Theme and What is It?
Hellapagos is Gilligan’s Island with bite or Survivor for our younger readers. Trapped on a tropical island with resources dwindling, you have to scavenge for supplies, build a raft, and feed your people all the while racing against an oncoming hurricane that will wipe everyone off the island. Using a combination of resource management and social interaction to drive the game forward.
The game uses a lot of small mechanics to drive the game with the principal mechanic being social interaction. The smaller mechanics include hand/resource management as players vie for enough supplies to keep themselves and the group going. There’s a push your luck mechanic in how some of the resources are gathered and whether or not to gather some in hopes there will be enough in following rounds.
For the most part the game is cooperative. The players work together to keep their resources up enough to feed everyone, gather enough wood to build a raft, and rummage through the wreckage of their ship to find necessary items to aid their survival. As players plot and plan their turns together, each weighing in on which actions are necessary and most important, while keeping a stash of food and water for themselves to prevent elimination.
At the end of every round the potential for elimination exists. It hangs over the table like a chandelier with a rusted chain. If a moment ever arises where there isn’t enough for everyone, the players vote to see who goes off the island. The loser may be able to save themselves with cards from their hand, but if not they are eliminated from the game as they starve or die of thirst.
The rules were simple and I was interested in the theme. I wanted to see how the game played out and how the players would interact. I was leery about the potential for player elimination. I don’t tend to enjoy those games in small settings. I find them acceptable in conventions or large gaming groups as the eliminated player can go and find something else to do. Or if the game is short enough to allow for the eliminated player to get back into the game for the next round with only a short passage of time.
Quality of Components and Insert
The quality of the components are very well done. The burlap sack is sturdy, the wooden marbles are very distinct, and the cardboard is thick and holds up well. I liked the quality of the cards, though the card holder that holds the deck is a bit tight and I don’t believe it will leave you much room if you sleeve your cards. That said you don’t shuffle them enough to where I believe it’s necessary.
Hellapagos has an amazing table presence. The game looks good and the burlap sack that holds the marbles used to fish and forage wood is good quality and thematic as all get out. The small card holder of the wrecked ship that holds the deck of salvage is great. The card art is cartoony so as to take away from the seriousness of the theme and let players have fun with the game rather than get bogged down in the reality of what they are simulating.
There is fun to be had here. The game is a little long, mostly because of the player elimination. However, as players are eliminated it becomes easier to win the game. It’s likely if you’re at the point of eliminating someone then you’re about to finish one way or another. Once the voting starts the game gains a take that game quality which I know will put some people off. There are some people I will not play this game with because of that.
There are a couple of variants included, one of them allows eliminated players to continue voting. Since they don’t do anything else I felt this was a tacked on feature more than anything else.
Difficulty and Age Range Suggestion
The box says 10+. While the rules are simple enough for that age range and possibly lower, there are some references to cannibalism and the ability to forgo a vote by simply shooting someone else at the table that might get tricky. I’ll leave that for individual parents to decide. Other than that I think the game is easy enough to play that it shouldn’t be a problem.
With the right group of people Hellapagos can be a grand time of survival and betrayal. It think it might be just a hair too long since it features player elimination. If you’re in the right group or setting that probably won’t matter. Some of the subject matter, murder and cannibalism, might be off putting, but it didn’t really bother me. I believe this is going to become a rather nice staple in the late night convention scene, just a few doors down from Werewolf and such, especially if they expand it to include player roles and powers such as the Skipper, Professor, and Millionaire.
That said, with what’s in there now you can have a good time with the right group.