02 April 2022
Is your reason for buying unguent a little rash?
Pasty, gouty Greeks are turning up at the temple of Asclepios, seeking treatment from a new breed of doctors following in the footsteps of the great Hippocrates. With patients arriving from Carthage, Athens, Macedonia and beyond, demand for your physicians’ services is high, and the sick are more than willing to throw in a few drachmas as an ‘offering’ if it means jumping the queue. Can you manage a small medical team, buy sufficient medicine and burnish your reputation enough to become the most sought-after doctor in the ancient world?
Look, I’m not so proud that I won’t admit to letting out a little cry of delight when I opened the box and discovered the little acrylic medicine vials representing potions, herbs and unguents respectively. Of course a game is more than its components, but these attractive, colourful little jars and bottles add a welcome pop to the board.
The meat and potatoes of Hippocrates is a familiar, midweight game of drafting and worker placement. Each turn, you’ll roll some dice to see which patients arrive seeking treatment. Each patient requires certain medicines in order to get cured, and each offers payment and a bonus to your reputation in the form of victory points. If they’ve been waiting a while, they’ll also start offering straight up bribes in the form of coins placed on their tile.
You can use money to hire doctors and buy medicine. Doctors can administer medicine and can earn you bonus victory points, but they need wages and will demand more pay the lower your reputation is. If you fail to treat any patients by the end of the round, they move first from your examination room to your emergency room, then from your emergency room to the Hall of Hades. Which isn’t the name of a nice spa resort – they’re dead. Dead patients mean a chunky victory point penalty at the end of the game.
Hippocrates is mostly a game about timing and maths. Your position on the reputation track gives you dibs on which doctor you want to hire, which is often crucial to successfully treating your patients. Buy a doctor and medicine kit from the same region, and you get a bonus ‘knowledge tile’, which offers a little one-off ability. Assistants allow you to tinker with the patient dice, giving you more choice over who you take on.
The result is a nice, thinky little puzzle where you’re continually getting in each others’ way, sometimes deliberately, but often completely by accident. There’s lots of scouring the board for ways you can fulfil your contracts, then groans of disappointment as another player goes in the column you were just about to choose.
Hippocrates is not a mean game, and patients don’t immediately shuffle off their mortal coil if you can’t treat them in a round, but be warned: there is no catch-up mechanic here. If you gamble and blow it, it’s possible to spend half the game knowing there’s absolutely no chance of pulling things back. Overall, though, the push your luck elements are fairly tame, as you might expect for a midweight Euro with lots of pictures of classical columns.
The central business of picking patients and trying to match them with doctors who can administer the right medicines is satisfying for those of us who crave order. The hexagonal doctor tiles dock – (geddit?) – with the patient tiles so you can see when one of your doctor has completed their contracts and can give you a victory point bonus. Over the four rounds of the game, each of you builds a little tableau of cured patients and the stern physicians who treated them.
There’s nothing ground-breaking here, but, like the patient and doctor tiles, everything fits together satisfyingly. It plays best at 3-4 players, so if you can muster a group of budding physicians, Hippocrates could be just what the doctor ordered.
PLAY IT? YES
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Viticulture
If you enjoy scoring out by fulfilling contracts then both wine-making Euro classic Viticulture and oil pipe puzzle Pipeline offer experiences that are, admittedly, radically different thematically but still offer that feeling of working in parallel on projects while occasionally stepping on each other’s toes, and choosing whether to go for the big scores or lots of little cheap, easy ones.
Designer: Alain Orban
Publisher: Game Brewer
Time: 90 minutes
What’s in the box?
- Double-sided game board
- 6 Welcome dice
- 90 Medicine vials
- 12 Assistant tokens
- 60 Drachma coins
- 30 Doctors
- 72 Patients
- 30 Knowledge tiles
- 30 Medicine kits
- 4 Player boards
- 4 Basic doctors
- 4 Welcome markers
- 4 Option tokens
- 4 Reputation markers
- 4 Victory point markers
- 4 50+/100+ VP Tokens
Sometimes we may include links to online retailers, from which we might receive a commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate links do not influence editorial coverage and will only be used when covering relevant products