Game Buzz: Olympus

Back to it after a lovely Christmas break.  After covering Yggdrasil, I think I have to give Zeus and company some time, don’t you?

Cover - image by BGG user Luke the Flaming

Olympus is the latest game from the design team that brought you Kingsburg, Andrea Chiarvesio and Luca Iennaco.  The game is for 3-5 players aged 12 and up, and takes two hours to play.  It was originally published by Stratelibri, but has been picked up for a domestic release by Fantasy Flight.  You’ll be running a city-state in ancient Greece, trying to make them the greatest by winning the favor of the various gods.  It falls into the worker placement category, which interests me, and I’m also curious about how Chiarvesio and Iennaco follow up Kingsburg.

The game comes with a board showing Mount Olympus and the various godly favors that are available.  There are five city-state boards (aka polis boards), one for each player.  There are 165 building cards (33 in each of five colors), 12 unique building cards (which are available on the board), and 6 glory bonus cards.  There are 25 preist pieces (priestples?) and 35 marker discs.  There are 60 resource cubes, representing grain, venison, and fish.

Your polis board is your player mat and shows six progress tracks – culture, population, military strength, grain production, venison production, and fish production.  You will start with a marker at one on each of these tracks (except for population, which starts at 2).  You’ll have three priests available at the beginning of the game (you can get more with higher population and culture), as well as three resources (one each type).  Regular building cards are kept by each player in a deck that doesn’t get shuffled since the game claims to have no luck.  You’ll start the game by choosing a random start player…wait, isn’t that luck?

In play - image by BGG user cymric

As with many of the games I’ve covered, the game takes place over a series of rounds that follows the same sequence every time.  First is the worship phase, in which players use their priests to earn the favor of the gods.  The active player sends a priest to begin a ceremony, placing it on the alpha space next to the particular god.  The other players may then send on priest to join your ceremony, placing it on the beta space.  Once every player has sent a priest (or not), the god grants a favor – the most powerful to the priest who started the ceremony, then a secondary favor to everyone else who participated.  The divine favors are:

  • Demeter – The active priest can advance their grain production marker AND take the number of grain cubes shown on the space they moved to.  Other priests can do one of those actions.
  • Artemis – The active priest can advance their venison production marker AND take the number of venison cubes shown on the space they moved to.  Other priests can do one of those actions.
  • Poseidon – The active priest can advance their fish production marker AND take the number of fish cubes shown on the space they moved to.  Other priests can do one of those actions.
  • Athena – The active priest can advance their culture marker two spaces.  Other priests can advance one.
  • Aphrodite – The active priest can advance their population marker two spaces.  Other priests can advance one.
  • Ares – The starting priest can advance their military marker two spaces OR advance one space and declare war OR advance no spaces and declare two wars.  Other priests can advance one space OR declare a war.  You don’t have to declare who you’re going to war with (yet).  After everyone has had a chance to worship Ares, you resolve wars, beginning with the active player.  Compare military values (your track plus building bonuses).  The winner gets resources equal to the difference.  The priest on the alpha space wins if there’s a tie; otherwise, ties and losses result in no gain for the attacker.
  • Hephaestus – The active priest can build up to two buildings.  Other priests can build one.  You can build any building as long as you have enough culture and the resources to spend.  Buildings can come from your individual deck or from the unique buildings on the board.  These buildings give you special benefits and VPs.
  • Apollo – The active priest must decide if they’re worshipping Apollo as the God of the Sun or Apollo as the Plague-Bringer.  As God of the Sun, the active priest gets two VPs while others get one.  As Plague-Bringer, the active priest is protected from the plague and scores a point, while others are simply protected from the plague.  Any players not protected from this plague lose 1/3 of their population.  Protection only lasts for a round.
  • Zeus – The active priest gets to choose two of the following favors: advance any one progress marker, produce any one resource, declare one war, build one building, or score one VP.  Other priests can choose one of those favors.
  • Hera – The active priest can advance any two progress markers or produce any two resources.  Other priests may advance one progress marker or produce any one resource.
  • Hermes, Hades, and Hestia – Not in the game.

Once one ceremony is done and players have collected favors, the next player can start a ceremony.  You must start a ceremony with a different god, and you don’t get your priest back.  Once every player has run out of priests, the worship phase is over.

There are six steps in the upkeep phase: discard down to five resources in your warehouse; move any progress markers that are higher than population back to equal (except culture); use your buildings; move resources received as tributes into your warehouse; collect your priests; and end the round/game.  The game ends if at least four glory bonuses have been claimed by people reaching the end of their progress tracks.  The player with the most VPs wins.  Ties are broken by the player with the most resources, then the player with the fewest buildings.

My childhood fascination with all things Greek-mythology related has piqued my interest in this game.  Plus, it’s a form of worker placement and comes from the designers of Kingsburg.  My concerns after going through the rules are from coming up with an initial strategy.  You have so many buildings and 10 gods to choose from, there might be some serious AP at the beginning.  As the game progresses, what you need to do will probably come into sharper focus, but you’ll have to temper that with making sure you’re not helping out your opponents too much.  I can just see someone waiting to choose some of these gods (like Ares) until everyone else is out of priests.  I would say that I do NOT want to go first in this game.  It might be nice to choose from everything, but you have no idea what anyone else wants to do.  It might make things tough.

This game is really not much like Kingsburg, except in the use of resources to build stuff.  However, it looks interesting enough that I’m sure I’d play if given the opportunity.  Not sure I’d want to own it, but we’ll give it some time.  More information, including reviews from people who actually know what they’re talking about, can be found at BGG.  The game’s not out, but I read that FFG is producing it in July of 2011.  I’ll be keeping an eye on this one.

Thanks for reading, and insert clever tagline here.

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