Two contestants. One Winner. Two in, One Out. Who will be the heavyweight champion? I dont know, who does?! Does it matter? I think not!
Now that the hype train left the station, today we will take two of my favorite strategy board games, introduce them, throw them in the arena and decide which one is better. Why? I do not know.
Risk: The basics
The go-to strategy board game. The ancient, the king, the "standard". One of the most classic strategy board games that are out there. Risk has endured the test of time, has had numerous alternative versions (like the Lord Of The Rings edition) and is rather simple to understand.
The game features a map, seperated in regions corresponding either to countries, or to geographic areas (ex. north-east siberia). Each of those areas or regions may have rivers, seas or mountains seperating them or be neighboring without any form of issue, making traveling between those two regions easy. This is vital in the game, as areas that are hard to reach, due to lack of bridges to cross rivers, mountains that block passage ways, or seas that do not have a harbor link, means that those areas are easier to defend but also harder to expand from. Whereas areas that have no physical obstacles, offer a variety of options to expand from, but at the same time, are harder to defend for the same reasons
In addition, there are cards with each region present in the board game. Each card has the represented area as well as an image of either a footman, a cavalryman or an artillery unit (or the variation's equivalent) which are important later on.
Finally the game comes with a set amount of plastic "units" in a variety of colors, coresponding to the players. The units are seperated in three tiers.
The first tier, which is usually a simple infantry man, counts as 1 battalion. Those are your bread and butter, the "standard" unit.
Second tier, which usually is a cavalry man of sorts, they are the more "elite" units and one of those counts as 3 battalions and finally
Third tier, the artillery or "heavy" unit. Each one counts as five battalions.
Risk: General Gameplay
The premise is simple. Each player picks a color coresponding to their "empire". Usually they are dealt with cards at random to place their own units, then after all areas are claimed, each player goes in turn, and chooses what to do. The goal is simple: conquer the world.
Or more realisticaly, be the last player still wanting to play.
Battles are resolved via dice rolling. The attacker may choose to attack with up to 3 battalions each time, thus rolling 3 dice, and the defender can defend with up to 2 battalions, and as such rolls 2. Highest rolls are compared, loser removes a battalion.
There are many house rules over what happens in a tie, but rule of thumb is that defender wins.
That is about it.
Kyklades: The basics
Kyklades comes with a few set pieces forming a map. You can mix and match them depending on the amount of players that will join the game with a max of 5. In addition the game comes with a set of monster cards, more on that later, figurines coresponding to one of each color, mythical beast figurines, building, money and god cards.
The map is simple-ish. You have many islands, some bigger than others. Each island has a number of squares, indicating plots that you may build things in them, as well as a number of horns of plenty on them. The horns of plenty are an indication of the island's wealth, and each turn you receive one gold coin for each horn of plenty you own in total. In addition there are a number of areas with a horn of plenty in the edges of the map, indicating trade routes at sea. To own one of those all you have to do is have a ship on that area.
When it comes to military, this game is rather simple. You only have land units, and naval units. Land units can only move through land, or via sea to another island -only- if you have a "bridge" made out of your ships there.
The naval units are, well, obviously restricted to the ocean alone and cannot attack land. However, considering that Kyklades is a system of islands (based on the very real one in Greece), that is not so restrictive as you might think.
In addition, you have four god cards, each showing to you what each god does.
Ares is the god of slaughter and warfare, and as such gives you a free land based military unit, the option to buy more land units as well as the ability to purchase a barracks for one of your islands. A barracks gives a flat +1 to your die any time combat is done in that island (considering you have people defending it)
Poseidon is the god of the ocean, so naturally he gives you a free naval unit, the option to buy more naval units as well as the ability to purchase a dock for one of your islands. The docks function like the barracks but for naval combat done around the island.
Zeus is the god of the sky and thunder, as well as the father of the gods and king of them. He gives you a free priest card, the ability to purchase an additional -ONE- priest card. He also allows you to build a temple, which reduces the cost of employing the aid of mythical beasts, and finally allows you to discard and shufle the mythical beasts available.
Athena is the goddess of wisdom and honorable warfare. She gives you one philosopher card, the ability to buy -ONE- additional philosopher card as well as build an academy. The academy gives you no bonuses, but is just a requirement to build a citadel.
Apollo the god of music, the sun and archery. He gives you gold as well as the ability to add a horn of plenty to one of your islands, thus increasing the amount of gold you get each round.
Finally you have the mythical beast deck and figurines. The monsters have their own unique abilities and can be minor, like stealing a priest card from a player, to major, like legit summoning the god damn Kraken on the field. They offer options to players, but are not required to win.
Kyklades: General gameplay
Initially the game overwhelms, I wont lie. As you see above, a lot of things you need to wrap your head around, so I will just explain it the simplest way I can, so we dont spend hours upon hours here.
The goal is to own 2 citadels, and hold them for a full round. That can be done with three ways:
a) Building one of each unique god building. The citadel's pressence gives you the bonuses of each unique building, so building one of each on any island, means you can build one citadel on any island you own, after you remove those four buildings.
b) Exchange four philosopher cards. Athena may seem like a useless goddess since she does not give you any "real" benefit, but loyalty to her is rewarded. A wealthy player that maintains Athena's favor for four rounds might as well win at the fifth
c) Conquest. If logistics, tactics and building sounds too boring for you, you can always just conquer those citadels and show everyone that might makes right, am I right? (the puns!)
With that out of the way, the game functions in a "betting" system to determine how each player plays their turn. Everyone of the players will place the amount of money he wants to bet on the god they so desire, until everyone has picked a god. If two players wish the same god, that is -not- Apollo (as he is the skip-turn God) then the one placing the highest bid wins, kicks out the previous player who know has to bet on another god. If he then kicks another player out of his god, they must do so etc etc.
Monsters are split in a deck and three slots. Every round you draw the top card from the monster deck and place to the leftermost slot, pushing the others to the right. When all three slots are full, when you pull a new monster, then the one placed on the far right is discarded.
The betting process takes most part of the game, as each god gives you benefits you might want, and they are instrumental to your strategy. After the entire thing is set, they each take turns, and choose how to spend their 3 move actions and their gold. After everyone finishes their round, monster cards are either replaced or pushed "forward" and the game goes on, rince and repeat.
Still with me? not sleeping? Good!
Combat is resolved in a rather simple manner. You each roll one die, and you add the total amount of troops and/or special modifiers you have (like either a monster or a barracks/dock). Loser removes one unit and can choose to go again or retreat.
I love both those games, but lets pit their pro's and con's
I) Easy rules
II) Many variations
III) Has stood the test of time. Plethora of house rules, special editions, PC versions etc
I) Unfair battles, since luck>strategy when it comes to rolling. (We have all been there)
II) Takes -forever-
III) Rather plain
IV)Very frustrating at times
I) Fair fights
II) Truly strategic. More ways to win than pure conquest
III) Relativelly fast for its genre
I) Very complext for begginers
II) Most time spent betting
III) Expansions that cost money
IV) Virtually a no-go for people that dont -love- board games
Well, it was a hard pick. I wont lie. But ultimately I lean in favor of Kyklades. In my opinion, it looks better, is fairer and more fun overall. That said however, I cannot deny that Risk is an easier game to play, easier to understand and more friendly to people just looking into jumping in a strategy game for the laughs of it.
Pick your poison, grab a few friends, preferably willing ones, and prepare to argue, I mean play. Happy board game hunting.
What is your opinion? Kyklades or Risk? Or something else entirely? Tweet us your answer @CodingJar.org