Franz-Benno Delonge

Publisher: Kosmos 2002

Awards: none



As a quite astonishing fact, the new Kosmos game Hellas only comes in a small gamebox of the standard size of the 2-player-games series. However, already upon opening the box players will discover that the people at Kosmos have once again outdone themselves in order to fit a fair lot of gaming components into this small box.

The game itself is focused on two different tribes battling each other to win predominance over the islands of ancient Greece. The gameboard is made up from hex-tiles, but only very few of these are discovered upon the beginning of the game. Distributed on these islands known at the beginning of the game, each player starts with four cities of which each is manned with one soldier and one ship. With these resources, a player has to try to conquer a total of 6 cities and thus win the game.

During his turn, a player can chose from 3 basic options of which he may perform one: he may call for reinforcements, he may sail to discover new islands or he may wage war on the other player.

When choosing reinforcements, the player may decide to spend 3 action points either on adding soldiers, adding ships or drawing cards for divine aid. Basically, the player may distribute his action points among these actions as he desires and he may perform these actions in any order he chooses.

If the player instead has chosen to sail off to discover new islands, he may draw a hex-tile from the pile of yet undiscovered tiles. This tile he must try to add to the existing gameboard (with land and sea areas fittingly aligned), but only at a position where he has at least one ship on a neighbouring tile and furthermore he must have more ships on neighbouring tiles than the opposing player. If these requirements can be fulfilled, the player may move one of his ships onto the new tile, remove it and replace it by one of his soldiers who now will occupy the newly discovered city.

Finally, a player may also decide to attack his opponent, and for this purpose he may move soldiers from neighbouring tiles onto a tile occupied by units of the other player. Depending on whether any units have to come across water to participate in this attack, the attacking player will need the same number or more soldiers than his enemy has in the defending city. If the attacker wins, all defending troops are removed and the winning units now occupy the city.

After a player has performed his action, he may finally do some reorganisation and movement of his troops and then the turn of the other player will begin.

However, this basic playing mechanism is quite enhanced by a few additional rules which introduce a much higher degree of strategy to the game. First off, the number of units a player has is quite limited, forcing him to decide where to deploy his troops. Also, a player may only have a maximum of 3 soldiers in a city, making it impossible to build up invincible strongholds at crucial positions. Also, the limited attack and reorganisation capabilities of a player need to be considered, making advance planning quite crucial.

Items of real interest are the Temples. Some of the tiles which come into the game through discovery if new islands show small temple symbols, and the player who has occupied more tiles with such symbols will receive an additional action point if he chooses to reinforce his troops. This fourth action can be of great advantage. Even more interesting are the cards for divine aid. These cards are divided into 3 decks (combat, sailing, general use), and each player may accumulate a deck of up to seven such cards which he may play when he desires. Some of these cards give additional battle strength, some allow additional turns, some force players to trade cities and others can be used to block special cards. Through using these cards, players often can bring a surprising turn of events into the game, thus giving each player a fair chance to win.

As indicated above, Hellas comes with a lot of nice playing components, especially when considering that it still is a virtually small game. This good impression is to a far degree matched by the rules, which allow for interesting, competitive matches between the players. A bit of a weakness may be that some games tend to end rather quick and possibly unspectacular, since players can decide to spend quite a bit of time on discovering new islands, making battles quite unnecessary. Also, it could be discovered that it sometimes becomes quite hard to catch up a player who first has the lead in possessing Temples. This effects need a bit of balancing, and to my mind this is done by increasing the number of cities needed to win the game from 10 to 12. That way the game gets harder to win.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany