Review: Imhotep: The Duel

Designer: Phil Walker-Harding
Artist: Miguel Coimbra, Michaela Kienle, Claus Stephan
Publisher: KOSMOS
Category: Worker placement, Tile Drafting
Players: 2
Price: $19.09

Imhotep: The Duel is a 2-player game based on the popular Imhotep. In many ways, it is similar to the original, but it introduces some new ideas that make it feel more cutthroat (which I really like). It is a great, fast-playing game for couples and families.


I have yet to find a Phil Walker-Harding game that I don’t love. From the first time I played Imhotep, I thought it was great, and Imhotep: The Duel is a strong successor. In this 2-player version, players take turns placing workers on a 3×3 grid and collecting tokens from the corresponding ships.

To set up the game, the board is placed in the center of the tableau and 6 ships are placed in its “dock” inlets. Each ship receives 3 random tokens, and 3 more are placed face-down on the corner “depot” space. Both players receive 4 workers and a set of location tiles, where they will place tokens they acquire throughout the game.

Each turn, the active player may either place a worker on an empty space or unload tokens from a ship. In order to unload tokens, there must be at least 2 workers in the corresponding row/column, but it does not matter whose workers they are. For example:

Here, the active player can unload tokens from the ship in the right-hand column or the center row, since both have 2 or more workers on them. The tokens are distributed to each worker present, and the workers are then removed from the board. To illustrate:

Suppose the active player chose to unload the ship in the right-hand column. The meeple closest to the ship (black) receives the outermost token. Then, the next meeple (white) receives the token in the center of the ship, and the farthest meeple (also white) receives the innermost one. If there are only 2 workers present, the leftover token is discarded.

Workers are then returned to their owners, and newly-earned tokens are placed on the appropriate location tiles. Here is a rundown of how each location works:


Obelisk tokens are placed in a single column. At the end of the game, each token a player has is worth a point, and the player with the tallest obelisk earns 6 bonus points.


Temple tokens have 1 to 4 red circles on them. At the end of the game, each circle a player has is worth 1 point (e.g. 9 circles = 9 points).


Pyramid tokens come in 2 colors, each with a corresponding section on the location board. As players place tokens, they stagger the rows, 3, 2, and 1, in the shape of a pyramid. Both colors are scored individually. As the picture shows, the more tokens a player has in her pyramid, the increasingly more points she earns, up to 21 each.


Tomb tokens are numbered 1-12, and any time a player earns one, she places it in the corresponding space. If she can manage to get multiple tokens next to each other – 3, 4, 5, for instance – she earns points according to the table. In the above example, the player scores 11 points (9 + 1 + 1).

Periodically, players will acquire blue tokens. These are not placed on a location tile, but instead, they offer special actions that can be taken in place of a player’s normal action.

When a ship is unloaded, it gets refilled with random tokens from the supply. Eventually, the supply will run out, and if a ship is emptied and cannot be restocked, it is simply removed from the game. The game ends when the second to last ship is removed, meaning that the last ship does not score.

At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins!

Imhotep: The Duel is a fabulous adaptation of Imhotep. It feels familiar as players try to build obelisks, pyramids, and tombs, but its 3×3, tic-tac-toe board adds an interesting spatial aspect that is not in the original. Most of the time, workers are in line with 2 boats each – 1 in a row and 1 in a column – and they could wind up receiving goods from either. This adds some great depth to the worker placement, because players want to make sure that no matter what they end up with, they will be able to use it well.

To this point, Imhotep: The Duel has lots of room for players to mess with each other. If someone is in position to get a sweet payday from a ship, their opponent can unload a different ship first, to make the opposing workers receive tokens they may not want. It definitely has the vibe of the original game, where players say, “That’s a pretty nice ship you have there. Wouldn’t it be a shame if something… happened to it?”

The production is nice, though I miss the chunky, wooden cubes from the base game. I realize they wouldn’t work logistically in The Duel (they really do need to be tokens) but the new version just isn’t quite as tactile. However, the rulebook, art, and iconography are all nicely polished.

It occurs to me that I have never played a 2-player game of the original Imhotep, but I suspect it wouldn’t be as strong as it is with 3 or 4. Imhotep: The Duel, however, really shines as a head-to-head experience.

I give this one a major recommendation!

A review copy was provided by KOSMOS.

The Bottom Line

Imhotep: The Duel is an awesome 2-player experience. Highly recommended.