Cleopatra and the Society of Architects

March 18, 2009

From the designers of Mr. Jack, Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc, Cleopatra and the Society of Architects plays in about an hour with 3-5 players, ages 10 and up.


(images courtesy of www.daysofwonder.com)


In Cleopatra and the Society of Architects (hereafter to be known as Cleopatra), players attempt to help Cleopatra build her palace by gathering resources (at the market where they draw cards) and using those resources (at the quarry) to choose varying palace pieces to add to the structure. 

When picking cards at the market, players choose from one of three stacks and then refresh each stack with one card each.  Some of these cards are face-up, aiding in the process, but the face down cards add an element of chance to the game. 

In the quarry, some pieces are more valuable than others, but when all of a particular kind of piece is gone, Cleopatra advances one step closer to her inspection of the palace which will end the game (when she gets to space five shown below).


One may be tempted to use corrupted resources throughout the game – in fact, it will become necessary at times to do so.  These resources (typically offering double the amount as a normal card), along with character cards which give special effects, come with a price: corruption tokens.  Which aren’t so bad, really.  Unless you end up with the most corruption at the end of the game.  At which point you are fed to the crocodiles and cannot win. (Live crocs sold separately.) 

You can get rid of some corruption in various ways, one of which is in forming a garden when building mosaics and placing one of your two statues there to claim it as your own.  Then at the end of the game, you are allowed to put one corruption token per square in your gardens and hopefully avoid being crocodile dinner.


Another way to minimize corruption involves managing your hand of up to ten cards.  Corrupt cards count against you at the end of the game, so one way to reduce them is to build over your maximum limit and discard down to ten.  You have to take a corruption for doing this, but one beats the five or six you may get stuck with down the road.


Cleopatra has more than one thing going for it, but one thing can overshadow all else: she’s a beauty.  Days of Wonder outdid themselves on the components, not an easy feat with some of the spiffiness in their lineup.  In fact, it may be the prettiest game I’ve ever seen.  The bottom of the box forms the base for part of the palace, making it impressively three-dimensional.  Luckily, the gameplay measures up for the most part.

There are really only two choices each turn – market or build.  This streamlines the rules nicely, and coupled with the excellent player aids, makes for a short learning curve.  After instituting a house rule that players must refresh the markets with new cards before examining their hands and new goodies, we found that the game moves along at a fast clip.

You may have to think about which piece to build, as a throne section will give more points than a sphinx, for instance, but your selections in the market can be deterministic, allowing you only so many options.  This adds a fair amount of luck to Cleopatra.  Sometimes you really need to build an obelisk to maximize the potential of your hand, but you just can’t get that last stone necessary to build it, which is frusrating.  Most of the time, however, you are able to manage what you have and be competitive.  

Another possible complaint is the lack of player interaction.  While it is true that very few ways exist to directly affect your opponents, I would argue that this is less of a factor than in other games because the turns are so fast and Cleopatra doesn’t have any headache-inducing decisions that could lead to analysis paralysis. 


Components/Presentation: 10/10 – Possibly the most aesthetically pleasing game I’ve ever seen.

Theme: 9/10 – The marriage of Egyptian culture with the fantastic components makes the game come alive.

Mechanics: 7/10 – The possible deterministic nature of the face-down cards you draw in the market and light player interaction are the only real negatives here.

Replayability: 8/10

Fun Factor: 7/10 – Plays in just the right amount of time for a game of this weight, and makes for an enjoyable hour.

Overall: 8/10


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