Nile DeLuxor—A Double-Take Review

NileCoverThe higher Nilus swells,The more it promises; as it ebbs, the seedsman Upon the slime and ooze scatters his grain, And shortly comes the harvest. Antony and Cleopatra Act II. Sc. 7.

There definitely aren't many games that tackle Egyptian culture or lore. This little card game from Minion Games is a self-proclaimed game of "ancient agriculture," set in ancient Egypt, where apparently it floods... all the time... seriously, like on every turn!

So what did we think about it?

The Overview  

Nile DeLuxor is a game about farming, but don't worry, it's not a heavy duty gamer game about farming, like Agricola; it's a lightweight set-collecting card game about farming, and floods, and ancient mythical gods and such.

photoThe Components

Cards—They're broken into suits of seven different crops/colors: Papyrus, Wheat, Lettuce, Castor (presumably harvested for its oil), Flax, Grapes, and Onions. There's also a set of cards called Speculation cards which have two of the seven suits on them.

Nile Deluxor also comes with an in-the-box expansion that features stone and monument cards; these can be included or excluded from the game at your whim.

There are two unique cards included as well: the Flood card, and the Plague of Locusts card.

The Setup

You will play with a number of suits/crops in the game determined by the amount of players. 2-4 players will pull out 2 suits/crops, 5 players just one, and for 6 players you'll use them all. You'll also have to remove the corresponding Speculation cards.

After you've selected the cards you'll be using, set the Flood card in the middle of the table, set aside the Plague of Locusts card, shuffle the deck and deal each player five cards. Then shuffle in the Plague of Locusts card.

The Gameplay

Players take turns in order, and a player's turn consists of five steps or phases.

Flood—See! We told you it floods on every turn! To complete the flood step the player simply turns over the top card of the deck and places it on the Flood card. Floods determine which speculations were correct (and by speculations we mean guesses you made with Speculation cards) and which fields will be harvested. How do you harvest? Keep your pants on!!!

Harvest—Any player who has a field with crops matching the Flood card will harvest the top card of that stack, and place it face down into their Storage Pile. It's important not to let people see what's in your Storage Pile, so keep it face down!

Trade—Trading is a fun way to manipulate the game and is completely optional. There are two ways to trade:

  • Market - You can trade any two cards from your hand and/or Storage Pile for one from the deck.
  • Offering to Hapi (pronounced happy or hoppy?). This allows you to discard two cards from your hand and/or Storage Pile to turn over a new Flood card.

photo(1)The cool thing about trading is you can do either or both of these types of trading in any order, and as much as you want, during your turn—provided you have the cards to do it.

Plant or Speculate—This is where the game can get a touch fiddly. One major rule about planting and speculating is that you cannot plant or speculate a with a card that is showing a crop that is currently the Flood card.

Okay, first let's talk about speculating.

If you choose to speculate, you simply play one or two Speculate card from your hand. If the next card that floods has one of the crops you speculated, then you get to draw three cards into your hand for each correct guess.

Planting—Planting is essentially playing cards from your hand to stacks or "fields" in front of you, with some special rules involved. If someone already has a field of a certain type planted you can't plant another one, unless you have more cards to play than they do on the table—and if this happens, they lose the field. So if you're playing with six crop types, then there will always be a maximum of six fields planted at any point in the game. To plant you have to have at least two cards of one crop type, or two cards of two different types. These can start two new fields, or one of them can be added to a new field. Or you can just add as many cards as you like to the fields that are in front of you already. See...a little tweeky, but not terrible.

Draw —After you've done everything else, you draw two cards, ending your turn, and the next player starts the cycle by turning over another Flood card.

If you draw the Plague of Locusts card—from either the Flood or Draw phase—resolve it immediately by letting them devour the largest field on the table and tossing those cards into the Flood pile. Then draw another card.

After all the cards have been used, reshuffle and keep going; you'll go through the deck as many times as there are players in the game, and then the game ends and scores are tallied.

The scoring is the same brilliant one used by Reiner Knizia in his classic game Tigris & Euphrates: Your score is whatever crop you have the least of. So if your numbers are 4, 4, 4, and 1, your final score is 1.

photo(2)The Verdict

Firestone—The theme here is unique and interesting. I've done trading and set-collecting in the Mediterranean 100 times, but not very often in Egypt. The artwork is cool and stylized, and the colors are easily distinguishable.

Jeremiah—Yeah, definitely a unique theme and a unique game. Designers and publishers like to foist their Mediterranean and European themes upon us with great gusto, and this one definitely breaks the mold in a refreshing and well-executed manner.

Firestone—I wish the gameplay matched the artwork. I never felt that I had much control in the game. Things were changing, morphing, swinging, and all over the place. The luck of the draw plays a big part in it. I suppose it's okay for a filler, but it's just not a very good filler. That's a broad and crowded category, so you better be awesome if you want to rise to the top. Nile Deluxor isn't awesome. It's merely "fine."

I will say that my only plays were in multi-player games, and I've heard many people say that they enjoy this as a two-player game. I never got a chance to play that way, but I can see how that could cut down on the chaotic feeling I had the whole time.

Jeremiah—The game play does feel a little swingy at times. The fewest I played with was three players, and it definitely seemed to calm things down. The gamers I played with enjoyed it well enough to pull it out every now and then, and it is truly a "quick play" which will get it on the table for us in the right situations.

Firestone—I do like that the game forces you to balance what you're going for. And the Plague Of Locusts card adds some good tension—especially since, as the game goes on, it will come out more frequently. If you do play this, I would suggest playing with the Monuments expansion. They make the game a bit more interesting and add some strategy.

Jeremiah—The Monuments expansion does create some opportunity to break the game play up, so that every turn isn't the exact same as the one before it. It's worth pointing out, due to the nature of the theme this game is set in, that when you use the monuments expansion the monuments you're building are to ancient Egyptian gods. Also, when you choose to trade in cards in order to flip over another flood card, you're making an offering to an Egyptian god. Was I totally tweaked out and felt like I was performing pagan rituals when I played this game? No. Are there folks who might see this differently? Yes. Be aware of it, but I wouldn't write the game off on this merit alone—and the Monument cards are an optional expansion anyway, so they can be left out if you so choose.

Firestone's Final Thoughts—In the end, I just wanted to have some meaningful decisions to make, and more control. I know they're not terribly similar, but if I want to play a set-collecting agriculture game, I'm going to pick Bohnanza every time over this. I say leave this one on the shelf...

Jeremiah's Final Thoughts—With its unique theme and unique scoring system this one stood out a little more than most games in that "here's a filler card game" genre. There is a decent amount of luck of the draw involved, but not enough to kill the game for me. I'll bring it out with casual gamers, or one-on-one with my wife. So I say, in the right situations: put this one on the table!

We'd like to thank Minion Games for providing a review copy of Nile Deluxor. It in no way affected our opinions of the game.

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