Dale Yu: Review of Hercules


  • Designer: Fabio Lima
  • Publisher: mebo games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 30min
  • Played with review copy provided by publisher at SPIEL 2022

In Hercules, players represent an Apprentice of Hercules and will roll the dice to perform mathematical operations in order to complete the legendary Twelve Labours of the almighty warrior. It’s a race, but being the first to complete these challenges won’t be enough to claim victory! Ultimately, the winner will be the player who has earned the most points from their cards, cubes and bonuses they gained by cleverly doing maths.

Wait maths?  First, why do those English people insist on saying it funny?  (At least the didn’t stick an extra “u” in the word).  But, yes, this is a game that will involve lots of math/arithmetic.  Luckily, the largest number you’re going to have to deal with is 12, but for some of you, that might require you to slip off a shoe as you’re going to run out of fingers to work with.

In this game the board is constructed from the 5 parts so that there is a start line, and then the columns 1-12 in order.  Each player chooses a color, takes the cubes of that color and fills in a complete row on the board.  Their meeple is placed to the left of this row on the starting line of boats.  Each player also gets a pair of d6 in their color.

The six types of Demigod cards are shuffled and each stack is placed under the board.  Zeus is placed over column #12, and the other eleven Gods cards are shuffled and one if placed above each remaining column.  The Pantheon cards are placed underneath Zeus.  Finally, the Vase cards are placed in piles, grouped by the number of the vase.  The card with the higher VP is placed on top.

Hercules is played over several rounds. Each round consists of 3 phases:

  1. Consult the Oracle – All players simultaneously roll their dice
  1. Perform an Action 

Each player takes their turn and decides which action they wish to take: Perform a Labour or Rest.  To perform a Labour, add, subtract, multiply or divide the numbers on your dice to get a result between 1 and 12.  During the action phase, players may use the abilities of the Demigod and Gods of Olympus cards they previously won to adjust the dice results as permitted by spending cubes or flipping cards face down.  Once you have figured out your math equation, then remove the cube from the numbered column that matches your result and place it in your supply.  Cubes in your supply can be used to power the special abilities of Demigod cards that you have collected.  

Then, if possible, move your apprentice to the right along empty spaces in your row until it cannot move further (i.e. there is a cube in the next column).   If you moved your meeple 3 or more spaces at once, you can take a vase card from the supply; taking a case whose vase number is equal or less than the number of spaces moved.  Also, if you moved your meeple to a column that still has its God card available, you take that God card – it could give you ongoing special powers (one-time use per game) or end game scoring bonuses.  Finally, based on the math operation you used or the value of your dice, you then collect one Demigod card, if there is one available. You must take the topmost card of a stack.  

Alternatively, you could Rest.  If you do this, you can recover 3 cubes that you have spent on your cards, allowing you to reuse them. Finally, you have the option of flipping over a previously used God card so that you can use it again.

  1. Pass the start player marker to the next player clockwise. 

The game ends as soon as any Apprentice reaches Column 12; that player immediately wins the Zeus card. Any players who have not yet taken their turn do so, so that all players have the same number of turns, and anyone who also reaches Column 12 on their final turn gets a Pantheon card – which is worth the same number of VP.

The game is then scored on the handy scoring sheet included in the box.

  • VP from cards
  • 5VP for having the majority of Demigods of a type (the 4 math operations and dice)
  • 5VP per complete set of 5 Demigods
  • 1VP for each cube in your reserve

The player with the most VP wins the game.  Ties broken in favor of the player in the furthest right column on the board.

My thoughts on the game

Well, from the rules, this sounds like “Math: The Game” – and in practice, there is plenty of arithmetic going on, but there’s a pretty neat game too.  There is a bit of luck involved in rolling the right number – but as you have all of the mathematical operators on your side; you can often maneuver yourself towards the target number of your choice.  In addition, the powers of the Gods and Demigods will also let you fix your number.

As you are fooling around with your numbers, also pay attention to how and when you are choosing which operator to use; the stacks of Demigod cards have different bonuses on them, and depending on what type of bonus you want for the future, you might be motivated to multiply this round or maybe subtract…  There is also a good payoff for having a majority of a Demigod type, so concentrating on a particular operator can be a nice payoff as well.

It’s important to hit new columns in order to acquire cubes.  You need the cubes to power these Demigod actions.  Finally, let’s not forget about the timing of the meeple movement.  First, there is also a bit of a race aspect in collecting the God cards.  I like to try to get some of the endgame bonus cards early on as it helps give me some direction on how to move in the future.   

However, one should not forget about trying to set things up to make larger jumps as the high scoring vases can only be acquired when you make moves of three columns or more.   

The game is a nice filler, and honestly, it’s not trying to be more than that.  I’ve found that it is a great way to brush up on some math skills and critical thinking with my 8 year old cousins, and they seemed to enjoy both the game as well as the challenge of manipulating the numbers.  With my all adult game group, the math was not challenging, but instead just an interesting tool to move around the board.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.  Dale Y
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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