Cyclades (Matagot or Asmodee
The gravel crunched beneath my shifting sandals as I stood on the shore gazing out on the horizon. An ominous fleet stretched as far as I could see. The invasion was surely coming.
"So, Phaedrus," I said quietly to the austere priest beside me, "what say the oracles from the gods?"
"Well, my king," he replied reverently, "we cannot hope for the favor of Ares or Poseidon, so I'm afraid our forces are at the enemy's mercy. We cannot prevent his landing. But perhaps," he paused, looking out toward the vast sea.
"We can win Athena's love and so be blessed with time."
"Time," I responded inquisitively. "What do you mean?"
"She will favor us in these days of Ares' sloth, presenting us an opportunity for our priests to summon a titan that still strikes fear even in the gods themselves. We can destroy the enemy's fleet before he can launch his invasion."
"Very well, then," I ordered defiantly. "Release the Kraken!"
|Unique men and boats for all.|
|Swag offered by the gods.|
E for Everyone:
I am quite puzzled at the 13+ recommended age rating. While strategy games are more optimally suited for adults and older teens, Cyclades is fairly straight-forward, rules-wise. No, I'm not saying a fifth-grader will destroy a retired grognard. But the options and chrome in this title are much more manageable than other games. That might be part of the perception. Despite the super cool dudes on a map, don't think for a minute this is standard Ameritrash fare.
The psychological war waged in the gods auction is the meat of the game and this grows in intensity as the game crescendos to its conclusion. In essence, you are competing for both turn order and role selection by trying to out-bid the other players. This creates a couple of layers to what would otherwise be a generic auction mechanic. First, you have to consider the turn order in addition to your desired god or goddess. The favors granted to you by appeasing a particular deity may be offset by going third or fourth in turn order. Second, you need to weigh the need of accomplishing your own goals verses hindering another's. Perhaps you'd like to go after Poseidon to position your fleet for a future invasion, but who cares when your enemy is sitting there ready to grab Athena and her philosophers to build a second metropolis for the win. All information is available, except for how much gold each player owns, so you know exactly what each player needs to complete their second metropolis. Therefore, a guessing game ensues in trying to figure out if your opponent has enough money for their offering, as well as to pay for the required resource(s) necessary for the victory. Then on top of all that, you'll need to consider who the next beneficiary will be in all that maneuvering!
|What's with the Apache and Kenny Rogers?|
There are some other finer points regarding kid appropriateness. Elimination is not an issue since you cannot attack a player's sole remaining island unless successfully capturing it will earn you victory. If you own only one island, Apollo gives you more gold to help combat the "weak get weaker" problem. Battles are resolved quickly and simply - they reward good strategy and favor the stronger side, yet add dice rolls to give the weaker army a puncher's chance (unless outnumbered greater than 3-1). After the auction round, downtime is minimal and sometimes nearly non-existent. There are no victory points to gloat over in this one, but the two-metropolis win condition will usually keep this game to around 60-90 minutes.
|One metropolis (top).|
Okay, I'll Shut Up Now:
In the end, I give Cyclades a 9 on the Board Game Geek scale (Excellent game. Always want to play it). The auctions create a tense, mini meta-game in which you need to balance how to achieve your own goals while thwarting your opponents' strategies. Kids will learn how to make the best choice available when often presented with limited options. After all offerings are resolved, game play is smooth and quick. Conflict plays an important part, yet is not overwhelming. Luck is mitigated by the deity roles and well-timed planning. And it does not overstay its welcome. Cyclades is a unique and highly thematic title seamlessly blending Ameritrash and Euro game elements.