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Rich Ochs
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Hellas is an interesting 2-player offering by Kosmos. It has elements of warfare, card playing, and tile and unit placement.

To start off, I am biased towards 2 player games since my gaming group is usually me and my girlfriend. Also, I am a fan of the theme. But that aside, Hellas can be a fun game if played with the right people.

PRODUCTION

This is a very nicely produced game. It comes in the standard Kosmos 2-player series box. It has a plastic tray inside which holds the tiles, pieces, and cards very nicely in a compact package.

The artwork on the box and tiles is very clear and crisp. Although the colors are mainly green and blue (for all the sea and land), they mix well and are aesthetically pleasing.

The tiles themselves are made of very sturdy cardboard, ala Carcassonne, and should make it through a few accidental spills and dings.

The playing pieces consist of Greek soldiers and ships in both white and red. The ships are rather simple, with a hull and sail, but are well-made nonetheless. The Greek soldiers I do have a gripe with because they are rather small with tiny bases. Whenever you pick one up off the board, you inevitably knock 2 down. This may just be my clumsy fingers, and it is a minute nuisance at best.

The cards are on uncoated medium weight cardstock. They are color coded for the three different gods, and have text and artwork on one side with artwork of the god on the reverse. The artwork is done in an archaic Greek fashion, with the pictures corresponding to the text. I thought that this was a nice touch, when they could have just thrown random artwork on each card.

MECHANICS

The game begins with placing one of the hexagonal tiles, which happens to have a dolphin on it, in the center of the table. Then the white player randomly draws a hexagonal tile, places it next to the dolphin tile, and puts a Greek in the city and a ship in the sea. Each tile has a city either on an island or jutting segment of mainland. That means that every tile has at least a city, land, and water. Some also include a temple, which give you bonuses later in the game. For setup, however, any tiles with temples are set to the side until gameplay begins.

Now the red player does the same, and both repeat until each has 4 cities, each with a Greek and a ship. So this gives us a total of 8 cities on the board, and the object of the game is to obtain 10 cities total. There are restrictions on tile placement so that the board does not become linear, and also so that there is only one sea.

On your turn you have one of three choices: 1)Burst of Strength, 2)Attack, 3)Voyage. In Burst of Strength you reinforce your position by building Greeks (3 max in each city) or ships, or you can draw cards. You can perform 3 "Bursts of Strength", in any combination. For example, you can draw 3 cards, or you can take a Greek-Ship-Card, or you can take 2 Greeks-Ship, etc. If you have a majority of the temples on the board (which are on select tiles), you then get 4 "Bursts of Strength". This makes some cities more desireable than others.

Attack consists of moving Greeks from one of your cities to either an adjacent enemy city over land or sea. You need to have the same amount of Greeks as your enemy in an attack over land, and one more Greek than your enemy for an attack over water. This seems rather straightforward, since there are not any dice, but this is where the cards come in. Cards will steer your attacks, based on your hand's strengths and weaknesses. Smart play, and knowing how many and what type of cards your enemy has will help you win battles.

Voyage is your last turn option. This is where you can possibly expand the board by adding tiles. For this you need ships in the right places. You draw a random tile, and try to fit it next to either the dolphin starter tile or any two other tiles. If you have a majority of the ships in tiles bordering the potential spot for the newly drawn tile, you can place the tile. If you do not have anywhere to put the tile, your voyage failed.

GAMEPLAY

In a given turn you have many options for this seemingly simple game. First you must choose your turn option, then what to do with that option. One wrong choice in this game can set you back a bit, and may place you out of the running for winning. At this point you can always pray for lucky draws of cards (and unlucky draws for your opponent). This is not necessarily a bad thing, since bad strategy decisions should have bad consequences. It just makes you think a little harder about each turn.

Between evenly matched players the game can see-saw quite a few times between both sides. It is usually a close game, unless one person is very unfamiliar with the mechanics or strategy. You find cities changing hands quite a bit, and sometimes you realize that it is better to consolidate your position somewhere else on the developing board rather than squabbling over one measly city.

The endgame can be quite precarious for the leader. Since the game has a limited number of units, by the time you reach about 8 or 9 cities you are spread very thin. You have to make sure that early in the game you create cities far enough away from the front to be able to leave only one soldier in them. If you do not do this, you will find that your lead will quickly shrink and then disappear completely. Another thing is that towards the end you will be depending on cards to help defend your cities much more than soldiers alone. The endgame requires quite a bit of planning in advance, another nice feature of this game.

RATING

Overall this is a decent game. The production is excellent, and in a nice portable package to boot. The mechanics, I feel, are average. Although it has been compared to Risk, I don't see the parallel. The cards are definately a step up from rolling dice to determine battles, but some cards are admittedly stronger than others. There is a luck element here. Gameplay is fun and fairly balanced, but be advised a few bad decisions can put you out of the running. Make sure that you go over strategy with new players, and go over each of the cards and how they work. This should help even out the newbie factor.
All scores out of 10, 10 being the best:
Production 8
Mechanics 5
Gameplay 6
Overall 6


 
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Craig Viau
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Calgary
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Re:User Review
Thanks for the review it seems very interesting in fact I am wondering why you only gave it a 6 based on your review any thoughts on that?

Perhaps you could elaborate a little more on the strategy or the key decisions required in the game.

Thanks Craig




rochs77 (#6088),
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Rich Ochs
United States
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Re:User Review
Craig Viau (#6165),

It is a decent game, but the luck factor can cause it to be a little irksome. I like to play it, but not everyone I know feels the same. That's probably the main reason I gave it a 6. I am willing to play it, but most of the time have to pass it up for a game my opponent would rather play. Extremely well produced, and I am very glad to have it as part of my collection.

rochs77
 
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Rich Ochs
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Re:User Review
Thinking about this a little more, like I mentioned in the begining of the article, if you have the right people this is a great game. If I had someone that liked playing this a lot, I would probably bump it up to a 7-8.

rochs77
 
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Rich Ochs
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Re:User Review
Craig Viau (#6165),

Actually, after further deliberation (and plays), I realized I may have been a little harsh on the mechanics of the game. I have upgraded my overall score to 7, and since I have yet to give out a 10, this says quite a bit. I think the highest score I have given for any game is an 8. Thanks for the comment and nudging me to re-evaluate my evaluation .
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Rich Ochs
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Re:User Review
Due to a comment on my article, I put Hellas through some more gameplay and decided that I may have been a little harsh on the mechanic of the game. I have since upgraded my overall score to a 7, as is reflected in my comment on the game as well. Take into consideration that the highest score (I think) that I have given any game is an 8, this does this nice little game justice.

Rich
 
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Kenneth Wofford
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Bethesda
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Re:User Review
Craig, This is a game where you would like to do a lot but are forced to do only a little. With only 30 Greeks total to hold 10 cities at the end, it tends to run tight. Do I voyage and try to add a city that way? Do I build up more troops for a future campaign? Are the god cards in my favor and it is the best time to displace my enemy from his? Is holding that temple city worth extending my lines? What god cards are my opponent probably holding? It tends to be a self balancing game. Some people complain about the luck factor of the game, but the number of cards is limited and their appearance becomes somewhat more predictable.
 
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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Re:User Review
Craig,

My strategy tends to focus around minimizing my border with the other player, securing that border, and then voyaging to fill ou my cities to ten. Sometimes, depending on the vagaries of the setup, it is very hard to get out of "phase one," and my opponent and I struggle back and forth with relatively open borders. Still, I can't remember a game that ended without voyaging.
 
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Eliot Hemingway
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Re:User Review
Voyaging is incredibly importent. Early game, if you can discover and secure a temple you have a huge advantage. As for late game, I think 90% of my games end with a double voyage to get to ten cities. I've never seen a player wiped out - it's almost impossible and if you have the lead you are usually better off reinforcing and voyaging. If you fight the game extends longer, giving your opponent a chance to recoup his losses.

Securing a border can be very useful. However, the "Invade a non-ajacent city" and "Swap cities with an opponent" cards are ready-made to counter it.
 
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