramids that are different than anyone else’s pyramids. And I want my burial plots to be ceremonial and way too close together.

Luckily, I’ve got Imhotep: The Duel to make all my dictatorial dreams come true.

Walk Like an Egyptian

Players take on the role of Egyptian power couple Nefertiti and Akhenaten, who are vying to… build the best kingdom? But somehow are working together? I’m not really sure I follow.

But even if the back story doesn’t make sense, the Egyptian kingdom-building theme certainly shines through during gameplay. Similar to the original Imhotep, players will take turns placing workers or unloading boats. 

Workers are placed on a 3×3 grid that is bordered by boats on two of the sides. The position a worker occupies determines the boats where the players receive rewards. Whenever two or more workers are aligned with a boat, it can be unloaded. At that point, the goods found on that boat are passed out to the players according to the position of their workers in the line, and then the workers are cleared from the board. In addition, the boat is reloaded with goods and placed back into position.

Play continues until all of the goods are gone and all but one of the boats has been unloaded. At that point, players add up their points, and whoever has the most wins!

Work Hard for the Money

Points are obtained in a variety of ways through the tiles you’ll be collecting. Tiles will score you points in different ways based on the side of the player boards that you are using. Some point scoring mechanisms are fairly straightforward, as with one with the obelisk. Each obelisk tile that you collect gets you one victory point, and the player with the most obelisk tiles get s a six point bonus. Others can be a little more complex, like one version of the burial chamber. In that area, you score points for each section of numbered tiles you have collected in a row, with more consecutive numbers earning you more points.

In addition to point-scoring tiles, there are also some action tiles which you can use to have a more powerful turn. One tile, for instance, allows you to place two or three workers on a turn instead of just one. Another tile allows you to both place a worker and unload boats on the same turn. 

The game’s rules are fairly straightforward, but there are a variety of strategies that players can take. Some players may want to focus on just one or two scoring opportunities, while others may try to get a little in each one. Most of your turns will be focused on getting more points, but sometimes you’ll need to get those action tiles to pull off bigger moves for bigger points down the line.

You’ve Got to Fight… For Your Right…

But let’s not forget that this is a “duel”, and you’re not just out there building these giant structures on your own. There’s another player who’s trying to implement their strategy, which will obviously get in the way of your own. That’s why some of your work in the game has to be a little defensive.

How does that work? Well, you have to have at least two workers to unload a boat, but none of them have to be your workers. So sometimes, you may unload a boat early that your opponent is working on so that they might miss out on one of the boat’s tiles. 

In addition, every position on the board aligns with two boats. So you might see your opponent obviously trying to get the resources from one of the boats, and you will instead unload the other boat so that the worker is no longer there. These elements of “take that” isn’t just good strategy – it’s 100% necessary if you hope to win the game.

To Buiiiiiiiillld Tombs!

Gamers who enjoy the original Imhotep will have one major question about Imhotep: The Duel, why should I buy this game when the original already has a two-player variant?

While the mechanics are similar, this game has obviously been built with two players in mind. The game flows much more smoothly due to a lack of rounds in which the boats must be reset each time. When the boat is emptied, you simply grab three more tiles, add them to the boat, and you’re ready to go. 

The placement of workers on the grid also provides a strategic element that the original is missing for two players. While I appreciate the way in which boats are loaded when there are more players in the original, I don’t think it works as well when you drop down to two. The approach in Duel assures that you’re impacting two boats every time you place a worker, forcing your opponent to make several considerations before they take their turn.

Do I Really Need Two Pyramids?

So who is this game for? Well, if you’re a lover and consistent player of two-player games, then I think you should pick this up. It doesn’t quite hit the level of 7 Wonders Duel for me, but It’s definitely better than the original’s two-player variant. But even when considered without regard for the original, it provides a solid gaming experience for you and another person.

But what if you already own the original? Well, I would honestly say it depends on your budget and your love of two-player games. I don’t know that it’s different enough to qualify as a “must buy”, but I would certainly say that you should consider it if you’ve got the funds.

Overall, Imhotep: The Duel is yet another solid two-player addition to my gaming shelf, and I’m greatly looking forward to the terrible national rulers that my wife and I will be in all of our future game sessions together.

The images provided are from the German version of Imhotep: The Duel. Don’t worry, the US release will feature English text.

Check out our Quick Look of Imhotep: The Duel that we filmed at Origins this summer!

You can get a copy of Imhotep: The Duel at your local game store or online at Amazon.


  • A very good two player experience
  • Easy rules set with room for different strategies


  • May not be different enough from the original to necessitate a second purchase
  • What’s the story here?


Ric White

I teach math for a living and enjoy time with my super awesome wife, awesome kids and almost as awesome dog. I like card and board games, and I truly enjoy learning and experiencing new games whenever I can.

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