26th April 2022
Tuesday is here and we're at The Sovereigns with the Woking Gaming Club.
Does Hellapagos mean hell in the Galapagos islands, I didn't see any giant tortoises in the game?
Anyway; Hellapagos is a (Somewhat!) cooperative game about surviving the ordeals of being shipwrecked on what would in other circumstances be a tropical paradise, building rafts and escaping.
What's in a game?
Only the cards are what I would consider average in build production, which is to say, they're fine. The tokens feel suitable chunky, as do the balls and bag (Sic) which are a nice touch. The standout component is the completely superfluous cardholder which displays like the wrecked hull of a half sunken ship.
Hellagapos makes use of excellent bright and colourful artwork throughout, especially on the cards. With thick black lines and lots of colour it has an almost ligne claire quality to it. Furthermore, there's also a lot of humorous subtext to the art. Like the pendulum that makes another player take a one action of their chosen by the card-player (Hypnotises them!) and so on.
There's minimal iconography in the game and what there is, such as water or fish icons are easy to comprehend. Actions on the survivor cards are all detailed by text instead.
How's it play?
On to play
Hellapagos uses a normal turn structure with the active player taking their turn before play progresses to the player to their left.
The game has 4 basic actions a player can perform but because it's a cooperative game, there can be a lot of discussion about moves and strategies among players and later, negotiation taking place.
A round represents 'a day' and plays as follows
There 3 ways Hellapagos can end.
There's a lot to unpack with Hellapagos and I'll start with the mechanics.
The write-up is a little long and belies the fact that in play, the game is pretty straight foward to understand and play.
More importantly; it's clear that the game's mathematics have been balanced so that it's very hard to get all players off the island. Which makes sense from a game-perspective, it forces players to consider different late-game strategies.
If say, a group of 6 players had 9 days to get off the island, they'd need the following.
Water: 6 per day +6 to leave -12, which is their starting water. So 48 water.
Food: 6 per day +6 to leave - 10, which is their starting food, so 50 food.
Rafts: At 6 wood per raft, they'll need 36 wood.
In other words 5.4 water per day, 5.5 food per day, 4 wood per day.
If the player split their labour evenly per task, that would mean:
2 players getting 2.7 water per day each.
2 players getting 2.75 food per day each.
2 players getting 2 wood per day each.
Getting both water and food at that rate is pretty hard. Each player would essentially have to get 3 or their chosen resource per day, every day. Since 3 is the top end result players could hope for, it's unlikely this will occur.
Getting 2 wood per day per player seems easy but each player has a 16% chance of being poisoned, this might not seem high but when it does occur, it means that they only get 1 wood and lose their next action. Catching up in a following round mean getting 5 wood, this is a lot more tricky.
Of course players may want to search the wreckage and rightfully so, there are some very useful cards to be found in there, including for example; cards that skip the consume food action among others. On the other hand, it's equally as likely that something which helps a player personally might be found...
Players may want to divide their labour differently as well; when lots of rain appears, it might be good to get more people gathering water and 'get 'ahead' on the water track.
A game like Hellapagos thrives on player social interaction, if people don't engage with it, it won't be a particularly interesting or memorable game.
Ultimately though, players will sooner or later come to a conclusion; there won't be enough resources for all the players to get off the island.
This changes the game in 2 ways.
Firstly, players will begin looking at who to vote off as food and water become scarcer. Players will try to emphasise their own usefulness and see who can be a good target for elimination during voting.
This is where having a valuable item can keep a player alive. Some ongoing cards are very handy and eliminating the player who controls it, also eliminates the item. Not a coincidence in the rules I think.
Additionally, players may also look to horde rations on wreckage cards, waiting until voting has occurred, allowing others to be eliminated and only using it when they have been voted out. However, other players can look at this very negatively and it can draw their ire.
players are free to form alliances or betray one another, gang up on other players, openly or otherwise and so on.
Needless to say negotiation and voting can become very tense.
Secondly, people will start to realise that when player counts are sufficiently low, that eliminating players after collecting resources can leave the survivors with enough resources to escape the island.
The thing is though; it's likely that they'll be enough food and water to prevent any voting from going ahead. Players will have to resort to 'other methods' to removing opponents.
This is where the game gets brutal and the pistols start getting used.
Hellapagos mixes cooperative game play with a large dose of 'take that' actions. In the early-game it's all pleasant enough but once it progresses on, everything can change.
I, like many other people I imagine, am not a fan of games that have player elimination, luckily for Hellapagos, players won't generally spend too long just watching. It doesn't frequently occur early in the game and once the eliminations start, they don't stop until the game does!
I will also add; if game with lots of direct 'in-your-face' conflict and player elimination aren't your thing, it would prudent to give Hellapagos a miss.
but if this sort of thing is your jam, then with it's 12-player count! Hellapagos is a good game to try.
I play, I paint.