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Cyclades, A Game of Bidding and Battle

Cyclades is an amazing game. It's part of the Cyclades, Inis, and Kemet trilogy from Matagot, and I already talked about Inis in a previous post here, and I'm sure Kemet will make its way here eventually as well.

I first acquired Cyclades back in 2012, the year I first got into gaming. The game looked amazing, the reviews were great, so I got it. And then proceeded to play a two player game with my wife. Which was a mistake. You see, Cyclades is an amazing game, but not at 2 players. It's an area control and bidding game ....and that's not a recipe designed to work with 2 players. So I got rid of it, and forgot about it for awhile.

Then in 2014, I finally broke away from primarily 2 player by starting our game group, one that has ebbed and flowed, but continues to this day. We've lose some people, we've added some people...but every Thursday night we play. I don't recall how far back it was, but at some point I reacquired Cyclades and gave it another go, and boy did we love it. 

To win the game, you have to be the first to acquire two Metropolises, and you can either earn them, or conquer them from other players. Which makes Cyclades sound like a wargame, and while it certainly has elements of that, the beauty of the game is the bidding phase that proceeds your actions. You see, in order to do anything in Cyclades, you have to have the favor of the appropriate God, and that means outbidding your opponents. Want to build or move your ships? You need Poseidon. Want to attack your enemies? Ares. Temples? Zeus. Build Metropolises? Athena. 

Depending on how you bid, that enables your actions for the round, but that also lets everyone plan around your limitations...or your threats. Combining a bidding game with dudes on a map game results in an incredible experience, one that I have yet to see replicated. It feels incredibly satisfying to lock in the win through careful deliberation, calculated savings to lock in your bid, combined with a few rounds of proper setup, and boom...you win. But it also feels incredibly satisfying to pull the rug out from under someone who just poured their life savings into what they thought was a guaranteed win.

Cyclades has one flaw (other than sucking at two players). And it's that one flaw that keeps it from being preferred over Terraforming Mars, Blood Rage, and more. The game does suffer heavily from push down the leader, more so than other similar games. It doesn't stop it from being incredible, but you have to plan around that. Rear your head to soon and you'll get squashed and someone else will take the lead. You need to bide your time, to go for the win either as a complete surprise, or at a moment when others have exhausted their resources stopping the other players. With careful planning this one downside can turn into another strategic element. All in all, Cyclades is a great game, one that we played last week, will be playing this week, and hopefully many more weeks in the future.

To the victor, goes the spoils

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