Twenty Minutes With Pre-Dynastic Egypt

By Shamus Posted Friday Dec 16, 2016

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 61 comments

Link (YouTube)

I’ve never heard of this game, but it looks really interesting. Rutskarn does his Russian accent in this episode, which means this instantly wins the coveted “Best Episode of Spoiler Warning 2016” award.


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61 thoughts on “Twenty Minutes With Pre-Dynastic Egypt

  1. tmtvl says:

    Egypt Pre-dynastic kinda reminds me of an Ancient Egyptian take on King of Dragon Pass, which is one of my favourite strategy RPGs.

    1. Jonathan says:

      It was on sale at GOG a few days ago, so I just picked it up. It’s fun, although hero quests are a bit frustrating.

      1. Leocruta says:

        They’re not too bad once you get detailed enough stories. Then choose someone with a high magic skill, and you’ve got a pretty good chance (I don’t know how much high magic offsets worshiping a different god though). Having a trickster on the ring to allocate magic to questing helps, as does having magic in reserve. Having low clan magic makes it harder to enter the world of gods. Some quests are easier than others, of course. I don’t think I’ve ever failed Lhankor Mhy’s quest, while Issaries the concilliator or Uralda’s blessing will occasionally end in death. I used to have the most trouble with Elmal guards the stead, but I’ve got a sequence to it down now, and rarely fail.

        1. guy says:

          Here’s the thing about Elmal Guards The Stead, well two things:

          First, the whole initial combat thing runs off hidden HP bars for both the quester and the enemies, with the sacrifices boosting the quester’s HP. Second, apparently talking to the Teller Of Lies is leadership checks, which Elmali are usually bad at, being the loyal thane and all. Subbing in an Orlanth follower might not be a bad call.

          There’s some other fun stuff with the quests; you can actually get an advantage by going off-course. In Chala Arroy Heals The Scars, if you pick “I am not one of you, I am an Orlanthi!” it’s a difficult check which kills you if you fail, but success skips the next two events with no penalty. In Uralda’s Blessing, attempting to get the bulls to help the two-legs costs nothing if you fail and skips directly to the last check if you succeed so you can get trampled to death by bulls. In The Making Of The Storm Tribe, you don’t actually have to recruit Lhankor Mhy or the other guy, but I assume it makes the last check easier. In Orlanth And Aroka, you can get the Klanth by killing Dagda the second you meet him, but it’s a brutal combat check, doesn’t count as a success, and eludes most of the penalties for failure but may strengthen Chaos.

      2. Miguk says:

        I savescum on those a lot. I’ve never been able to predict whether I have a chance of success or not. I hope they give some better hints about that in the sequel Six Ages.

        1. guy says:

          There’s an extremely high random factor in it. My usual rule of thumb is that if someone has at least renowned in the key stats, they’re usually good with 2 points in heroquests and a clan helper, while Excellent is usually enough with three points and the help of a tribe (and 8-10 stored magic; call on favors if you have to). The Making Of The Storm Tribe seems to be the easiest, needing only Excellent leadership before joining a tribe, while the other Orlanth quest is a brutal combat check that even Heroic might not get you through, and Uralda’s Blessing is a famous meatgrinder.

      3. guy says:

        The mobile and steam versions are updated; they’ve got new events and a lot of quality of life improvements, although the steam version does have some irritating interface issues because they decided to copy over the mobile interface changes when bringing in the new stuff. Still, I’d recommend picking them up if you like the game.

        Notable improvements:
        -Removed the hunting and children magic categories at sacred time, because no one took them since they were useless.
        -Removed the crafter micromanagement button because the correct number of crafters is “all of them”
        -Stopped making you micromanage crop type allocations and weaponthane patrol rates
        -Shows rewards from events onscreen so you don’t have to guess how many goods you got from “much loot”

    2. MichaelGC says:

      Josh is an aficionado of King of Dragon Pass if I rightly remember. So, that might be a nice option for a future episode of Some Number of Minutes Basically Guaranteed Not to Equal Twenty, er, With.

  2. Grimwear says:

    Holy crap if Josh is telling the truth I have never caught on to the fact that the 20 Minutes with is a play on the whole Twenty Sided name. Now I know and knowing is half the battle! Can I get a G.I. Joe?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Aye right! I had essentially this epiphany about a week ago. Haven’t looked back since!

      But … yeah. Felt clever for about three seconds. Then not.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      That had never occurred to me either.

    3. Ander says:

      And not actually taking twenty minutes is very meta in that the site hasn’t been about twent sided things for about a decade.

  3. Narkis says:

    “Twenty Minutes With”

    37-minute long video.

    This is so wrong…

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Well, if we were going to be pedantic (he says, making a poor job of feigning reluctance)… they do spend twenty minutes with the game. It’s just that (in this instance) they spend a further 17 minutes with it, too.

    2. Humanoid says:

      For Bloodborne, their hour-plus video was probably 20 minutes of gameplay if you discount the loading screens.

  4. Droid says:

    At first I thought this was going to be a modern reboot of Sierra’s Pharaoh game.

    1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Yes, I was much more excited when I thought this was an update of Pharaoh and Cleopatra. But we’ll check it out.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wait a second,this is precivilization.Why did they change the name of it?

    Anyway,this is the third game in a series.It started as a flash game,then it was a phone game,and now this.

    1. CruelCow says:

      I’m guessing they are worried about the other game in the genre with the very similar name

      1. MichaelGC says:

        And from the fonts and the overall look they might have been originally planning to welcome such an association! I assume legality then supervened…

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Well originally the game was not supposed to be played as a regular pc game.Like I said,it was a free flash game.

          As for legality,I doubt firaxis had a legitimate claim.They dont own the word civilization after all.Thats why civilization call to power was a thing in the first place.Plus this game is distinctive enough.

          1. MichaelGC says:

            You’re right, I reckon – I looked into a bit more (although only a little bit, so I only know one side’s views), and it sounds like it wasn’t legality so much as muscle-flexing. 2K complained, and Valve took the game off Steam.


            There’s a post saying that what they’ve done is change the name so that they can go back up on Steam whilst they work through the ‘trademark issue’ with 2K (but that’s on Facebook so I’m not going to link to that).

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Ah yes,good old 2k.Its a shame they are the publisher behind firaxis,because those guys are really cool and care about the games they are making.

          2. Humanoid says:

            But there was also a reason Call to Power 2 was called just that.

    2. Retsam says:

      I’m wondering if the name was changed because “precivilization” can be considered a bit of a slur, while “pre-history” is a less loaded term.

  6. I don’t think it’s possible to build a Civilization on 18 people… Any number in the tens requires interbreeding, disease, and death.

    Besides that, agriculture came, like Josh said, around 10,000 years ago. There were agriculturalists in Egypt before the dynasties. And settlements.

    1. Stratification does exist by this time, but the family unit is most important.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      There are calculations as to how many people would be needed to start a civilization with no inbreeding,and I think it was somewhere around 100.That is assuming extremely low mortality,of course.

      However,this is egypt,they did practice inbreeding a lot,so 18 people it is.

      1. Thomas says:

        I also can’t remember the exact number but I think it might even be as high as 500

        1. Thomas says:

          160 people is a successful size socially but you’d need to mix with other people groups at some point to maintain genetic diversity.

          That’s low mortality rates too

          1. That’s an interesting read. I didn’t know that.

            Still, games like this are somewhat educational in regards to history, especially when they’re linear. And 18 people is not a lot. It would probably make for intuitive warfare.

      2. Joe Informatico says:

        I don’t think there’s evidence the majority of Egyptians engaged in incest. The societal elites, sure, but that was to keep property in the family. This wasn’t an uncommon practice in the East Mediterranean anyway–the Macedonians had similar practices.

    3. Decius says:

      Immigration is a thing too.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Guys,there is a perfect game you should give a try next time:

    Shadow tactics:Blades of the shogun

  8. MichaelGC says:

    Was that hippo near the very end laughing at the Titanic reà«nactment at the far end of the raft or fus-ro-dahing everyone into the floodwater?

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Nah, the flooded river meant he was eating everyone conveyor-belt-style. :)

      1. MichaelGC says:

        LOL! Om nom nom.

  9. Philadelphus says:

    “I’m not sure if that actually is a real number […].”
    “As opposed to a fake number?”

    As opposed to an imaginary number, of course, but as I don’t see an i anywhere that number is definitely a member of the reals.

    Maybe it’s just me, but one of my secret wishes is for a game to come along that makes use of imaginary numbers in a clever manner.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      The only one I could see that could use them is shenzhen i/o,seeing how its based on something that actually does use complex numbers in the real world.

    2. Abnaxis says:

      Just wait, one of them will, and it will feature a war between the people who want to use ‘j’ and the people who want to use ‘i’ to represent them.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        J?Bah!Everyone knows that j is reserved for quaternions,and anyone who uses it instead of the God Ordained I is a charlatan!

  10. Rayen020 says:

    you actually sold me on this. It looks interesting. Also could i recommend this game to people who haven’t really play civ games before as a kind of simpler stripped down version?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      They arent really that connected.Maaaaybe you could compare it to the city screen in early civ.

  11. Jakale says:

    The campaigns Set ran in the popular predynastic Egypt pastime of Caverns and Crocoliths are the stuff of legend. Remember that one time he killed Osiris?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Is that a reference to the gods of egypt movie?

      1. Jakale says:

        No, it’s a reference to Egypt mythology and the roleplay talk in the episode about gods as GM. The Set/Osiris myth is one of the bigger ones (also one of the few cases I can think of a Egypt myth narrative, as opposed to “this is how the world works and who all does what” detailing) and so leads to a lot of modern stories about villainous Set trying to usurp the world (First one I ran into was the Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy video game, where you play the two titular characters to thwart Set’s plans).

        Set kills Osiris (I think the first version I heard had him present a special fancy sarcophagus at a party that whoever fit inside could keep for themselves and of course it only fit Osiris, who got the lid slammed on him and stabbed a bunch and then floated out on the river), chops him into bits and scatters those around the country, and takes the throne. Osiris’ widow, Isis, finds all the pieces, puts them back together (making Osiris the first mummy), and then brings Osiris back to life and they conceive Horus after that. Then, because the dead cannot rule over the living Osiris dies again and becomes Pharaoh of the Lands of the Dead while Isis goes around hiding from Set until she can have and raise Horus to take the throne back. Then, there’re a bunch of stories about Horus Vs Set contests and battles and disputes and such and then Horus wins the throne, Set is reconciled/punished with certain duties/gets his own kingdom based on which version you go with, and Osiris gets proper funeral rites, which strengthen him in the Underworld.

  12. Duoae says:

    Interesting game but I don’t really get the appeal if the map and bonuses/materials/resources are static. It seems to me (as a non-programmer – so take this with the disdain it deserves) that it would be relatively easy to make the resources semi-random.

    What I mean by that is you’d have sets of areas where resources can be placed. Within those sets you’d have a list of resources available to the set and upon map generation you would run a little random number generator (doesn’t even need to be absolutely random) to place the resources within the sequential slots of each set. Et voila?

    This way you could still have certain resources in certain areas (say, next to the river) but their exact placement would not be a given…

    Otherwise, this game has very limited replayability for me. Still, good to see games like this so I know what is out there!

    1. Philadelphus says:

      That’s certainly possible; Civ 5 had a set of maps based on continents where the outlines were fixed but the interiors were randomized, called Scrambled Continents if I remember correctly. (And maybe a similar set based on country outlines? I’m not sure.)

      Europa Universalis IV does something similar to what you described; since it deals with the Age of Discovery, a lot of the world is available for colonization at the start of the game. When a province is colonized, it produces a random trade good (things like grain, ivory, gold, spices, etc.). These trade goods are based on a system of scripted weights, so for instance gold will only spawn in certain areas (such as Peru, Siberia, California, etc.), but will never spawn in plains even within those areas, and has a higher chance to spawn in mountains. It’s a really fun system as you end up with historically plausible outcomes without ever knowing exactly what you’re going to get.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      The resources are statically distributed,but they do change a lot over time.The order of building stuff is decided by you,and the events are random.So you could have a game with abundance of food,while on your next game you could barely be scrounging enough to survive.

    3. Aedificatoris says:

      As noted above, the resource levels are somewhat randomized from game to game, and moreso depending on the difficulty. There is actually a demo (yay!) available at least on Steam that lets you play the first 40 or so turns, up to the end of the Falcon Shrine event. It should let you see what the game has to offer; your abilities in that time are only limited by the normal game constraints.

      I cannot be certain, but I suspect, that this was a compromise to stay on budget. I wonder if the developers decided that most people who play this game will do so once, and strove to make that one experience polished and memorable, so the majority of players might be able to absorb the most about early Egyptian history. Meanwhile, they also decided to excise the fun–but expensive–elements that would only appeal to returning players. The map looks beautiful, but it is hand crafted. Achieving that aesthetic quality on a random map would have likely consumed a lot of resources.

    4. Decius says:

      The bonuses aren’t static, but they seem kinda deterministic within a save. At least, changing the order of exploration changed what bonuses I got from exploring.

      I’m on track now with gratuitous savescumming to miss two or three points of the max. I don’t expect to try to max out.

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    A shame that you didnt reach the second stage where you move to the larger map.

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    By the way,this brings up one of my problems with the civilization games:You have to pick a wonder in advance,and then if someone else finishes it before you,all that time is wasted.What they should do instead is have you build stuff like “ancient wonder”,”medeival wonder”,etc,and only once you finish it you get to pick what the wonder ends up being.

    1. Thomas says:

      It does emphasise the competitive nature of world renowned things though.

      Maybe if someone completes your wonder first then yours becomes a lesser version with worse bonuses.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        That’d be quite fun! You could have dodgy knockoff versions. Woodhenge. The Not-Advised City. The Propped-Up Gardens. Small Ben.

        And of course: Dollywood.

    2. Gypsy says:

      The problem is, at least in the Sid Meier’s Civilization games, this creates some bizarre interactions. Since certain wonders are more valuable than others, the correct play is to build a wonder earlier in the tech tree but of an equivalent cost until it has 1 turn left, and then finish the tech for the good wonder and then the good wonder on the same or subsequent turns. This then allows for situations where player A gets the tech for the wonder on turn N and then starts 20 turn build, and player B finishes the tech on turn N+15 and gets the wonder first because he started prebuilding the wonder ahead of time. It’s a neat idea, and it sucks when you lose a wonder race, but it’s arguably even stupider the other way.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Thats true for wonders in different tiers.But there are plenty of wonders that are in the same tier,that even have the same cost and can be gotten at the same time,depending on what you choose to research first.

        1. Gypsy says:

          If you can balance to the point where certain wonders aren’t strictly better than others, then it could work. Since that’s never really been the case, it’s hard to say.

          1. Decius says:

            Did you mean to say “strictly better”? I can think of a lot of wonders that are pretty bad, but none such that one is not more expensive, requires no additional tech, AND provides no benefit over another.

  15. noahpocalypse says:

    Oh hey, Dollywood shoutout! I live in Knoxville which is located near Gatlinburg which is indeed home to Dollywood. Gatlinburg is one big tourist attraction, but some of its stuff is pretty cool. Ober Gatlinburg and the downtown area is really cool.

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