Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 1 October 2019

Coming Up with a Title has Never Been:-Hadara

Game: Hadara

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Benjamin Schwer

Year: 2019

Hadara is a 2-5 player civilisation game in which you will build a civilisation by developing new technologies that will help you in one of 4 ways. You can improve your finance, military and culture of course, which all come with their own benefits, but ensure you don't slack on food or you may have to discard some of those cards that you would rather keep! Investing in certain areas will make it cheaper to make continued investments in that area, but there are bonuses for having a well rounded civilisation too, so long as you sponsor the right awards anyway.

A game of Hadara takes place over 3 eras, each of which has 2 distinct rounds, with each round followed by an income/cleanup phase. In the first round of each era you will start by seeding the board with 2 cards per colour per player. The start player will then choose where to start the central disc, which determines which order each player will get their cards in. At the same time each player will take 2 cards of the colour that their symbol on the disc is pointing at. From those 2 cards you discard one and either build or sell the other. Selling a card removes it from the game in exchange for a little money, while building a card costs money, but rewards you by improving your civilisation. most cards have coloured boxes with numbers in them, when you gain that card you increase the tracks of those colours by the numbers shown. This repeats until everyone has looked at cards of every colour.

At the end of the first round every player will gain money equal to the current position of their money track, then assess if they have enough military to invade an island (which can be exploited for money or integrated for track improvements) or enough culture to gain a new statue (which can either gain you track improvements or raw victory points). After this round 2 will begin. In round 2 players will take turns taking a card from one of the discard piles and either building or selling it. This continues until all the cards are gone. At which point there is a second income phase like before. At the end of the second income phase you also must check if you had enough food to feed your people, each card you have build needs 1 food. If you can't feed them all you have to start losing cards! On top of all this you can also fund medals by spending an ever increasing amount of money. Medals come in 2 varieties, silver medals score you points for focusing on a track of your choice, while gold medals reward you for collecting a full set of all 5 colours of cards.

As your empire grows you collect more cards, fund medals and build statues.

Hadara is an incredibly light civilisation game, while many civ games have complex tech trees and lengthy rulebooks, Hadara takes a different approach. With only 6 rounds to play and 4 tracks to worry about gameplay stays simple and concise. Since most of the game can be played simultaneously the game plays incredibly fast too, though consequentially there isn't a huge amount of player interaction outside of buying/selling cards that your opponents might want. 

A large amount of the decisions in Hadara come down to money. Cards generally come in 3 forms: cheap track improvements with low victory points, cheap victory points with low track improvements, and expensive cards with both. And from that a strategy must develop. It's also important to decide how much to improve each track, you need enough money to do most anything, and enough food to keep cards, but there are next to no points for either  at the end of the game. Really focusing on Culture or Military can give you large rewards, especially combined with silver medals, but can your economy support it?

The puzzle board creates a variable setup, though how much that matters is up for debate.
Hadara isn't without flaws, the game board has variable setup in the form of a puzzle board, which means that each game different card stacks are next to each other. Since you will gather cards in a clockwise direction around the board this can affect what you can buy. But honestly it makes so little difference that is hardly seems worth it. The choice of where to start the central disc (which dictates who will get what colour of cards first) is rendered rather moot by the fact that everyone will get to see 2 distinct cards. So long as they saved enough money to buy what they want it makes so little difference that it's barely worth having in the game. Also Hadara can feel a little too short at low player counts where the game seems to be over before it began.

But overall it's a really solid lightweight game. It's simple ruleset makes it highly accessible to new gamers, and the colour matched cards with the tracks makes everything so intuitive. The advanced game adds a few extra purple cards which have more complex special rules, but even those are relatively simple in the grand scheme of things. Hadara is a game that has had all the fat trimmed from it. Nothing feels accidental and every card has it's place in producing a well-tuned, consistent gaming experience. And it's consistently good at that, while Hadara isn't my favourite game by any-means I can't imagine any reason to have a bad game of it. Which in itself is a wonderful thing!


Hadara was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £57.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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