Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Ludovic Maublanc &
Bruno Cathala


No. of Players:
2 - 6



It's somewhat incredible, but it has been 5 years since MATAGOT released the Greek mythology-based boardgame Cyclades back in 2009. The beautiful game has been one of my highlights at the SPIEL that year, only beaten by Servando Carballar's remarkable Werewolf-Thriller Luna llena - Full Moon, but ever since acquiring the game in 2009 I have been a bit sad that it was only playable with a maximum of five players. The game never was forgotten, and so authors Ludovic Maublanc and Bruno Cathala added the Hades expansion in 2011, allowing the players to deal with dark Hades and to hire famous Greek heroes. Already that year Bruno Cathala hinted at the authors' plans to release another expansion which would increase the maximum number of players, but I had to wait until 2015 for this expansion to be realized.

With the release of the new Cyclades - Titans expansion Cyclades is back on the table, and indeed the new expansion finally allows the inclusion of a sixth player. However, I can finally understand why the way towards the release of the final product has taken such a long time. As it turned out, the new player did not just need a few new playing pieces and a larger board, but the rules themselves needed to be adjusted to accommodate a sixth player since the game would have gotten too unpredictable. So, Ludovic and Bruno needed to work both on the winning conditions and on the layout on the gameboard, and they finally came up with a whole new board which features larger islands with regions instead of the small single-region islands which could be found on the original map. If my interpretation is correct, the bigger islands were needed to decrease the possibility of one player having to deal with several other players at the same time. The players are slightly less mobile especially concerning medium range moves, and so they tend to focus on their immediate neighbors, most often resulting in border conflicts with just one or two other players.

The new board accommodates three to six players, but if the new sixth player is included the players also are obliged to play in teams. Whereas games with up to five players still can be played with each player fighting for himself, six participants require the players to split into three teams of two players each. Nothing is shared between the teammates, they may not even cross each other's regions. However, they share the joint victory condition of possessing three Metropolises by the end of a round, and of course they are allowed to discuss how they may achieve this goal. For this reason a new option for a military victory has been included, allowing a player who conquers an opponent's last region to immediately place a Metropolis there if the region offers an empty building space and if the team would gain its third Metropolis by this action.

However, there is more to this expansion than just these new rules and the board. The name of the expansion features the Titans, fearsome giants which have been sent by Zeus' cruel father Kronos to prevent the usurpation of his power by his own children. Now the players can make offerings to Kronos himself, and in game terms Kronos will allow his followers to gain either a free standard building or a Titan. In battle, the Titans act and function exactly like normal troops, but the feature which makes them so fearsome is the possibility to move without the help of Ares (the god who usually provides for army movement). Now the active player can opt to pay gold for moving an army which is lead by a Titan, and this gives the players much more options to launch an attack, resulting in increased action on the gameboard. Seasoned Cyclades-players like myself are forced to re-think their whole approach to the game, since the Titans effectively devaluate an Ares-orientated tactics. It's not enough anymore to prevent other players from getting Ares at a crucial moment, but now you need to check whether there are Titans around which could possibly be harmful for your homelands. Due to the fact that multiple Titan-movements are allowed as long as the active player can pay for them, it becomes quite impossible to feel really save. Each player's treasure still remains hidden behind his screen, and so a player with a large war chest can cause some nasty surprises.

Two more extensions for the game can be found in the Titans-box, and one of them are the five Divine Artifacts which now can be acquired by the players. Like the heroes from Hades, the Artifact-cards first appear in the Mythological Creatures deck, and when a player has acquired an artifact he may place a small figurine representing the artifact into one of his regions. They all have in common that they provide additional income during the revenues phase, but apart from this each artifact has its own special function. So, the Winged Sandals of Hermes allow a player's troops to fly to any region on the same island, the Cap of Invisibility can be used to move troops through occupied regions, and Zeus Lightning entitles its owner to gain a coin whenever he is outbid during the offerings phase. The benefits provided by the artifacts do not seem to be too strong, especially since the artifacts are present on the gameboard and can be stolen by a player who conquers a region with an artifact. Other players will greedily look at a player who has acquired one of these precious items, and so owning an artifact brings the risk that this player always has to watch his back.

Finally, the game now features five special Metropolises. Apart from the standard functions of a Metropolis all of them feature a special ability, and two of them will be randomly determined during setup to be part of the game. The first two players to build a Metropolis now are entitled to one of these specials, and so the early building of a Metropolis now will be rewarded for the player who decides to do so.

Despite the long waiting period it's really good to see that Ludovic and Bruno took their time to create and playtest Cyclades - Titans without haste. The new elements fall into place rather smoothly, enhancing the game without overburdening the players. And, if everybody is ready to take a step ahead, the rules also allow the simultaneous use of the Hades-expansion. Here the players are warned that this may lead to an Odyssey of considerable dimensions, and in game terms this simply means that the inclusion of both expansions needs players to be familiar with the different elements offered by both expansions. Newcomers probably would be overburdened by the sheer volume of options, but seasoned players will appreciate to be able to enjoy Cyclades at a whole new level!

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Copyright & copy; 2015 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany