Getting our Greek on!

This week was BIRTHDAY WEEK. I turned 59 years young on January 18. It has been a truly excellent week so far, filled with a holiday, several tasty meals, two sessions of gaming, and a Philadelphia Eagles 38-7 win over the New York Giants in the NFC Divisional Playoff. Woot woot!

Did I mention there was gaming? Monday, January 16 was Martin Luther King Day in the USA, which is a work holiday for me. On short notice, I was able to get two of my close friends to join me for a game of Cyclades. Despite having never won it before, Cyclades is still one of my favorite board games. It’s rich in theme, looks good on the table, is elegantly designed, and features an auction-mechanic that’s the best of any game I’ve ever played.

That said, the base game of Cyclades has its weaknesses. In a game where you’re warring over the Greek isles to win the favor of the Gods, there’s not enough combat occurring, using the big monsters doesn’t work as well as it could, and there’s often a surprise winner which can be a bit of a letdown.


There are two expansions for Cyclades that really improve the game (Hades and Titans), albeit in diverse ways. On Monday, we played with parts of the Cyclades: Hades expansion.

There are 4 different expansion “modules” in Hades. The best one by far is the introduction of Hades as a God that can come up for bid on the auction-track. His undead minions can enable the player who wins his favor to mount a big 1-turn attack on your enemies. We also used the Heroes module, which adds a handful of Greek heroes and couple new monsters to the Creature Deck. This is a cool & thematic addition, but the Heroes are costly to keep out on the board and you should really use the Divine Favors module with them as I discovered. We skipped using it since we hadn’t played in a while, and I wanted to keep things streamlined; looking up what each Divine Favor (magic item) does slow down the game.

Monday’s game was fun, and it was great to finally get a beloved game back on the table. Still, the game wasn’t as aggressive as I wished (I seemed to be the only person attacking) and it ended with a sudden/surprise victory (the “All Philosophers” route to victory). I came away from that game feeling two things:

  1. I’ll bet Cyclades is better with 4 players.
  2. If you’re using the Hades expansion then use Hades + Heroes + Divine Favors (using the Free Positioning rules as optional) -OR- use Hades + new Monsters (ignore Heroes) + Priestess cards (instead of Favor tiles).


On Thursday Night, we played Cyclades again. But this time, we played Cyclades: Titans which is the second major expansion to the game.

Wow! This was by far, the best game of Cyclades we’ve ever played. Everyone had a legit chance to win the game. Just when we were sure Bob was going to win, he was stopped. Just when I was ready to win by conquering a 2nd metropolis, I fell 1 gold short of pulling it off. Just when Kevin had a power-play to pull off a win, he fell short. Wally eventually won the war of attrition, thanks in large part to his giant Greek Bank Account.

The Titans expansion is terrific. It directly addresses my biggest gripe with basic Cyclades: not enough combat. There are three glorious reasons that Titans fixes this problem:

  1. A new God, Kronos, is introduced into the auction. If you win him, you get a free building to place on the board (it varies depending upon where he appears on the auction-track). Not only does that save you money to take more actions later on, but it makes your territories even more ripe for your enemies to conquer.
  2. In some cases, Kronos grants you a free Titan. Or you can buy a Titan for 2 gold. What’s great about Titans is that they let you move troops across the map even during turns when you normally can’t do so. Now, you can always be aggressive and move your troops around the board. Sweet!
  3. The best part of Titans is the new board (see pic below). It’s built for confrontation. YES!! It lowers the barrier to attack. In the basic game, you have to spend a turn getting fleets and chain-linking them to build naval bridges between islands. Then you spend another turn getting troops and moving them. It’s much harder to coordinate your attacks. In Titans, you’re in each other’s faces more often.

After playing the Titans expansion, I’m not so sure I want to play basic Cyclades again. I could see playing with the island-heavy map of the base game but using Kronos and the Titans. That would be a pleasant change of pace occasionally.

Picture of TITANS map for 3-4 players. Shamelessly stolen from BGG and cropped.

Before I declare that Titans has solved all of Cyclades’s weaknesses, I must mention a few particularly important additional details:

  1. We played with 4 players. That was our first time playing with 4 people. I wasn’t convinced it would make that much of a difference. I was wrong. Cyclades shines with 4.
  2. We still used parts of the Hades expansion. We used the god Hades + the extra Hades Monsters + the Priestess cards (placed beside the God above Apollo). It worked great. Hades is a tremendous addition to the game; the threat of someone gaining his undead minions and laying waste to territories is exciting & fun. Plus, getting the Necropolis building can be huge (it was a key factor in increasing Wally’s bankroll on Thursday). Using the Priestess cards is a nice, low-overhead option. They aren’t used often but are spent to keep a big monster out on the board longer, which fixes a small gripe I have with basic Cyclades.

Despite its flaws, basic Cyclades was a game that I rated a perfect 10 on BoardGameGeek. After our play on Monday, I felt like it had dropped a point or two for me. I was starting to see some recurring patterns that I didn’t especially like. But that changed on Thursday. I still didn’t win; man oh days, do my friends pick on me in games of Cyclades (well, make that EVERY GAME)! The combo of 4-players, Titans, and a couple of elements from Hades made this one of our best multiplayer gaming experiences in a while, and easily the best game of Cyclades ever.


9 thoughts on “Getting our Greek on!

  1. Happy Belated Birthday and happy to year you are 59 years young! I always tell my Wife, you’re only as old as you feel. Also nice to hear that the Titans expansion makes the game better. I haven’t played Cyclades, but I’ve had a few games that were nicely fixed by the release of an expansion. It’s awesome when that happens.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Faust. I’m just a kid in an older person’s body!

      Totally agree that sometimes an expansion is just what the doctor ordered to fix the niggles from version 1. Oftentimes, I think designers & companies go overboard and “rules bloat” sets in, or you’re left juggling a hundred different fiddly bits. But in the case of the Cyclades expansions, the extra rules fit so well and aren’t overwhelming at all.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Happy belated birthday! I’m not familiar with Cyclades but I’m intrigued after reading about your experiences with it. Congrats on the Eagles win and hopefully they can get at least one more over San Francisco!

    Liked by 1 person

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