Lords of Hellas Review

Lords of Hellas Core Box

It seems hypocrisy is something with which I am becoming more familiar. Not through malice or an attempt to ruin someone's day (although I will admit it is entertaining), but through an evolution of taste and the fact that I seem to have been cross-bred with a magpie. That being the only explanation  I can think of for claiming to be "not about the miniatures" whilst jumping on the bandwagon faster than Zebedee on a springboard when a juicy Kickstarter appears which is clearly "mostly about the miniatures".

Ok let's be honest, it's not just about the models. If that was the case I'd be CMON's biggest client, which I'm not. What attracted me to Lords of Hellas was a twofold thing: Awaken Realms had already shown that they can run a decent campaign and produce a good game after the success that was This War of Mine. Not only that, I have a thing for ancient Rome and Greece; so Lords of Hellas was like a siren call to a doomed ship's captain. And yes, I can't lie, the miniatures looked amazing.

Lords of Hellas Minotaur

So down the monetary sink-hole I fell; only to be greeted part way along my tumble with the first of two waves of shipping containing the Core box and scenery expansion complete with the Sundrop effect on the models. There's a lot more to come (yes, I went all in) and after the first few games of Lords of Hellas, it's fair to say that I can't wait for what's on its way. Some of you may recall that I was rather looking forward to this game and yes, I've let a few cats out of bags there, but allow me to explain why.

Lords of Hellas is, thankfully, more than just "Dudes on a Map"; one of the major concerns that existed during the campaign. If you've played Kemet or Game of Thrones, this will seem familiar, but in my not-so-humble opinion it's better than both. Different to both too, but superior. Game of Thrones has more politics and Kemet has a base of operations. Neither are present in Lords of Hellas. Despite the heft of the minis (and the Statues are very hefty), the game mechanics are thankfully very light and turns rattle on quite quickly, so there's little downtime.

Lords of Hellas Player Miniatures

There's four ways to claim victory so a great deal of flexibility exists in how you want to approach the game; it also means that you can change strategies part way through and not suffer too much setback, unlike a lot of worker placement games. You can either control two lands (larger regions of the map), kill three of the mythical beasties roaming around, run a series of temples or control one of the massive Monument statues that can be built.

Which leads me nicely to the main event: the miniatures, although let's be honest, many of them aren't that "mini". Each player gets their choice of Hero and army; each colour of army has their own unique sculpts. So lots of variation already. On top of that are the big beasties which are a fabulous twist on the classic Grecian mythical beasts. Lords of Hellas mixes technology with history in a sort of TechnoTogan image, which I think works really well. The biggest models represent the statues of Zeus, Athena and Hermes, which players build throughout the game. I love this mechanic as it actually makes use of the models as part of the game instead of just using them for eye candy.

Lords of Hellas Hermes Monument

Whilst on the subject of the miniatures, Awaken Realms offer their touted "Sundrop" effect on these models (which I ended up with on the pledge level I chose) and I must admit the "hosepipe shading" hasn't come off all that well. It's very inconsistent and I'm more than likely to clean them off (the wash seems to come off in hot water as I found out when I began to straighten Athena's javelin) and paint them properly. They still look better than bare plastic and the effect that it creates does look like a sort of marble/stone effect perfect for statues.

Players turns are made of two phases; the regular actions and special actions. Moving troops, their Hero and priests all count as regular activities and can be done in any order. Dump a priest at a monument to improve your Hero or invade a nearby region, it's up to you. Then you get the special action and I love this. You get a choice of seven of them, each powerful, but once performed it can't be used again until someone chooses to add to one of the monuments. All spent actions are reset and the builder gains a bunch of priests to assist them if they happen to own a few temples. This makes use of the hefty models and adds to the effect on the board at the same time. It also allows the Monsters their moves, so upgrading comes with risk, another lovely element.

Lords of Hellas Full Board Setup

Building temples gets access to Blessings which are god-provided buffs selected from a drafting process. Steve commented that the game suffered a common weakness here; it's hard to tell what Blessings each person has and what they do as the text is small and you're on the other side of the board to them. He's right, although the Blessings themselves are a nice addition.

On top of all this, you can send your Hero off on a quest (after all, that's what they did best) to get a juicy reward or to hunt a fabled monsters. This makes use of the lightweight combat system used for both monsters and players; different parts of the combat cards are used to poke the beasties or add to your military might if you take exception to your neighbour's antics and wander in to show them what-for. It's all very straightforward and not cumbersome at all, even becoming fun and vindictive at the same time.

Lords of Hellas Chimera and Sphynx

Despite Lords of Hellas being massive (and set up time is not fast) it usually lasts around 90-120 minutes and the game sits on a knife edge. All players were so close to victory at one point or other, only to have it snaffled from them with a single stroke. At the point each game ended, within a move or two, every player could have won with different conditions proving the game is balanced, caters for all types and is tense. I wonder what the expansions will add beyond five and six players (Lords of Hellas covers four by default) and I can't help but feel the game was designed for use with the extras in mind (there's even a space on the base board for a 4th monument, even though the game comes with just three), but this core box works very well.

So there we have it. A big pile of money well spent and resulting in a gorgeous, impressive-looking and very immersive, playable game. Awaken Realms have done it again and have established themselves in my mind as a company definitely worth keeping an eye on.

This review is based on a full Kickstarter copy of the game.
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