The Components (Bits):
This game oozes great production quality throughout. The box, cards, board and bits are all of superb quality. Absolutely no complaints here, and the cards are even smaller sized to make room for giant pyramids players will build. The only downside here is the lack of player aid/turn cards to guide players through their turn process. (more on that later)
The Setup and Rules:
Unfortunately I can’t say the same for the rules, they are horribly translated and very confusing. Most people I see rate this game low are victims of the poorly written and vague rules, and I can’t fault them on that. Whoever translated Oh Pharaoh’s rulebook seems to have used an auto translation tool, which is the only way I can explain how poorly they are written. (more on the rules later) Setup is a breeze, shuffle and deal some cards, and the game starts.
The theme is strong with this game, you build pyramids, win favour from the Pharaoh, and achieve victory. The artwork is extremely well done and thematically fitting for the game. Each card number has a unique character on it and are really fun to look at and draw you in to the theme. Absolutely no complaints in this area, a strong showing on all accounts.
Gameplay consists of a combination of card drafting, set collection, pyramid building, negotiation/trading and take-that action card play. The game starts with you deciding if you would like to score a pyramid, if not, then you draw a card. (Pyramids over 11 cards must be scored) After this, you can do any of the following actions – Make Deals/Trade, Build or Expand a pyramid, or play an action card in the form of tax collectors or thieves. This section is followed by an optional card discard, and then drawing your hand back up to seven cards. Then the turn passes to the person on your left, and continues around the table. As you score pyramids you move the progress marker on the board up to the next block. At various points on the board the gameplay slightly changes, for example once four pyramids are scored you can have two pyramids on the table at once. After eight are scored, all pyramids must be three levels or higher to be scored. Play progresses until the pharaoh is reached, then the pharaoh card is shuffled back into the combined stack of discards and draw cards, and play progresses until the pharaoh is drawn again – at which point all pyramids are scored and the game ends.
The Depth and Tactics:
Oh Pharaoh is packed to the brim with tension filled gameplay and light tactics. As you build your pyramid you are potentially under constant assault by your opponents thieves, risking your pyramid from falling apart. Do you use your pharaoh card to block an incoming attack, or save it until your pyramid is large and ready to be scored? Plenty of decisions to make on each turn, and a wary eye must be kept on the other players. Good hand management needs to take place in order to carefully construct and advance your pyramids for scoring. The player that wins most of the time when we play scores lots of small pyramids as opposed to large elaborate ones. This serves to reduce the risk from coming under attack, and helps him rack up a large amount of points rather early on. There are plenty of opportunities for screwage in this game, and I highly recommend people that don’t like “Take-That” games avoid this one. One critical aspect of this game – and also one of the most fun aspects – is the negotiation and trade phases. It is quite fun to made trades and offers for specific cards, and enhances the dialog and interaction of the package. The excitement of forming a large pyramid while your opponents look on in awe is very pleasing in this game, and the tension of wondering if it will make it around the table intact is sometimes unbearably intense!
Oh Pharaoh packs a lot of proven game systems into a small package, and it works equally well with 3 or 4 players. I’ve heard it plays fine with 2 players but I haven’t explored this option. There are absolutely no flaws that I can find in the game other than the vague and poorly written rules (which we’ve corrected – see below). Oh Pharaoh has the signatures of some pretty popular game designers, with some Faidutti chaos thrown into the mix alongside Knizia style scoring. Any fan of Faidutti games will surely like Oh Pharaoh and appreciate the chaotic elements in it. For some reason Oh Pharaoh reminds me of a hybrid containing elements of Rummy, Racko, Pit and Boomtown (all good games in their own right). Building great pyramids and fighting off thieves induces some pretty high pride in this game for me and delivers compelling arguments for this reaching our game table on a regular basis. Bottom line: this is an excellent game that shouldn’t be overlooked, it is pretty, well themed, and packed to the brim with nice game mechanics.
Note: We’ve produced a turn aid and dug up the old Uberplay faq for this game that should greatly improve game speed and clear up any vagueness from the rules. I encourage everyone to visit our site and grab them..
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- Tom Vasel(TomVasel)United States
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Patrick Korner, the translator, offers this rebuttal (from www.boardgamenews.com)
"On to something else, and I won’t spend much time on this but I felt I should at least comment. Recently, I cam across a review of Oh Pharaoh! (the Uberplay / Kosmos game) that had some rather scathing remarks about the quality of the English translation – essentially saying that it was so horrible and vague that an auto-translator must have been used.
Seeing as how I spent several hours working on said translation, and seeing as how I’m most certainly NOT a machine, I thought I’d mention here that the translation was as accurate as the German edition was, and that any vagueness in the rules was not the result of my translation effort but rather the original text. It’s a fact of the industry that 99 times out of 100, the translator (such as myself) does not have access to the game being translated – in fact, most of the time we get a Word document to work off of and nothing else – no graphics, no art. Under those circumstances, it’s difficult to predict where the rules will need additional effort and where they’re just fine.
Oh, and to that same individual who ‘borrowed’ the verbatim text of the FAQ I wrote on Uberplay’s behalf for the game and is passing it off as his own: I don’t really mind, and since Uberplay no longer has the file on their website it’s good that it’s available somewhere, but perhaps some credit where it’s due could be provided… "
Thought that this was pertinent enough to post here.
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I think it is understandable that we assumed it was a "Translation" issue with the instructions to the game. Thats how we labeled it given what we knew, and how it appeared to be written. If that was incorrect (which it appears to be), then the blame is Uberplays for allowing such a poor manual and not providing their translators with a copy to play prior to writing the instructions..
As for the FAQ, when I located it from the archives, it didn't have any credit or author on it. I'd of been happy to credit someone, if there was any indication of who did it - and there wasn't. As such, I updated the FAQ a week ago or so to reflect this. In addition I will credit myself on it, because up to this point it was considered "lost" until I dug it up. Based on my geekmail response, many people were happy to see it back.
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- My rating on this game has increased after further plays, with more competative groups. The negotiation aspect is quite good in this game, and the gameplay is competative and cutthroat with 3-4 people that understand the game fully.
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