Tomáš Sládek
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I was one of the people to get the game shipped in the first wave - it arrived just yesterday, which, as luck would have it, was the right day to try it right away! Since I've played only once and my memory is not perfect, this will be neither a review nor a session report, just a couple of first impressions.

While I assume most of you are familiar with how the game plays, the Late Pledge option is afaik still open, so for the benefit of newcomers, I'll give a short overview first. If you know the basics of the finished game, feel free to skip the following (I am not familiar with the work-in-progress rules posted here on BGG so I cannot comment on any changes made for the final version):

Quote:
Lords of Hellas is at heart an area control game on a fixed map (which is divided into several "lands" which further consist of 3-5 "areas"), where you get are handed control of one hero (these have different abilities), his army and a handful of priests and pitted against other players in an effort to reach one of four victory conditions. These are:

1) control two lands (i.e. be the sole occupier of all areas within any two lands)
2) control 5 temples (i.e. occupy 5 areas with temples built in them)
3) fully build a monument and hold its area
4) have your hero defeat 3 monsters

As you can see, three of those four focus on holding areas in one way or another, but the third(fourth) objective allows you to win the game even if somehow you're only occupying one(zero) area. The gameplay flow is simple - players take turns in clockwise order one after another from the start until an endgame condition is reached, at which point the game ends immediately. On your turn, you can do up to 4 different regular action in any order and then must do one of 7 special actions.

Regular actions are:
-Move your hero (according to his speed stat, which ranges from 1-5)
-Move your troops (into adjacent areas, number of units according to your hero's leadership stat, again 1-5)
-Pray (place one priest on a monument and receive a bonus according to the level of the chosen monument - this is typically a permanent +1 to one of your hero's attributes)
-Use artifact (you can use as many artifact as you want at once)

Special actions are limited in that after you do them, you must cover them with an "X" token and it takes a while until they are available again:
- Prepare: twice: recruit a unit OR heal a wound OR draw a combat card
- build a temple: if you occupy an area with a shrine printed on it, you can build a temple. This gets you priest into your supply and has the possibility of triggering a "blessing draft" wherein all players (starting with the one who triggered it) draft one blessing card, which gives them some special bonus/ability until the end of the game. There will be 4-5 of these drafts throughout the game.
- recruit: for each city you control, gain 2 units in that area
- hunt: if your hero is in an area where there is a monster, he may attempt to hunt it. Monsters have several HP boxes with each box having a specific weapon type associated. At the start of the hunt, you draw combat cards equal to your hero's strength attribute. You must then play one combat card of a given weapon type to deal a given wound to the monster. After you are finished, the monster attacks and you must defend and have a chance of drawing more combat cards. This is repeated until you defeat the monster, your hero suffers damage for the fourth time, or you fail to wound the monster during your attack. If you win, you get a special artifact that is unique to that monster. However, even if you fail, you still have a chance to get a priest or regular artifact, and the wounds that you have dealt stay on the monster.
- usurp: if your hero holds a glory token for defeating a monster or completing a quest in a specific land, he can spend that token in any one of the areas of that land to take over control of that area and recruit a unit there. This forces all of the opponent's units to retreat, no matter how many of them there are.
- march: move up to all of your units from one area to one adjacent area
- build monument: The base game has 3 monuments, one each for Zeus, Athena and Hermes. Each of these massive plastic figures have their specific area on the board and consist of a base and 4 other parts. When you take this action, you select a monument and add one part to it, raising its level by 1. All priests on the board are put back into the reserve. The player who selected the action then gains a number of priests equal to the amount of temples he controls. Artifacts and special actions are reset and are again all available for use. The active player then rolls a die for each monster on the board to see if that monster attacks or moves. An event card is then drawn that either brings a new monster or a quest into play, or gives an existing monster new abilities.

Thus the building of the monument acts like a reset phase of sorts, the timing of which is variable.
Combat is straightforward and happens immediately following a movement action in which you move your units into an opponent's area. First, the defender and attacker alternate in playing combat cards until neither is willing to play any more, and then the strength of their armies is calculated. This is affected by the combat cards, amount of units, artifacts, blessing cards and hero abilities. Whoever ends up with a higher number, wins and the loser must retreat, suffering a loss of one unit. Ties go in favor of the defender.

And those are the basics of Lords of Hellas (I have intentionally left out many less important details so that this doesn't end up as a rules transcription)


With that out of the way, my actual thoughts:

1) Component aesthetics:

It is all over the place. The insert fits all base components fairly well, but does not account for sleeved cards (and especially the combat cards will get quite a bit of use). The cards and tokens included are pretty standard. The monster figures are nicely done, although in game I found them too big for some areas - not so much that they won't fit at all, but they take up so much space that having an army and a building in the same areas makes it very crowded. The buildings expansion is probably a necessity in part because of this. The temples are standees in the base game, which is serviceable and is on one hand nice to quickly spot them in a sea of figures, but it clashes a bit with the aesthetics of all the plastic around them. The cities, however, are only printed on the board, and this makes it sometimes hard to tell if a unit is occupying a city or not (because this is not automatic). This makes the plastic cities not only a cosmetic upgrade, but a functional one as well. Hoplites are pretty standard quality with a few problems here and there - I had one figure missing a backpack and one had no head The monuments are a bit of a disappointment, though. The fit of them is very rough, far from a polished end product. Because some of the parts were slightly bent or warped (Awaken Realms already informed of this, and while they say it can be fixed by warm water, it does not for a good first impression make, if you sit down to unbox and play right away) and I had to use a bit of force to bend some parts just so they fit together. On top of that, one of the bases was so warped it wobbled slightly when put on the board. The worst offender by far was Zeus, whose whip arm I just couldn't get to fit so that a piece of the joint would not be openly exposed. I'll post a photo later when I get home, I keep thinking I must be doing something wrong in this case.
All in all, what was the biggest visual draw of the game ends up being slightly awkward.

2) Rulebook:
I sped my way through the rulebook in about 30 minutes due to lack of time and as a result had to open it up quite a few times during the game. I don't have much to say about it, I think it did a good job of teaching the game and is also well enough structured so that looking things up does not take a lot of time. It's fairly short at 16 pages with a bunch of pictures and it features a nice glossary at the end that tells you where to look for various concepts. I would have preferred a rectangle format as opposed to an unwieldy square, but that's a minor thing.

3) Game itself:

I played a 3p game, myself as Achilles and two friends with Heracles and Helena. The early turns were mostly an exploration of what can be done with limited resources - for example, you don't start with any priests, so in order to be able to pray, you must first acquire a priest. To acquire a priest, you must build a temple. To build a temple, you must control an area with a shrine. To control that area, you need a certain number of troops, which you can recruit if you have a city... etc. I chose to start in an area with a shrine, so I was able to build a temple with my first special action and pray on turn 2, increasing my STR. In hindsight, leadership would have been better since being able to only move 1 hoplite per turn is severely limiting. However, in Achilles' case this actually didn't matter, because Achilles himself boosts an army by the lower of his STR/SPD. Thus I used him to take over a few more areas with cities and a shrine early on. Then I sent him on a quest, which raised his LDR to 3, allowing me to not rely on him for taking areas any more. Of all the quests that showed up during the game (5 I think), this one seemed the best. I did have to spend three turns on the quest, but the +2 upgrade was very much worth it. Heracles and Helena were expanding on the upper half of the board, leaving the lower half pretty much to myself and 3 out of 4 monsters sitting there. Since I also ended up with two blessing cards for hunting monsters, I decided to make use of that and focus on them, with expansion being just a by-product of having free actions to move units rather than make it my primary plan. I focused on upgrading Achilles' strength and entering a hunt with a lot of combat cards. I successfully killed the Minotaur, which provided me with an artifact that would helping in defending my borders - something I really needed, because I was slightly threatened by the presence of Heracles' hoplites next to a chokepoint leading to my part of the map, and I didn't much focus on building up military presence. Most build monument actions were focused on Zeus, whose area was firmly in the grasp of Helena. This inadvertently led to Helena deciding to build the final piece of Zeus and triggering the 3-round monument countdown. Heracles raced to wrest control of that location from Helena. I had no access to the contested area, being blocked by Heracles. There was a monumental battle which involved around 15 units, but Helena persevered, losing iirc only one unit. By that time, however, I have spread my hold over the southern part of the map - not enough to hold two complete lands (one of the bottom lands doesn't count towards victory in a 3p game), but I also took down hydra, and had control of 3 temples. The last monster on my part of the board got an upgrade that granted him two more HPs, and after taking down Hydra, who also had an upgrade and has a massive 9 HP, I was out of combat cards to take down my 3rd monster quickly enough. However, in the 3 turns before the countdown expired, I managed to build the last remaining temple on an area I had previously forgotten about and with the help of Achilles (who at that point counted as 3 hoplites) and a combat card in conjunction with a glory token giving another +4 took control of a temple area from Helena, who had already used her useful combat cards in the prior battle with Heracles. Thus I won with 5 temples, one turn away from Helena's monument victory and around two turns away from killing my third monster.

I was left with a rather positive impression of the game, however I also felt it was short (though in fact lasting around 100 minutes), like I didn't get to do enough - maybe that was a factor of the 3p game on a 4p map and me having basically a half of the map for myself so things were much easier to achieve than you'd expect, so much so that I won an area victory having only ever fought once, and at a point when the outcome was a foregone conclusion. But on the other hand, Helena was pretty elbow-to-elbow with Heracles and still managed to come close to a win - which both me and Heracles helped by building "her" monument. Perhaps that was a mistake, then - as much as you may need the bonuses of a monument, it may not be worth expanding it if it's in the hands of the enemy? At the end I felt like I've done a little bit of everything and yet nothing in depth. That left me a little disappointed in seeing the options, but not having gotten to them. That is probably not the fault of the game, rather the specific circumstances of this play session and the fact that it was a learning game.

Misc thoughts:

- On new monster/quest per monument phase seems slow, if more than one player focuses on taking down monsters and/or doing quests.
- Achilles' ability of counting as a number of Hoplites was immensely useful - though it probably pushes him into the direction of an army leader, I tried playing more as a monster hunter and his ability was all the more valuable, since he made up for my lack of units where needed with his high speed.
- Heracles on the other hand is useless if you don't do quests or monsters, so that pushes him in that direction pretty hard along with his starting 2 STR. The Heracles player felt his ability was only marginally useful, in part likely because 3/4 monsters were out of his reach at the start - you could chalk this down to wrong starting area selection, though.
- Helena's ability (enemy units cannot enter if not accompanied by a hero) I frankly did not notice at all. It's nature is purely defensive, and you're probably going to need Helena elsewhere than sitting in an area impersonating a wall. I can imagine a few creative uses, but it's somewhat circumstantial. Choosing a starting artifact, however, can probably be better than +1 stat that the others get. But again, circumstantial.
- Quests seemed somewhat underwhelming in their rewards, but we missed the rule that they give you a glory token, that would probably have helped, especially Heracles.

- I felt like the game lacks content. 75% of the box is taken by a few huge plastic figures. Huge plastic figures are all the rage these days, but from a certain point, size does nothing for gameplay. The monuments actually have a bigger footprint than the spot that is prepared for them on the map - wonder if that's intentional or someone went overboard on scale and forgot about the board. Somewhat similar to Blood Rage the core box, I felt a bit more diversity would be nicer than sheer size and presence of the minis. One or two more heroes, one or two more monsters, an extra god even (the rules hint at this and there's an empty spot on the map prepared)... As it stands, I can see a good amount of replayability anyway, but more variety would certainly be welcome and I am looking forward to all the stretch goals to be able to shake things up from game to game.

TL;DR: These are impressions. There is no summing it up... but if you came here to see a number: after one play, despite production quirks, it's a solid "Good game, usually willing to play", i.e. 7/10. I hope that once the stretch goals arrive, the added variety will bump it up to "Very good game, probably never turn down a game", i.e. 8/10.
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You played Achilles wrong. He only adds to Army Strength during battle, so does not help in taking over regions
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Tomáš Sládek
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melkathi wrote:
You played Achilles wrong. He only adds to Army Strength during battle, so does not help in taking over regions


Are you certain about that? His ability says "add x to army strength in the region he's in", no mention of battles only, and army strength vs population strength feels very intuitive. I can however see that him being able to do that is perhaps too strong, it's just not very clear from the text.


Here are the promised photos of the imperfections:
https://flic.kr/s/aHsmb8TRd9


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The original text was "to the Battle in the Region he is in". If the text in the box says something else, then it is an unfortunate rephrasing. My game arrives in 10 days.

Can you upload a picture of the hero card?
 
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Tomáš Sládek
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Marcin Świerkot
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melkathi wrote:
The original text was "to the Battle in the Region he is in". If the text in the box says something else, then it is an unfortunate rephrasing. My game arrives in 10 days.

Can you upload a picture of the hero card?


Yeah - Stavros is right here, but the current wording is correct.
You use Army Strenght only in battle - you do not use when taking over neutral regions.

Please see in Manuals Glossary that "Population strength" is defined as number of hoplites that you need in the neutral region to take control over it - so Army Strenght is not involved here
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I just re-read the manual and was going to comment about the "number of hoplites" thing
Thanks Marcin
 
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Yuri Avello
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Borghal wrote:

- On new monster/quest per monument phase seems slow, if more than one player focuses on taking down monsters and/or doing quests.


For what i got from the rules the events happens and the start of each round and not only when a monument action is taken.
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GrisoFandango wrote:
Borghal wrote:

- On new monster/quest per monument phase seems slow, if more than one player focuses on taking down monsters and/or doing quests.


For what i got from the rules the events happens and the start of each round and not only when a monument action is taken.


A round starts when a Monument is built. The usual confusing differentiation between Round and Turn.

Players take turns playing, but the round ends when a player takes the build monument action. Then all priests get removed from monuments, the player who performed the action takes as many priests into their pool as they control temples, and they draw a new event and roll the monster dice for each monster.
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Jake Waltier
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Borghal wrote:
Awaken Realms already informed of this, and while they say it can be fixed by warm water, it does not for a good first impression make, if you sit down to unbox and play right away

That is standard procedure for all soft plastic minis. You will be a happier person if you expect to do this with any soft plastic or resin minis you acquire.
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TwentySides wrote:
Borghal wrote:
Awaken Realms already informed of this, and while they say it can be fixed by warm water, it does not for a good first impression make, if you sit down to unbox and play right away

That is standard procedure for all soft plastic minis. You will be a happier person if you expect to do this with any soft plastic or resin minis you acquire.


I own quite a few games with miniatures and none had such problems - I expect this is down to the sheer size of the monuments, the next closest thing I have is only the AT-ST from Imperial Assault, however that was in perfect shape right out of the box, iirc.
 
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Miguel Pacheco
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TwentySides wrote:
Borghal wrote:
Awaken Realms already informed of this, and while they say it can be fixed by warm water, it does not for a good first impression make, if you sit down to unbox and play right away

That is standard procedure for all soft plastic minis. You will be a happier person if you expect to do this with any soft plastic or resin minis you acquire.


I own a ton of mini focused games, everything from Blood Rage to Arcadia Quest to KD Monster to Gloomhaven etc. etc. etc. Never had to do this.
 
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You are lucky. Friends got Arcadia Quest and parts of some minis were missing.
 
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ilpalazo wrote:
TwentySides wrote:
Borghal wrote:
Awaken Realms already informed of this, and while they say it can be fixed by warm water, it does not for a good first impression make, if you sit down to unbox and play right away

That is standard procedure for all soft plastic minis. You will be a happier person if you expect to do this with any soft plastic or resin minis you acquire.


I own a ton of mini focused games, everything from Blood Rage to Arcadia Quest to KD Monster to Gloomhaven etc. etc. etc. Never had to do this.

I don't know what to tell you then. You can be disappointed by how a component is or you can be prepared to do the hot water treatment that I have done dozens of times and be pleasantly surprised when you don't have to. I know which one makes me happier.
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Borghal wrote:
Huge plastic figures are all the rage these days, but from a certain point, size does nothing for gameplay.
Hear, hear!
Color me surprised. Not.

Sadly, this confirms my first impression when looking at the image gallery.
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