With its bold colours, reasonably quick gameplay, and a passing nod to civilisation style games, Hadara seems to occupy an otherwise underpopulated gap in the market. At its heart, it is a drafting game, with a few little touches to make it interesting.
Hadara is played over three epochs; each epoch consists of two phases, or rounds, in which players either buy cards, or sell cards to earn money (to buy future cards).
During the first phase (or round) in each epoch, players draft two cards from one specific deck, with each player drafting from a different deck. One of the two cards is immediately discarded, to become available later in the epoch. Players then choose what to do with the other card - it is either purchased, and played to the player’s tableau, or it is traded away, permanently removed from the game, but awarding the player coins in return, to be used to purchase cards later. Once all players have done this, they then move on to the next deck of cards located clockwise around the board. This process is repeated, until each player has drafted cards from each of the five decks.
In the second phase, each player takes a turn to take the top card from any of the discard piles, and then either purchase or sell, just as they would in the first phase. The cost of purchase of a card is reduced by the number of cards that players already have in that colour. Therefore, purchasing more cards of the same colour can result in greater discounts in future epochs.
Cards played to the player’s tableau will give them points on one of four tracks - income, military, culture or food. Each of these tracks performs a specific function at the end of each phase.
● Military points allow players to decide to take a colony tile, and either plunder or integrate it. Integration costs money, but provides more victory points at the end of the game, whereas plundering provides immediate money, but awards fewer victory points.
● Income, unsurprisingly, gives money at the end of the phase
● Culture points allow players to build statues, if they have sufficient points. Statues provide additional points on the four tracks
● Food is necessary to feed workers (cards) - one food point is required to feed each card at the end of every epoch. If a player has insufficient food, they are required to discard cards (and lose the corresponding points) from their tableau.
At the end of the epoch players are also given the opportunity to buy medals, which will award points at the end of the game. These are usually quite costly (and are more expensive in later epochs), but award a lot of points at the end of the game.
Each type/colour of card corresponds (predominantly) to one of the four tracks - so buying green cards will give points on the green (food) track. The fifth card type, purple, typically gives either in-game benefits (such as discounts) or end game scoring bonuses.
And that’s about it. Cards in later epochs are more expensive, and give more money back if they are sold. But they also give more points on the tracks.
Hadara is a fairly simple engine-building, card-drafting (sort of) civilisation-builder lite. It plays fairly quickly - in about 45 minutes, once you know the game. And as play is mostly simultaneous, this doesn’t change much according to the number of players (the second phase in each epoch is played in turn order). I find it remarkably satisfying to play, and it’s easy to explore new strategies on each play. The variation in the purple cards gives the game some replayability, and there is definitely scope here for a modest expansion. Although the game focuses on colours of cards/tracks, it makes good use of two different types of secondary coding. It feels like a well designed, simple game. It satisfies a similar itch to 7 Wonders, but has a little more interest with the end of phase actions. Don’t, however, turn to Hadara for any deep thematic gameplay. It’s a light bit of fun.