1999’s The Mummy continues to be one of the best blockbuster films ever made. In the same vein as the classics that birthed the blockbuster genre – such as Jurassic Park and Jaws – The Mummy may initially come across as a brainless spectacle that only deals in (surprisingly well-aged) CGI effects and quips. But at its core it’s a film that oozes charm and a lot of heart. The storyline is solid - a group of mismatched heroes accidentally awaken an evil mummy and must defeat it - the jokes are funny and the performances from the likes of Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz are fantastic.
A similar statement can be applied to the third entry in CMON’s unofficial ‘mythic trilogy’ of board games, Ankh: Gods of Egypt. Designed by Eric Lang - the creator of the first two entries in the series, the Viking-themed Blood Rage and Rising Sun, based in the Edo era of Japanese history – Ankh is also inspired by Ancient Egypt, enabling players to take the role of rival deities attempting to remain relevant in the face of a crumbling empire and the rise of monotheism. The components for Ankh are impressive, providing players with detailed miniatures for each of the gods and their various armies, as is the game’s artwork – which depicts the likes of Anubis and Osiris in all their gruesome glory.
Ankh ticks all the boxes when it comes to providing a blockbuster experience as there’s spectacle to be found in its gameplay as well as its presentation. As gods, players have access to variety of impressive abilities – such as being able to trap enemy units in a netherworld or summon creatures back from the dead – epic events occur throughout the course of the game and it has one hell of a climax where at least one player is eliminated. Whilst Ankh doesn’t provide the kind of deep strategic experience that other wargames, such as Dune, and perhaps its closest comparison, Kemet, offer, that doesn’t mean that the game is without substance.
Ankh’s events are like the set pieces in a blockbuster film in that they serve as a release of tension.
As their chosen deity, players take turns to perform up to two actions, which can include things such as spawning their units on the board or acquiring more followers, the main currency of Ankh. Every time a player performs an action a marker is moved along a track for that action, with the last space on that track triggering an event. Ankh’s events are like the set pieces in a blockbuster film in that they serve as a release of tension. While the camel drives – which see players creating new regions on the board with a line of camels – and monument-claiming do more to drive up tension than release it, conflict events are where the action really kicks off.
Battles and point-scoring both occur during conflict events, with fights breaking out across all regions containing rival gods and their armies – in some cases leading to an absolute bloodbath as plagues spread and monstrous creatures devour hapless soldiers. The conflict events in Ankh are comparable to the set pieces of The Mummy in that the entire experience is built around them - whether they be a confrontation in a hotel or a race across the sand dunes. However, also like The Mummy, they’re not all that the game has to offer.
The events of Ankh would not be as effective as they are if not for its other gameplay mechanics.
The Mummy may be a traditional blockbuster with action sequences and a predictably happy ending, but it would be entirely forgettable without the elements that make it unique - namely its characters and their shared chemistry. Fraser as Rick O’Connell is iconic, presenting a cocky yet goofy hero who is incredibly charming when paired up with Weisz’s bookish Evelyn Carnahan and John Hannah as her cowardly brother, Jonathan. The main trio, alongside Oded Fehr as the capable Ardeth Bay and the slimy Beni Gabor - masterfully played by Kevin J O’Connor - form the heart of the film and make it more than simply a series of set pieces. (Something that the 2017 reboot of The Mummy failed to do.)
Likewise, the events of Ankh would not be as effective as they are if not for its other gameplay mechanics. Having players be the ones to trigger the events - and benefit from them - forces players to choose between performing the actions that will further their strategy or those that will help them to instigate an event. Players knowing which events are coming up when also allows them to plan further ahead and set themselves up to be in the best position possible when something like a conflict event happens. Using their Ankh powers, their units and their monuments, players can put all the pieces in place to seriously benefit from a conflict event – as long as they can anticipate their opponents’ choices during the fights themselves. Ankh’s events would not nearly be as exciting or fun without all the tension that the game builds towards them.
Ankh is more than another Kickstarter miniatures game thanks to its excellent pacing and solid gameplay.
Ankh does have its disappointing aspects, namely that the god-merging mechanic – which has the worst-performing players team up to control a single deity towards the end of the game – doesn’t live up to the concept’s potential and leaves one player feeling like they’ve been eliminated in all but name. However, it still provides an experience that has both style and substance.
Just as The Mummy continues to charm and delight its viewers over twenty years after its release, despite being a very traditional blockbuster film, Ankh manages to be more than another Kickstarter miniatures game thanks to its excellent pacing and solid gameplay mechanics.
This article was definitely not an excuse to write about one of the most bisexually charged films ever created.