Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc were glad to talk about the Titans expansion for Cyclades...
Cyclades is now 5 years old. But the keen interest for the game doesn’t weaken. In the entertainment universe where most of the boardgames are forgotten within the three months following their release, it is true happiness but also a chance : the chance to be able to proceed at our own pace with the improvement of the game mechanism that is close to our heart, by including our desires, the ones of the publisher but also still listening to any comments and wishes from the players over differents forums (TT, BGG, ...)
Thus in 2011, we proposed the first expansion, Hades, which brought more movement and military interactions within the Cyclades archipelago. A greatly appreciated expansion according to the numerous feedbacks.
Today, here is a new expansion, that of Kronos and his Titans which shows up. This is an opportunity for us to share with you, beyond a classic content of the box description, of the underlying reasons that have led our work in this direction...
A new board
For Ludovic and I, designing an expansion for a boardgame must bring something different. Something that, based on unmodified basis rules, requires the player to thoroughly review his strategy, to re-learn the game, somehow.
As strategies in Cyclades are closely tied up with the board topology, our first idea was to offer an additional board. However, merely propose a distribution of the little isles from the base board won’t have been enough. Smoke and mirrors. A sense of change that would not have been one in the end. It was necessary to think differently.
Thus the idea of zooming the board was born. There would be no more than one or two large main isles. Each of them divided into territories. Here is THE good idea. Thereby, prior any testing it is clear that the dynamique of the game will necessarily be completely renewed. And as the ships should anyway retain their rightful place, let accompany them with tiny isles providing lots of gold and with commerce squares earning double values. The balance is met, but the dynamics and tactics are completely reviewed.
If the basis idea was immediately attractive, it took several months of work and tests to achieve the final topology of this new board (if I remember correctly, it must be version 4.1) !!!
A sixth player
Adding a 6th player in Cyclades was a request from the players. A recurrent request, not only through the forums but also during the meetings on various shows.Obviously, the more a game can be played by numerous players, the more it gets chance to become popular. So, the idea was attractive. But design such an idea while maintaining a correct balance with an additional player is not easy.
Indeed, in Cyclades, each turn you gain the support of ONE god. A single one... and very specialized. Ares for troops, Poseidon for fleets and so on. In order to evolve, it is important to gain support from other gods along the turns. With 6 players, the probability of failing to obtain support from the desired god, and therefore to be unable to evolve properly, is high. Too high. That’s the reason why the basis game is limited to 5 players.
To allow 6-players games, it was necessary to find something else. To consider a new approach. And this is how the idea of team play was born ! With 6 players, each team is mandatory composed of two players. Thus, during a single turn, each team will evolve twice. An ideal solution that, in addition, perfectly fits a complete rediscovery of the basis game. The gaming experience will necessarily be very different.
If the new board was long to adjust, the team play was ultimately quiet natural since the first playtest. I should not betrayed a great secret in saying that, for Ludo and I, this way of playing is our favorite one. Particularly because the auction phase, jointly with your partner, becomes more teasing yet...
Kronos and the Titans
A 6th player implies... a 6th God. Mandatory.
Il was quite logical to find something that complements the new topology of the board. Large isles, themselves divided into territories, that calls cravings troops movements. Of course, for these movements, Ares is naturally suitable. But Ares could be used only one out of 6 times. Which is low, even too low and could lead to a too static gameplay whereas such a map claims military dynamism.
As a result, we need... a new way to move armies. We need... "locomotives" allowing to take the troops into battle, whatever is the god you finally chosen. And we found these lococomotives by creating the Titans.
A Titan, he is an overpowered colossus, which can be payed to move troops accompanying him. For that not being too much, each square crossed in this way costs more and more expensive. This is consistent with the need to carefully manage your gold. In Cyclades as elsewhere, money is the sinews of war.
As a result, acquire these Titans becomes a strategic choice : you will be required to gain support from Kronos, the Titans father. No doubt that biddings will be tight around these new god.
Working on this second expansion had also been the opportunity to consider one element that bothers us into the basis game.
Indeed, we have been quite surprised to read feedbacks of plays lasting up to 3, 4 and even 5 hours. While during our own test games in Annecy or Dijon, a play will never, ever lasts more than 2 hours with slow players. And most of the time rather 60 to 90 minutes.
This point interpellates us so we tried to understand what could lead to these lenghty durations according to us. We finally understand : within these groups of players, no one never builds any building. Everybody raises armies to maximum. Because the one and only strategy of each player is not to build a metropolis progressively until controlling two of them but on the contrary to conquer two of them during the same turn, preferably in a military way, by capturing the ones built by the opponents.
As a consequence, when everybody plays this way, the only metropolis coming in-game are the ones from the philosophers. And before at least two come in-game, it can take ages.
This way of playing, even if totally possible following the basis game rules, does not fulfill our philosophy for this specific game and for boardgames in general. Thus, we have considered natural and interesting to offer something new with this second expansion.
So, at the begining of the play, 4 territories will already hold apiece one of the basis buildings. Additionally, Kronos provides as a free AND mandatory action to build one of these basis buildings (to be choosen among ones placed above him in the god track order). Therefore, wether you wish it or not, all kinds of buildings come in-game in a natural and fast way, and consequently faster is the apparition of metropolises.
The game turns more dynamic. QED !
This idea is not ours but one from our publisher. So let’s take advantage of this making-off to bring back to Matagot what is Hicham’s. Indeed, while the processing of this expansion was quite at an advanced stage, he told us : "What about designing specialized metropolises ?"
And us, a little sheepish... "Yes... Why not...". And above all, why we haven’t think ourselves before as it’s so cool ???
Then of course, we embraced the idea at once and created 5 specific metropolis. Each of them featuring an unique ability (e.g. provide defensive bonus so as to get an easiest way to keep it, gain 2 GP per turn or build next metropolis with only 3 philisophers).
For replayability, only two of these metropolis, randomly drawn, will be available... and the first two metropolis built must be theses ones.
Therefore, as their powers are really attractive, that’s perfect because it solves the issue "motivate players to build faster".
It costs us much to recognize, but well... thank you Hicham !! ;-)
A new way to victory
Hades expansion introduced Heroes. Heroes are very interesting not only for their military habilities but also because their presence into the mythological creatures deck breaks up the "petite moulinette" of Zeus. Don’t you know it ? It consists, when close to the end of the game and if you are stinking rich, to bid on Zeus in order to cycle the mythological creatures deck thanks to his paying ability until finding the so-desired Pegasus which will allow a blitz attack for victory.
Heroes, who are not mythological creatures, block this cycling-method because Zeus cannot discard them from the track.
With this new expansion, no hero. So we insert a new type of cards : the divine Artifacts ! 5 artifacts featured with pleasant powers are shuffled into the mythological creatures deck to prevent the cycling-method of Zeus as well.
So you will find the winged sandals, the caduceus or the great prosperity artifact. Each of them supplied with the matching figurines to be placed on the board, onto the choosen territory.
Cause beyond the fact that these objets are interesting for their special ability and for the 1GP income they bring each turn, now there is also a new way to win the game : if a player (or a team) controls the 5 artifacts, the play ends IMMEDIATELY and it’s a victory !!
Such a victory, even if it rarely occurs, yet changes the aspect ("physionomie") of the plays and forces to a specific alertness...
Expansion or stand-alone ?
Once this work of designing and developing was completed, we faced to... lots of components:
a new board, a new offering space (because of the 6th god), a full new army (the 6th player), the Titans figurines, divine Artifacts cards and figurines, the new metropolises.
This started to make a lot. And as the aspect ("physionomie") and the feelings of the game are totally renewed, a well founded question raised :
Make a big expansion or make a new game, a stand-alone, even if that means re-thematize with a different mythology.
The two options have their pros and cons. At the end, instead of a new theming, finally dummy, which will imply higher cost for you, the publisher decided to choose the big expansion, certainly costly but less than a new game, and consistent with the Cyclades gameplay.
A few words about the choice "3 to 6 players"
This expansion was above all designed in the idea to gather more players (up to 6), in favoring the team play (so 4 or 6). This being said, individually, Titans can be perfectly played at 3 or 5.
But so, why not include rules for 2-players ?
Well... Because the new topology poorly suited to it.
Yes, it is possible to play 2-players, each of them controlling two armies (two colors).
But all must be managed separately: GP, priests, philisophers, artifacts, ...
As a result, 2-players game with two colors each works really well. But requires an organization neither convenient nor pleasant.
That’s why we preferred to undertake the game from 3 players only. The über-passionates, for their part, will clearly play 2-players games as suggested above.
A few words about the mixing of the expansions
Quid of playing both Cyclades + Hades + Titans... Yes, you can mix Hades AND Titans.
However what we suggest then is to include into Titans some of the Hades modules : Hades himself, of course, but also heroes and creatures from hells.
And we advice you to keep aside divine favors. As it happens that too much rules and effects end in an unpleasant gameplay...
Here it is... You know everything... Or almost since new tactics, it’s now up to you to discover and appropriate them, for new epic adventures in the Cyclades.
Thanks to Michaël for the translation.