I recently had the chance to acquaint Iggy to a little two player game called Hellas. Hellas was published in 2002 by Kosmos, the company that made all the famous two player games. Hellas is part of that line of games. Hellas was created by Franz-Benno Delonge, the creator of such games as Big City, Manila and Trans Europa. This overlooked game comes from this oft overlooked designer. Let’s give them the consideration they are due. Because Hellas is a helluva game.
Overlooked Gems: Hellas from Kosmos
Overview and objective
In a game of Hellas, you and your opponent will vie for control of the city states of ancient Greece. You can conquer cities from your opponent, explore the seas in order to find new lands to settle cities upon, levy new ships and soldiers or petition the help of the gods. The first player to control 10 cities is the winner. At your disposal are Greek armies, ships and the fickle power of the ancient Greek gods.
The game board is made up of modular hexagon tiles. Each tile has a city on it. Each tile has various land and water features. Some are islands, some have land on one or two hexsides, and some have land on 3 or 4 hexsides. This will constrain where you will be able to place them when you take a Voyage action. Additionally, some tiles have temples. These are useful when taking a Burst of Strength action.
Players take turns resolving an action until one player has reached 10 cities. The actions players can take are: Burst of Strength, Voyage and Attack. Each action is important as you cannot win the game by ignoring any of them.
Players take Burst of Strength actions in order to gain armies, ships and god cards. You get a total of 3 of these items unless you have more temples than your opponent–in which case you get 4. You need armies to take cities from your opponent. You need ships to explore. And you need god cards to surprise your opponent and to mitigate some luck.
You and your opponent each start the game with 4 cities. Since you need 10 cities to win, you cannot win by simply taking all the starting cities. You will need to take a Voyage action. In order to Voyage, you will need ships. You draw a hex tile. You can place the tile if you meet to criteria: the tile’s land and water matches the game board’s land and water; you have more ships adjacent to the space where you are placing the tile than your opponent. If successful, you spend one ship and gain one army on the new city. Do this enough and you will reach 10 cities.
You may want some Poseidon cards to help you. The god of the sea can let you voyage twice. Or maybe he can let you draw a second tile from the deck. Maybe Poseidon has new Greek armies on the island waiting to join your cause. The god of the sea offers several ways to help you when you take a voyage action.
You will need to make some attacks along the way. You may do this to slow down your opponent or to grab your last few cities. You can move your armies to adjacent cities in order to attack them. If you bring more troops than your opponent, you beat him.
But Ares, god of war, may be on hand. Many of the Ares cards allow you defeat your opponent when you are tied in power. Or maybe attack across the board instead of adjacent.
The last type of card is the Zeus card. Zeus gives players lots of flexibility such as cancelling your opponent’s card, doing extra things during a Burst of Strength action, or taking an extra extra action.
My final thoughts
I’m a fan of Hellas. I think all the card decks and all the actions fit together nicely into a nifty two player game. The game does have some flaws however. The cards have interactions which never received an FAQ. Keep this in mind if you pick up a cheap copy on eBay. Otherwise, I recommend it. The plastic pieces are cute. The tiles are beautiful. The card artwork is minimalist but still feels Greek.
My rating: 8.
I think I will be doing my “Overlooked Gems” on a monthly basis. I’ll add this to my “Hits & Flops” and “Around the World of Board Gaming” columns. Let me know if you like this column as much as the others. Also, let me know if you want to play Hellas. I think I can muster up a copy 😉