Welcome back to the new year, I truly hope you had a great holiday season. But now it’s back to work. Together we need to figure out which of Matagot’s big box ‘Dudes on a Map’ board games is the best. Meaning today’s poll is going to be Kemet vs Inis vs Yucatan vs Cyclades.
It feels somewhat weird to call these games a trilogy or quadrilogy considering they all have separate design teams. At the same time though, all of these games share a similar flavour. They all have a unique take on the area-control genre, as well as a distinct mythological theme.
Oh, and they all come with gorgeous miniatures.
Starting with the highest-scoring board game from Board Game Geek, Inis sits at a fantastic 7.8 scoreline. Released in 2016 and designed by Christian Martinez, Inis is a combat-heavy board game about avoiding fights as much as possible. As they can be devastating.
Deeply rooted in Celtic history and lore, you are trying to become the next King of the Island. This is achieved when you either control a number of regions, tribes, or sanctuaries. However, you’re not alone in chasing this goal as everyone else at the table is equally wanting to be the Brenn.
This is of particular concern because Inis is a drafting game. Each round, you collect four action cards that tell you to move, recruit warriors, attack and so forth. As a result, players on either side of you can drastically impact what you can do within a round. Making Inis an incredibly interactive game, where you’re always reacting to what’s happening on the board.
Before Inis brought a calm, mediated approach to the ‘Dudes on a Map’ genre, Kemet was pedal to the metal, high-octane action. Released in 2012 and designed by Jacques Bariot and Guillaume Montiage, Kemet takes you to Egypt where you’ll battle over the control of mystical spires.
Typically games of this genre make a big deal of combat, losing a fight usually maims you in a way that takes a while to rebuild. Not so Kemet. Gaining reinforcements is cheap and travel is done through teleportation. As a result, there’s almost no lull between one conflict and the next.
Kemet also boasts an incredible shared tech tree where everyone can buy special powers and mythical beasts. Given each power can only be bought once per game though, you often have to change your plans as other players snap up the technologies you wanted. Between that and the fighting, you get this dynamic game of non-stop action. It’s no wonder it also has a fantastic Board Game Geek score of 7.7.
Being the oldest of these games, Cyclades was designed by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc and released in 2009. It is also technically the youngest of these games because last year they ran a crowdfunding campaign for an updated second edition. Not yet released, the original still has a 7.5 Board Game Geek score.
Taking place in ancient Greece, you aim to be the first player to own two metropolises. An academic scholar can trade four philosophers for a metropolis, an economic powerhouse can swap four of their buildings, or a military warlord can just take them from someone else.
None of these paths to victory are so simple, as all of the actions you take throughout the game are done through an auction phase at the start of each round. Here, you must bid to earn a god’s favour, and only the winner performs their action.
The sneaky thing about Cyclades’ auction is that if someone outbid you on a god, you must move your token to another god. Strategically, this lets you outbid your opponents to stop them from taking certain actions. This, along with the ever-changing mythological creatures you can purchase, is the reason Cyclades still sticks around over a decade later.
Technicalities aside, Yucatan is the latest big box game from Matagot. Like Kemet above, it is also designed by Guillaume Montiage. Unlike Kemet, Yucatan is the worst performing board game in the series sitting at a 6.7 Board Game Geek score. This is most likely due to it being new, and how competitive the board gaming market has grown. However, it might also be because of how dark it is; both in colour scheme and theme.
Since Yucatan takes place during the height of Mayan civilization, winning a god’s favour can only be done through prisoner sacrifice. So throughout the game, you’ll lead groups of war bands from city to city pillaging and taking prisoners. The only resistance you get is that of the other players – who are also there to pillage and take prisoners.
Otherwise, Yucatan blends worker placement with area control. Your turns consist of choosing one of four buildings to activate, as well as one of your war bands which will roam around the board.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Matagot mythology game without one of these buildings letting you summon avatars of the Mayan gods to help you in combat. Being Australian, the one that catches my eye the most is the giant freaking crocodile.
Out of the four games in the series so far, I’ve only played Inis and Kemet and loved them both for different reasons. So I’m going to need to do some soul-searching before I cast my vote. But this vote is all about you!
So cast your vote, and let us know which of these games you’ve played (or want to play), and what your favourite is in the comments below.