The idea of social abstract games are still somewhat new to me, but as a genre encompassing a game such as ILIOS is certainly a step toward become a bigger fan.

ILIOS is a 2015 release by designer Eliot Hochberg, and Playford Games.

The company website describes ILIOS as “a tile placing strategy game for 2-4 players that brings the aura of the Trojan War to your tabletop! Like Achilles and Ajax who would play board games between battles, you can challenge your friends to a battle of the minds trying to control, surround, and plunder the lands around the City of ILIOS, also known as Troy.”

The theme is nice enough as a story, but there is very little within game play that ties to a big event like the Trojan War.

ILIOS is played on a 7 x 7 square board with tiles and disks.

Again from the website; “following in the footsteps of Go and Othello, ILIOS has strategic depth and an element of suspense: will your opponent score on your turn? Plus, drawing tiles adds a random element that entices players of all skill levels.”

All right games like comparisons with the great classics. There dozens of games claiming to be descendants of chess and checkers and few live up to that claim.

ILIOS doesn’t match up as anything close to Go, but then what game does? That doesn’t mean there isn’t a fine game here, but the connection to Go is thin in my mind.

With the heady theme to what in the end is a piece placement games where the goal is area control, I was curious how the game came about, so I asked the designer via email.

“The biggest challenge designing ILIOS was getting the theme into the art for the game,” said Hochberg. “I was really struggling, then I saw art on pottery of Achilles and Ajax playing board games between battles, and it clicked. Through that, I discovered the Sun of Vergina, which just about all of the warriors in the Iliad wore on their battle gear, and that led me to the designs we ended up with.”

I found that history lesson made the game more intriguing as a player.

“Other elements I had to work on over the years were the materials and design of the game through various iterations,” continued Hochberg.

It was also interesting to hear about the perseverance of the designer.

“I believe there were eight different versions of the game before I started working with Playford Games,” said Hochberg. “I had to change the name, first it was called Blockdown, but there was an online game with that name. Then I had Urosette, which I really liked and had a vague Moroccan theme, and that went through at least three different visual designs. When the game became ILIOS, there was a whole process coming up with a name that related to The Iliad, and then several design mockups of both the tiles and the board before we landed on what ended up in the box.”

So as designer what does Hochberg like most about his game.

“To me, the best element of the game is that it’s easy to learn, but fun to play between experienced players and novices,” he said. “I really wanted a game that would be fun for everyone, and the way I managed that was to add a random element … It isn’t strictly an abstract game, instead it’s what Playford calls a “social abstract,” it’s fun to play and doesn’t require a lot of homework to win. A good player will still win three-quarters of the time or so, but the randomization gives newer players a fighting chance. I also like that ILIOS is a more defensive game compared to other similar games.”

For me, a diehard abstract strategy fan, the mix of luck works well enough here to warrant exploring ILIOS as a game with a broader audience than many deeper abstracts.

Having worked on this game for over 5 years, the rules and strategies have been tested a lot. I am still happy with the results, especially when I hear players wanting to play again because they see new ways to overcome their opponents.

Once we see how ILIOS is received by the market, I’ll probably work with Playford on new expansions, since ILIOS lends itself to adding new types of tiles and even variations on the game board. While I’m waiting for that, I’m working on two games. One is a word game, the other is a hidden roles game based on a family and a will.

Deploy your warrior to raid and plunder in this cross between Othello and Go. Strike from different directions depending on your warrior’s strength, but who secures the plunder is not decided until warriors are completely surrounded.

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