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ILIAD

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Asmodee, 2-6 players, ages 10 and up, about 45 minutes; $21.99)

 

The ancient battle between the Greeks and the Trojans over the city of Troy is the setting for Iliad, the new card game designed by Dominique Erhard, where players attempt to amass the most powerful army and win sieges against their opponents.

Iliad comes with three victory tiles and 110 cards divided into four basic types: Army, Oracle, Hero and Victory. The Army, Oracle and Victory cards are separated and shuffled to form their own stacks. The Heroes are placed aside for now. Players are dealt a starting hand of 12 Army cards and Victory Cards (from 1 to 3 depending on the number of player, consider them the “spoils” of the battle) are turned over. Now, one Oracle card is revealed.Iliad

Oracle cards indicate the goal of a particular siege. There are two types of Oracle cards: Thanos and Gorgon. Victory in a Thanos siege goes to the player with the strongest army when all players have decided to not play any more cards. In a Gorgon siege, victory goes to the player who has the strongest army when it is his turn to play. Winner(s) gets his/their choice of the available Victory cards.

Utilizing your army cards to full advantage is the core of the game. Army cards consist of several different types. The basic units of attack is Archers (with a standard value of 1) and Hoplites (with a power of from 1 to 4). However, Hoplites can be “stacked” in a phalanx and a phalanx has a multiplying effect on their strength. (When stacked in decreasing order, from 4 to 3 to 2 to 1, for example, the strength of the units are not added but multiplied, so a total of 10 strength in Hoplites transforms into a strength of 40!) Archers can become more powerful too as, by playing an Elephant, Archers can be placed on the Elephant enabling them to fire upon forces in the BACK (more powerful) rank of a phalanx, destroy them, and break up the powerful phalanx formation. Chariots can destroy both Archers and Hoplites but a Trojan Horse can protect them from attack but cannot be used in a Gorgon siege. A Harrow is not so restricted and can protect Archers and Hoplites in either siege type. Ballistas and Catapults are used to destroy other cards except for the Archers and Hoplites. The interaction between the different forces is what gives Iliad its panache.

On a turn, players may place a card on the table to begin their army array, attack using cards already in their array (although a Chariot card is the only card that may be used straight from a player’s hand without hitting the table) or simply pass. In the meantime, the Hero cards are placed aside, face up. Hero cards come in denominations of 1 through 6 and, depending upon the number of players, all six or fewer may be available. The first player to pass gets the highest available Hero card and that value is added to the strength of the army in his array. The second player to pass gets the next highest valued Hero and so on. When all players pass, the total strength of each player’s array is calculated and the winner of that siege receives his spoils.

During a Thanos siege, the player who ends up with the strongest army receives his choice of one Victory card with the second (and sometimes third) player with the next strongest armies also getting a Victory card. Victory cards also depict a city or trireme. The winner of the siege receives the Agamennon token (worth 1 VP by itself), the player who currently has the most city or trireme Victory cards receive the Athena and Poseidon tokens (respectively), each worth 2 VPs. (There is a 5 point Victory card but no city or trireme appears on it.)

Once a siege is resolved, all players draw three cards to replenish their hands and the next siege begins. The first player to amass a total of 12 Victory Points (15 in a two player game) is IMMEDIATELY awarded the laurels of victory.

It has been suggested that Iliad was inspired by Condottiere (also designed by Erhard) due to the cardplay involved. But the game actually bears a stronger resemblance to Havoc: The Hundred Years War (featured in the Winter 2006 GA REPORT) in that both games require cards (rather than soldier figures or cardboard chits) to power their armies and each conflict awards Victory Points to the winner(s) rather than a “winner take all” scenario. There is also a soupcon of the Settlers of Catan series of card games such as Starship Catan (Summer 2002 GA REPORT) in that it takes a certain specified number of Victory Points to claim a win.

Although actual game play is easy, the trick here is to understand the relationships between the cards so as to maximize the benefits the cards you hold can bestow. Two play aids, listing the cards and their powers, are provided. (Why the print on these cards is SO small and only two of them present when six can play, however, is a bit mystifying. We made enlarged Xerox copies of these cards so that every player has their own “cheat sheet” and it makes a big difference.) The game plays well with up to six individual players but Iliad does lend itself quite nicely to team play with four and six players. Bonus tokens can be the little push that gives a player that extra VP needed for victory so the nature of the game encourages semi-official alliances as it is not only important for you to win but, in many cases, important that someone else does NOT win as a particular foe is creeping closer and closer to the promised land of Victory Points needed for the win. This also underscores the need for some discipline and self-control as you need to know when to play your cards and when to hold them in reserve as your reinforcements will be only three cards. Burn your cards early in a futile attempt to win a siege and you can easily find yourself floundering as the game progresses, unable to stop a more resourceful enemy.

All in all, Iliad is an easy to learn game of card play that captures the flavor of a ancient struggle that rewards the player who can manage his forces most skillfully. Nicely done! . – – – – – – – — – Herb Levy


 

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