Khôra: Rise Of An Empire is an upcoming city management board game where 2-4 players lead the famous ancient cities of Greece to political victory. But fair warning: while the game can be great fun with the right people you don’t want to introduce this to newbies or those that lack patience.
While Khôra is a fairly quick game consisting of nine rapid-fire rounds, it’s absolutely packed with rules, tokens and gameplay components, each of which functions differently. In the game, you have to focus on every component because they all contribute to your economy, culture and military success, and can win you the game. But if you don’t take the time to sit down and learn all the rules around them, you can feel incredibly lost.
The basic structure of the game strongly resembles other city builder board games (particularly Improvement of the Polis), but there’s a bunch of extra elements here that may throw you, like the inclusion of events which can change the tide of gameplay, political plays that can give players sudden advantages, and the need to purchase special knowledge tokens to build points.
You’ll need to focus on every element of your city to really succeed in the game — and the balance is difficult to get right.
How To Play Khôra: Rise Of An Empire
Set-up for Khôra is particularly complex because there are so many tokens involved. First, players are required to choose their city (Argos, Olympia, Miletus, Athens, Sparta, Thebes and Corinth), colour (aqua, light blue, black, orange) and set up their player boards. Then the board game master must distribute the chosen colour die, trackers and achievements alongside drachma (four coins each), event cards (that impact all players), politics cards, action tiles and knowledge tokens.
As mentioned, there’s a lot going on.
At the very least, you’ll want to study each component spelled out in the manual and understand how they can help you achieve victory. But even this knowledge may not be enough.
There are nine rounds in Khôra during which players can take actions to grow their empire. Each round, players have two actions to spend (or a third if they unlock this by growing their empire). Actions include Philosophy (gaining a scroll, which improves player progress), Legislation (which advances your citizen track), Military (which expands your troops) and other important plays. There are seven Actions to choose from, and you’ll need to balance your choices to establish a stable city and gain the most points for victory.
Within each round, there are seven individual phases to work through: event announcement, tax, dice rolling for actions, taking actions, progressing your city, resolving the event revealed at the beginning of the round and finally gaining an achievement (if possible). You’ll need to memorise each step within the nine rounds to ensure gameplay runs smoothly.
As mentioned, Khôra‘s gameplay is incredibly complex. If you’re playing with someone who’s unfamiliar with board game mechanics (or even just a little bit disengaged) playing the game can be a very truncated experience.
You’ll need to kick off by experimenting with your actions and determining which ‘track’ you want to focus on. Military is a good option to start with because it means you’ll be able to claim more victory points and knowledge tokens (you need to spend Military levels to gain these tokens) but any track you pursue is fraught with difficulty, so make sure you understand what you’re trying to achieve before you kick off a game.
It’s also important to note that money runs out very quickly and you can easily waste your levels on tokens that won’t help you enough to achieve victory. If you haven’t taken the time to really absorb the rules, you could be heading straight for drachma-less disaster.
Despite reading the rules multiple times and watching this very handy guide from Meeple University, I still struggled to grasp every rule and understand exactly what each token did. Really, it takes several games to “get” how best to earn tokens and progress cities.
There are a lot of very dense systems going on in Khôra that make it difficult to understand the best strategy to win, and how you can carve your way to victory. With patience and a lot of reading you can get by just fine, but don’t expect to be an expert right away.
Khôra: Rise Of An Empire would be a cruel game to introduce to a board game newcomer because it’s filled with nuances and tiny rules that are easy to overlook.
If you’re explaining the game to a newcomer (whether they’re familiar with board games or not) you’ll want to spend a good 30 minutes to an hour going through all the rules, including what each phase contains and how events can shake up gameplay. The manual for the game isn’t too long (15 pages) but it’s packed with details and examples you’ll want to understand completely before you set-up your game.
It means Khôra isn’t a game you can haul out at a dinner party — you’ll need to sit down, learn the rules and plan your whole evening around playing the game. Even after the first few rounds, you may not really “get it,” so make sure you leave ample time to learn.
Once you do understand how to play, Khôra evolves into a complex and engaging political thriller. But you’ll have to put in the work to make the game really flow.
For some people, the effort needed to learn the game may not be worth the triumphs of winning.
Your own interest will depend on how much you enjoy city-builder and management-type board games, as well as who you choose to play with.
Khôra: Rise Of An Empire is currently set to release in Australia around August 2021, but some stores have it listed for an April 2021 release. Contact your local board game shop to find out when to expect it in stores.