Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kosmos Two Player Series - Hera & Zeus by Richard Borg

Hera and Zeus depicts an epic struggle within Greek mythology. One player plays the father of the Greek gods, Zeus (Bob), while the other plays Zeus' wife, Hera (Carol). Zeus has kidnapped Hera's favorite human, Artus, while Hera has kidnapped Zeus' lover, Io. The players battle it out to rescue their hostage by deploying various mythical figures.

While each player's deck has its own beautiful artwork, each is identically strong, consisting of numbered cards which represent the card's strength in battle (0 to 7), to cards with no combat value but some mythological power, and some cards with both. The game starts with each player drawing nine cards and playing three face down in front of him to make three columns across from the other player's cards. Throughout the game you will play cards down into these three columns.

Hera goes first. On your turn, you have as many actions as you have columns. Actions include playing a card down into the playing field, drawing a card into your hand, attacking an opposing card in your opponent's front row, or playing a mythological action card from your hand. When you play down onto the playing field, you can put the card anywhere, even in front of other cards, with a maximum of four cards in any one column. The cards in your front line may fight the cards in the same column from the other player.

Combat is simple. If I want to use one of my front cards to attack its opposite number, I flip mine face up, declare the attack, and my opponent flips their card up. If they have a number card, we compare numbers and the smaller number is defeated and discarded. (Yes, it's somewhat like Stratego.) Cards behind it in the column move up one space. If the defender's cards have a mythological action, that action is activated and resolved.

The mythological cards have a variety of powers. The Medusa, for example, turns anyone who attacks her into stone but is defeated by the Hero or Amazon. Pythia (strength of 0) has several powers including being played from your hand to look at your opponent's hand or turn up all the cards face up in one column, or played on the playing field to beat the most powerful cards, Poseidon and Nemesis. Pegasus (strength of 1) can be played into the playing field as a numbered card or can be played from your hand to attack a card in your opponent's hand or on the playing field. There is a Hera card and a Zeus card and while they're played, you get four actions a turn, regardless of the number of columns. Sirens let you draw a card from your opponent's discard pile, while Hades lets you put a card from your own discards back into your hand.

What is really interesting about H&Z is that there are numerous ways for each player to win. You win if your opponent is forced to discard their hostage (Io or Artus) through combat or various mythological cards, if your opponent can't use all his allocated actions, if a player starts their turn with no cards in their playing area, or when Pandora is activated in the same column or hand as the hostage. Strategically, while you want to expand quickly to get your powerful cards into play, you have to be careful not to draw your hostage from your deck too early because the only time it's absolutely safe is when it's in your draw deck.

Bob's paltry forces

I started out badly, challenging one of Carol's front cards before I had built up my playing field and so was reduced to two actions for a couple of turns. I recovered and was lucky that Io stayed safely in my draw deck for a long time. There was a lot of back and forth with Carol having the upper hand most of the game and me struggling to keep up.

Unfortunately for her, Carol drew Argus and had to either get him down to the playing field or keep him in her hand where I might find him with Pegasus attacks. She put him down into her biggest column which was opposite an empty column on my side. I played Pandora opposite of this column and Carol attacked. Attacking Pandora is bad as it destroys all cards in the entire column for both players. In this case, that included Argus, giving me the game.

Coming up:  We return to Middle Earth with Lord of the Rings: The Search.

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