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Subject: On learning Cyclades all over again: a microreview rss

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Mark Turner
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Cyclades has always been one of my favorite games - surpassing its often more celebrated cousin, Kemet, due to the exquisite tension of the auction mechanism, the variety of gameplay, and the creative flourishes it encourages.

I bought and enjoyed the Hades expansion, although I made limited use of the heroes and the divine favours and magic items... It was mainly for the god of the underworld's ability to shake things up a bit. But as fun as it was, there was always something a bit clunky about the Hades modules, which somewhat undermined the elegance of the original game.

Titans corrects all those mistakes and more.

First, the new God. Kronos and his Titans performs much the same function as Hades, reducing the straitjacket of the original (no more inability to move), but in a more consistent way, and not losing the delicious competition of the auction. He's now there all the time, and boy do those Titans make a difference to tactical and strategic options.

Second up, the special metropolises. These are not a huge addition, but add some enjoyable flavour and a benefit for rushing to an early city.

Then the 5 artifacts. These are inspired. The pieces themselves are very nicely sculpted, and the powers are significant enough to make everyone think twice when they emerge.

Then, perhaps the most important change: the map. This is a fundamental change, make no mistake, leading to the capture and definition of contiguous territory, establishment of borders and rising concern over unguarded frontiers.

Finally, the option for teamplay is a wonderful addition - and something that doesn't happen enough in these games.

Combined, the modules make for a surprisingly different gameplay experience. This is not your normal Cyclades... in fact, for those familiar with the original, the experience can be quite disorienting.

First up, the Titans can really take you by surprise. Nothing is ever safe any more, and you need eyes in the back of your head to watch out for surprise flanking maneuvers and lightning attacks.

Second, the switch from islands to territories takes some getting used to. Access is much easier, and the need to shore up borders and erect defenses increases. It's also easy to forget certain rules - like the 'last island' rule, which becomes the 'last territory' rule.

Third - the victory condition. This is a big deal. A team which gets 3 metropolises has to hold on, and have the most money in the event of a tie. This is huge, in that the bottom God suddenly becomes much more desirable, and you need to think twice about spending all your money in a magnificent flourish.

No use grabbing your city with the top God, only to watch your work come undone over the rest of the round. Also, watch out for the new military victory rule - it can sting.

Teamplay itself is surprisingly intuitive, once you get the hang of it. Understanding that you need to win together, but can't use each others' assets and territory, requires some calibration, but becomes clear after a few rounds and leads to some clever collusion plays in the auction.

It all combines to such a new experience, that at first you feel like you are having to learn the same game all over again.

After a couple of rounds you will notice one team romp ahead, and it will start to look like this is a far quicker game, more slapdash, over in a couple of rounds. But then players grow more bold, frontiers fray, the auction becomes more pointed, and somehow, that early victory doesn't transpire. Denial strategies kick in. Holding the territory for the whole turn is not so easy as it looks.

And bit by bit the old familiar patterns return. When do you use Apollo, to retrench in order to come back stronger? How do you chart a surprise tactical victory through the random array of special powers on the board? Where is the unexpected threat coming from?

As the new map and teams and Titans start to take on a more familiar hue, you come to realise this is still very much the game you first fell in love with, just recast for a more map focused experience, with even more delicious variety in terms of routes to victory.

The auction is still the centerpiece, for all the map based pyrotechnics. And the game is still won by the creative stroke of brilliance that has always been cyclades' hallmark - if I do this, then this, use that monster, buy this card, then I can... Etc.

Every game ends with every player cursing their failure to spot that brilliant flourish that only became clear too late. That misstep in the auction. That failure to spot the weak point. Everyone always feels they could have won, if only they had... the essence of a great experience.

This is, indeed, a top-notch expansion to a tier one game, which more than trumps anything Kemet has to offer, and is a genuine keeper. Even in a rampant cult of the new, Cyclades has assured its continued place at my table.
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Witek W
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Great review of really great expansion! Thanks!
I loved Cyclades before but with this it really blows my mind!
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Barry Kendall
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Very well said! I've just obtained the expansion, haven't played yet but am absorbing the rules, and what you've described fleshes out my mind's-eye notion of how "Titans" enhances things (and, as you've said, refines "Hades").

I'm very glad they invested the degree of effort so clearly shown in this outstanding release.
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zoran
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Thanks for the review. Will you ever play base Cyclades again, does Titans surpass it?
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Mark Turner
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zemus wrote:
Thanks for the review. Will you ever play base Cyclades again, does Titans surpass it?


Hard to say. Given the variety of games my club enjoys, plays can be few and far between. I'll stick with Titans for a while. Then I'll start experimenting!
 
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adrian bai
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So is it essential to purchase Hades now that Titans seem to correct the problems Hades brought about?

 
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Joe Masinter
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The main complaint about base Cyclades seems to be the inability to attack anyone without first taking Poseidon to set up fleets for an attack, then Ares to invade. This takes at least 2 turns, usually more since those gods are hotly contested. That's a lot of time passed before you can launch an assault. I think that's fine though for players who aren't wanting much direct conflict in their games. Base Cyclades seems something like 4 parts Euro to 1 part Wargame, while Titans sounds more like 50/50. Base+Hades somewhere in between.
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Mark Turner
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adrianpeh wrote:
So is it essential to purchase Hades now that Titans seem to correct the problems Hades brought about?



No. But it's nice to have all the same.

When I take Cyclades to my desert island exile, I'll want all the options!
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Mark Turner
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joeeoj010 wrote:
The main complaint about base Cyclades seems to be the inability to attack anyone without first taking Poseidon to set up fleets for an attack, then Ares to invade. This takes at least 2 turns, usually more since those gods are hotly contested. That's a lot of time passed before you can launch an assault. I think that's fine though for players who aren't wanting much direct conflict in their games. Base Cyclades seems something like 4 parts Euro to 1 part Wargame, while Titans sounds more like 50/50. Base+Hades somewhere in between.


Truth be told, I never felt Cyclades base lacked combat.

But Zeus was too powerful.
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zoran
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MrMT wrote:
But Zeus was too powerful.


That is part of the brilliant theming of this game.

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Samo Oleami
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After 1 one play I agree with many points.

I'm meeting occasionally with a group which focuses on these types of game - Clylades, Kemet, CitOW.

Kemet was the first to (hate its guts), because I always loved how in Cylades both the ameritrash part (attacking) and the euro part (auctions) are interaction. Kemet's tech three isn't and I don't do puzzles.

Then slowly the more we played with Cylades Hades the more I disliked it to the point of saying I'm not playing it again. Clunky is one word to describe it. For me I realised how it made the game much more even - more attacking meant you were less safe and the heroes meant you needed more money. So the game with this group became really sloooow - nobody would build buildings, trying only to increase the value of their islands. The game lacked the fun swings and surprises of original and was too economic based for my liking. (And the heroes blocked Zeus' power, why?).

So with this backhistory I've tried Titans expansion ... and liked it.

My impressions:

1.
sgosaric wrote:
It saved my group from its groupthink - things that win you the game (money, troops) are not the same that move the game forward. Metropolises need to be build by someone in order to be taken over. Titans solves this by making it easier to get buildings - some start the game on board, some get added by Chronos for free. Both is good as the game moves along by itself and will finish eventually. Adding bonuses to first two metropolises that are built is also a nice addition and helps with "let's speed things up" idea.


2.
sgosaric wrote:
The big change is of course the map - we're now landbound and with addition of Titans, it's now much easier to move around. Basically this enhances the DoaM feel of the game and moves it closer to Kemet territory. For me this is good news (hate Kemet's tech tree). Because of the auctions and titans the game is again swingy as it used to be. At least that's what first play showed. Team play is interesting as well.


3.
Relics - they are better than heroes, becuase they give you money, not take it away from you, so they speed up the game. Both players on opposing team whined about them after the first play (as I got both that showed up for a low price. Of course it's the game that is to blame, not their lack of foresight)

4.
It happened to me as well - 1 was on one territory when it dawned on me... go for Apollo! 4 gold coins!

session report
sgosaric wrote:
We played in teams - me and trigger happy player on one team, two more victory concerned players on another. First us two were really behind, the other team built a quick metropolis that gave them more money, they got money getting spots on the board, they managed to take over 2/3 of sea trade routes. And yeah, they've hidden that metropolis behind two of their armies. Dammit. I was sitting next to a rich island, but couldn't buy an action to get me there. Dammit again! The metropolis owning player was getting 10 money per turn (when I was on 2 - 4) and could nearly won the game, but we didn't let him get that second metropolis with philosophers. I grabbed one relic as nobody else was keen on having it (their loss - it demanded they pay me 1 gold for overbidding me)

Then I've realised I'm on one space only (yeah, it's harder to notice where you're not on tiny islands) and could grab Apollo for four gold while others were killing each other in the auction. Next turn I built a huge army, grabbed that damned island and the metropolis. Left my home city empty, because who cares. Suddenly I was on 8 gold per turn. A few turns later my team mate threw Medusa on a huge opposing force - the guy had all the eggs in one basket and that basket remained motionless for one turn. Which is when I saw my chance - I was on the first God, my teammate was the only one left to chose, I said: "Go on Appolo. I got this". Going first I managed to build a metropolis (by seeing the giant card - renovator, he changes buildings into a new type) and then I was allowed to wipe out another opposing player from the board who was sitting next to me. You can only do this if your team owns 2 metropolises and killing an opponent rewards you with the third one (ha!). Also they let me get the second relic that allowed me to cure my troops for money. Which also helped me win the last fight. I had 3 metropolises and the only player after me who could stop me was locked by a Medusa. Huzzah!


So yeah, it feels closer to what I liked about the original game - the wild swings. I am growing a bit disenchanted with the whole system (you need to get money to do anything), but at least the first game showed it's possible to gain ground being behind on upkeep. Besides making the game a bit closer to classic DoaM games (with more land mass), it does make the game more sturdy in delivering the experience I loved about it, with different groups. It's great how the game will eventually end and everything constantly moves in that direction, you just have to catch the right wave.
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Samo Oleami
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MrMT wrote:
joeeoj010 wrote:
The main complaint about base Cyclades seems to be the inability to attack anyone without first taking Poseidon to set up fleets for an attack, then Ares to invade. This takes at least 2 turns, usually more since those gods are hotly contested. That's a lot of time passed before you can launch an assault. I think that's fine though for players who aren't wanting much direct conflict in their games. Base Cyclades seems something like 4 parts Euro to 1 part Wargame, while Titans sounds more like 50/50. Base+Hades somewhere in between.


Truth be told, I never felt Cyclades base lacked combat.

But Zeus was too powerful. fun

ftfy

I'm not yet sure on the relics precisely because they block Zeus' power, but they add a movable source of income which is great. I could get all my troops grab metropolis, leave my old place empty, all the while marching with the relic. I'll probably be persuaded by relics, if my co-players don't get in another stupid argument (some are very competition oriented, i.e. upset if lose)

adrianpeh wrote:
So is it essential to purchase Hades now that Titans seem to correct the problems Hades brought about?


I present the perspective of: good riddance, Hades. cool

It shows that Titans was designed to be an almost stand alone, while Hades is your typical "let's add moar stuff" expansion. I'd say the function of Hades was what FFG tends to do (like in Mansions of Madness) - keep players occupied and keep the game alive in the community while the designing team evaluates it's shortcoming and fixes it. I've heard somebody said Titans is Cylades 2.0. It is.
(Hades is more like Windows Vista).

For those players who love to have more stuff Hades probably works. (I'm not, so don't know).
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Gus Esteban Ruiz
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In my opinion Titans complements Hades surprisingly well:

- Heroes were a nice addition but, expensive as they are, they lack moving abilities, so they are too often worthless. Now you can pair a titan and a heroe to get a wonderful war machine. Now you can use & move heroes every turn provided you placed your ships wisely.

- Titans make some minor gods really interesting: Artemis, Aphrodite & Hera can provide you some extra soldiers (or heroe). Place them with a titan and you can move them and atack immediately. Lovely.

- The magic object "Chariot of the Sun" is now the ultimate weapon. Rearrange all your soldiers & 1 titan in the right island and get ready for the great battle of our time.

- Playing with both Hades & Kronos brings some interesting god combinations: sometimes players may choose among Ares, Poseidon, Hades and Kronos. The richest player may probably take Hades but the rest will also have an opportunity to arrange the right defense or even think of a counter-attack. It all depens on their position on the bidding board. Here's where the card "The Palace on Mount Olympus" comes into play and laughter fills the room.
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Samo Oleami
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wolfenn3168 wrote:
therefore no not good riddance to hades. Both hades and titans are very good expansions, I just don't like the the team play in titans, well less and less with every game. We have to try it without teams because it is too imbalanced with team play like a 2 player game. But as i sad both are a lot of fun to play.

Hi, Primož.

Unfortunately I don't have the privilege of trying Hades with other groups, so that's that for me. Am curious though.

We can try Titans without team play, no problem. Even though I've saved your ass and we won!
Given how behind we were behind the other team for the first 2/3 of the game and still won, I'd say it has less of a problem with rich get richer than Hades has (so a bit more "balanced"). Well, they shouldn't have let me buy two Relics, what were they thinking...
 
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Ben Rubinstein

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Great overview, and I feel largely the same! The god Hades was the only thing I liked from that expansion, and Kronos does with Hades wanted to but much more streamlined and less swingy.

I've only played once so far. We had two players new to Cyclades, so I only used the Kronos module. In hindsight, I think I'll definitely add the metropolises next, because they seem like a simple addition.

I'm eager to give the relics a shot, even if they seem a bit too much like the heroes/artifacts which I found clunky in Hades. It seems like the Relic victory condition is pretty impossible to achieve--what are the odds all 5 relics make it out before the end of the game? I might remove the Hades monsters from the deck to make for a higher chance of getting the relics.

The only thing I found a bit troubling with the Titans is the "pay 1 gold to move" and the ability to do it multiple times in a turn. This wasn't really an issue in the base games because ships probably wouldn't be set up for a subsequent attack. However, with Titans moving across the territory? I a Titan led army beat an evenly matched army by the die roll, and then they were able to take another two lightly defended territories for the win with just 2 extra gold!
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Mark Turner
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epilepticemu wrote:

The only thing I found a bit troubling with the Titans is the "pay 1 gold to move" and the ability to do it multiple times in a turn. This wasn't really an issue in the base games because ships probably wouldn't be set up for a subsequent attack. However, with Titans moving across the territory? I a Titan led army beat an evenly matched army by the die roll, and then they were able to take another two lightly defended territories for the win with just 2 extra gold!


As far as I recall, the first Titan move is 1g, the second is 2g etc...
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Gus Esteban Ruiz
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MrMT wrote:
As far as I recall, the first Titan move is 1g, the second is 2g etc...


True. Even if you are moving different titans.

They add the flexibility the base game needed. You can attack multiple times in one turn, or attack and return to the starting point or even group soldiers from different islands before your big attack or to defend.
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Rick Baptist
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Very excited to try out teams. We did a 3-player on the new map and with the Titans it felt like a brand new game, you're not kidding! Was a lot of fun, though. Cyclades has so many great modules to it, I don't see it going away for quite a while.
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Mark Dreyer
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we have played a couple of times with Titans - don't own Hades. disorienting is right - the territories vs islands - the initial setup really sets the tone for who is going after what and whom. That one remote island with 3 cornucopia always acts like a battle magnet. the Sandals relic is so OP - just fly around and capture rear areas - gold being the only limitation. We enjoyed the game - but not sure if it is better - just like a different game. Also, when folks fell behind the dominant players they just felt left out and resigned to Apollo and not being able to grab Chronos or Ares.

We are considering going back to the Cyclades island map and keeping the Titans - and developing some other house rules--more later - MARk
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