Theme and What is it?
Hadara is the Arabic word for civilization and culture. Players will guide their civilization through 3 epochs to increase their various cultural values and put those values to the test. The player who can most efficiently and effectively balance all the necessary parts of their civilization will be the victor.
Some civilizations will specialize on being effective traders and have a huge spending power. Others will train their military enough to plunder or integrate new colonies with their power. Most civilizations will increase their culture enough to carve statues of the things they value most. But how many statues can they make and will those immortalized values be enough?
Hadara is a hybrid version of a drafting game. Players draw 2 cards from a facedown stack and choose one to build or discard out of the game for money. The remaining card goes into a faceup stack that players will draft from later. Players will cycle through each of the card types on a modular board making these same decisions until they have purchased or discarded one of each of the 5 card types.
Then players gain income, use their current military to gain colonies, and use culture to carve statues. Then the second round of card drafting begins. In the second draft, players can select any of the top cards visible in the display to purchase or discard for money. Once all cards are gone players gain income, colonies, and statues again.
The final step for an epoch is checking the food production against population (cards). Having enough food is critical to success. The very final part of each epoch is the opportunity to purchase end gaming scoring medals at a cost depending on the round count.
The mechanics described above sounded completely reasonable for what a game will have in it. I was mildly interested in playing Hadara after seeing it played nearby at Gen Con. I wish I could say my initial impression was an extreme excitement. That didn’t kick in until I played a full game.
After my first game, Hadara jumped from mild interest to my top 3 games from Gen Con. After a few more games, it is clear it will become a regular table presence and offer repeated play value.
Game Build Quality
Hadara was a pleasure to punch. No tearing, ripping, or excessive cling. The insert particularly well designed. The cards have a sorting tray that even includes a storage guide. The player boards are made to rest on the plastic insert while covering part of the cards so they cannot shift around much in the box. There is plenty of space for the other components in the side compartments.
The modular board goes together easily and doesn’t have any tight fits or gaps in the puzzle hooks. The design is well made to fit in a compact space while giving the gameplay a fresh feel each time that the order shuffles.
Dominik Mayer has done a great job with the artistic design. The player aids and cards make the functional costs and rewards easy to read. The images of citizens on the cards or silhouettes on some cards gives the distinct impression of the personalities affecting your civilization. The board and box design are my favorite parts.
When to buy a card or sell for money is a remarkably tense decision. Each card is good in its own ways. But the next category you are about to draw from might be even more critical to your game plan and you cannot spend all your money now if you want that next pick. When you see a particularly nice card you cannot afford, do you sell it and make sure no one gets it or risk being the one who can swipe it during the second draft?
Hadara is packed with interesting decision moments and everything you are working towards might be undone by the decisions your opponents make during the face up draft in particular. The relatively indirect but powerful player interaction space is wonderful for both new and experienced gamers.
Age Range & Weight
10+ is a completely fair rating. I can see playing with a slightly younger audience with some guidance. The game complexity is remarkably low given how rich the decision making space is. This goes right to the top of my “gateway games” pile for use in bringing new players into the hobby market.
There are a lot of great titles in the accessible, gateway games category on my shelves and this is just the newest, shiny one for me personally. Despite that, I think this will stay near the top for quite a while on its own merits. The novelty helps in the short term, but the gameplay promises depth of replayability.
At Gen Con, I heard several players comparing Hadara to 7 Wonders. Having played a handful of times, I am willing to declare that Hadara is a “7 Wonders Killer” for the 2-5 player count. The gameplay is a fast series of card drafting and resource management decisions. These decisions result in a card tableau and increasing rewards scales for extreme cultural or military dominance.
I highly recommend Hadara to players who want an accessible, fast-playing game that can handle up to 5 at once without becoming a grind. The majority of the game features simultaneous decisions and keeps the game length to roughly an hour regardless of how many players are at the table. This will be found regularly on my own table and at local gaming gatherings.