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Subject: H&Z Collection of Knowledge rss

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Mike Barton
United States
Spring Valley
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Hera and Zeus is one of my favorite games for many different reasons. It involves many skills, problem solving, bluffing, counting cards and almost kindof borders on deep knowledege games like Chess and Java. And it doesn't take long to play, it is easy to teach the rules, though some of the strategy is quite deep.

I like to compare it to Chess. Chess has three phases that are all, in a way, independent. You start studying chess by studying the endgames so that you can plan your middle game to yield a winning endgame, and thus you can study openings from the points of view of both "Ok, how do I start?" and "What kinds of middle games am I best at converting into winning endgames and how do I get there from here?".

Let's take Hera and Zeus the same route. Since it is a two player game, the questions "How do I lose?" and "How do I win?" are basically the same. It has been said often about Chess that the best way to win is to avoid losing. It sounds idiomatic, but it may make it easier to think of that way.

Starting with the endgame is a grass-roots method to studying the whole game.

You lose the game in the following ways:
1. You have no cards in your columns at the beginning of your turn.
2. You cannot take any more actions.
3. Your hostage card is challenged or discarded in some way.

I like to win games against new players by making them lose via method 1. We can arrive at an End Game Situation [hereafter EGS] if one player ends up in a situation where they have 3 or fewer cards in columns, or only one or two columns with cards. Method 1 is the only method that can be forced on your opponent. The important tactic in winning via method 1 is to keep the opponent from being able to create a new column, and use your 3 actions to reduce his column count to 1 and keep it there. In that case, he is really on the ropes since he has only a few escape routes. It is important to face his one column with three of yours so that he wastes his one move placing a card in a column against one of your face down cards. If you don't maintain three columns then he can force you to expend your two actions placing in the empty column and attacking. The critical point is to get three columns to his one. He has one action so he obviously won't be bombarding your hand with Pegasi, probably won't want to waste his one action with Mythology cards. If he is down to just one column then it usually means he hasn't gotten many high-number or Medusa cards (or if later in the game they have been discarded already - COUNT CARDS!). Once he has just one column then create a column opposite it with a 6 or 7 in the front and a 2 in the second row, followed again by the highest card in your hand. You need not fear Pandora since if you find her in his one column you win. You need not fear Pythia against your 7 since it takes 2 actions to Place and Attack. Don't worry about losing your 6 or 7 to Medusa because the 2 wins the next attack and then you can generally continue. It never makes sense for anyone to put 2 Medusas consecutive in a column because the one 2 can take them both. After the 2 kills Medusa your next action is to place a high number card in front of the 2 face down.
Some important tactics:
If you have your 4 action God card DON'T USE IT. It is tempting to get the 4 actions to his 1 but you are giving him a 'combat free' zone where he can establish column 2.
Usually, after a Medusa the highest card you find is a 3. If you kill Medusa with your 2 don't be afraid to put a 3 or 4 in front of the 2 before continuing with the attack. Since you have the opponent on the ropes at this point, there is no real reason for you to be conservative.
Summary for this EGS:
First Priority - Keep three columns
Second Priority - Relentlessly attack any 1-card columns to keep the opponent to just one action.
Third Priority - Build a 'killer column' of High card, 2, High card (or hold the high card in your hand and place in front of the 2 after killing the Medusa)
You should always be on the lookout for winning this way. If it is early in the game and he hasn't been building his columns and if you have a few high-number cards then try to force this. It is not a good idea to play passively, trying to keep the hostage 'in the deck' because this EGS can be forced.
Method 2 is to run the opponent out of actions. You cannot force this EGS in the way you can force Method 1. The situation that triggers this EGS is if the opponent holds on to a huge hand and emptys his draw deck. You want to develop a single very powerful column. You can't think about doing this if you have weak cards (no 6-7, no Medusa) or if Pandora is in your last column. In fact, if you only have weak cards then you attack his hand with Pegasi and lay down as many cards as you can. Use Pegasi to attack the opponent's hand to the maximum extent. This basically deprives the other player of two potential actions for each card you attack. He has to choose between drawing more cards or stuffing his columns. Don't use Pegasi as scouts on the first row because this does not really reduce the potential actions as much as attacking hand cards. Rigid tactics for this are not really appropriate. Again, in order for EGS 2 to occur, the opponent must have really made some kind of mistake.
Method 3 is generally what happens if the battle is fairly even. The bluffing part of the game comes in to play here, knowing your opponent. There are a few tests you can run to find out where the hostage is. No one likes to hold the hostage in their hand because everyone has had that game where you figure you'll wait just ONE more turn before putting the hostage in a column and then SPLAT! the hostage is drawn in a random Pegasus raid.
Save the Pythias. You need them to kill the 7. Anyway the THREAT of having a Pythia is far greater than actually having one. Don't use Pythia to scout, its a wasted action. Instead, play on the nerves of your opponent. No one really knows where Pandora is... until she goes off! So, if you place just one Pegasus in a column all by itself, and it NEVER gets attacked, then it is definitely a potential hostage column. It really only works if the opposing column has 3-4 cards. Since its a Pegasus, later on you can go ahead and use it to scout the first card in that column before committing to an attack, so you really don't lose anything. If the opponent attacks the lone face down Pegasus, then he's either got lots of confidence or its NOT the hostage column. You want to get your big cards lined up on the hostage. Don't forget, this tactic does NOT work once both the Pandora and your Hades cards have been played.
Another test is the 'brute force' method. This involves attacking a long column with a good mix of high cards and 2's for Medusas (I can't emphasize strongly enough how important it is to COUNT CARDS! - are all his Medusas gone? How many are left? Any Pythias left? Pandora? Is he out of 2's? How many Pegasi?) If you crack through the first 2 cards in the column and then he suddenly pads it up, then either you found it or he's a good bluffer.
Lets face it, if the game is pretty even and both players have 3x3 row columns then you have to find out who's got better cards. At that point the game turns into a middle game where the watchword is TACTICS, TACTICS, TACTICS.
Tactics is "how do I develop an advantage with the cards I have?".
Keep in mind some general rules.
1. COUNT CARDS! This always pays off. If you KNOW the opponent is out of something then tailor your game to take advantage of that.
If all of his Medusas are dead then think Brute force. Your 2's become decoys and scouts.
If all of his 2's are gone, or already in column, then you know he can't use brute force.
Did he blow all his Pythias? Uncork Poseidon.
Did you snuff Persephone? Has he spent all his Pegasi? Then do a lot of card drawing and make a good plan. Being able to hold cards in your hand without the pesky Pegasi threat is real power.
Remember whether he has played Hades or Sirens. If Sirens has not been played, then you have to be more careful with 5-6-7's. Try not to use them in blind attacks [shouldn't anyway unless he's down to 1 col], or discard on top of it after.
When he plays Hades try to guess what was grabbed - candidates are Persphone, Pandora, Dionysus, 7 and 6, and don't forget that Hades is the one card that never comes up twice!
Counting these cards is MUCH easier than Vegas.
2. Maintain flexibility while keeping your opponent off balance. If he has a nice 3x3 grid developed then pounce with Pegasi if you have them to try to lock up his grid. If he does the same to you then its worth making some blind attacks to free up space. If the grid is locked, then EVERY CARD that is attacked by a Pegasus is DISCARDED, making the Pegasus the most powerful of all cards at that point. It's THAT important.
3. Look for good card combinations that can find the hostage or force an EGS.
Opening Moves
Okay, so we looked at endgames, and some middle game tactics. How do we get to a good middle game?
Take a look at your 9 first cards. Your opening is all in these cards. Just like in chess, it can be a major advantage to be able to develop first. What do you have a lot of? What are your problems?
Can you make a great 'kill-column' right off the bat? Are you lacking big cards? Did you get a God card? Keep in mind that the deck is 43 and your hand is 9 so you have a 1 in 5 chance of getting any card.
My favorite perfect starting hand is 3 big cards and 3 2's. For starters I put the 3 big cards down and then on turn 1 the 2's behind them and then turn 3 I attack any 1 card columns and try to produce an immediate Method 1 win. It can really shake someone up to get blitzed right out of the gate!
But, alas, we frequently don't get this perfect hand.
Most of the time we get a good spread of cards. If I get a God card I play it right away. There are no attacks on the first turn so if you go first you are guaranteed 8 actions. This can be a tremendous advantage.
Failing any of that, I methodically build my columns to last, to avoid being beat by a Method 1 EGS and to provide a decent grid so I can do things like build kill-columns and hide the Hostage if I am unfortunate enough to draw it early. After I get 3x 2 to 3 card columns I generally draw 2 and play 1 card until I see a good combo.
It pays to attack. When you win a battle you expend an action but you DON'T lose a card. I like to keep my opponent honest. Sometimes it backfires but if you do occasional blind attacks sometimes you can wipe out many cards without taking losses. It also reduces the willingness of the opponent to bluff, if he is expecting you to attack everything.
In the opening if I get a hoard of Pegasi I don't use them right away. I want the opponent to take a last action draw, then I hunt for the card that he drew last because he can't control what it is and did not have an opportunity to protect it.
I don't use Pythias early unless the opponent blunders his 7. Sure they might get Pegastormed but I take the chance. There is little you can do if the opponent gets a fistfull of Pegasi early on.
If you get really bad cards, do your best. Don't get angry. Play a lot of games. You don't always get a winning poker hand. Try bluffing. Build walls of paper thin Pegasi and 2's. Send a 3 to do a 4's job. Maybe the opponent is bluffing too?
Some Classic Bluffs:
"The card you thought was the hostage is actually...PANDORA!" - in this one you treat Pandora just like its the hostage. Pad the column, sweat, look scared and then right when the opponent thinks you are fodder...blamo. Make sure you remember to maintain other columns.
"Put a tiger BEHIND Medusa" - in this one you put your 6 or 7 on the board behind the Medusa. Don't do this if the opponent has no more 2's or if you used your Dionysees already or you could just be bluffing yourself.
"I am so beat..." - in this one you simply hold on to all of your big cards until it looks like you are almost finished, and the opponent tries a big crush at the end. If he keeps attacking your one last column, put a 6 in one of your empty columns, it will take a while for the opponent to figure out what to do about it then put another one in another column. He will have expended tons of actions to this point and may be looking at a Method 2 loss. I don't like this one very much but if you are up against a relentless attacker it can be the right medicine.
"Pile behind Pandora" - in this one you put Pandora in the front row and a bunch of useless 3s behind her. Because you have so many cards behind it the opponent won't be expecting it to be Pandora. In fact, sometimes people are so SURE its not Pandora that they attack even though the hostage is behind the attacker. Instant win!
"Hostage column? Nonsense. We attack!" - in this one you launch a blind attack in your own hostage column. Your seasoned opponents will almost always ignore that column as a potential hostage column because of the danger of blindly striking Pandora or weakening the column on a Medusa. This is often well complemented by "The card you thought was the hostage is actually...PANDORA!" being run concurrently with it.
Bombshells that can be avoided:
Careful putting cards behind Medusa. They may never get a chance.
Think carefully about Pandora. Keep her away from your hostage.
Watch out for situations where the opponent can take you down to 1 column. The ONLY time it is to your advantage is if you know he can't reduce it and he's looking at losing via Method 2.
Try as hard as you can to avoid drawing a card as your last action. If your opponent does it then Cry Havoc and let the Pegasi Fly! That card could be ANYTHING like Pandora or the Hostage. Look for it. Drawing last may leave you with an unsolvable problem.
Once your columns are good, try to have a fairly large hand. The cards are vulnerable to Pegasi but cards in the hand is power.
If you don't have a clue what to do next, attacking the opponent's hand with Pegasi is a good idle move. DON'T use your last one, unless his God card is already played (and yours is too).

Hope this helps!
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Jack Bennett
United States
North Carolina
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Play. Always.
Thanks for the tips, although some serious editing is needed to make this easily readable. Good help, though.
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Mike Barton
United States
Spring Valley
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Sorry, it was very late at night.

Here are some more:

If your opponent runs out of 2's and has played Hades then your Medusas are invulnerable. If you can get the hostage behind Medusa then the ONLY WAY your opponent can win is via method 2 (you can't take any more actions)! Remember that any card you place behind Medusa is there permanently unless you have a Dionysus. In this way, hunting down the opponent's 2's can be a path to a win. If in your card counting you realize that you have killed 3 or 4 of his 2's then look for the 5th. Once you know where they are it can be just as good as discarding them. You can also use that knowledge to force your opponent into a Method 2 loss. If you know where all of his 2's are and there is a column of his without a 2 in it, then you can simply place one Medusa in that column with the hostage behind it and then stop maintaining the other columns. The opponent will continue to take actions and if you can bluff the opponent into eliminating all of your columns except for the one with the Medusa which can never be discarded (unless you attack his Pandora in that column) then you might win via Method 2, since you cannot be destroyed and you are only taking one action per turn! Boring, but effective.

If you find yourself in a position where you have a lot of cards in your hand, and you have several Pegasi, and your opponent does not have many cards, take a few turns to attack the opponent's hand. Even if all you do is discard his Pegasi, you also gain the certain knowledge that he does not have any surprise cards like Sirens or Pandora and he cannot suddenly play a 2 to get rid of Medusa or a Pegasus to zap your god figure. He will probably take several draw actions. The smart way to do it is draw 2 as your first two actions and then use the third action to do something else. The reason is after your third draw you don't have an action left to fix a critical problem or lay down an important card.
Keep up the air attack as long as possible, playing Persephone and even consider Hades to resurrect Persephone and play her again. Those 3 Pegasi can potentially kill 3 of the opponents Mythology cards, allow you to choose where to lay down 3 2-7 cards or at least prevent 3 of HIS Pegasi from doing the same to you. If through this you run your opponent OUT of cards in the hand, turn your attention to taking action based on the safety you now have, knowing that he really doesn't know what he will be able to do over the next few rounds. Sure he might get a lucky card but it should work out well for you.

Cover Up
Just because one of your really good cards has been turned face up, it doesn't mean you have to leave the card exposed in the front row. You can 'cover it up' by placing a face down card in front of it. This is a vital tactic if you are attacking with 7 and you don't know where the opponent's Pythias are.

Ok, so you left 7 face up in the front row and the opponent takes these 3 actions:
1. Place Pythia opposite 7
2. Challenge 7 -> 7 to top of discard pile
3. Sirens - the discarded 7 is now in your opponent's hand. Ouch!

Why, oh, why is it that when people use Sirens to put an enemy card into their own hand, they don't think that they have to lay it down as soon as possible?

Here's watcha do. It is beautiful if you have your own Pythia!
1. Use Pythia to examine the opponent's hand and discard your ex 7 (plus HIS 7 if it is there!)
2. Now you can Sirens it back - or 2) play Hades to get your spent Sirens and 3) Sirens it back

So he just spent 3 actions to zap it and you just spent 2 actions getting it back. Yes, yes IF you have a Pythia and IF you also have Sirens (or Hades).

If it is a 6 the best thing to do is attack with a Pegasus and put the 6 wherever you want. Same with 7 if no Pythia.
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Juan Pablo Laura Torrico
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thank you!
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