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Russell Lee
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Polis: Fight for the Hegemony

The rulebook for “Polis: Fight for the Hegemony” is on the difficult side. (First-time game designer Fran Diaz is not a native English speaker.) However, you should not let its complexity deter you from this excellent game.


Designer Fran Diaz

You are in fifth-century BC, a golden age of classical civilization. You and one opponent play Sparta and Athens, two Greek city states (poleis) competing for control of ancient Greece. While “Polis” has aspects of a both a war game and a civilization game, it is better described as an empire-building game (there is no exploration or technology tree).


Sparta and Athens

You will win by having a combination of the highest population and the most prestige points at the end of four rounds. It is fairly easy to build your population and gain prestige. But in an ingenious mechanic, you must “spend” that population and prestige in order to do anything else in the game. The goal of “Polis” is to balance those resources better than your opponent does.

The game board is a gorgeous full-color map of ancient Greece. The various poleis are represented by cards, while resources are represented by cubes.


The gameboard is a map of ancient Greece

“Polis” is based on the concept that there are resources “on the board” and “off the board.” When you gain population by besieging other neutral poleis, you gain population that is held “off the board.” These are the population points necessary for victory. But in order to deploy military forces to the map, either on land (hoplites) or sea (galleys), you must physically move your population cubes from “off the board” to “on the board.”

Similarly, you gain prestige points by performing deeds such as acquiring new poleis, completing projects (similar to civilization “wonders”) and winning battles. However, you must spend those prestige points in order to do anything from moving hoplites/galleys to carrying out a siege.


“Projects” are similar to civilization “wonders”

You could try to hoard your population and prestige. But then your opponent would simply deploy his resources to the map and wipe you out.

There are other activities you can do, including trade (using your merchants) and diplomacy (using your Proxenos or ambassador). Six different goods have various trade values: metal, wine, silver, wood, oil and wheat.

But this game is all about the wheat. If you want to grow your population, you must have wheat. If you don’t have enough wheat to feed your population, you lose prestige points and conquered poleis.

You get wheat by trading other goods for it. You get those goods by controlling the poleis that produce them, then maintaining open trade routes to your market(s) on the map. Your opponent will try to shut you down by blocking your trade routes with his military forces. You will return the favor.

Goods are also necessary for building hoplites and galleys, as well as for building projects that give you prestige points. A section of the game board contains a chart that tracks the trade values of all goods, which fluctuate as trades are made. Silver is a wildcard that can be substituted for any other good, but silver and wheat are the two most difficult goods to obtain.


The market table tracks the going rate for each goods

The game is played over four rounds. Each round has a “magic number” – 3, 4, 5 and 5. This number tells you how many maximum forces can be deployed to a region, as well as which trades can be executed that round. The numbers slowly increase, so more complex actions can be performed as the rounds advance.

Whenever eight or more forces are present in the same region, a battle automatically takes place. (By definition, this will not happen until at least the second round.) Battles are resolved by playing combat cards in a manner similar to the classic “War” two-player card game.


A sample combat card

I have simplified and skipped many details of the game, but “Polis” is a terrific experience. It has open-ended rounds – a round does not end until both players pass. (However, once the first player has passed, the second must pay one good for every subsequent action.) It is a hybrid euro and Ameritrash game. It is asymmetrical – Sparta and Athens begin with different starting abilities. Best of all, the game can be played in under two hours.

As the designer stated in a Designer Diary, “I think that sitting down in front of a person to enjoy a board game with a certain level of complexity to it is the best leisure experience possible.”

Give it a try!



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Mike Siggins
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How is it Ameritrash?

The rulebook is not bad. I read it through once and had misunderstood just one rule.

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S. R.
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I think what russe1g means is that it is partially very thematic, and encaptures theme in its mechanics very well. The term ameriTRASH is often confusing. It more or less refers to a game that takes a theme and tries to use mechanics to facilitate it, whereas an euro is a game that puts mechanics over everything else...

Thank you for a great article!
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Russell Lee
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Dumon wrote:
I think what russe1g means is that it is partially very thematic, and encaptures theme in its mechanics very well. The term ameriTRASH is often confusing. It more or less refers to a game that takes a theme and tries to use mechanics to facilitate it, whereas an euro is a game that puts mechanics over everything else...

Thank you for a great article!


Thanks Dumon.

Yes, the emphasis of my comment is that this is a "hybrid" game. It has a very strong theme, but some of the mechanics from a traditional war/civ/empire game have been abstracted so the game won't take ten hours to play. Meant as a compliment!

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Russell Lee
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sumo wrote:
How is it Ameritrash?

The rulebook is not bad. I read it through once and had misunderstood just one rule.



However, I also believe Sumo to be a god among gamers. Your reputation precedes you, sir!
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Joe Thompson
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A very good overview.
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Andre Oliveira
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One of the best reviews I've ever read on this site.
Thank you very much, sir!
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Dandelion
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Dumon wrote:
I think what russe1g means is that it is partially very thematic, and encaptures theme in its mechanics very well. The term ameriTRASH is often confusing. It more or less refers to a game that takes a theme and tries to use mechanics to facilitate it, whereas an euro is a game that puts mechanics over everything else...

Thank you for a great article!


Complete disagreement. Do not come to this game looking for Ameritrash, in any form. I am a fan of ameritrash, euros, and wagames, and this one scratches the wargame itch principally, the complex euro itch to a certain degree, and the ameritrash itch not at all.

I would call it a wargame with strong euro influences. It seems more euro than it is, at first especially.
 
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