Empire Builder: Ancient Egypt is a city-building game similar to Build-a-lot and other construction titles with simplified mechanics, designed for the casual market. As the chief architect for the rulers of Egypt, the main objective is to build and maintain houses, temples, workshops and monuments. The main screen shows an isometric view of the terrain, framed by a list of level objectives and the timer at the top and a series of construction tabs at the bottom.
The timed mode can be selected at the start, with a limit of three days per level, where each "day" lasts several minutes in the game. The buildings have to be erected on vacant lots using the resources available. Occasionally, some buildings and lots are offered for sale, and the player has the option of haggling to lower the price. Existing buildings can be destroyed to make room for new ones, or sold for profit.
Every building requires a specific amount of building materials and a number of workers to be constructed on the lot. There are separate tabs to order more material and train more workers. Each completed building generates tax income every few seconds that can be spent on the necessary resources. New blueprints are gradually made available from the menu at the construction tab.
Some buildings give extra benefits, reducing the cost of materials and training new workers. Tombs attract mummies, that wander around the streets and have to be repelled with the Staff of Anubis, a magical artifact that temporally replaces the cursor. There's a tab for a series of amulets that act like power-ups, aiding the player by giving gold, increasing the workers' speed, upgrading the houses and helping in many other ways.