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Digital Subscriptions > The Best Games of 2019 > The Best Games of 2019 > HADARA


A very European approach to world domination


A very European approach to world domination

There’s a deep-seated part of the gamer psyche that wants to rule the world. For proof, you only need to look at the shelves of your local game store where titles like Civilization: A New Dawn, Clash of Cultures and Through the Ages offer the chance to conquer rivals while endlessly fiddling with tech trees and resource tracks.

Indulging this near-Napoleonic obsession with supreme power can be a lot of fun. And now there’s another release which gives players the chance to make their mark on the world as a benevolent leader/ merciless tyrant.

Hadara – Arabic for ‘civilisation’ – is the latest release from German designer Benjamin Schwer. His 2018 game Crown of Emara was an intricate brainteaser that put players in the shoes of nobles vying for the throne of a fantasy kingdom and prized clever play and careful planning over direct antagonism.

Schwer’s latest offering is calculated to appeal to a similar crowd. It sees players become leaders of rival nations competing to lead their people to glory. Over the course of three epochs, or game rounds, they work to build their economies, strengthen their armies and reach new heights of cultural sophistication.

To do that, you and your opponents build collections of cards representing different types of cultural advances. On each turn you’ll draw two, discarding one before deciding what to do with the other. You can pay some gold to add it to your empire, where it will boost your standing in some of the four tracks that chart your culture’s development. Or you can sell it, removing it from the game in exchange for some quick cash. After repeating the process four more times with different decks on the rotating central board, you’ll get to draft the cards players discarded earlier in the round, giving you a chance to pick up some potentially useful ones neglected by your opponents – including the most interesting purple cards, which give their owners new special abilities to incorporate into their strategies.

It’s a quick and intuitive process that conceals some of the game’s complexity by breaking it down into a series of pretty simple decisions. It also leaves plenty of room for different tactical approaches, and the almost Feld-esque scoring system throws victory points at players for an array of different achievements, opening up all sorts of potential routes to victory for anyone who can spot them.

It’s a very abstract approach to civilisation-building, though. There are no clashes between armies, no great wonders to erect, no historical figures to recruit to your cause and no real interaction between players beyond occasionally snatching a card your opponent might have in their sights. The option to ‘plunder’ or ‘integrate’ colonies for gold or resources also feels a tad unsettling at a time when games are starting to question their portrayals of imperialism.

If either of these points is a dealbreaker, you’re better off exploring the mountain of other civ-simulators available. If not, Hadara manages to be elegant and intuitive while holding some real hidden depths.



Hadara breaks big strategies down into a series of quick decisions whose complexity only really becomes apparent when you chain them together. Its central rotating player board adds a nice aesthetic touch, and the wide selection of cards means you’re likely to have very different experiences on repeat playthroughs. It’s very low on player interaction, though, and definitely not for you if you aren’t a fan of Euro-style games.


► Five modular board segments

► 15 sets of advancement cards

► Five player boards

► 40 achievement tokens

► 10 gold medal tokens

► 20 resource tokens

► Eight bonus tiles

► Five starting resource tiles

► 25 colony tiles

► Player references

► Scoring pad


If you like drafting cards and building empires, Hadara takes the concept to a new and brainier level.

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About The Best Games of 2019

Must Plays and more in our Best Games of 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Over the next 196 pages discover all of the most positively reviewed games of the year. With a massive 181 games reviewed, this is the definitive “what to play next” guide of 2019! Games reviewed include: Wingspan Copenhagen Hellboy: The Board Game Res Arcana Lifeform Century: A New World Megacity: Oceania Pandemic: Fall of Rome Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Rough Nights & Hard Days Azul: Stained Glass of Sinatra Tapestry Letter Jam Hako Onna Everdell Battle Ravens Dune + Many more!

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