Before I begin I was sent a prototype of the game, and will receive a copy should it fund in exchange for an honest preview. This is not a paid preview. If you want to check out a video of this review, check it out below. If you want to learn more click here.
One of my jobs is as a school teacher. At the beginning of the year we dabble in Greek myths, and then we move into reading abridged versions of the Iliad and Odyssey. It was not until I started working at this particular school that I thought about myths, even though when I was a kid I adored them. I actually made my parents buy me a myth book set, that showed up in the mail one book each month.
As a child I loved the heroism, the monsters, the battles, and the godly powers. However, as an adult that is not what really entertains me. What I appreciate the most now is the humanity and childishness of the gods. Mortals are their playthings, and they live and die to settle stupid bets, or because one god didn’t get the biggest piece of cake at dinner. It is amazing.
So when Kleos crossed my eye, I was intrigued by the artwork, but interested when I learned the theme. Here is a game where each of the gods is sending mortals to battle for their god’s glory. Why? Whoever, is the most amazing will get to be the patron of the new city. Yeah, that’s right. There is no world saving heroism here. It is a proxy war to settle the squabble of gods all screaming “I want it!”. In short, my favorite thing about the Greek Gods.
Kleos is played over the course of 5 days. Each day you will be able to play cards from your hand (which will either be minions to do your bidding, or blessings/curses to buff or debuff minions), then each of your minions will get to take two actions. These actions will either allow you to move or roll some dice! Rolling the dice will allow you to either battle another minion, or try to recruit one of the epic heroes/monsters from the Grecian islands.
Then at the end of the day, you will see who controls the different districts in the city, and each controlled district will award glory to your god. Oh yeah, killing stuff also awards glory. So does recruiting epic heroes/monsters.
Combat and recruiting is done through dice rolling. You quickly calculate how many dice you have and roll them. Each die has two automatic successes, three failures, and one “maybe”. If you have earned Olympus’s favor then you will be rewarded with successes on those “maybe” rolls. If not, then you are not worthy, and get nothing.
At the end of 5 days, whichever god has the most glory is the winner!
So what do I think?
The artwork is awesome. It reminds me of those old books I talked about at the beginning of this article. Additionally, the love of the source material is clear, there are so many easter eggs for fans of mythology. My personal favorite is Iolus showing up, now if only we could get Xena in there…. I also really enjoy the speed with which you can get into the action. Even if you are defeated and have to spawn new minions, you can always get them back into the city on a single round.
I also really like how quick and easy combat is. Even the most complicated of combats takes no more than 30 seconds. Additionally, I like that there is nothing to really track. If you lose…you’re dead. Time to get another one.
While this is an area control game, it is not in the traditional sense. There is actually only a very limited area that you are trying to control. Over half the map does not help you in any way. This means that the game is always leading up to a scrum in the city. This is fun, but not necessarily what you would normally think of as area control.
I will also note that the game plays very differently at two players than it does at more than that. While it is pretty hard to have a runaway leader in 3+ players, it is a possibility in two-player. With more players everyone will keep a runaway leader in check more readily.
The dice. There is a bit of a fad in a lot of games nowadays where rolling dice always results in something useful, maybe not what you are looking for, but something useful. This is not a game with that. It is completely possible that you will roll every single die in the game while fighting the weakest Hoplite out there (his name is Georgios, thanks for asking), and you get nothing as there is only a 33% chance to get a hit outright on each die. This might not bother you, but if you get frustrated by rolling dice and getting nothing, then this is good to know.
Bringing it all together
Kleos is a gorgeous looking area control combat game. It absolutely captures the vibe of Greek mythology, and the more you know about it, the more easter eggs you will discover. The game plays quickly, and there is nothing that drags the game on. Combat is lightning quick, though it is possible to roll a bunch of dice and literally have nothing happen, which might not be your favorite. The game plays best at 3 or more players, though two player certainly works, and the solo mode is very promising.
Dude, you wrote more than a Greek tragedy…no one reads those
* Gorgeous looking game that plays quickly
* Nails the theme
* Game pushes you into a scrum in the city, rather than trying to control the whole map
* You can definitely roll the dice and have nothing happen, which might not be your speed
* A shocking lack of Kevin Sorbo and Lucy Lawless in the game