Gods are looking for their champion. Our islands are filled with war for several years. It seemed, that victory is still far away, but everything has changed. On the territory of Argos, giant jellyfish appeared and caused havoc among troops. Eventually, they managed to push it back to the sea, but it only means one thing – mythical creatures will emerge from the shadows under flag of the gods and decide outcome of our war. Its not us only agains them anymore.
Cyclades is a battleground, that invites you into its own heart. Its creation from authors Ludovic Maublanc and Bruno Cathala, and their child was born in 2009. Illustrations are work of Miguel Coimbra and joint work of all these people was published under flag of French company Matagot. And because we received both expansions – Hades and Titans – for review to our office, its the worthiest time to present original game.
Cyclades is a game, that is located in a spectacular and big box. It has an elongated shape and its lid contains scene of battle for one of Greek cities. Inside, we find really big game board (size can be adjusted according to number of players). As gods, we are looking down on the archipelago dotted with circular frames. In the corners are spaces for cards hovering above the clouds.
Most of the other elements in the box are made of cardboard. First, standing in line for punching out are large boards of gods. These are four of them and each shows a scale, that will be used in auction for this god preference. And there are also icons describing capabilities of this particular god. Then there are coins, sixteen tokens of prosperity and fifty square tiles of various kinds. There are also standard cards, that represent priests, philosophers and mythical creatures. These monsters are physically present in the box in form of beautiful miniatures.
For each player is prepared set of pieces – two columns, eight ships, same number of troops and three tokens. In addition to all this, each participant gets also a screen, where can he carefully hide his assets. But while five gold coins, which constitute the initial fortune, can be layed into hiding, all troops of his color must be clearly laid out in front of the screen. Part of their troops will commanders deploy on board as shown in the rules. Each participant will have two islands under his control at the beginning.
Besides the main board, there is place for auxiliary creatures board and also all scales of the gods connect to it (in random order). Players randomly allocated one of their columns on order track. The cards are then shuffled by decks and distributed to appropriate places. All other tokens are starting fight placed beside board.
And battle can begin! Beginning of each round is done by revealing three beings, who will roam the archipelago in the service of the gods, and they will wait for someone to hire them (by doing offering). Their cards are always randomly revealed and shifted on several fields, where offer thus changes. Also god boards are always newly shuffled and distributed in a different order each round, as it affects activation of their abilities. But especially, players receive their income for controlled islands each round –properity icon (or additionally placed token) on island under his control brings him one gold coin.
This is followed by auction of divine favor. To do this, players use their columns and one after another choose gods. But whether the god will lean to this player is not yet certain. As we have said before, each deity figure has a scale indicating amount of gold coins, which the player is willing to sacrifice for using this god powers. And this means, that other players can offer more. At such a moment, surpassed general takes his piece back and has to put it immediately on another god. If he has enough money to trump other offers on god tiles. Otherwise, he can choose Apollo for free. This is the only god able to serve more players per round.
After all players have chosen one unique god (besides Apollo), they may advance to the next stage. But first, they must pay bid amount in gold coins. Performing actions may then erupt, going from top to bottom in actual order of god boards. Players can use any combination of actions, that are on the menu of that god. Main one is to recruit new units for war. This can be done by all deities, but each time a bit differently.
While Ares will bring to player faithful soldiers (one for free, more after payment), Poseidon offers fleet. Athena and Zeus also allow to recruit, but these people are not directly focused on war. We are talking about philosophers (provide player with opportunity to have capital) and priests (reduce amount paid in auction).
When a player is armed, then he certainly will welcome possibility to move his troops. This is again divided by gods, so ground troops are moved with Ares, while water with Poseidon. Units can be moved not only by land, but also between the islands. But to cross the sea, these islands have to be at that moment connected by a number of player´s ships and units cross it at once.
Once two armies collide (either ships or fighters), a battle occurs. It consists of individual rounds, which always include one roll of the dice for each side. Number of player soldiers involved in the battle are added to this number and totals are compared. Lower number loses and must remove one unit from battlefield. Defender may then decide to retreat, but he must have a place behind him to do so. Only when he wants to continue, another rounds follow until the moment, when one of the parties is completely destroyed.
This is the way, how generals can conquer islands. Any such newly captured island would bring greater income for next round. But in addition, players can raise buildings, which will then add bonuses to their defense (port in water, fortress on land). Besides these, there are also other buildings: temple and university. To create them, players should again choose correct God and pay money needed.
Anyone, who chose payed God (not Apollo) can call mythical creatures from offer into play. He must pay the amount shown on field with that card and then can use its special ability. Creature will join his forces into upcoming battles, until it is destroyed.
Once the player makes any desired action, he moves his column to the lowest available space in order box. After activation of the gods, including Apollo, who adds gold coins to his devotees and allows them to bless one island (for higher yield), it is time for another round again from the very beginning. Aim for all players is to be the first to build two cities. To do this, it is necessary to own all four types of buildings and hire four philosophers. Or capture cities of the enemy. Then, game immediately ends with a victory of player, who has these cities under his control.
Cyclades is a very interesting war game, which offers primarily informed choice of action. Auctions are here working on A+ and they have a very interesting course. Players are trying to capture a position on one of the gods cheaply, but at the risk of being squeezed out by someone else. In such a situation, they have to go and pray to other deity.
That overcharging is entertaining and simultaneously provides involvement for all players from beginning till the end. All five gods have a clear sense of purpose and there is no useless god. This is also because each one really can do it all, just a little differently.
Battles are simple and its merger between luck and army force. Ideal combination, that can not disappoint anybody. Without them the game cannot be won, because players already own islands at the beginning. And by simply standing around and building, you cannot create path to victory. Aggressive tactics and exploitation of all opportunities is required for success. This game is highly confrontational.
Among battle options are also mythical creatures, that give the game even more depth. You must pay for their services, while offering change around with every round. And because players have access to them regardless of the god chosen at the auction, represent a very interesting feature of the battle.
And although this is a game, where war has the final word, we will not find player elimiantion at all here. They all play until the very end, because nobody can seize their last island. Conversely, such a losing player gets a bonus to his next effort, which he can still help him rise in glory of his game and speak into game progress once again. In doing so, there are various routes to victory and individual matches differ from each other.
Due to increasing profits and constant skirmishes, game has a clearly defined end, which does not uses victory points. Still, a battle often exceed an hour and takes approximates ninety minutes. Different numbers of players have their own layout of the board, so it is always crowded and there is little to none space free. Even auction rules include smart option for two players, which operates and maintains the game fun anyway! Yet, in higher numbers, game is even more exciting and interesting.
But what makes Cyclades into true king is processing. From a detailed board with unusual circular fields, through quality of illustration everywhere up to beautiful miniatures. Mythical being are able to dominate the game visually and attract inexperienced players to table.
Cyclades is example of precise and balanced design. Game contains plenty of twists and ending is always very exciting. It will not give you even a moment to breathe and can tell a story, that you will experience from beginning to end. This is definitely one of the best board games with fantastic processing on top of it all. If you are serious about boardgaming, then Cyclades belong to your collection.
Cyclades are a hybrid of both schools board games - dicey and thematic ameritrash and tactical euro. Its auction mechanism is used as an approach to the gods, who allow players to carry out everything. But war needs sacrifices, so fight for small islands awaits us around every corner. Without control, there is no income and without income, there are no prospects for victory. The whole game is moved even further by mythical creatures, whose services can players buy. Game works in all counts and offers a reasonably long and tense experience. Cyclades are truly an awesome game.