A review of Cyclades, by the Dice Kings.
Each faction has its own custom miniatures and beautiful coloured screens.
Cyclades is a Matagot ‘XL Collection’ board game designed by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc in which 2-5 Grecians go head to head aiming to be the first one to build two metropolises on the cramped archipelagos that make up the board. Everyone starts with an income of two gold per turn which is based on the amount of prosperity markers they control either on their islands or on certain Sea spaces around the edge of the board. Amassing gold will become very important, because in Cyclades EVERYTHING costs money. You want to move one of your armies to the next island across? That’ll be 1 gold please. Oh you don’t have enough soldiers? Why not recruit another one for 2 gold, the next one’s 3 gold and the next one’s 4. Or perhaps you’d like to build one of the four buildings needed to complete a metropolis? That’ll be two gold each.
Now, this doesn’t sound awfully expensive I know, if it’s two gold a building I can build one per turn and I’ll have a metropolis in a few turns right? Well no, and this one mechanic is the real meat of the game in Cyclades; you don’t just have to pay for the actions you’ll be taking each round but also the privilege, because nothing happens in ancient Greece without the will of the Gods and the gods are very fickle!
Each God is placed on a different slot each round which dictates the turn order
In Cyclades you will each be bidding for the favour of; Zeus the god of lightning and corrupt clergies, Athena the god of thinking and magically appearing buildings, Poseidon the god of boats and Ares the god of murder and hostile takeovers. And when I say bidding I mean literally bidding, the Gods will be laid out each turn in a different order (some being left hidden until next round depending on how many people are playing) which will dictate the turn order for the round. Then, the person who went last on the previous round will make a bid for the god of their choice. He has to pay at least one gold but he can go up as high as he likes as long as he can afford it, and he may have to go a lot higher than he would like if he wants to keep his claim because this is an auction, and everyone wants to build their army as much as you do. So you play it safe and shove 6 gold on Aires which should be eno- oh bloody hell Alex just put 7 down and outbid you, where did he get all that cash from? You don’t know, because all money is secret in Cyclades, tucked behind your little screen until you spend it.
This makes the bidding incredibly tense because unless you’ve been keeping a close eye on your rivals accounts, you never know how much they can afford to mess with your plans or ensure their own. If you are outbid you instantly have to make a new bid on a different God which means you won’t be able to get Aires back unless someone outbids you again on the next God you’ve chosen. This makes for some strange tactics where you’ll be hoping to go last because then you won’t have to guess how much everyone is willing to bid on the god you want or you’ll find yourself having to shove a couple pieces of gold on a god you have absolutely no use for, trying to bait someone into out bidding you, but then no one does and you’re sat there paying 4 gold for a god you don’t care about whilst Alex kills all your men and steals your territory and income. God damn it Alex.
The Game uses its own custom dice ranging from 0-3 for its battles
So what can these Gods actually do? Well as discussed, Aires and Posiedon will allow you to recruit new men and boats. You’ll get a free one just for winning that God’s favour but any others you’ll have to pay for and they get incrementally more expensive with each one bought. The soldiers can take over islands from your rivals or claim uninhabited ones and they use the ships to get there. An army of any size can move from one island to any other for 1 gold coin so long as there is a chain of boats of your colour that link the two islands. For the same price a fleet of boats can move up to 3 spaces, picking up or dropping off friendly ships on the way and attacking anyone else they come across. Combat is dice based and each player adds to their score to the amount of men they’re fighting with plus any other bonuses they might have. Whichever player rolls the lowest loses a unit and combat continues until one side is completely destroyed or has retreated.
The other two Gods you can bid for are a bit more economic. Athena gifts you a free philosopher card (a second will cost you four gold) which will sit in view of everyone in front of your screen. Philosophers, just like in real life, contribute very little to your efforts initially but collect 4 of them and you’ll instantly grab a metropolis free of charge that you can place on the board. Zeus gives you priests which will make your offerings cost 1 gold less than you bid for every one you own, meaning a player can make a bid of 5 but only have to pay 1 gold coin if he has 4 priests on his payroll. Sneaky.
Each God also allows you to pay 2 gold to build one of the four buildings you’ll need to complete a metropolis (unless you’ve invested a lot into your philosophy department). Poseidon and Ares will construct a port and fortress respectively which will give you a defensive advantage in battle. Athena’s universities do nothing but Zeus can construct temples which, like his priests, will decrease how much you’ll have to spend on something we haven’t discussed yet; mythological creatures!
A Cyclops, Sphinx and The Fates sit ready to do your bidding
Above the god track there is a plethora of one shot powers in the guise of minotaurs and harpies, some of which will give you lovely little miniatures that you can place on the board like the terrifying kraken that will eat your ships or medusa who will freeze your troops on an island stopping them from leaving. Each round a new creature is drawn and placed on the most expensive place and any that haven’t already been purchased will become less expensive until they are bought or discarded. Zeus will also allow you to replace one of the cards with a new one for one gold which can be vital if a terrifying monster you can’t afford is just sitting there, waiting to destroy your plans.
The Kraken will spawn on a sea space and eat everything in sight
All these elements combine to create a beautifully elegant game which is all summed up on a very slim rule book and makes it perfect to introduce fairly new gamers into more tactical games. The Bidding phases are tense, the components are beautiful, the tactics are rich without being too complex and the whole thing bubbles up into a money chucking, blood spilling race for the second Metropolis before ending at the 90 minute mark. this game will have you desperate to play again and with good reason. It’s slick, it’s pretty, it makes me swear at my friends and for those reasons-
The Dice Kings recommend Cyclades!
Complete review and comments available here : The Dice Kings recommend Cyclades!