Ludovic Maublanc &
Bruno Cathala


No. of Players:
2 - 5



After the successful release of Cyclades at the SPIEL '09 authors Ludovic Maublanc and Bruno Cathala have not forgotten about their mythological game, but instead they have spent some more thoughts on the question how the playing experience might be enhanced. Thus, they have developed a collection of four expansion-modules, and these modules now are released MATAGOT as a combined set in the new Cyclades - Hades expansion.

All four expansions can be used together, and in total the contents of the new box bring a considerable enlargement of the game's scope. However, in order not to overburden the players with all the new elements, the authors counsel for a stepwise introduction of each module, adding one module at a time until the full amount of four modules is reached.

The first module actually can be played without any of the components of the new expansion box, since it brings a variable setup which can be played just with the components of the basic game. Using this new procedure, each player starts with seven coins instead of five, but none of the players has any armies or ships on the gameboard. Instead, the game is started with a preliminary bidding round, with the players being allowed to occupy two islands in the sequence of the gods which were auctioned. Thus, the players now have a possibility to start from a more harmonious position of two neighbouring islands, and in addition each player receives a special benefit depending on the god which he won in this auction. Thus, Poseidon/Ares mean that their bidders begin the game with an additional fleet/army, Athena grants a philosopher and Zeus a priest. Finally, the player who stuck with Apollo gains one prosperity marker, and this gives him a small compensation for the fact that he was last to choose his starting islands.

The next module brings the introduction of a new God - Hades and his Undead Legion. Hades is not participating in the game right from the beginning, but instead two combat dice are rolled at the beginning of each rounds, ticking down a countdown with their results. When a certain result is reached, Hades will replace one of the gods for the upcoming round, and after the round Hades once again leaves the game and the countdown is reset. But what does Hades do? Being the ruler of the underworld, Hades has a Legion of undead armies and ships at his disposal. The player who wins Hades may pay and use these units during his turn to strengthen his own troops, benefitting from the facts that the armies are cheaper than those of Ares and both ships and armies can be hired at the same time. However, the undead only return for a limited time to the face of earth, and so all undead units must be removed from the gameboard together with Hades at the end of the round. Furthermore, the Hades player may chose to build a Metropolis-sized Necropolis on a fitting island, and whenever an army or ship is eliminated from the board one gold coin will be placed at the Necropolis, waiting to be collected during the income phase by the player who possesses this island. Overall, Hades can give a strong advantage in combat, but as the legions crumble back to dust at the end of the round the player who used Hades must be aware that his fame comes at a high price, since both Hades himself AND all undead troop units in excess of the first have to be paid for.

All legends of ancient Greece are built on the stories of mighty heroes, and so the third module included in Cyclades - Hades introduces some additional mythological creatures and six famous Hero-characters. All of these cards are shuffled into the deck of mythological creatures at the beginning of the game, and the heroes can be recruited in exactly the same way as creatures when their cards appear. Heroes are costly to maintain since they cost their employer an upkeep of two coins every turn, but on the other hand they may mean a decisive edge in combat because each hero not only counts as an army, but also possesses a unique combat skill which gives a special benefit. So, cunning Ulysses negates the effects of a Fort or Metropolis, mighty Hector causes a player who attacks him to lose one army before the combat starts, invincible Achilles counts for two armies, and Amazon-Queen Penthesilea wins all ties rolled during combat without the loss of an army. Famous Perseus on the other hand lets troops retreat from a lost battle, and wealthy Midas can purchase re-rolls of his combat dice as long as his money lasts. Even more, each of the Heroes also possesses a one-time power which can be triggered by a voluntary sacrifice of the hero, and here the special effects all deal with the founding of a Metropolis. Thus, the founding may become cheaper, it may be available for a payment of coins, or the new Metropolis even may be built on the hidden island of the Amazons, immunizing it against all further attacks. Despite the fact that the heroes possess special abilities the general tactical approach is not really changed. As their positioning in the creatures-deck shows, they are of equal value as the creatures, and as their uses are limited to combat or a one-time Metropolis effect their impact on gameplay remains calculable.

The fourth and last module introduces Divine favours, and when this module is used one random divine favour card is randomly assigned to the second-to-last god which stands for auction each round. These divine favours depict other minor of the Greek Pantheon, and the player who successfully bids for the major god also will receive the benefits of the associated divine favour during his upcoming turn. The benefits depicted on the divine favours are manifold, with each favour showing both an instant free benefit and an additional ability which can be used / purchased during the upcoming turn. The free benefits are either a Priestess or a magic item card, and whereas a Priestess can be used to avoid the loss of a creature or the payment of a Hero's upkeep, the randomly magic item cards will provide yet another special ability which may be applied once. Here the range of abilities is even wider than those listed for the heroes, and so the magic items effectively may influence all phases of the game. This actually also applies to the original one-use abilities of the divine favour's as well, and so the question arises whether the authors have made a step too far towards arbitrariness with the introduction of this last module.

However, in depth-playtesting revealed that not only the first three modules effectively blend in with the game, but also the Divine Favours enrich the game with additional tactical options without unbalancing the game in general. While the vast range of special abilities and combinations may seem quite dazzling, their overall effects are not stronger than those triggered but some creatures from the basic game. So, both the magic objects and the Divine Favours just open up some other ways which the players may try to secure their victory, and they stay quite well in line with other effects available in the game.

Overall, all fans of Cyclades really should go for Cyclades - Hades, because they certainly will love the expansion for the new variety which becomes available in the game. In my mind the expansion turned out to be a great enhancement of the basic game!

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany