On the front page of its rulebook, Hyperborea describes itself this way: “a game of exploration, civilization and conquest for 2 to 6 players.”
Ambitious? Yes. Does it live up to the description? Yes and no.
How it works:
Hyperborea’s rulebook is 16 pages, so consider this a very brief overview.
Players take on one of six roles in the mythical kingdom of Hyperborea. Each player begins with three of 10 miniatures at his or her homeland.
Players can take as many actions as they are allowed — by moving into a city or a ruin on the board and taking the provided action and by using the three cubes they’ve drawn from their bag of resources.
They can: move on the board — a collection of hexagons that changes each game; attack other players or ghosts; put a fortress near their own characters to protect them from attack; develop their technologies; grab a point gem; or “buy” an advanced technology in the form of a card, giving even more possible actions.
Players collect resources and put them into a bag. Each turn, they draw three cubes out of that bag. The cubes are placed on a board in front of them, and their combinations allow players to do their actions. When they get to the end of the bag, they “reset,” moving characters out of ruins and cities and putting most (and sometimes all) of your cubes back in the bag.
The player with the most points — gained from killing ghosts and opponents, collecting gems, and controlling areas on the board — wins.
Why you might buy Hyperborea:
If you like Eurogames, this one is solid. The gears work together perfectly.
If you like a little bit of beating on your opponents, but not too much, this is a good choice.
This game offers lots to think about, but because you need combinations, the choices aren’t endless.
The art is stellar, both on the hexagons and on the cards. The miniatures are small but detailed.
For this style of game, it’s relatively short, although there are three different lengths to choose from. The box says it will take 25 minutes per player, but for your first few games, that number is more than optimistic, even for a short game.
If you’ve been playing games like Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne and you’re looking for more of a challenge, Hyperborea might be a good fit. Read on before you decide.
Why you might not buy Hyperborea:
You wanted the game to live up to its description of “exploration, civilization and conquest.”
The game has a little bit of each, but not as much as you might want. This is more Eurogame than epic.
You won’t be telling a story. Movement is slow and not that easy to do, so you won’t be moving overturning every ruin or exploiting every city. Attacking is simple; you either have enough attack points or you don’t. But getting into a position to attack other players can be tough. Ghosts are an easier target.
The balance between player powers seems a bit off, but because each character has two possibilities, that is easy enough to remedy for me. If that’s important to you, you might want to pass.
There’s also the little detail of price. This game is listed at $99.99. I saw it recently on a game store shelf in Portland, Oregon, for $60, and it’s available online for $56.99.
I love Hyperborea.
It’s the perfect mix of European mechanics with an interesting theme. The icons make sense, so I don’t have to consult the rulebook all the time. The interchangeable board and player powers mean this game will never get old. And it’s just plain fun.
That said, it’s not for everyone. What do you think?
Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Hyperborea from Asmodee Editions. I was not required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.