When I first saw it, I thought that Lords of Hellas by Awaken Realms was just another ‘dudes on a board’ area control game, albeit with an interesting theme. It was actually one of the reasons that I didn’t back it on Kickstarter – the campaign was running around the same time as Mythic Battles: Pantheon and I decided that I preferred my Greek myth in its traditional form rather than with a sci-fi twist.
Therefore it was fortunate indeed that the kickstarter was backed by one of my regular gaming buddies and good friend – The Halfling Hickman.
We have previously had an aborted attempt to look at this game, but finally decided last week to put it out on the table and try and get to grips with the game – we are very glad that we did!
The board – we are simply looking at the base game without any expansions – depicts Ancient Greece, and is split into five lands. Each of these lands are split into a number of regions. Many regions contain a city or a temple site – some contain both. 4 regions also contain foundations for monuments to the Gods.
The aim of the game is simple – reach one of four victory conditions before any of your opponents:
- Control 2 lands (3 in a 2-player game)
- Control 5 regions in which temples have been built
- Kill 3 Monsters
- Control the region containing a fully built monument 3 turns after its building was completed. (not valid in a two-player game)
Each player controls a Hero, such as Achillies or Perseus (who has a special rule and a starting special power) and an army of Hoplites and Priests.
On each turn a player may perform a number of standard actions (move Hoplites, move Hero, pray with Priest (if available) and use an artifact) plus one special action. These special actions include recruiting more Hoplites to your armies, building temples to the Gods, hunting monsters and building Monuments.
Hoplites are used to control regions of territory and are potentially involved in fights with opposing armies. Heroes move about the land performing quests or fighting with legendary monsters, which in turn can provide artifacts or helpful boons which can aid a player in their task to become the Lord of Hellas.
Priests can pray to the Gods, who in turn boost the attributes of a player’s hero.
As the game progresses, a players army grows bigger and their heroes grow stronger – especially as they find powerful artifacts and are given blessings of the gods (various bonus granted by building temples). However, unless dealt with the monsters can also wreak havoc across the lands – killing Hoplites, wounding heroes and causing disruption around them – and each turn there is a risk that more monsters may appear. These include the Minotaur, Cerberus, the Hydra, the Cyclops, Chimera, Medusa or the Sphinx.
Whilst area control lies at the heart of the game, the other aspects create such a synergy that no path to victory can be ignored. Temples are vital for creating priests – without these being able to pray to the Gods, your heroes will remain weak and your forces limited. Monsters, though powerful and able to wound heroes, can provide great bonuses if wounded or killed, but can also cause huge problems in the areas they roam if not dealt with.
In short, each turn provides players with a multitude of challenge and choice – absolutely ideal for an in-depth strategy game with a Euro twist. Even if you suffer early setbacks, it is still possible to find a path to victory – something we experienced in our second game when Richard had most of his Hoplites destroyed by monsters at the end of the first Monster phase, yet was within a whisker of controlling 5 temples (a winning condition) at the end of the game. By the way – player elimination isn’t possible as you cannot kill an opponents Hero, though losing all your Hoplites will put a serious dent in your plans.
A bonus of the game is also the production design. The artwork is superb and the miniatures are really good – once you get you head around the strange synergy of Ancient Greece and Alien Cyborg technology.
We had a great time playing this game – yet another case of “why did we wait so long to play this?” This is certainly a game that will reward repeated plays – especially since we discovered that we had somehow managed to get several rules wrong during the first couple of attempts.
If the replay-ability of the base game wasn’t enough, there are a number of expansion that add different Heroes, Monsters and Monuments – plus the possibility to play with up to SIX players. Despite the fact that the board size increases with more than four, a six player game must be absolutely mental – this is definitely not a game to play if you are not a fan of in-your-face confrontation.
I would like to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Lords of Hellas, but that is simply a massive understatement. I think I would go as far to say that LoH is one of the best area control themed boardgames I have ever played, and I’m kicking myself for not backing the KS in the first place. Thankfully, I know a man with the full set of toys for this game, and we will hopefully get the opportunity to play this game many times in the months and years ahead.