English language edition of Iliade
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The Trojans abducted Helen, and the Achaean princes took advantage of the opportunity to lay siege to this proud city.
But war during ancient times has its own set of rules. Being more than just a single, well-organized army, the Greeks will present an assortment of princes, each fighting for his own glory. Each player is an incarnation of one of these characters!
The game proceeds in several successive sieges (phases of the game) during which victory cards are brought into play.
With the aid of the cards in his hand, representing all the components of an ancient army (hoplites, archers, elephants, various siege engines, including the famous Trojan horse…), each player will construct a powerful army before himself, and will have to choose between sacrificing new cards from his hand (since those are not inexhaustible) or utilizing the abilities of the cards he has already placed.
Each player will have to form the best army from these cards, torn between the multiple choices offered to him with each round of play.
In this new, very tactical card game, Dominique Ehrhard brilliantly revisits the mechanisms that made Condottiere so successful.
The superb illustrations by John Mac Cambridge, antiquity fanatic, are an additional invitation to join the voyage.
The Battle of Troy, or at least the version produced by Homer, has captured many folk's imagination, and I'm surprised that it's not the subject of more games. Hearing about the game Iliad (Asmodee Editions, 2006 - Dominique Ehrhard) immediately piqued my interest. The game was first introduced at GenCon 2006, with the unfortunate mistake of the printer completely messing up the backs of the cards. Of course, Asmodee couldn't sell a defective product, but many people who demoed the game insisted on taking a copy anyway! That impressed me enough, and I eagerly looked forward to playing the game.
I understand why those folks purchased Iliad - it truly is a fun, interesting card game; one that I immediately wanted to play after the first time. I was captivated by the different options, the thematic feel to the game, and how simple it was - despite offering agonizing decisions. Having a nice "middle-weight" feel and lasting only about forty minutes, Iliad is a high quality game that will certainly see repeated play in my groups.
A deck of Victory point cards is shuffled and placed on the table next to an Oracle card deck. Three tiles (Agamemnon, Athena, and Poseidon) are also placed next to the board, as well as several Hero cards (one for each player, with values from "1" on up). A deck of Army cards is shuffled, and twelve are dealt to each player, with the remainder shuffled into a third deck. The game is made up of several rounds, or "sieges".
In each siege, the top Oracle card and one to three Victory cards (depending on number of players) are turned face up in the middle of the table. The Oracle card determines what kind of siege it is - either Thanatos or Gorgon. In a Gorgon siege (two of the eight Oracle cards) a player immediately "wins" that siege if they have the highest valued army at the START of their turn. The player who wins takes a Victory card of their choosing and the Agamemnon tile (worth one victory point) - regardless of who holds it. All other Victory point cards are discarded, and a new siege begins.
A Thanatos siege lasts until all players decide to stop playing cards. On a player's turn, they must play a card from their hand, use a card on the table, or drop out immediately adding the highest valued Hero to their army. Once all players have passed, the player with the highest valued army takes a Victory card of their choice, as well as the Agamemnon tile. In a four or five player game, second place and third place also get to take one of the remaining Victory cards. The player who has the weakest army must take the Thanatos card (worth one or two negative victory points), all cards are discarded (Heroes are placed to the side), and the next siege begins.
During a siege cards can be placed or activated. Different cards
have different abilities. When a card is activated to destroy another
card, the attacking card is also discarded.
- Catapults: Have no numerical value but can be activated to eliminate another Catapult, a Harrow, a Ballista, or a Trojan Horse.
- Ballista: Have no numerical value but can be activated to eliminate Elephant or Chariot cards.
- Harrow: Have no numerical value and cannot be activated but protect the player from Chariot cards.
- Chariot Cards: Are worth three points if placed in front of the player. They can also be used to attack other players, either via activation or directly from a player's hand (the only card that can do this). A Chariot card either kills a solitaire Archer or Hoplite, or the weakest Hoplite in a Phalanx.
- Hoplites: The main units of each army, they have a value of "1" to "4". They can be played by themselves, on an Elephant or Trojan Horse, or in a Phalanx. A Phalanx is formed when multiple Hoplites are placed on top of each other. However, the cards must be played in a decreasing order. (A "2" can be played on top of a "4", but not another "4"). A Phalanx's value is equal to the sum of the values of the cards in it, multiplied by the number of cards in the Phalanx. The highest value of a Phalanx, therefore, would be "40". When a Hoplite in a Phalanx is attacked, the top card (lowest value) is destroyed first. Hoplite cards cannot be used to attack other players.
- Archer: Archers can be placed by themselves, on an Elephant, or in a Trojan Horse. Archers are worth one point and can be activated to take out another Archer or a Hoplite card.
- Elephant: Elephants cannot attack but can hold up to two Hoplites and/or Archers. Cards on an elephant are worth double points at the end of the round and are safe from opponent's attacks. An archer on an elephant can kill the highest valued card from a Phalanx, rather than the lowest. If an Elephant is killed, then all units on it "jump" off safely.
- Trojan Horse: Trojan horses cannot be played in a Gorgon siege. Otherwise, Hoplites and Archers can be played on a Trojan Horse face down and are only revealed if the Trojan Horse is destroyed.
- Heroes: Heroes are added to a player's total after a Thanatos siege. They cannot be attacked by anything.
Victory point cards are either a "1" to "3" point Trireme or City; or a "5" point Helena Card. At any point in the game, if a player has the highest amount of City cards, they take the Athena tile (worth two points), with the Poseidon tile going to the player with the highest amount of Trireme cards.
After each siege, players draw three new army cards and discard down to twelve if they have more. The player with the Agamemnon tile is the first player in the next round. The game continues until either one player has twelve victory points or until all eight Oracle cards have been gone through. At that point, the player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The game comes in a long, thin box which easily holds the piles of cards. The cards themselves are of high quality (although they do have black borders) with really fantastic artwork. The three tokens are in the shape of a water jug, with the face of a Greek god scowling, plastered on each. The game is essentially a card game, with 110 included, and it looks really good when completely out on the table.
2.) Rules: Ah, if only every rulebook was as nicely done as the sixteen-page pamphlet included with this game. In full color, the rules not only go over the most important parts of the game, but also included a full description in the back of each card type. There are explanations on how the cards work with one another, and it's really a handy reference (although two reference cards are also included). We have yet to have a question with the game, despite the many different cards and how they all interact. Teaching the game is fairly simple, although I have to carefully explain what each card does to avoid confusion. The theme does match the gameplay (i.e. archers on elephants have better range, etc.), so it's more intuitive than it might initially seem.
3.) Theme: Yes, I know that elephants weren't involved in the Trojan War, and that there was only one Trojan horse, etc. Who cares, it was fun anyway.
4.) "Take That": One thing that may turn some folks off is that players can essentially team up on one other player, destroying their forces together. This hasn't been a problem in my games, but the game itself offers a solution for those who don't like "take that" games - partners. In a four or six player game, players are split into teams of two. Gameplay is essentially the same, except that players add their scores together. This is especially interesting in a four player game, as the two armies work together to foil their enemies and adds an interesting enough dynamic to make me want to always play with partners. Some folk may not like the confrontational aspect of the game (for some reason, it reminds me of Citadels - although they are really nothing alike), but I enjoyed the thematic flavor of armies attacking one another. And an attack is not always beneficial, as players lose the card they are attacking with. Attacks must be made with the final point totals in mind, and that keeps this from being another run of the mill "I play good cards on me, bad cards on you" type game.
5.) Players: Iliad reports that it handles two to six players, but I'll say that three or four are the best, simply for play balance. With three players, the "ganging up" effect doesn't happen quite as much, and as I stated, playing in teams with four is really interesting and enjoyable.
6.) Strategy: What battles are worth winning? Seeing the victory point cards, and the way others play will often determine your own strategy for each siege. Since players only draw three cards after a siege, playing more than that means that the player will limp into the next siege with fewer resources. As for what cards to play, that usually depends on what you draw in your hand. Obviously, a Phalanx is the best thing to get on the table, as they are worth quite a few points. Getting archers on elephants is also useful, and the Trojan Horse is great when you want to keep your opponent guessing. I will admit that there are times in which a player has a hand full of cards that seem worthless, and luck does have a mild effect in the game, but a player can normally work with the cards they receive. The dynamic of the first person to pass receiving the highest Hero is rather interesting, because it encourages a player to pass; but if they do so too quickly, they will probably be easily bested by others' armies.
7.) Fun Factor: A lot of my enjoyment of the game comes from the immersive theme (incorrect or not) and the easy, intuitive game play. It's great fun to take down an opponent's elephant that has two archers on it, fantastic to break up a Phalanx with one of said archers, and enjoyable to stop those annoying Chariots with a Harrow. Gameplay is quick and easy, and games are over in a rather short time, leaving players wanting "more".
My final impressions of the game are very positive, it has that "spark" that shows up in a few games - one of originality and fascination. Each time I've brought it out, players have wanted to try again. Even if you get hammered (which can easily happen), games are only forty-five minutes long; and you can still wreak damage on others to keep the game interesting. Card play is tense, yet not too terribly mind-wrenching, and the partnership game is top notch. Iliad is certainly one that will stay in my collection!
"Real men play board games"