Hellenica – first impressions – The Boardgames Chronicle

While I am not so much a miniatures player, I never pass on an interesting title. Especially if that concerns my favorite part of human history – Antiquity. Last year we had a Kickstarter for Hellenica expansions where one could also get the base version. Me fellow boardgames buddy Jakub decided to get this title and when it arrived I of course could not resist and gladly agreed to test the game. We convinced also Lukasz (who plays with me mainly Samurai Battles and Memoir) to join the fray. Let us see ho wit went – ​​but first couple of words about the game.

The game

An explosion of creativity and violence erupted in the Aegean Basin in 800 BC that defined ancient Greece. This combination of science, mythology, development, and war was led by powerful city-states like Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Troy, Byzantium, Corcyra, and Thebes. These states vied for control over their rivals and dominated the lesser states around them. In time, some of them became so well known that they are remembered even today.

Publisher Page

Hellenica: Story of Greece is a 3.5X civilization game in which you harness the powers of one of seven beginning city-states to dominate the world around you. Your goal is to become the preeminent symbol of Greece for all posterity goals by achieving a combination of secret and public. Will you be remembered as a warmonger or a peaceful philosopher? Great priest or apostate? Will you develop a devotion to the gods or focus on the advancement of your people? All this possible in competitive and cooperative set-ups, with basic and advanced bot rules, allowing also for solo play.

The sessions

First attempt

In our initial game we decided to play on the whole map, with 3 players and 4 bots (in a simplified variant). As we shall see, that resulted in rather isolated game for each and every of us but on the other hand allowed the game to reach its finish. And to complete you need to fulfill 4 goals, where some of them must be private (only you see them) and some of them public. Let us see how it went!

(you can click each and every picture to enlarge it in the new window)

Our initial locations in the first game; we are pretty far from one another, with Jakub taking Sparta, me Troy and Lukasz Corcyra.
Hellenica is a semi-historical game, which means mythological monsters appear here! Above we can see Minotaur ravaging Byzantium lands – I am so glad it did not land in my city!
Troy growth and development was directly connected to sea – so I eagerly started to develop my fleet, investing into more and more triremes, scouting new lands and fighting AI ships!
Kuba as Sparta of course took another course of action – mainly land, hoplite armies, fighting with Corinth and Athens for domination in Central Greece,
Lukasz lead Corcyra in two directions – first and foremost land (where who was mercilessly beaten by Thebes) and also the naval path as one of the public goals was connected to this.
After like 6 hours of play we finished; There was almost zero interaction between players, mainly developing one’s civilizations, Fulfilling the goals and attacking (or being attacked by) AI. Congrats to Jakub for victory.

Second attempt

Two days later we decided to bring the Hellenica to the table for the second time. The learning was clear – we played on too large map for only 3 players. So we reduced map by removing Byzantium and Troy from play. That looked much more compact and proved to be many times more interactive – some might even say too much!

Second attempt to Hellenica. Much smaller map, 3 players, 2 bots. We also increased AI difficulty and added some special hero cards from expansion. This time Lukasz is in Sparta, I took Thebes while Jakub Corcyra.
We wanted more interaction? So we got it! First, Athens built huge land (!) army which sailed to Sparta and ravaged Lukasz lands.
Then, the endless war between me and Jakub started – all because I managed to recruit some interesting heroes. The lands in the north of map switched owners multiple times.
What is more, Sphinx decided to “visit” one of my cities and spread the terror. Fortunately, my hero killed it!
Did I tell you that my (Thebes) and Kuba (Corcyra) fights were endless? We used a lot of resources and research for this war only to finish it… exactly in the territorial control state as it started!
When we reached almost 2 am we decided to stop the game, with me and Lukasz having 2 VPs and Kuba 1. That was much more exciting and interactive game than the first one!

The impressions

It was of course only two initial plays so the impressions will be limited, but let me share some of them immediately:

  • Kuba full edition of the game, with miniatures and huge purchased map. It looks gorgeous! There is enough space for armies, miniatures are nicely produced and the map simply beautiful!
  • The ability to add bots, in basic and advanced version, is a huge plus of this game as it allows even smaller groups to play Hellenica. But be careful – do not try full map if you do not have at least 4-5 players.
  • I like the cooperative mode plus special scenarios – we did not have a chance to try it but I am sure this will be fun!
  • The only drawback so far which I see is time to set-up, play, and clean-up the game. It really takes enormous amount of time!

Summary

I will not deny it – it was fan playing Hellenica, an interesting ancient-themed wargame with fantasy twist. Something different to what I can taste normally as far as boardgames are concerned. But this is exactly beauty of having varied boardgames colleagues group, with everybody bringing slightly different titles so we can try many genres, mechanics and positions.

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