Playing board games is a popular pastime and a great way for Egyptophiles to connect, whether they’re at home or in the field! The Nile Scribes are avid board game players and we love to share Egypt-themed games that we have played with our readers. Our newest game review is of EXIT: The Pharaoh’s Tomb, released in 2017, a game that allows you to enjoy an ‘escape room’ style activity with a group in your own home. This game was designed by Inka and Markus Brand who have also designed a number of other ‘escape room’ board games including EXIT: The Mysterious Museum and EXIT: The Abandoned Cabin.
Entering the Tomb of Tutankhamun
Recommended for 1-4 players, EXIT: The Pharaoh’s Tomb begins with your group taking a tour through Egypt with a stop in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings. After visiting several royal tombs in the Valley, your group makes their way into the famous tomb of Tutankhamun (KV 62). Suddenly, a hidden door closes you off from the rest of your group and you find yourself trapped in the tomb.
How to Play
Typical of an ‘escape room’ game, the goal of the game is for the player(s) to solve puzzles and riddles in succession, with the answers to each riddle aiding in your escape from the tomb. By finding clues and symbols hidden throughout the tomb, the player(s) attempt to open objects and unlock passageways to make their way out. This means that the speed of the game is determined by how quickly you can solve the ten riddles as a group. Before you begin playing you will need to read the instruction manual aloud to your group, or download the Kosmos Helper App onto your smart phone to have them read aloud! The App also includes a stopwatch to time your gameplay and ambience music while you play.
Fortunately for your group, you quickly discover the Notes of Dr. Ford trapped with you in the tomb, which contains photos and puzzles which will help you solve the Riddle Cards. Solving each riddle will provide you with a three-digit code which you will be able to translate into hieroglyphs to use on your Decoder Disk. Eventually, your group will find their way out of the tomb and rejoin the tour to enjoy the rest of your holiday (we hope!). In the event that your group is stumped by one of the ten riddles, the game provides Help Cards: two clues to each riddle and finally the solution to the riddle. Be careful though: at the end of the game, points are deducted based on the number of Help Cards you needed to escape the tomb. Points are also awarded based on the amount of time the player(s) take to find their way out.
The gameplay is unique, challenging, and perfect for a small group of Egyptophiles. Unless you have played an EXIT game before, solving the first riddle may be the most challenging as the player(s) will have to get used to the atypical game mechanics. We needed Help Cards in the very beginning of the game as we were overthinking the answers, but after that we quickly settled into our pacing and rarely needed Help Cards.
Note: this game can only be played once as some game pieces are actually destroyed in the process of playing.
Egypt in The Pharaoh’s Tomb
While the tomb that player(s) are trying to escape belongs to Tutankhamun, the cover relies on Amarnaesque iconography (the rays of the Aten sun-disk) to set the stage for the non-specialists, while also showing the famous gold mask of Tutankhamun that resides in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The game’s general atmosphere emphasises the elements we traditionally associate with Egypt: gold, mystery, dangerous tombs (although no mythical being in this tomb!), buried treasure, etc. The game also references Egypt-themed elements of pop culture: from the long, eerie incantations of Imhotep from Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy to a notebook with scribbles made by a Dr. H. Ford (surely a reference to the man who brought Indiana Jones to life) to solve clues.
The more serious scholars will be delighted to discover that designers also drew inspiration from recent Egyptological headlines, namely Dr. Nicholas Reeves’ speculation about hidden chambers in the tomb of Tutankhamun. His examination of high-resolution images of the burial chamber revealed what he thought looked like outlines of a chamber hiding behind the north wall. Dr. Reeves suggested this chamber may be the burial of Nefertiti; nonetheless, specialists announced this year after a third scan of the tomb that there are no chambers remaining to be found. Regardless the validity of Dr. Reeves’ interpretation, it was refreshing to see such fresh Egyptological ideas featured in the game.
Thoughts on the Game
The game has a very Egyptomanian feel: references to several kings and queens, decorative motifs, hieroglyphic texts, and images of tomb scenes clearly situate us in New Kingdom Egypt, but there are some anachronistic elements in the game. For example, Imhotep, chief architect of the Step Pyramid complex of Djoser from the Third Dynasty, was mentioned prominently, though by the time of the New Kingdom he would have been associated as a patron of scribes – only to be venerated more prominently in the Late Period. Clearly, his name must have been invoked in the game because of his popularity in Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy.
We must admit that as we played we had quite a laugh at the game’s description of getting lost in the tomb. If you have visited Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, you will probably remember its small size, especially in comparison to some of the Ramesside tombs. Imagining a group trapped in the burial chamber of Tutankhamun with his huge stone sarcophagus still taking up most of the room was a funny image! We enjoyed that Dr. Reeves’ research and the splendor of Tut’s burial were incorporated into the game but we probably would have recommended a larger tomb in the Valley (KV 5?) for the players to escape from.
Play it with your friends and see if you can EXIT: The Pharaoh’s Tomb! Be warned: this game will challenge you to think outside and inside the box!