Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.
- For ages 5 and up (publisher suggests 10+)
- For 2 to 8 players
- Approximately 45 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Memorization & Pattern/Color Matching
- Visuospatial Skills
- Cooperative & Team Play
- Child – Moderate
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Communication is key to victory…if only you knew what your teammates were saying…
- Gamer Geek mixed!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek mixed!
Buddha reportedly said, “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” In this game, what you say and don’t say will be listened to, dissected, analyzed, and interpreted to mean something you most likely didn’t intend. Which might or might not have been your plan. Above all else, never say what you mean, but mean what you say though gestures, acting, whistles, fart noises, and so on. Pretty sure Buddha is now rolling his eyes.
Hylaria, designed by Joost Das and to be published by FableSmith, will reportedly be comprised of 50 tiles. As this is a review of a prepbulished game, I will not comment on the game component quality. I will, however, make note of the game’s illustrations. Each tile is colorful and plays host to a whimsical character. Many of our younger players wanted to do nothing more than just look through the tiles and laugh. Not included with the game, but necessary to play, is a pen or pencil and piece of paper for every player.
Hylaria is two games in one. Both games are summarized here and use the same tiles. The learning curve between the two games is staggering. The game of Hylaria is best played by older players, while Hylaria Quest is perfect for Child Geeks and families. Each tile displays a character and a scene. While they are shown in the same image, they are consider two different objects.
The Game of Hylaria (4, 6, or 8 Players)
Hylaria is a game that must be played with 2 teams with equal number of players. When sitting players down, have the teammates place themselves around the table so they alternate. Or, as the rules so elegantly put it, “make sure both your neighbors are from opposing teams.”
All the tiles are shuffled and 2 are dealt to each player, face-down. Players now have an opportunity to review each of their tiles, carefully. When they believe they have each tile firmly locked in their brain, they place the tiles face-down.
Draw 3 more tiles and place them face-up in the middle of the playing area in a row. These 3 tiles form the start of what is referred to as the “Storyline”. Place the remaining tiles face-down in a pile and off to one side of the game playing area. This is the draw pile for the duration of the game.
Your Secret Code
Teammates must be able to communicate with each other from across the table without their opponents knowing what they are talking about. This is done through vague phrases, symbolic gestures, and knowing glances.
Each team member now writes what their secret code will be. Some examples used by our groups include:
- I will say “meh” for male and “grr” for girl.
- Scene weather will always be the opposite of what I say.
- I’ll talk about trips I’ve taken and drop hints about the location and who I met.
Humming, miming, quoting, singing, and anything else you can possibly imagine is perfectly acceptable. The point to all of this is to make sure a player can give hints about tiles to fellow teammates without giving any hints to the opposition. The more complicated and over the top the code is, the better the game will be for it.
And here’s why….
Part of the fun is the hilarity of misinterpreting and watching the silliness of the gestures as teams attempt, oftentimes in vain, to communicate.
Once every player quickly summarizes what their secret code is on a piece of paper, they are passed among the teammates and then thrown away, never to be seen again.
Hylaria is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. On a player’s turn they will complete the following steps:
Step 1: Replenish Tiles
If the player does not have 2 tiles in front of them, they draw as many tiles as necessary to bring them back up to a maximum of 2 tiles. Tiles are always kept face-down in front of the player until played to the Storyline.
Step 2: Use Your Code
The player now uses their code to communicate to their teammates what tiles they have. Only the player whose turn it is can move about, talk, or do whatever it is that qualifies as their “code”. The only time any player can discuss their tiles is during their turn.
Step 3: Take a Tile
Now the player must take a tile and place it to the Storyline. They can take and place any tile but their own. If the player has been listening and watching carefully, they might know exactly where a tile is that they want or they might just guess. In either case, once the tile is selected, it’s placed face-up to the Storyline on either end of the row.
Step 4: Score and End of Turn
A Storyline is scored when the same character OR scene is added for a third time to the row. But there is a fun little catch here. Not all the tiles in the Storyline will be collected. Only those tiles between the first occurrence and the third occurrence of the character or scene are collected. All the remaining tiles remain. If the Storyline is ever less than 3 tiles long, add tiles to it from the draw pile. The tiles that are collected are placed in the team’s score pile.
Regardless if the Storyline is scored or not, the player’s turn is now over. The next player in turn order sequence now takes their turn.
Ending the Game
The game continues until 1 team has 25 or more tiles in their score pile at the end of a player’s turn. This team is the winner of Hylaria.
Hylaria Quest (2 to 6 Players)
Hylaria Quest is a Memory game. To set up the game, randomly place 20 tiles face-down to form a 4 by 5 grid. Or use less tiles for an easier game. Any tiles not part of the grid are left to one side in a pile face-down. This will be the draw pile for the duration of the game.
Hylaria Quest is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. On a player’s turn they will ask an opponent to give them a “quest”. The quest to be fulfilled must be one of the following:
- Find 2 tiles that have the same character
- Find 2 tiles that have the same scene
The player then flips over 2 tiles in an attempt to complete the quest by revealing 2 tiles that match the requirements. If they do, they take the 2 tiles and replace them with 2 new tiles from the draw pile. If they do not, they have failed to complete the quest. Either way, the player’s turn is now over and the next player in turn order sequence now goes.
Play continues until the tiles in the grid can no longer be refilled. Every player should now take their last turn to ensure everyone has the same number of turns. Then everyone counts the number of tiles they collected.
The player with the most tiles wins the game!
If you find Memory games to be a bore and want to spice it up a bit, there is a game variant named “Link Quest”. This allows an opponent to give the player a Link Quest in addition to either finding 2 matching characters or scenes. Instead of 2 tiles, the player flips over 3. If the first requirement is met with at least 2 of the tiles, the third tile can be taken if it depicts the same character or scene as one of the other two tiles.
The Child Geeks were amused and confused by this game. Watching their parents make bird noises, wink, whistle, and say thing really slowly with a knowing look while making obscure references to movies they had never seen was both entertaining and frustrating. According to one Child Geek, “I have no idea what anyone is saying. That’s pretty funny until you realize you cannot communicate.” Another Child Geek said, “I totally get this game! You have to try to say things to others without really saying it. That’s really hard! Know what I’m saying?” Yes, I most certainly do. Hylaria Quest was also met with mixed approval. One Child Geek said, “This is a baby game. I played Memory when I was still playing with Thomas the Train.” But the younger Child Geeks loved it, finding it to be an enjoyable challenge and a game they could play without help. When all the votes were in, the Child Geeks gave Hylaria a mixed level of approval.
The Parent Geeks found Hylaria to be a very enjoyable Party game. According to one Parent Geek, “It’s pretty hilarious. It’s the only game I’ve played where everyone is sober, but acts like they are drunk or on drugs.” All the Parent Geeks found the game’s concept to be unique and engaging and pretty much everyone agreed they had no real idea if they were doing it right. As one Parent Geek said, “The rules are vague on what a code is, but it also says that anything goes. I guess anything you do is right, but I can’t help but feel I’m missing something.” Vague rules about codes or not didn’t stop them from having fun and they liked that they were getting 2 games for the price of one. Hylaria Quest was well received by the families with younger Child Geeks, but ignored by those families who had older children. The end result was unanimous approval from the Parent Geeks.
The Gamer Geeks enjoyed the Hylaria metagame and the free-form “code” communication. Unlike the Parent Geeks, they found the rules to be perfectly understandable. According to one Gamer Geek, “I like games that tell you what the intent is, but leave it up to the player to decide how best to go about it.” The Gamer Geeks did an outstanding job of speaking in tongues, quoting movies, shouting Pig Latin, and I’m pretty sure some sort of sign language was also used. But the game itself was not overly enjoyed. As one Gamer Geek put it, “The game drags on a bit too long for me and the joke of not being able to understand each other starts to get old, especially when you start getting frustrated with each other.” Without the ability to talk about new tactics or strategies once the game starts, all the players are pretty much stuck with whatever they know or think they know. This caused growing confusion, delay, and ultimately, frustration. The Gamer Geeks admired Hylaria for its new take on a Party game and found the Storyline tile scoring to be excellent, but it stayed just a bit too long on their table for comfort. The votes were mostly positive, but resulted in a mixed level of approval. Considering how few Gamer Geeks enjoy Party games, a mixed endorsement was actually very good.
Both of the games provided did a good job of entertaining. Not great, but good enough to make the majority feel positive towards the game. Hylaria Quest and Hylaria both suffer from the same mishap that simply cannot be avoided. Hidden information and the inability to further communicate and explore what little you know other than through observation can wear thin. This is especially true if the entire process is basically “hit or miss”. However, if players know this going in, they should have no problem understanding that it’s only through trial and error that they will be able to win the game. The humor of the game play helps a great deal, but it cannot always quell a player’s frustration.
I enjoyed both games. Hylaria was good fun with adults, but I think there is room for Child Geeks, too. A Child Geek need only be attentive at the table, keep themselves engaged, and participate without being prompted to play. Hylaria Quest was enjoyed a great deal by the younger Child Geeks, allowing the game to be playable by all ages and skill groups. That’s pretty good, but they are not the same game. Same bits, sure, but not the same experience. I view the Memory game as a bonus feature. The real game here is Hylaria.
Hylaria is an odd game, make no mistake. I think it would be great at parties and with groups who don’t know each other that well. This is, after all, a game about speaking in code. It might help if you knew the people on your team, but then again, maybe not. Lack of personal history ensures lack of assumptions based on the past. I also think this would be a fun game at family gatherings. Its game play is humorous, engaging without being heavy on the rules, and is accessible to a wide skill range. If Hylaria sounds interesting to you, sit down and play a game.
This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.