Dispatches from GenCon #1: Hellapagos Preview

Everything was going great until our yacht hit a reef and stranded us on a tropical island. Limited food and water are a daily concern. Wood must be gathered and rafts constructed if anyone is going to make it off this island before the hurricane wipes us all out for good. This is the simple premise to Hellapagos, a new game from French publisher Gigamic.

Each turn players will need to have an amount of food and water equal to the number of players in the game. If there isn't enough food or water to go around, a vote is called and the voted on player is killed out of the game. This vote and execute process is repeated until there is enough food or water for everyone remaining to drink.

The trick is to not be the player that everyone votes to kill off when supplies get scarce. You can do one of four actions on your turn to make yourself useful to the survivors:

  1. Fish for Food - Fishing is done by selecting a wood ball from a sack blindly. You catch the number of fish displayed on the ball.
  2. Collect Rain Water - Each day, a weather card is flipped which determines how much it is raining (if at all). This action collects water based on the current weather.
  3. Search the Boat Wreckage - Draw supply cards from the boat wreckage deck. These are things like extra food, water, guns, bullets, and tools.
  4. Search for Wood - Automatically collect 1 wood, but may search longer for additional wood. The more wood you search for the more likely you are to be bitten by a snake making you sick for one round, forfeiting your turn.

With the immediate threat of being forced to kill people if enough food or water can't be gathered, the primary goal that formed early in our game at GenCon was to collect surplus food and water. What makes the game interesting is when food or water inevitably run out and voting must be done, everyones past actions are scrutinized by the group. Players who feel on the chopping block begin lobbing accusations. "Why didn't you gather water when it was raining heavily? It's your fault we're screwed now that it's been dry for two days!"

You can even find and keep secret a gun and bullet cards so if you are ever about to be voted off, BLAMMO. You can take out another player. Of course, that will make you really unpopular the next time a vote needs to be called depending on who you killed and how you justified it. This game is all about keeping blame off yourself so waving your gun around should be considered a last resort.

Of course you could be searching the wreckage not for bullets but for the valuable tool cards you can find. One of our players affectionately became known as "Half Raft Zak" when he acquired the axe and was able to build half a raft by himself each turn with the extra wood it let him gather. Getting something like that can make you practically immune at the next vote when food runs out.

It was fascinating to me how this game turns a group of players who on turns one and two are cooperating very tightly into people shouting and blaming each other for this or that by the time the game is winding down and there are almost enough rafts to escape the island. It managed that feat in our game with over a dozen players and the game never felt slowed down. For that alone Hellapagos deserves some attention as a game that can be played with 16 players and keep everyone engaged with whats happening.

This was one of my favorite new games at GenCon and I pre-ordered it before leaving the convention center. It will be released by the end of 2017, check it out!