Tutankhamun: Cleanse Your Spirit On The Nile

Reiner Knizia's Tutankhamun published by 25th Century Games
Reiner Knizia's Tutankhamun published by 25th Century Games

In ancient Egypt, elaborate tombs were constructed to be the final resting place of nobles’ earthly bodies. In Tutankhamun, players take on the role of priests and priestesses who work to collect artifacts for the King’s tomb as they make their way down the Nile.

Tutankhamun is a set collection game from master designer Reiner Knizia for 2-6 players that plays in about 30 minutes. Originally released as Tutankhamen in 1993, it has long been out-of-print and hard to find. This updated version, published by 25th Century Games, has new art by Jacqui Davis and minor updates.

Tutankhamun Game Setup
Four player setup

How to Play

In Tutankhamun, players will cleanse their spirits by finding sets of artifacts for the King’s tomb while traveling down the Nile. Whoever is the first to completely cleanse their spirit (reduce their points to zero) becomes the next High Priestess or Priest of Egypt.

On your turn you perform four steps: sail your boat, resolve the tile, remove trailing tiles, then score.

To sail your boat forward, simply move your ship forward down the river to any tile. If sailing backwards, move your ship to the nearest tile behind you.

After moving, resolve the tile. If it is an artifact tile, place it in front of you. If its a God Idol resolve its unique power immediately.

Next remove trailing tiles if your boat is the farthest back on the Nile. Remove tiles behind you one by one, and place each removed tile on the Underworld Mat. God Idols removed this way aren’t activated.

Score artifacts if possible, then end your turn.

Soul Cleansing Scoring

When an artifact tile is the last of its kind taken from the Nile, score the set immediately. Scoring is easy, just determine who has the most tiles in the artifact set. They receive points equal value shown on the tile, while second place gets half the points. Reduce their score on the Spirit track. In the event of a tie, the player whose boat is further back on the Nile gets the points.

Scarab rings are the most plentiful artifacts and score one point immediately. Keep them along with your other artifacts in front of you. When the last of the ten scarab ring tiles is taken, the player with the most scores an extra five points.

When an artifact set is scored, place all tiles from the set (including ones in the underworld) in Tut’s tomb. He’s going to want them in the afterlife.

End Game

The game ends once a player has reduced their score to zero. If the tiles on the Nile run out, the player with the fewest remaining points wins.

Tutankhamun game final scoring
Yellow player wins the game by cleansing their score down to 0!

Impressions

Tutankhamun is a fun family-weight game that’s bursting with theme. The artifact tiles themselves create the Nile, while the box serves both as the Tut’s tomb and scoring track. The golden cardboard sarcophagus kicks the presentation up a level, giving Tutankhamun a three dimensional feel. The artwork is vibrant and easy to distinguish.

Aside from the reference for God Idol abilities, it’s also language independent. I loved the idea of cleansing your soul by reducing points to zero, that keeps in line with the idea of how one could ascend to a high priest/priestess.

Tutankhamun tomb
Tutankhamun’s tomb mid-game

Tutankhamun has a decent bit of strategy. While it looks deceptively simple, you’ll often have to decide between pushing ahead to capture certain artifacts before others, or reversing back for a second chance at a tile.

Sailing your boat backwards to pickup a tile is a very interesting mechanic. When I could, I did it to pick up scarab rings or tiles that I saw others not collecting. While the allure of high value artifacts is tempting, scoring lower point sets is easier. With more players, competition is steep.

Ra’s Watchful Eye

Always keep an eye on opponents’ choices. Balancing your collection of artifacts is the key to scoring, even if it means getting second place points. Points are points and try not to let opponents collect a set all for themselves: Get in on them too!

At higher player counts, it can be challenging to collect the majority. This is where the tension and excitement comes in. Sometimes traveling farther down the Nile to collect a tile pays off, if it means taking over the artifact count. But keep in mind tiebreakers are won by the player who is further back on the Nile; sail judiciously.

Tutankhamun game - player's artifact collection
Player’s collection of tiles thus far

The Underworld

What Egyptian inspired game would complete without the Underworld? Its sole purpose in the game is to hold onto artifacts removed from the Nile, but it adds to the table presence.

In a two player setting, the Underworld takes the place of a third player when determining first and second places. If the Underworld has the majority in either rank, no points are awarded.

Tutankhamun game - the Underworld
The Underworld will hold onto lost treasures

Godly Powers

Each God Idol ability provides a great in-game bonus when collected. And without them, the game would be a little bland.

Isis and Horus are my favorite abilities: Isis swaps a scarab ring you possess with any tile on the Nile (without changing your points). Horus allows you to either collect any one tile behind you, or moves your boat to the back of the Nile – behind all other boats and tiles. Moving back does cancel removal of trailing tiles.

When possible, combo God Idol abilities for additional bonuses.

Tutankhamun Thoth God tile
Thoth allows you to swap an to swap any two tiles anywhere in the Nile, as long as both are in front of your boat.

End of the Journey

Tutankhamun has great table presence that will raise eye brows for a curious onlooker. It’s very family friendly (up to 6 players!) and is a could welcome anyone to the table for the first time.

The game’s production quality is great, but I do have one minor quibble. A cloth bag could have been included to help randomize the tiles for setup. I used a spare dice bag — it speeds up setup immensely!

No two games will be alike, due to the randomization of the Nile’s setup. And while the game is rated 8 and up, younger kids can play as long as parents help them to understand the idol tiles. Playtime of about 30 minutes is spot on; Tutankhamun doesn’t overstay its welcome.

If you know an Egyptophile or someone who loves set collection games, then pick up Tutankhamun on Amazon, directly from 25th Century Games, or at your local board game store.

Tutankhamun mid game

The Family Gamers received a copy of Tutankhamun from 25th Century Games for this review.

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

  • 7.5/10
    Art - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Mechanics - 7.5/10
  • 7/10
    Family Fun - 7/10
7.5/10

Summary

Number of Players: 2-6

Age Range: 8+

Playtime: 30 Minutes

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