Helios Board Game Review: “Harness the power of the sun to develop a civilization that is the envy of all your rivals.”

I couldn’t put it better. Z-Man’s English version of Helios was released last year and is a ton of fun! It’s one of those with plenty of paths to victory; as I count it, there are five primary methods of point accumulation with several combinations and variations (e.g., remaining materials cubes are normally not worth any points, but having the activated Treasurer character grants one point for each remaining cube).

Gameplay is a blast with a good mix of independent and interactive style. The independent side allows for construction of your own buildings (each player has the same building options), building of land tiles in your own land area, and rotation of your own sun. The interactive, more competitive component entails a race to grab the right characters for your chosen strategy, competing for high-demand action tiles (and colors!), snatching the special bonus tiles, and grabbing the best land tiles to meet your needs.

Helios’s land tile placement with the sun rotation and “illumination” features is awesome! While you earn a single land cube when you build a piece of land, the most sustainable method of material collection is by “illuminating” an empty land tile. You start the game only able to rotate the sun two spaces. As you create buildings and activate characters, your sun rotation limit increases, thus allowing you to place the sun in the perfect spot to maximize resource replacement or accumulate extra points with the bonus tiles.

The building action allows you to build either a temple (that accumulates victory points when illuminated by the sun but doesn’t allow you to collect a material cube for the land tile on which it is placed!) or a city building. I tend to underestimate the power of the temples in racking up points. At first, I felt that buildings were longer-term strategic investments to be utilized as much as possible (most buildings also provide a nominal immediate benefit). Now, I balance the two (investing for future gains with the buildings while getting quick returns on investment with the temples).

The characters are a very fun component and can be game-changers with the amount of points they can bring in! You first need to “hire” a character with mana stones (accumulated by building temples or as a building bonus), but no benefit is provided for a “night-time” character. You have to pay three material cubes to “activate” the character and receive its immediate and/or long-term benefit. For example, the Princess gives you points valued at two times the number of the sun marker on the sun track at the end of the game (while others receive no points for this value). Also, the Treasurer (most expensive character) grants two victory points for every remaining raw materials cube and three points for each remaining mana stone at the end of the game. So, depending on your strategy, the characters can add a ton of value to your work.

Overall, I give Helios an 8 (out of 10). I love the unique game mechanics, the boards and pieces are phenomenally sturdy, the artwork is fantastic, and the replay value is very high. Great job, Z-Man! Keep them coming!

Disclaimer: I received this game for free in exchange for my review, but believe me, I post authentic reviews every time and will be brazenly blunt if needs be.”

Link to Z-Man Games and Image Source

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