Sunday, 16 November 2014

Hype or Boring-er?

Hyperborea is the new game on Sam’s already groaning shelf of games. Its vast box, unable to slide neatly into a space, sits on the edge, it’s spacious lid covering the spines of many other worthy contenders for our attention. In other words, it’s a bit of an attention seeker. And with it’s silly artwork of D&D style subjects, when Sam first bought it, I thought he’d made a terrible mistake.

But he was keen to try it again after an initial test run against Ian, and so I agreed. I ignored any attempt at learning the names for various pieces or colours, and concentrated on the rules that Sam was telling me.

It seemed like a bit of a point salad, or even a point soup, with almost everything you do getting some kind of reward if it was still on the board by the end of the game. Everything, that is, except fortresses: these flimsy castles which sound so promising when it comes to defeating enemy hordes, but vanish the moment it’s your turn again and you have to build your defences from scratch. Less a fortress, more an inflatable castle, as Sam pointed out.

There are icons a-plenty, and I’m not at all sure we got them right. But the basic mechanic of drawing cubes and using them to trigger actions was a smart one. Certainly, I had reason to like it when Sam went through a mid-game spate of unlucky cubes, forcing him to tread water for a few turns. But that’s life, really, isn’t it? And isn’t that what board games are all about? Dreams and hopes, plans and schemes, dashed against the rocks of cruel fate.

While ghosts dance at your misfortune...

The game is pretty fast once you get going, and it seems to offer a variety of paths to glory. But one thing is plain: too many cubes can slow you down, as you cannot clear your playing area until your bag is empty of cubes. Do you specialise in a small number of similar coloured cubes, or go for a smorgasbord of opportunities, picking up different coloured cubes as you go? I think you’d need a few games before a preferred strategy began to to emerge.

At the end, we were struggling to get our last player on the board when I bought up my fifth card, thus triggering the end of the game. But Sam had his stash of gems, and plenty of presence on the board. He took the win by a slim majority.

Sam 44
Andrew 42

That’s from memory, but the way. It might have been 64-62, but it was definitely a two-point gap. It was fun, and it’d be interesting to see how it plays with more people. Part of me wants to try the six-player version, and another part of me wants to remind the first part of me that that would take about three hours.

After this we played a nice two-player game of 7 Wonders. But, in a sense, there’s no such thing as a two-player game of 7 Wonders. Dirk has grown into a little character of his own, mostly as a witless dumping ground for dull cards, but occasionally with an uncanny knack of picking one player to favour over the other.

This time it was Sam who gained most from business with Dirk, while I was left scratching together coppers just to build another science. That was my strategy - sciences - while Dirk went for blue buildings, chaining them together for full effect, and Sam went for military, backed up by some nice guilds in the final round. It was a resounding victory for Sam, and a precious silver medal for Dirk.

Sam 60something
Dirk 44
Andrew 43

But I enjoyed it. I can’t believe there are people who don’t like the 7 Wonders two-player variant. It adds new strategies to what would otherwise be an exercise in futility.

And that was that for the evening! Non-leaderboard, although 7 Wonders should appear on the division, I suppose.


  1. Hyperborea was 64-62 Andrew. Very close.

  2. Also as with miner and Ian's game we played the basic game (and as is tradition in my house, forgot a rule: concerning movement in different hexes on this occasion). We played as different colours but in the advanced version these 'factions' take on more distinct identities due to their specialist powers - maybe one of them has a generator to keep the fortress upright.

    As I said previously I'm not a big fan of little fantasy models made of plastic, especially garishly colored ones. But the game I like.