Hera and Zeus
English language edition
List Price: $24.95
Your Price: $19.99
(Worth 1,999 Funagain Points!)
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When Gods feud, the earth quakes! Zeus, the father of the Gods, and his wife Hera often disagreed on matters both earthly and olympic. Eventually, the disagreement became a full-fledged feud with both Zeus and Hera calling upon the other Gods from Olympus and mortals from earth to support him or her against the other. Cyclops, Amazon, Medusa, Hydra, Pegasus, and others joined the feud. The players take the roles of Hera and Zeus and use strategy and cunning to pit their allies against the allies of the other. It is winner take all for control of Olympus!
If you like fair games that rely more on skill than on luck, this is the game for you! Both players have equivalent decks, so winning has to do more with playing your cards right, and at times, some calculated bluffing! Learning the game is pretty easy, it is just a matter of memorizing what each card does and playing the game a couple of times. For those of you who don't like games that rely on memorizing card functions, fear not! There is a handy cheat-sheet for you to refer to in-game.
My long-term fascination with the game has to do with how a seemingly simple game can draw upon so many modes of strategy to become truly proficient in playing it. It is possible to have an incredibly strong first hand, and blow the game, or an incredibly weak hand and win it all. It is all to do with who you're playing, and how well you can skill your way through. Are you ready for the fun and up to the challenge?
I have played this at least least 20 times now, and watched 20 more. This game is MUCH better than other highly regarded 2-player games such as Kahuna and Balloon Cup, in that each player's actions really affect the other player in a way that they have to respond to (like say Chess). In Balloon Cup / Kahuna, you can only really do what you have cards for, and what the other guy does pretty much doesn't change what you're going to do, at least not in a very interesting way. With Hera and Zeus, the interaction between players is just much more interesting.
I introduced Hera And Zeus to many people, all of whom loved it. Well, everyone except my dad, who I've realized is old enough to not be motivated to learn anything more complicated than Scrabble or Chess. Hera And Zeus seems complicated when you read the rules, but it's really not. I was beat multiple times by a 9 year old girl.
I took a whole bunch of games to an extended family vacation (including many on the all-time classics lists), and after learning this, it was pretty much in constant play for an entire week. There's enough luck that the better player won't always win, but there definitely is enough strategy and tactics such that if you discover them (it took me losing 5 games straight to start discovering them), you will be rewarded for doing so. And most importantly, it's fun whether you win or lose. And interestingly, it's sometimes kind of hard to tell who's winning or losing. A real interesting aspect of the game is that you have to really shift your strategy if the game gets past a certain point. I won't say how, because it took me about ten games to figure it out, and it was fun deducing the strategy shift, so I don't want to spoil it for others.
In response to someone else's comment in their review that, 'The Cards Zeus and Hera are uselees cards. Playing that card can be countered with a strategie that always wins': This is completely false. It's true that the card is easily countered, but that reviewer clearly hasn't played enough to discover the true value of the cards. They're DEFENSIVE cards, to be saved when you're about to lose, kind of like the abort button in Lunar Lander (coin-op--showing my age a bit). Normally you get the number of actions based on non-empty columns (3 if all columns are full), but if you're down to one column, you're basically almost dead, since you can't place and attack in one turn, but playing Hera/Zeus means that you get FOUR actions, which gives you a REALLY GOOD chance of getting AND placing decent cards to hold an extra column. This often is enough to stave off immenent destruction, and sometimes enough to turn the tide. In fact, they're so important that we tried various house rules such as allowing a player to force their Hera/Zeus card into their starting 9 cards.
So anyway, the reason that I got around to writing this, is that I just got an email from my brother saying, 'Hey, so where can I get that Hera And Zeus game?' Nuff said. :-)
Hera and Zeus has been described as "Stratego Legends: the card game". That's probably as good a one-sentence summary as any, but H&Z certainly stands on its own as a wonderful two-player game.
The theme of battle between two Greek deities plays out nicely, with some cards (e.g. Medusa, Dionysus) being common to both sides and some being specific to one (Hera has Nemesis and Amazons; Zeus has Poseidon and Heroes). Many of the cards have mythological powers, sometimes in addition to and sometimes instead of a standard battle rating of 0 to 7.
Players each begin with their own shuffled deck of cards and choose the top nine as a starting hand. The initial placement of three cards is crucial, as it sets the stage for the rest of the game. With those three cards lined up across from each other, players then are faced with a series of choices on each turn: when to draw cards, when to play them, and when to challenge your opponent.
Drawing cards gives you more options, but doesn't have an immediate impact on the game. Playing cards can include setting them up for future use or using certain mythological cards immediately. Pegasus, for example, can be used to challenge a card from your opponent's hand. The challenges are very similar to Stratego--if the matchup is between two numbered cards, the higher number wins unless one of the cards has a special power that tilts the balance in some way.
It's important to keep your side of the field somewhat full of cards, as the number of columns you have (1 to 3) determines the number of action points you can spend on your turn. The presence of Hera or Zeus can give a player up to 4 action points to spend, again tying in nicely to the theme.
There are enough nuances to the game that many players will need a couple of rounds to catch on to the basic strategies. The game has sufficient depth to warrant numerous replays, but the ending can come quite quickly and without warning. There six ways to win the game, and more than one gives it a very random feeling. Still, the game generally plays in less than the listed 40 minutes and falls somewhere between a filler and a hardcore strategy game.
H&Z comes packed in the now-recognized Kosmos two-player game box with two decks of cards (43 cards in each deck) and two small wooden cubes, one representing Hera and the other Zeus.
This game may fall a little high on the luck scale for some readers, but those who enjoy games where tactics weigh at least as heavily as strategy will find Hera and Zeus to be a welcome addition to the game shelf.