- 1 Introduction
- 2 Game Strategies
- 3 Specific Matchups
- 4 Conclusion
This is in my opinion the hardest power to master in the entire game. It is at first very hard to play against, but it is also not that simple to play well with it. It seems a very innocent power, like Persephone, but I can guarantee you that it is super annoying and it won’t be long until you become a Harpies hater.
With that being said, someone who has started recently experimenting with Harpies will find it one of the strongest powers of the game. And his opinion won’t change unless he is facing someone who understands Harpies and knows how to play well against them. However, in order to play well against Harpies, you need a lot (when I say a lot, it is really a lot) of experience… This is one of the reasons why this is one of the most feared powers to play against. People have tried to go against them a few times and failed miserably. Since they don’t want to go through that traumatizing experience again, they play with Harpies and themselves traumatize the opponent.
Yet, Harpies is not the strongest power of the game! In fact it can be countered by a lot of powers. But the fact that it involves a greater understanding of the game, makes it feel overpowered. I’m here to tell you that if Harpies were played by machines, they would only do “ok” (and not “great”, like they seem to do). Since the machines have no emotions, they do not get traumatized, but learn from the mistakes. Most of the time, the machine would even prefer not to play with Harpies, recognizing them as the weaker side.
This section about Harpies is especially important since a lot of people struggle against them. I will try to give you some clues of how to play against them and with them, so that you could perhaps sleep better at night.
Each time an opponent’s worker moves, it is forced space by space in the same direction until the next space is at a higher level or it is obstructed.
Each time an opponent’s worker moves, it is forced space by space in the same direction until the next space is at a higher level or it is obstructed. However, if the opponent moves (up) to a level 3, the game finishes immediately (and the worker isn’t forced anywhere). For example if the opponent starts on top of a level 2 in A1, A2 is a level 2, A3 is a level 1, A4 is a level 0 and A5 is a level 1 (all row A is unoccupied except A1) and the opponent moves in the direction A1->A2, the worker is forced to A4 (it ends its turn there). This is because A5 is at a higher level than A4 (the worker would also have stopped in A4 if there was a dome or a worker in A5).
To defeat Harpies, I would recommend that you play a few games against Harpies and try to understand it as much as you can. This analysis will be done from the point of view of someone who is facing Harpies.
- Best squares: The best squares to be when facing Harpies (usually) are the ones that whenever you move, you don’t get forced away. Imagine an empty board and just a worker facing an invisible Harpies. If you are in the inner corner B2 (the inner corners are B2,B4,D2,D4), you can move to B1, A2, C1, A3, A1 and stop there (as if Harpies had no power). It is usually not ideal to move to C1,A3 and especially A1, but more on this later. If you are in C2 (or B3, C4, D3), you can move just one space to B1, D1, C1 and stop there (C1 is usually not ideal) as if Harpies had no power. If you are in A2 (or A4, B1, B5, D1, D5, E2, E4), you can move to B1 or A1 and stop there (A1 is not ideal). If you are in the center of the board (C3), no matter the direction in which you move, you will always be forced once, moving to a bad square (it is not clear by now why all the destinations are “bad squares”). If you are in A3 (or C1, C5, E3), you are also always under the effect of Harpies, no matter the direction in which you move. Furthermore, you move to “bad squares”… If you are in the A1 (or A5, E1, E5) corner, this is without a doubt the worst square you could be in. In a normal game, the corner is not a square you usually like to be but against Harpies, this is even worse. No matter where you move to (you have three possible directions), you will get forced to a corner (and from that corner to another corner). You start to see that the corner is a terrible square to be and you should only go to a corner as a last resource (or if you can go to a “good” square in the next turn, but you will need obstacles for this).
So if the board was completely empty and each time you moved you didn’t build, a worker which ends up in a corner would stay in the corners forever. A worker in A3, would be forever in C1, C5 or E3, or a corner, if it was naive enough to go there. A worker which starts in the center, is doomed to the previous case. On the other hand, workers which are in one of the first 3 cases can “ignore” Harpies by moving around the A2, A4, B1, B5, D1, D5, E2, E4 squares. Therefore, the good squares outside of the perimeter are clearly better than the ones in the perimeter. However, in conclusion, we can rank the squares from best to worse with the following order and map:
B2 (or equivalent) = C2 (or equivalent) > A2 (or equivalent) > C3 > A3 (or equivalent) > A1 (or equivalent)
In the rest of the analysis, B2, C2 and A2 (or equivalent) are called good squares while C3, A3 and A1 (or equivalent) are bad squares. We can right away realize a very counterintuitive fact: the center is not a good square to be against Harpies. It seems that almost the whole board is constituted by good squares. So how come Harpies are so strong for most players? (Harpies aren’t that strong but you should be a little afraid of them) Well, first of all, if you end up in a bad square, this might be a mistake you won’t so soon recover from. In the second place, imagine how you would end up in a good square outside of the perimeter. It isn’t that simple, is it?
- Best direction: Now that we know which squares are the best, let us see how we should move around the board. Let us imagine again just a single worker on an empty board: If the worker is in B2, moving orthogonally will lead to the worker finishing its turn in another good square, but only A2 and B1 are not affected by Harpies. If the worker moves diagonally, it will finish in a bad square. If the worker is in C2, only moving along column C (orthogonal direction) will lead to finishing in a bad square (the ideal directions are C2 to B1 and C2 to D1). If the worker is in A2, moving diagonally is always good (especially to B1) and moving to B2 (finishing in E2) is also acceptable. The other directions are terrible. If the worker is in a bad square (C3, A3 or A1), every direction is bad. If in the center, the diagonals are terrible. If in A3, it is better to move diagonally than orthogonally.
Obviously, the direction of the movement depends on the square you are but the initial question still remains: “Is there a better direction of movement?”. If you think about it, if the board is empty, it is impossible to finish the turn outside of the perimeter! (wow). If we remove these impossible squares from the board, we would have something like this:
Suddenly it becomes natural which the best direction of movement is the diagonal direction (of course that when you’re in the inner corners you shouldn’t move diagonally). This is justified by the fact that if you want to stay in the good squares and avoid Harpies' power, you have to move diagonally. However, there is still a possibility of moving orthogonally (but we are affected by Harpies) such as from B1 to B5. Ideally what we would like to do against Harpies is to stay in good squares diagonally adjacent (for example B1 and A2), since here we would play normally and Harpies wouldn’t affect us.
Another argument in favor of the diagonal direction is the length (in comparison with orthogonal directions). There are 10 orthogonal directions (5 columns + 5 rows) all of length 5. There are 20 diagonals (A1, B1-A2, C1-A3, D1-A4, E1-A5, E2-B5, E3-C5, E4-D5, E5 and other 10 symmetrical) but only two of length 5. There are still four of length 4,3,2 and 1 (length 1 can be ignored). What does this mean? It means that whenever you move diagonally, your total path is probably smaller and thus Harpies won’t have such a great effect. For example, there four diagonals of length 2 (all good squares), in which you are not even affected by Harpies.
There is another interesting property of the good squares you might not have noticed until now: If you are in a good square, and move in the direction of another good square, even if you are stopped in the middle (by an obstacle or a higher level), you end up in a good square. The exception for this rule is when you move A2 to A3 (or equivalent), which is a move I would almost never recommend (only if you finish in a good square, in this case, A4).
- The presence of obstacles and where to build: Luckily for us, there (usually) are a total of 4 workers on the board (which act like domes) and obstacles such as higher levels and domes (or complete towers). This will make our life easier (with respect to movement) and it will make it possible for us to end in a good square outside of the perimeter (recall that in an empty board this is impossible).
The first question to ask is: “Where would we like to have an obstacle, e.g., a dome?”. In general, the presence of any dome weakens Harpies as their power is not as effective. But we need to understand why and where should the domes be placed so that we can benefit the maximum possible. Let us analyze a few cases:
If there is a dome in C3, all the remaining bad squares are not that bad. For example, from A3 you now have access to B3, which is a good square. Thus A3 in itself is not that bad. If there is a dome in a corner (e.g. A1), the consequences for this case are similar to the previous one: the remaining bad squares are no longer that bad. From the center you can go to B2 and from A3 and C1 you can go to A2. If you combine both a dome in C3 and in all the corners (extreme case), the previously defined bad squares no longer exist. Instead, the longest trip you could do would be from B1 to D4 or B1 to B5. If the board started like this, it would be way easier. But if our strategy is to play only in the good squares, in terms of trying to win, this wouldn’t change much, it would only make our life easier defensive wise. dome in a good square: If there is a dome in A2, then B1 stops being a good square (the only good thing about it is that it leads to B5, which is a good square). On the other hand, the squares C4 and C2 are now stronger (they give access to B3, which is a good square). A dome in an inner corner (B2) will make both B4 and D3 better squares but will remove B2, which is a great square.
The conclusion is that a dome usually benefits you (the Harpies hater). Anyway, you ideally want the domes in bad squares. But does this mean you should build in bad squares so that you have an easier game? Absolutely not! If you are just going to do that I can guarantee you that you will lose as Harpies will move up and win. You should build in good squares (but not every one) so that you can play with something (otherwise what are you doing?, just defending?). This doesn’t mean that you can’t build in bad squares, I’m just saying that you should avoid it.
One example in which building in a bad square works fine: start the game by building in a corner (A1). The point of doing this is that I don’t wanna reveal my plan in the first move, and since now there is a higher level (level 1 vs level 0 in the rest of the board), you can view it as a temporary dome (you won’t get forced to the corner and A3, C1, C3 and the other corners do not seem so bad).
Above I mentioned that you should build in good squares, but not every one. An example of a square in which you shouldn’t build are the inner corners (B2). But why? Didn’t I say that this square is good and that you should play in the good squares? Yes, but (and this will be easier to understand if you play a few games) you will see that it will be very hard for you to make good use of this square and it will be much better for Harpies. Just so that you can see what I mean, consider the following position:
You can see that B4 and D2 are level 2s, but you can’t make good use of any of them (because it is very difficult to move up there!). If it is Harpies to play, they can just move to B4 and build in the center and the game is probably lost. If it is you to play then you can’t really do anything good. Moving d3-c4 (or d3-c3), and building B4 doesn’t accomplish anything (you get a dome, but other than that nothing, and you’re in a bad position). Similarly, building on the other good squares outside of the perimeter can be beneficial for Harpies (but I find that building in those is more acceptable).
We reach the conclusion that the best squares to build in are A2 and equivalent. With that being, “invest” in one worker moving from A2 to B1, leaving the other in B2 (regardless of the level) As said, a common strategy against Harpies is the L corner strategy. The main message with respect to the building part is, I would say, to build in the perimeter (preferably good squares). Your workers usually are forced to the perimeter. By building there, your workers stay closer to the center.
This analysis will mostly be done from the opponent’s point of view. Due to having a low number in the order of powers, it is usually suggested that Harpies go first. Independently of what Harpies do, I would suggest that the opponent starts with the works in good central squares. My top recommendation is that you start in C2&C4 (or equivalent), as you would do in most of the games (in order to control both sides of the board and also the center). It is also possible to start in the inner corners, for example with B2&D4, but I prefer the previous configuration since you’re giving away less information to Harpies. What is absolutely forbidden is that you start in a bad square! (C3, A3 or A1) As seen in the analysis of good/bad squares, if you are in one of the bad squares at the beginning of the game, it might be difficult to leave them, and you don’t want this! Starting with a worker in the center of the board against Harpies, can be a very common mistake. A common start of the game is:
1. H: place B3&D2 O: place C2&C4 [as discussed, begin in good central squares]
2. H: d2-d3, build C3
The game just started and Harpies are already playing some tricky moves. You start by noticing that you can’t build a level two in the center. So what should you do? I would not recommend that you move to the center (which is a bad square), unless you know what you are doing. If you are in the center then you have to think what will you do from there… Where will you go next? And the answer I’m afraid, is probably a bad square. I would instead suggest to possible moves:
2a. O: c2-b1, build A1(1) or A2(1)
2b. O: c2-b2->a2, build A1(1) or B1(1)
You start by noticing that both moves go to good squares. Where to build is a completely different question. In 2.a, I would prefer to build in the corner (A1), since building in A2 allows Harpies to use that square (the corner acts as a temporary dome). What I like about B1 (2.a.) more than A2 (2.b.) is that when you are in B1 you are threatening to move to two different central squares, B2 and C2, which you would like to do. In 2.b, you can build in two squares to which Harpies have no access and that is good. Overall I prefer move 2a over move 2b. And this is what I can tell you for the early game: Avoid bad squares!
If you are playing with Harpies, your goal is the opposite. You have to try to get your opponent to uncomfortable positions (for example bad squares).
This is the phase of the game in which Harpies are stronger. Although there are more obstacles in the board (I mean blocks), it is harder for the opponent to make good use of them and easy for Harpies. Especially if the blocks are concentrated in the middle… As said before, the opponent should stay away from the bad squares, but in this phase of the game that might not be as critical as in the beginning of the game (those bad squares shouldn’t be so bad by now).
Harpies need to hurry up if they want to win. The board is getting built and Harpies are becoming weaker (as we have already seen, the domes benefit the opponent). However, this doesn’t mean that it will be easy for the opponent (on the contrary). There is still much Harpies can do and even a single mistake (by the opponent) can cost the game.
A simple example is forgetting that Harpies have a power (also applicable for other stages of the game), i.e., you don’t get to go to exactly the square you want to:
It is Harpies to play and turn the game around with a simple, but effective move:
1. H: c3-d2, build C3(3)
Normally, you could block this very easily (by moving to B2 or B3), but not against Harpies. You cannot build a dome in C3 with the C2-worker (unless you are Hermes or other power which allows it). So out of nowhere you have to move your E4-worker and you can say goodbye to your winning chances.
Another common mistake some players do against Harpies is moving a bad square thinking they could have a normal winning continuation as in a normal game. For example, if we consider the previous position and suppose that it is the opponent to play, a huge blunder would be to play 1. O: e4-e5, build E4(3). While normally this would be a very good move on account of:
1. H: d3-d4, build E4(X) O: e5-d5, build E5(3)
Against Harpies this just doesn’t work because e5-d5 forces you to C5 (I’m hoping you realize by now the importance of not going to the bad squares, especially the corners).
It will be very hard for Aphrodite to make good use of her power so you should just pick Harpies in this one.
Harpies put up a fight against these gods but a well trained Harpies lover will know what to do to prove how strong Apollo and Charon are.
The fact that Artemis can move twice helps her most times to get to the desirable square (by choosing the correct path). Moreover, Artemis can finish her turn in the same square she started in (with the help of Harpies). Triton can also exploit Harpies by for example staying in the same square.
It isn’t easy for Asteria to move up without getting forced down in the same turn so this could make it complicated for her to use her power. However, with correct play it is possible to make good use of her power and the fact that the reward is a dome can be more than enough.
This matchup is very interesting because Athena may be using her power every single round: she can move up (Harpies won’t move up in the next turn) and get forced down by Harpies. This could buy her some time and allow her to build a more comfortable position. From there, the game should be easier, but it will still not be easy for Athena.
Building domes is very powerful against Harpies and so these are very good counters against Harpies. However you have to be careful where you build the domes. For example, you could start by building domes in the corners.
It will be very hard for Bia to win, even if she kills one of Harpies’ workers.
First of all let me say that in this matchup Charybdis is clearly better (an innocent Harpies hater might not see that at first glance), but we should clarify how the whirlpools work. They only work when Charybdis (or Harpies) move there, not when they are forced there. This means that Charybdis only enters the whirlpool in her first move and when she leaves the other end, she might get forced (by Harpies) in the same direction she entered the whirlpool.
Double builders (e.g. Demeter, Hephaestus, Hestia, Prometheus, Terpsichore, Castor & Pollux):
With correct play, all of these are able to win against Harpies, ones easier than the others. For example, Terpsichore and Castor & Pollux are very well suited against Harpies.
These gods can avoid moving and move instead Harpies' workers. This is good against Harpies, as you can move when the correct time comes. However, you shouldn’t see this as an easy game for any of these…
Gaea is initially a mortal and she can’t rush the first tower, otherwise she will most likely lose, but a corner could work. Once Gaea gets the third worker, it will still not be easy for her… This should be seen as a relatively balanced matchup.
Both of these gods are good against Harpies. You should be careful with Graeae but still have a very good game. Proteus is especially nice since if you have a worker in a good square, you can force another worker to that good square right after you move. Furthermore, it will be easy to have control of the whole board.
Hades is very weak and it will be extremely difficult for him to win against Harpies.
At first Hera might seem good but Harpies find it easier to play in the center. This matchup will be very complicated for Hera. I would perfer to play with Harpies.
Hermes is probably one of the easiest gods to play against Harpies. This is why he is sometimes banned. I wouldn’t necessarily ban this matchup up since it can be very interesting (for Hermes’ side). For example, consider the following puzzle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPC4TsQNuE4&list=PLX01i-9gBaLGL42sxAk63KnujWNdONeVs&index=2
This will be very hard for Hippolyta and I would always choose Harpies' side.
This is a very interesting matchup and I’m sad that it is usually banned. We could make a complete study only about this matchup… But what makes it so interesting? The fact that Harpies help Maenads to win! What?! Let us see. Harpies start the game and Maenads place their workers second. If Harpies are not careful enough (and Maenads is very very sneaky), the game can end in Maenads’ second turn!
- Both workers in the 9 central squares (wow!): H: C3&C2 M: C4&C1, H: C3&B2 M: A1&D4, H: C2&C4 M: C3&A3 (!!), H: C2&B3 M: A4&D1, H: C2&B2 M: A2&D2, H: C2&B4 M: C3&A3 (!!), H: B2&B4 M: B3&D3 (!!), H: B2&D4 M: C3&E1 (!!)
- H: A2&C4 M: A3&C3 (!!)
- H: D4&E3 M: D3&E4
- H: D4&E2 M: C3&E3 (!!)
- H: C5&D5 M: B5&E5
- H: D5&E4 M: D4&E5
Placing the workers adjacent against Maenads can cost you the game so this is something that you normally don’t do… The positions marked with (!!) are the ones in which Harpies lose due to their own power. If you don’t realize this and your opponent is Maenads, you might just lose in two turns. I mean, how unnatural is it to start with both workers outside of the perimeter? (you’re usually doomed if you do this!!) If Harpies avoid losing in the second turn, I would say that they would then have a pretty comfortable game, being hard for Maenads to make good use of their power.
These gods are weak and their powers are weakened by Harpies. That’s why it will be a comfortable game for Harpies. Harpies might even sacrifice a worker against Medusa and still be able to win the game.
Whenever Minotaur uses his power, he doesn’t get forced by Harpies. This is super strong and makes it seem that Harpies is playing without a power. However, not all hope is lost and there are still possibilities for Harpies.
Just like with Maenads, Harpies help Nemesis. In this case, they help her to move away from them, which is exactly what Nemesis wants. With this being said, unless Nemesis doesn’t make some silly mistakes, she should have a great game.
Whenever Urania moves to the other side of the board, she still gets forced by Harpies. So you should be careful before you move from side to side. Urania’s control of the perimeter should still be enough to win.
This is one of the most surprising matchups when it comes to Harpies. Zeus seems very well suited against Harpies but he will still have a hard time to beat them. I would still classify this as a balanced game, easier to play for Harpies.
I’m sure it was a lot to take in, but you should start practicing if you wanna be able to beat Harpies. By now you might not agree with my ranking, but the more you play it, the easier it will be for you to face Harpies. Harpies is still a good power and against which some powers don’t even stand a chance (are you there Chronus?). Also, Harpies have a very unique property that I don’t award to many gods. They are playable against every god! This means that no god will have an easy time against Harpies, and we should all respect that.
Tier ranking: B
Harpies is the hardest power to master, so don’t worry if it takes you a while to understand it. You should practice over and over again until you change from a Harpies hater to a Harpies lover.