When we really started getting into board games in the second part of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, I read a lot of geeklists. I did this because I liked looking through the themed lists to get a sense of what kind of games were out there and what they were like. Hellas is a game that really appealed to me early on. It seemed that this game had everything. It had the tile laying of euro games mixed with the conflict of a war game. It was all then delivered in a two player game with a short play time. In 2010, I was able to finally trade for this game in the summer of 2010. Did Hellas turn out to be a summer blockbuster for us or was it a big flop?
In Hellas players control Greek city states competing over islands. An initial set up is done to give each player four starting cities/tiles. After that players take turns. On a turn a player do one of three things. They may invade, explore, or execute a "burst of strength". To invade a player simply moves soldiers from one tile to an adjacent tile. When invading by land the invader simply needs an equal amount of soldiers, when invading by sea they need one solider more than the defender. Each tile can only hold three soldiers, so to defeat a fully defended tile across the sea an attack will need to attack from two locations at one. When a player explores they draw a new tile and then pace it where every the tile can fit following placement rules (must touch two already placed tiles, and must logically fit). If a player has more boats adjacent to the placed tile then they can settle the tile, remove on of their boats, and place a soldier on the tile. If a tile is not able to be placed, the the turn is essentially wasted. A burst of strength allows a player to add more soldiers or boats to the board or draw cards. There are three types of cards that have various effects on the game. It is the unpredictably of these cards that really spice up the deterministic combat. Once a player has control of ten total cities/tiles they win the game.
The Game We Played
My wife began by attacking right out of the gate. In doing so, she left one of her cities weak, so I returned the favor and attacked her. This led to us spending the next turn or two fortifying our positions. While she continued her build up, I focused on exploration and added a couple of new cities by discovering them. My wife then used a card that allowed her to make an attack from a non-adjacent city. She did this to get at a city behind my fortified lines. However, I had a card that allowed me to play on her turn for an extra defender. This meant she lost the fight. She attempted to explore, but drew a bad tile. Meanwhile I kept exploring. I then attacked one of her cities and took it. On my next turn, I used the same card she previously had tried to use and succeeded at taking a non-adjacent city. This was my 10th city so I won the game.
My Rating: 3.5 (it's OK)
My Thoughts: I think I like the idea of Hellas a bit more than I like the execution. I kind of dislike the simple, deterministic combat of the game and how much the cards can swing things. Still, the game is not bad but it is not great either.
Her Rating: 1 (Never want to play again)
Her Thoughts: I feel like I never know what to do in this game. It is frustrating, not fun, and I think it is ugly as well.
Combined Rating: 4.5
It turns out that Hellas is not everything I had hoped it would be. Personally, I would not mind holding on to the game because I like the theme and the game is unique. However, my wife obviously dislikes the game. Since it is a two player only game it does not make much sense to hold on it.