Be prepared to travel to the Cyclades archpelago during the golden age of the ancient Greece.

With the blessing of the Gods of Olympus and the support of Mythological Creatures, recruit troops, build ships, create fortresses and construct metropolises. The struggle to bring your people to their highest glory will be legendary!

With Cyclades, Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc (Mr. Jack, Dice Town) reinvents development and conquest games. In a ninety minutes game, live through an incredible adventure in which soldiers, philosophers, mythological creatures and gods are common.

Cyclades contents
images © Asmodee

User Reviews (15)

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6
Unicorn Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
Gamer - Level 6
Novice Reviewer
8
112 of 119 gamers found this helpful
“One of the top board control games”

Cyclades is one of the first board games I played after years of wargaming and RPGs. I grew up with Risk and Monopoly and the like but moved on to other forms of gaming as I got older, and in the meantime left board games behind. About two years ago I got the chance to sit down with some friends and learn the game Cyclades, and it pulled me into the hobby of more advanced board games. Because of that, it is a game that I recommend to everyone.

Cyclades is a board control game, similar to Risk in that players move troops around a map attempting to gain control of more regions. This makes the game style easy to understand for most any player. The map is broken up into islands and sea locations that give players access to their turn-by-turn income and open spaces to build different structures. The map is semi modular, with four different distinct options that are changed based on the number of players. More players means a bigger map with more available areas.

Each turn begins with players using their gold to bid on the favor of the Greek gods Ares, Poseidon, Athena, Zeus or Apollo. The number of gods available to bid on is always equal to the number of players. Each god gives a different benefit to the player who earns their favor. Poseidon lets the player build and move ships around the seas to bridge the gap between islands. Ares gives the player more troops and the ability to move troops across islands that have been bridged by ships. Each god also allows the controlling player to build a specific building with certain benefits. Apollo is always available to all players, with each player choosing him receiving at least one gold and the chance for more monetary rewards. This struggle is one of the game’s central mechanics.

The game is won when a player ends a round controlling two metropolis buildings. A metropolis can be acquired in one of three ways. If a player has one of each of the four unique building on the board they are immediately replaced with a metropolis. If a player ever owns four philosopher cards (bought when you control Athena) they are immediately traded in for a metropolis. Last, a player can use troops to conquer and island with a metropolis already built there.

This means that each player will continue to fight for the favor if different gods in each turn to diversify their holdings and military options. This makes the game very unique as conflict occurs off the battlefield and new tactical options become available based on which god you control in a given turn, and which god you plan to follow in subsequent turns. This is all further complicated and enhanced by the mythological monsters deck. Each turn a new monster is revealed (up to three total) that has a unique one-time ability that can be used by the active player if they have the money to purchase the monster card. Some monster give gold or move troops, others destroy building or protect items. Zeus allows players to build temples that reduce the cost of monster cards.

Cyclades’ great strength lies in the variables on the board. The order of god on the board, gold available, monsters available, and the threat presented by other player all factor into the decision making. The theme of competing for the gods’ favor is very well executed in their differing abilities and tactical strengths. Direct combat, sneaky use of monsters, and staunch defense are all valuable play styles. The games components—board, figures, cards and tokens—are all very high quality. Their art and durability are top notch. The rule book is short and easy to understand, and each player is given a game screen with summaries of every item in the game. You really get your money’s worth in both game play and production value.

This game gets a solid A rating and is highly recommended.

 
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10
Critic - Level 5
Professional Advisor
Expert Reviewer
Marquis / Marchioness
7
103 of 110 gamers found this helpful
“Add a bit of war to your Eurogaming”

I like this game.

The above statement comes as a bit of a surprise to me. In fact, I like this game a lot.

This game has (at least) two big things going for it that I’m normally not drawn to:

(1) it has great pieces/artwork and an overall great look (normally bits and artwork aren’t a big deal to me)

(2) it adds (a little) wargaming to a Eurogame (wargames aren’t typically my favorite genre). What wargaming there is doesn’t overwhelm the game, but adds a little extra element of risk and planning.

The Eurogame portion presents itself more in the auction mechanic, which will be very familiar to fans of Amun-Re. Only one person may win the favor of a god each turn (other than Apollo, which gives money instead of requires it). A person will bid some amount for the god they want the favor of, then the next person choose a god to bid on. If you want the favor of a god that already has a bid, you must outbid that person. If someone is outbid, they must immediately make another bid, which cannot be on the god they were on when outbid. It’s a great bidding system.

Each god gives different favors, and allows you to build different buildings that give you benefits as long as you own them. When you have one of each (of four) buildings, they become a metropolis. Ending a turn with 2 metropolises (3 in a 2-player game) gives you the win.

There is an added element to buildings, you must have a place to put them. The gameboard represents the Cyclades chain of Greek islands, each island only have so much room for buildings. This is where the war portion can come in. You can attack and conquer other islands using Ares, so long as your fleet of ships (granted by Poseidon) can reach the island.

I prefer the game with more players (for instance, I like 5 more than 3). 2-players was also fun (each person bids on two gods per turn) but felt like a different game to me (though following almost all of the same rules).

I’ve found a game takes more than the 60 minutes advertised (90-120), but is well worth it. If there is a downside, it can happen where one player finds themselves in the role of keeping another player from winning. Often, you can see which god someone needs in order to win the game, and players that are behind tend to be the ones jumping in to keep the game going, instead of aggressively following their goals.

This game borrows mechanics from many places, and ends up with an unique experience that keeps me coming back.

 
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3
Novice Reviewer
8
93 of 100 gamers found this helpful
“Tastiest buffet in the Mediterranean ”

Something refreshing anyone?
What’s that sir? You were never really into auctioning? What if these have bloody consequences?
Never was too much into war gaming? What if you could buy the service of a Kraken to eat the enemy ships at your shores?
Cyclades invites you to a Mythological buffet of game mechanisms, each spicing up the previous. Get a napkin.

Gameplay, in short
Everyone starts with a small army occupying a few islands in the Cyclades archipelago. This is not enough for the ambitious leader you are of course, so you will try to expand to more terrain and build impressive metropolises using your hard earned cash to win the favor of the godz.
After a small (re)setup, each round starts with an auction for the favor of one of the Greek godz. This goes quickly around the table until everyone is (or has to be) satisfied with the god that will do their bidding for the round.
This is followed by players, in oder of the godz they’ve picked, executing the accompanying actions. The player who won Poseidon will be able to move ships and start sea battles. Zeus can give you Priests and reduce the cost of future auctions etc.
This is mixed with the Mythological creatures that are on offer as well. They give the game its flavor and ever changing tactics by offering one use power-ups for the round.
Go round and round until someone manages to squeeze out a second Metropolis.

Components
This is one of the best looking games I own. If opening the box and looking through all the shinies doesn’t cause you to create an embarrassing amount of saliva, maybe you should reconsider your geek status.

Besides being pretty, every tiny piece is high quality. Everything from the main board, the voting tiles, the coin, the miniatures. Oh! The miniatures. Why is it that each player gets different models for their boats and soldiers? No reason. Other than drowning you in theme and atmosphere. The player screens help here as well. Each player has different artwork to instill fear in their opponents. Details details details.
This game is an ode to boardgaming. Everything has been done with big scoops of love here.

Buy it?
Cyclades is a little bit of everything. It all works together like a Swiss watch and then manages to merge it with the theme as well! That is a hat’s off and deep bow from me. But this might also cause you to be disappointed that a certain element isn’t meaty enough. Not really crunchy enough for number-crunchers or tactical enough for war-tacticians.
For sure its plenty if you are the type that wants to taste a bit of everything from an exotic buffet but doesn’t want to end up with too much on his plate.

 
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9
USA
I play blue
El Dorado
Guardian Angel
8
55 of 62 gamers found this helpful
“Excellent Free-For-All in Ancient Greece”

INTRODUCTION
Cyclades takes place on an archipelago off the coast of ancient Greece. Players become the leader of a great Greek city-state, namely Sparta, Athens, Corinth, Thebes and Argo. Players move their city’s armies and fleets, build structures, use mythic creatures and seek favors from the Gods in their quest to dominate the Cyclades archipelago. The theme is very well represented in the game. The object of the game is to acquire through conquest, building or other methods two Metropolises. Cyclades is for 2 to 5 players ages 13 and up and plays in about 100 minutes. The game has measures to scale for fewer players; however, I would recommend Cyclades for 4 or 5 players.

COMPONENTS
The components are excellent. The board is double-sided and has two halves which are put together to form different boards depending on the number of players. The boards are mounted on thick cardboard and have very colorful thematic artwork. There are thick cardboard tokens and plastic playing pieces. The large size cards are marginally durable and have great artwork. The rulebook is 6 pages and fairly well written and organized, and contains many examples of play.

SET UP
Set-up for Cyclades is easy and fairly quick. Each player receives a reference screen, their troops and fleets, and five starting gold. The board halves are placed together per the number of players and then starting troops and fleets are placed for each player according to the set-up diagram in the rulebook. The mythological creature deck is shuffled and placed on the board along with the priests and philosophers. A starting player is determined and you’re ready to play!

GAME MECHANICS
Cyclades is played in a series of cycles consisting of the following five steps:

1. Mythological Creatures
2. The Gods
3. Revenue
4. Offerings
5. Perform Actions

MYTHOLOGICAL CREATURES
The top card is drawn from the Mythological Creature deck and placed in the leftmost slot on the board. There are three slots on the board. When a new creature is drawn all creatures already on the board move one slot to the right and eventually are discarded if not used by a player. A player can use any of the three creatures on the board as long as the indicated amount of gold is paid. Any temple the player controls reduces the cost of the Creature by one gold per temple to a minimum of one gold.

THE GODS
The four God tiles are shuffled and randomly placed in the God spaces on the board. Some Gods are not available depending on the number of players. There is a tile for Zeus, Poseidon, Ares and Athena. Apollo has a permanent space on the board. The God tiles are mixed every turn because it determines player order for the Perform Actions step. The player who wins the favor of the topmost God goes first and then proceeds down to Apollo.

REVENUE
Each player receives one gold for each prosperity marker he controls.

OFFERINGS
Players seek favors from the Gods through an auction bidding mechanic. In turn order, the players place their offering token on the corresponding space for a God they wish to seek a favor. The offer is made in gold. If a player is outbid, then he immediately replaces his offering token to another God. He cannot place his token on the God he was just outbid on. The bidding continues until all offering tokens have been placed, and then each player pays the amount of gold corresponding to their offer minus 1 gold for each priest the player controls to a minimum of one gold.

PERFORM ACTIONS
This step is the heart of the game. Gods are activated in order as determined in The Gods step. Players take their actions according to what each God will allow them to do. The Gods grant the following abilities:

Zeus: The player receives one free priest. The player can obtain an additional priest by paying four gold. A player can also build a Temple for two gold apiece. All buildings are constructed on an island the player controls within the solid white lines on the board. If a player does not have space to place a structure, then he cannot build.

Athena: The player receives one free philosopher. The player can obtain an additional philosopher by paying four gold. Once the player has four philosophers he must return them to the deck and construct a Metropolis. A Metropolis is placed on an island the player controls within the dashed red lines. If there is no space to build the Metropolis, then the player must destroy building(s) to make space. A player can also build a University for two gold apiece. A university does not give any benefit accept that it is one of the four buildings needed to construct a Metropolis. Once a player has constructed a temple, university, port and fortress, then the four buildings are removed and replaced with a Metropolis.

Poseidon: The player receives one free fleet. The player can obtain an additional 1, 2, or 3 fleets by paying 1, 2 or 3 gold respectively. Fleets are placed on sea spaces adjacent to an island the player controls. A player can also build a Port for two gold apiece. A port gives the player’s fleets a +1 defense combat bonus if the fleets are in a sea space adjacent to the port. The player can also pay one gold to move the fleets in one space up to three spaces.

Ares: The player receives one free troop. The player can obtain an additional 1, 2, or 3 troops by paying 2, 3 or 4 gold respectively. Troops are placed on any island the player controls. A player can also build a Fortress for two gold apiece. A fortress gives the player’s troops a +1 defense combat bonus if the troops are on an island with a fortress. The player can also pay one gold to move the troops on an island. The troops can move any number of sea spaces to another island as long as the player has a fleet in each sea space.

Apollo: The first player to activate Apollo receives one gold and a prosperity marker. The prosperity marker must be placed on an island the player controls. Other players that activate Apollo receive only one gold. If a player controls only one island, he receives four gold.

During their turn players can also purchase Mythological Creatures. There are 17 Mythological Creatures such as Medusa, Chimera and the Kraken which grant a host of special abilities such as destroying troops or fleets, obtaining gold, and destroying buildings to name a few. Once purchased, the Creature is used immediately.

Combat in Cyclades is straight forward and quick to resolve. Whenever a player moves either his troops or fleets into a space with enemy troops or fleets respectively, combat begins. Players simply add up the number of troops (or fleets), and adds the roll of a special 1d6 to get his total. Defenders also add one for any fortress (or port in case of a fleet battle) to his total. The lower number loses a troop (or fleet). The battle continues until someone retreats or is destroyed.

Even if a player obtains two Metropolises, the game does not end until the current cycle is complete. This gives players a chance to take a Metropolis away from the player who has two of them before the game ends. If a player has two Metropolises at the end of a cycle, then he wins. Ties are broken by the player with the most gold remaining.

THOUGHTS
Cyclades is an easy game to learn but takes a few plays to learn the tactics. In my opinion, Cyclades is a medium weight game and I would not recommend it to casual gamers. There is a lot of strategy in what amount the player offers to a God, which God he chooses to make an offer and how he uses the ability of the God he has obtained. There are clashes between player’s armies and fleets, and the Creatures also give an element of screw your neighbor so player interaction is very heavy. In fact the end game can get quite crazy. Players need to keep tabs on opponents’ situation and be ready to deny them the victory while simultaneously working to achieve victory themselves.

The knock on Cyclades is that often times the game does not end well. A player with a lot of gold on hand can use Zeus to troll through the Mythological Creature deck to find a Creature which will win him the game. There are a few Creatures which in certain situations can give a player the victory, Pegasus is the most common. Pegasus allows a player to transport troops from one island to another without the use of fleets. I understand this concern, but the Creasures are meant to be powerful. Players could House Rule that Zeus’ ability can be used a maximum of three times. This may also be rectified in the expansions.

In any case, Cyclades is an excellent, fun game with great theme play. I strongly recommend Cyclades to avid and power gamers.

 
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7
Intermediate Reviewer
Champion
Mask of Agamemnon
Novice Advisor
8
55 of 62 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“By Zeus' Mangy Gray Beard, this one scales well!”

I love 4- or 5- or 6-player games. Playing a game with a group of gamer geeks is tops on my list of Things To Do On Saturday Evening. And Thursdays, too. Okay, listen – if I had the option, I’d have 3 to 5 friends over and play board games every night of the week.

But more and more often, I find that grown up life forces game night to be cancelled, or only one person can show up, or someone moves away and the number of friends close enough to drop by dwindles. And it’s becoming more necessary for me to find games that play really well with just two players, whether they are designed to be 1 v 1, or scale down from larger player counts.

A lot of 4 to 6 player games don’t support two players at all, and others require a few extra rules to be tacked on during play to make it work, and more often than not the extra rules make the game drag. I’m looking at you, Belfort.

Sure, I can play small box games on the coffee table to get my fix on a quiet night at home with The Lady, but sometimes I don’t want to. Sometimes I crave the satisfaction of way-too-many components clattering onto the table, and a wealth of cardboard tokens sifting through my fingers. Most two-player games just don’t offer that sort of gratification.

But today, my friends, I’m here to bring my fellow gamer couples hope.
Yes. I’m finally getting to the review. Relax.

Cyclades is an area control war game that plays up to five players, but scales incredibly well down to two! Yes, there is a 1/8th page sidebar that adds in supplemental rules, but these essentially boil down to “You get to play twice every turn.”

When you break open the box for the first time, the components are intimidating. Lots of sturdy tokens for buildings, prosperity, and coins. Three different decks of cards, and an entire second board, other than the map, for tracking monster movement and which deities you’ll be making use of in a given round. Those plastic miniatures to represent soldiers and ships? There’s different sculpts for each player. No fooling!

You’ll turn the pages of the rulebook with trembling fingers, and look to your scowling significant other, who really doesn’t want to spend three hours learning how to play this game.

“But look,” you’ll say triumphantly, holding aloft the glossy pages like a fisherman hefts a trophy bass. “This rulebook is but 8 pages of VERY large font text! And two of them are maps that show starting territories! Perhaps this won’t be such a chore!”

And it won’t be! Because turns in Cyclades boil down to a few bookkeeping adjustments such as shifting which mythological monsters will be available to aid players in a given turn, collecting gold for each cornucopia on islands you control, and then determining which mighty members of the Greek Pantheon will be available to accept your offerings in a given round. These require some quick sliding of cards into new positions, counting icons and dealing out coins, then shuffling up some hefty cardboard tiles and laying them onto the Offering Board. This takes perhaps thirty seconds. Trust me, your partner or game group will be impressed at the ease with which this step is performed.

Now it’s time for player turns. First there’s an auction phase, where everyone bids each other up using hard-earned gold until each player has the support of a deity behind them. You can choose Ares if you want to buy troops or march troops to war, Poseidon to build a fleet of boats to bridge the gap between islands, Zeus to call upon priests that will discount your future auction bids, or Athena for the integral philosophers that will be key in building the great metropolises that you need to win the game.

If you’re poor or stingy, you’re going to get Apollo. He gives you a really tiny amount of gold unless you’re basically already facing doom, but he makes one of your islands a little more prosperous in the future. Basically, the consolation prize deity. But hey, he doesn’t cost you anything to use!

After the auction, each player will take the actions his chosen benefactor provides, from buying buildings — you need one each of four types to build a metropolis, and two or three metropolises to win the game — to hiring troops and boats, to marching your minions across the isles to conquer new lands, whether occupied or not. You can also spend gold to summon mythological monsters like the Cyclops or Kraken, or noble defenders like the Centaur. Easy iconography reminds you quickly what the monsters do after a few plays.

The action economy in this game is fascinating, as any given action except for purchasing monsters can only be performed by acquiring the proper deity during auction. If you want to move your troops across your boat bridge to an opponent’s island, you’ll need to draft Ares and you’ll need to pay an additional gold coin for the privilege of moving them.

Combat is simple and Risk-like. Roll a six-sided die that’s numbered up to 3 (no huge, swingy number differences that allow for over-abundant luck, or lack thereof), add your number of troops or defenses, the loser removes one unit or each player loses a unit in a tie. Repeat until only one player’s units remain. Either side can retreat between rolls of the dice, if they’re too chicken to tough it out.

Area control will give you more resources, which you’ll use to make offerings in auctions, which will allow you to expand your area of control — in a smooth, easily-flowing cycle until someone places their final metropolis on the map and emerges victorious.

My only complaint about the game, mechanically, is the need for boat bridges. Moving troops from one end of the map to another doesn’t involve placing the models on or next to ships and moving toward a destination, but instead requires a line of connected boats from one isle to the next in order to transport soldiers. Mechanically this is sound and works well, but thematically and aesthetically it’s a bit silly.

So, should you try or buy this game?

The auction mechanic makes Cyclades unique in the way it presents action options, in that you must earn the right to perform your preferred action. Auction results also determine turn order, which can be vital when particular, highly-desired monsters appear on the board and are up for grabs. Auction and Strategic Area Control don’t often go hand-in-hand, but the combination really works here.

If you’re a heavy war gamer, skip this one. The combat element is a soft facade for simple area control with a small amount of randomness.

For strategy gamers that enjoy direct interaction and in-your-face play where your decisions directly affect opponents, and where your decisions will count — because there’s never a turn where you don’t make some significant decision — this is a must have.

Medium-weight, very easy to learn and teach. Highly recommended.

 
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9
Z-Man Games fan
Plaid Hat Games fan
Ireland
Stone of the Sun
7
55 of 62 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“More than meets the Eye”

What an interesting game this is.
Just to get this out of the way, I got this for the artwork. It is beautiful and eye-catching and I had seen pictures of the board on different sites and thought it looked fantastic. The theme is something that appeals to me as I was always a fan of greek mythology from when I was a kid. I used to watch movies like the original Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts and thought this would go some of the way to helping me relive my imaginative childhood.
I have to say I am delighted with this.
When you first look at the game, you think it is a war game like Risk. Then as you play you realize it is a light civ-builder. Then after your first or second game you realize that what you have purchased is a very interesting auction game with multiple paths to victory but a heavy dependency on funds. I love that this is a hybrid of a few play styles.
The game seems quite heavy until you play a round and then realize that the steps involved in a turn are very simple.

First, as you play, you must refresh and rotate the mythological creature cards. These are cards that can be bought as you play and must be used as soon as you buy them. They range from placing creature figures on the board to removing someones pieces or getting extra money etc. Each card has a different cost that lessons until it is played or passes out of play from the board due to lack of use. These are great as they shake up the normal formula of the game and add an extra consideration in the bidding for gods phase as the player who goes first could potentially buy all three and get extra powers or you might want to stop others from using them on you.
Secondly, you shuffle the gods and place them down on the track. Depending on how many players are playing either all gods are in play or some miss a turn. The only thing to remember at this point is that the player who nabs the top god will go first.
Third, you collect income from how many cornucopia-things you own.
Fourth, you bid on what gods you want to use. This is truly the meat of the game. The player who went last gets to bid first and they place their piece on a number above the god they want. that is their bid. (By the way, no one knows how much money each other has and it is kept secret and hidden by a screen in front of each player)
The next player either bids on a different god or outbids a player who has a bid down. A player who is outbid must then take their piece and bid on any of the other gods apart from the one they were just pushed off. (They might bid low on another god hoping to be outbid just to come back to their first choice!) Once all bids are down and everyone has settled they pay the amounts they bid.
Fifth, you take your turn. Based on what god you have you can only perform different moves relative to that god. You can also perform the moves in any order and as often as you want as long as you have the money to do so.
If you have Ares you get a free man, can pay for more men, can pay money to move men across your boats and fight and/ or you can buy a fort that gives a defensive bonus.
If you have Poseiden, you get a free boat and can buy more boats, pay money to move boats and fight other boats and/ or buy a port to increase defense for your boats touching the island the port is on.
If you have Zeus, you get a free priest (For each priest you have, you pay one less coin while bidding on the gods), you can buy one extra priest and/ or buy a temple which lets you buy the creatures for one less coin per each temple you own.
If you have Athena, you get a free philosopher, can buy one extra philosopher and/ or build a university which does nothing but adds to your number of buildings (more on this in a moment). If you get four philosophers you immediately get a metropolis (more on this in a moment too).
Lastly if you lucked out or are being a planner for the future, you get Appollo, you skip a go but get a cornucopia to add to an island you own (each cornucopia gives you a coin in the revenue phase) and you also get a coin for each island you control or four coins if you only control one island.
Then you do it all again until someone owns two metropolises. Metropolises can be bought by either getting and owning one of each building type and then trading them immediately for the metropolis or taking one by taking someones island with one on it.

Fighting is done by rolling a dice each and adding how many men are in the fight to your dice. Higher number wins while loser loses a man and, interestingly, draws mean players lose a man each.
The excellent thing about this game is, depending on which god you have for your turn, you can only perform very specific tasks, unless there is a creature present to help you perform extra moves not related to the god.
Due to this, it becomes quite easy to see what a player is planning next, if a player is planning an attack in advance, he has to ready ships before his armies can move. and if they are planning metropolises they go for Athena.
Also, everything you do in game costs money! Everything!
You have to constantly balance up your funds against what you can do after you bid for the god you want or do you have to block a player to stop them wining by outbidding them?
Do you let everyone else gain ground and go for Apollo to build up funds and come back mighty?
Or do you try steamrolling ahead and being the target?
The game is played out on ever changing scenarios and interest never wains.
Highly recommended.

Replay Value: Very strong initially, however, due to the specific layouts, based on the numbers of players, it might get old quickly, however, i have heard the Hades expansion fixes this.
Components: Very detailed little pieces and each army color has a different stance and size, as do the boats! I have heard that the stances are also on different colors in other boxes, so everybody’s copy of the game is a little more personal… nice bit of fan-service there.
Easy to learn: Very easy, but you will need a little book from the box to keep track of mythological creatures at the start.

 
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6
Plaid Hat Games fan
Asmodee fan
I play blue
10
75 of 88 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 2
“Auctions shouldn't be this much fun, and this thematic.”

I love games with a whole pile of dudes on a map. I think it’s mostly because when you have a whole pile of dudes on a map, most of those dudes aren’t going to live until the end of the game. I don’t think of myself as a particularly violent person – in fact, ethically I’d classify myself as a pacifist – but if you give me a choice between a game that’s about building and a game that’s about destroying, most of the time I’m taking the second.

Dudes on a map games come with their own set of tropes that usually define the genre. Typically, if you’re unboxing a game like this, you’re expecting buckets of dice, some form of area control or conquest, unit differentiation, and maybe asymmetric factions or a tech tree of some kind. You’re expecting to buy dudes, move dudes, play cards on dudes, and send dudes to cardboard*. Then you can watch while other people send your dudes to cardboard*, until it’s your turn to buy dudes again. That’s sort of dudes on a map in a nutshell, whether you’re talking Risk or Nexus Ops or War of the Ring.

There are also certain things that you’re definitely not doing in a dudes on a map game. Like not attacking with dudes, for example. Or building stuff that doesn’t do anything. Or auctions. You are most certainly not doing auctions.

But what if your dudes were pretty pious dudes, who liked to be on good terms with their gods? Then maybe they would think that you should give offerings to the gods, so that the gods would do fun things like help you win battles, or not sink your ships, or let you think deep thoughts. And what if your opponents’ dudes were also pious, and in fact thought they were more pious than your dudes? Then you might have to get into some sort of competitive offering war. And that might feel like an auction, if auctions involved shouting and cussing. And what if your dudes were a bit more sophisticated, so that they didn’t just like sending your opponents dudes to cardboard*, but they also wanted to catch a good show on the weekend and have a decent sushi place in the neighborhood? Then your dudes might appreciate a bit of urban development in between rounds of battle.

Cyclades takes the DoaM archetype and turns it on its head. It’s easy to take a look at it and see plastic figures and a big map of the Greek islands and think, “Been there, done that.” But you probably haven’t, because this isn’t your typical DoaM game. For one thing, indiscriminate conquest doesn’t directly move your dial. In fact, player elimination is very difficult to accomplish in this game, and if it does occur, it happens so late in the game that it likely won’t matter. Instead, players are competing to control two metropolises at the end of a full round of play. The most common way to obtain a metropolis is by building (or conquering) one of each of the four building types (Temple, Port, Fortress, and University). Each building is associated with one of the four gods and can only be built after successfully obtaining their favor – more on this in a moment. Alternately, if the gods aren’t smiling on you, then you can march over to your opponent’s building or metropolis and take it. This is much more difficult than it sounds, because you also need the favor of the appropriate gods to go to war.

You’ve probably started to figure out that you’re not doing much without the favor of the gods. There are four gods that grant actions in the game: Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, and Ares. Zeus’ favor grants the ability to add priests to your cause, making offerings go your way a bit more often. Zeus also grants a measure of control over mythological creatures and allows you to build temples, which reduce the cost of recruiting creatures to your side. Poseidon predictably allows you to build and move ships, including engaging naval battles. Poseidon also allows the building of Ports, providing defensive bonuses during naval battles. Ares is Poseidon’s landlocked counterpart, providing for army recruitment, land combat, and the construction of Fortresses, which provide defensive bonuses on land. And then there’s Athena. Athena gives you a philosopher, which provides the awesome ability of doing absolutely nothing. However, if you can recruit four philosophers, then you’re immediately granted a Metropolis. Apparently, enough thinking grants some interesting telekinetic abilities, which I don’t recall from any of the classic Greek myths but perhaps I’m wrong. Athena also allows you to build a University, which also provides the incredible bonus of absolutely nothing. However, you’ll need either Universities or Philosophers to build a Metropolis. There’s a joke here somewhere, but I’m having trouble finding one that doesn’t sound like a political statement. Once you’ve built all four types of buildings, you must immediately cash in one of each type for a Metropolis, which also coincidentally grants the abilities of each of the other buildings.

This brings us back around to the auction part of the game. Only one player can earn the favor of a given god for each cycle. This creates some interesting situations. Let’s suppose that you are eyeballing a rather nice property on your oppoent’s island. You have a bunch of dudes on your island that you want to use to attack, but your ships are out of position. Before you can move in and ruin the neighborhood, you need to get your ships into position to transport your troops. In this case, you need to gain Poseidon’s favor – he’ll allow you to build and move ships. However, he won’t grant the ability to actually attack – that’s Ares’ job. So you need to plan ahead – Poseidon first, then Ares. But your opponents might also want to build ships or move troops, so they’ll also want to get the attention of Poseidon or Ares. The gods aren’t particularly picky – in fact, they’re pretty * mercenary when push comes to shove. Just show them more dough than your opponents, and you’ll be able to harness their power. Apparently, the gods need to eat too.

Easier said than done, of course – every player is trying to do the same thing. This game lives and dies on the auction block. If you have a group of players who get that the auction is the key part of the game, then this will be an insanely tense affair. Not only do the gods make particular actions available, the order of the gods will change from cycle to cycle as well, which can change the relative value of particular choices. The order of the gods on the bid track determines turn order for the cycle – if going first is more important than being able to perform a particular action, then it doesn’t matter who’s on first, that’s your deity. In addition, if you’re outbid for a particular god’s favor, you can’t immediately up your bid – you need to bid on a different god first. This sets up an awesome array of aggressive bids, counterbids, bluffs, feints, and strategic retreats. Do you start an aggressive, high bid on the god that you need this turn, or do you bluff on another god, hoping to get outbid so that you can pounce on your true goal? Do you bid offensively, going for the god that you need this turn, or defensively, attempting to deny an opponent the actions that he or she is seeking? You’ll need to do both to succeed. You’ll need to collaborate against opponents in strong positions – it’s not unfair to say that there’s a bash the leader component to the game, but with multiple avenues to building metropolises, that might be trickier than it seems. This is, by the way, where the do-nothingness of Athena suddenly becomes pure design brilliance: you simply can’t let an opponent start to double up on Athena, because the game will be over really quickly. On the other hand, taking Athena locks you into board position for a whole cycle, so it’s certainly not without tradeoffs. Towards the end of the game, when players are seeking a particular action to close the deal, every bid feels like war. Outbidding an opponent isn’t really all that different from kicking them in the shins and giving them the finger for good measure – it’s that visceral. And, if all else fails, you can always just punt: seek the favor of Apollo, which is essentially the equivalent of a pass, but with the benefit of a gold infusion and the ability to permanently up the production of one of your territories. An acceptable strategy is often to bid up your opponents until they’re sweating, only to secure Apollo and build wealth for a future turn.

The auctions are tense because they represent the primary means for accomplishing particular tasks that are necessary for victory. But in fairness they aren’t the only means; mythological creatures are available for players to call, trading gold for one-time assistance. Creatures introduce an element of surprise to the game. They can allow a player to move troops without seeking the favor of Ares; they can steal philosophers or priests from an opponent; they can destroy buildings or ships or troops. Players need to calibrate not only what actions are available to the opponent via the favor of the gods, but also what options exist for the opponent through summoning creatures. This makes Zeus an interesting choice in the late game – his favor allows a player to cycle through the creature deck, opening up possibilities that otherwise would not be available.

All of this combines into what I think is a simply incredible gaming experience. The game plays unbelievably well above the table – player interaction is strong and visceral, aggressive and strategic. A player will need to count on having his or her plans thwarted repeatedly, and will need to have backup tactics prepared in advance. The moves on the map are important; the moves on the bid track even moreso. And it’s difficult to count any player out – overextending by bidding too high for a key action can provide an opening for another player to jump back into the ring. Cyclades is something of an odd fusion – auctions with combat, dudes on a map with role selection, dice based combat with civ building. It does a lot of things in unusual ways, but the whole is most definitely greater than the sum of its parts. This is what I would consider to be a truly innovative game, one that shows both what can happen when basic mechanics are paired with a strong metagame and what dudes on a map games can be if they dare to think outside the box.

 
Player Avatar
3
My First Heart
10
54 of 72 gamers found this helpful
“So much time, money and energy wasted on this . TOTALLY WOTRH IT !!!”

This game is so awesome that I don’t know how to properly describe it. It’s simply awesome . Yes ,there are some little unbalanced elements and yes , there are always people who’ll not like it so much , but for me there is nothing better than having complet set (basic game with all expansions) of this game . I played it like 150 times and every single game brought another experience than previous.
If you’re considering buy this game , just do it ! I gurantee you, you will not be disappointed !

 
Player Avatar
4
I play green
Pick a Favorite LGS
9
57 of 116 gamers found this helpful
“By the gods this was fun... ”

Played my first game of Cyclades last weekend and man was it fun. First and foremost this was one of the few games I’ve played where the theme really fits the mechanics and you really feel like you are a part of the game. Whether you are trying to gain one of the gods’ favor or summoning a monster to help you thwart your enemies it all feels good. There are lots of ways to play and many strategies to use in order to win. I also loved the the game board and pieces. Each army has its own look and style both their warriors and their ships. If you like a game with a strong theme and many ways to go about winning then give cyclades a try. It’s tons of fun and pretty easy to learn. So go out and conquer the Greek isles and show Zeus what you are made of.

 
Player Avatar
2
Gave My First Grade
9
54 of 115 gamers found this helpful
“Amazing Euro/Wargame hybrid”

Cyclades is very easy to learn, has amazing components, and has both elements of Euro bidding and Risk like wargaming. In addition, creature cards can add some varied gameplay and turn the tides in an instant. Rule book could use a little more organization, but it well illustrated and generally easy to understand.

 
Player Avatar
2
Amateur Reviewer
8
54 of 120 gamers found this helpful
“Who will win the favor of the gods?”

Cyclades successfully combines euro game style with ameritrash feel. It has auction/bidding, money management, dice rolling, combat, beautiful artwork and great components, and a great theme to top it all off. Fantastic game.

 
Player Avatar
4
Rated 25 Games
10
54 of 129 gamers found this helpful
“Great mixed type game. Euro /war game. FUN!”

Love this hybrid game. Top notch components. A must buy.

 
Player Avatar
9
USA
Platinum Supporter
Petroglyph
BoardGaming.com Beta 1.0 Tester
9
54 of 130 gamers found this helpful
“Amazing Game!”

This game is like a Euro with Ameritrash trappings. It’s one of the best 5-person games out there. It’s a little complex for kids, but it’s not hard to learn. It’s strategic, but fun. I highly recommend it.

 
Player Avatar
2
Gamer - Level 2
9
54 of 136 gamers found this helpful
“Amazing and beautiful game!”

Love this one, took a while to get it to the table but once I did my group wanted to play it again. Fantastic components and beautiful artwork. Best way to describe this for me would be like a much better version of Risk in Greek Mythology with a great bidding mechanism.

 
Player Avatar
3
Rated 10 Games
Novice Grader
9
54 of 147 gamers found this helpful
“Fantastic game”

Cyclades is an awasame game with great componets and great mechanics.
It’s a very simple game with good rules and a fine mix of euro game rules.
Recommended for no gamers too.
Fantastic theme,fantastic componets.

 

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