The ancient Egyptians were a funny bunch, what with all that mummification and worshipping of felines, but their zany exploits have contributed to a rich vein of strategy video games.

HISTORY Egypt: Engineering an Empire owes a massive debt to Sid Meier’s seminal turn-based Civilization series as much as to the ancient people themselves.

By borrowing several key elements – city building, combat, and diplomacy – and neatly downsizing them to make the process of constructing your dominion a little more palatable on iPhone and iPod touch, HISTORY Egypt: Engineering an Empire offers a surprisingly playable strategy game.

Toot-and-come-in

You start with a small empire of just one town. Yet with savvy resource management, tactful relations with your rivals, and a policy of constantly upgrading and improving your facilities, you can quickly amass a fearsome army and extend your influence across all of ancient Egypt.

Although I've never had the pleasure of running my own country, HISTORY Egypt: Engineering an Empire provides a seemingly accurate impression of the challenges it must entail.

It’s a perpetual balancing act. To smite your enemies you have to build a massive army, but a large army needs paying and this can drain your coffers if you haven’t already established a substantial population within your cities.

If you decide to hold back on your military aspirations then you need to ensure you upgrade your storehouse so it can hold all of the lovely gold you’ll accrue – otherwise the excess cash gets stolen by looters.

I want my mummy

The need to keep things in equilibrium means that you have to know when to keep potential enemies on your side. Paying a rival nation a tribute for friendship may seem galling when you have designs on making them your slaves, but if they have a stronger army then you don’t want them obliterating all your hard work before it has chance to bloom.

Nevertheless, sooner or later you have to declare war on your opponents in order to progress and this opens up one of the richer aspects of the game.

You can train various units, each with different skills, out in the field. Some may be especially adept at fighting out in the open, while others work best under cover. As you expand and enhance your barracks, you’re able to introduce deadlier, better-trained units.

Entering a combat situation brings up an entirely different display where you can marshal your troops and take turns attacking the enemy. You can decide to automate the battle, though this obviously removes any tactical influence you have over proceedings.

Playing empires

With a large solo campaign and decent hotseat multiplayer for two players, HISTORY Egypt: Engineering an Empire has plenty to offer. Of course, local wireless multiplayer and online battles and achievements would makes this solid game that much more compelling.

It’s also assisted by some excellent presentation and suitably atmospheric music.

Trigger-happy action lovers are likely to be disappointed by the absence of explosive, visceral gameplay – even the combat sections are a little lacking in impact, thanks to the static sprites – but those iPhone owners with ambitions of glory and a craving for a deep, rewarding challenge will thank Osiris for this excellent app.