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Subject: 9(+2) reasons to like Cyclades (or not) rss

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Nicolò Blotto
Italy
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Loosen your grip, opening each palm, slowly now – let go.
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Cyclades is a great game that has risen to "classic" status in my gaming group, being possibly the best "direct conflict" game of the last few years. Here's 9 reason why you would LOVE it (and 2 that will make you completely HATE it).

1) It looks gorgeous: Cyclades has a very distinct "fantasy" look, heavily borrowing its style from the great age of fantasy RPGs. Everything in the game (well, everything but the building tiles) looks coloured, epic and ready to kick hoplites, and when the game is setup people (and not just first time players!) often comment on how beautiful it looks. The miniatures of the monsters are decent, but the real showstoppers here are the 5 armies each sporting a different miniature style for their soldiers and ships, even if there are no functional differences one from another.

2) It keeps players always involved: Cyclades is one of my go to games when there are 4-5 people of different gaming experience, and this is one of the main reasons why. Cyclades manages to keep the attention of everyone around the table both during the auction phase (as you're never truly done bidding, unless you've already chosen Apollo), and during action execution (since most actions can be threatening to you in several ways). You have to keep an eye on everyone during game play, and not just your direct neighbours, which means you're always interested in what everyone does.

3) It's a conflict game, but direct battle is not where the meat of the game is: it's quite easy (at least here in Italy) to find people that have played Risk when they were kids. Many of them still play it occasionally, and are more likely to expect war and dice rolling in a board game. Cyclades lures them in with the promise of battle fighting and army building, and then win their heart over with a very different (but not less cutthroat) conflict. Yes, if you walk to a table of Cyclades expecting to roll tons of dice and see the enemy driven before you (and hear the lamentation of their women), you might get disappointed. But Cyclades is still a conflict heavy game, and most people come to appreciate the different ways it allows you to compete and beat your friends, even when you're not directly killing their little plastic men.

4) It's Euro enough for Eurofanatics: you've been there before. You open the box of your new game, and the Eurofanatic in your group faints at the sight of DICE. Then he might realize there are not even RESOURCES in this game, just money, and oh my goodness, are those MINIATURES? And CARDS? Like DICE weren't random enough? Just let him play for a couple of turns and see how involved he will become in his completely Euro-ish way. It's a game that looks ameritrash but plays more like an euro, and satisfyingly combines the two worlds together for a lot of gamers.

5) It's a very open game: this is mostly due to the several way you can win the game: there is only one victory condition (have 2 metropolis at the end of the turn), but there are several ways to get to it, and you can even win the game without fighting (or at least without initiating) a single battle. You can build a metropolis by building several buildings (these come from different actions), or by buying a set of cards (coming from a single action), or by getting other metropolis and/or buildings from other players (FIGHT!). It's a very interesting mix of things as you can always do something that gets you a little bit nearer the final win condition, and at the same time you can't really stop somebody from winning as the paths to victory are just too varied, and you can easily mix them together.

6) It oozes theme, and it almost manages to feel true to its theme: yes, it's an Eurogame at heart, yes, it can feel a little bit abstract in some mechanics (collecting philosopher cards to build a metropolis definitely makes no sense), but more often than not it feels true to its theme and makes your player feel like it was 1000 b.c. again.

7) It manages to escape the trap of kingmaking somehow: I won't deny it: there can be a "all pile against the leader" phase in Cyclades, expecially in mid game, but while this can keep a runaway leader in check, it really can't last. See, in Cyclades attacking somebody will usually not just end up with screwing up the plans of that person, but it will also benefit the player that attacked him or even the other players that didn't act. When you get to end game, and everyone is fighting for victory, it really becomes difficult to team up against anyone, and table psychology can really get tough. Expect people trying to lure you into attacking the leader only to grab your stuff and win the game themselves.

8) It (mostly) manages to keep everybody in the game: I say mostly because I think at least in half of the games I've played there was 1 player that by the end of the game wasn't really able to win the game anymore, but with a conflict game like this that's more than good enough. Sure, it might suck if you're that one, but honestly the game does give you a lot of ways out of that difficult position (Apollo giving you more money, some cards can act as a strong comeback mechanism (Kraken!), and there are always the gods of battle that can give you that chance at winning by lucking out a surprise battle.

9) It works well with any number of players: I have played Cyclades and had great fun with any number of players. It really shines with 4 or 5 players, but it's not a bad conflict game with 3 players and it has a very nice way of handling the auction for 2 players that makes it quite a good game even at that player count. Mind it: I wouldn't get it if you don't plan to play this with 4 or 5 players once in a while, but it can be surprisingly enjoyable when you decide you want to decide who's going to wash dishes between you and your significant one on a rainy saturday.

Most of these reason can be actually reversed to understand reasons why you WON'T like Cyclades, but I've seen more people ending up loving the mix of Euro and American game styles than not. I'd say there is a big single reason that acts as a BEWARE OF THIS GAME, and a second minor one that act as a small caveat:

1) You or your group don't like or can't handle conflict in games: if you're going to get offended if someone stabs you in the back and gets your main city when you're one building away from winning, stay away from Cyclades. If you can't handle table politics, and seeing people openly discussing on how to make your life miserable next turn, then stay away from Cyclades. If you can't handle the smile of your girlfriend after she has trashed your whole fleet in the mouth of the Kraken, then stay away from Cyclades. Hey, if you can't handle being outbidded on an auction "just because", stay away from Cyclades. This will happen surprisingly often after people gets heated up a bit from all conflict.

2) You think randomness kills gameplay: while the random factor of Cyclades if very much under control, you can still get that random lucky draw of a card that was needed for someone to win, or a lucky battle with a completely unexpected outcome ruining your perfect laid plans. But, ancient Greeks already knew how strong the winds of fate could be, so we should know it too, right?
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chris thatcher
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I love Cyclades. Best dudes on map game for me so far. I await Rising Sun!
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Andrew Bradshaw
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Baulkham Hills
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NeuroNiky wrote:
2) You think randomness kills gameplay: while the random factor of Cyclades if very much under control, you can still get that random lucky draw of a card that was needed for someone to win, or a lucky battle with a completely unexpected outcome ruining your perfect laid plans. But, ancient Greeks already knew how strong the winds of fate could be, so we should know it too, right?


Nice review, but I actually think there's very little randomness compared to many games.. If you've got a dominant army you're pretty much guaranteed to win each battle, it's just whether you can afford to keep marching forward. Apart from Zeus' cycling the cards are common knowledge and auctioned. It's all about the money, if a god's action could win someone the game, make it really expensive for them so they've got no money leftover to do much..
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Nicola Segato
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Don't you think that is a static game? If you don't win the Ares/Poseidon bid you cannot move..for ages..
 
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