It seems like a good time in gaming history to produce a Greek mythology themed game. I talked about Olympus in a previous post, and Ystari is coming out with another game called Olympos later this year. Now, however, Rio Grande has just released a game called The Heavens of Olympus. The game is for 3-5 players aged 13 and up, and takes around 60 minutes to play. It was designed by Mike Compton, a member of the Board Game Designers Guild of Utah. The BGDG has had a number of high profile games published recently – Alf Seegert, another of the members, was the designer of Trollhalla.
The object of the game is this: Zeus has enlisted the help of some other gods to help him in creating the universe. So, over the course of five days, you will be earning points to help you gain admission into the hallowed halls of Mount Olympus. Thematically, the game sounds a lot like another divine creation game that came out recently – Genesis, also covered on this blog. We’ll see if it compares mechanically as we go on.
There are several major areas on the board. Aether’s Torches are the flames with numbers, shown on the left side of the board. Each player will start with one disc on three. The large circle in the center of the board is the actual Heavens of Olympus. Along the edge, you can see a number of black and white circles. This is the day track, which will mark the times of each of the five days. A marker starts on morning of day one. The score track surrounds the board, with all markers starting on zero. Also on the board are Hephestus’ Forge and the Power Piles, which don’t need anything at set up. Each player gets an allotment board where they will track their power (16-20 at the start depending on the number of players), as well as a complete set of Plan cards and three planet markers.
At the start of the game, each player will get a head start on the competition by placing a planet onto one of the available heavens spaces. Then, all players will place a second planet, though they may not place it into the same orbit as their first planet (orbits are rings within the map, each marked with a different color). It should be noted that you won’t be using the full heavens in a 3- or 4-player game, only in the 5-player game. There are five regions, and only three will be used with three players. Four will be used in a four-player game.
So, there are five days, and there are three phases of each day – morning, afternoon, and evening. Each phase follows the same sequence – choose a Plan card, reveal, execute. Cards are revealed simultaneously, and each one appeals to a different god.
- By appealing to Hephaestus, you pay power to build new planets – 1 power for one planet, 3 power for 2, or 6 power for 3. These planets are placed on your allotment board.
- By appealing to Hermes, you can place one planet in the heavens. Zeus will then award you power based on the placement. You count the spaces in a region that do NOT contain one of your planets and divide by two, receiving that much power rounded up.
- By appealing to Aether, you’ll be lighting your planets so they can be seen at night, which is how they’ll score points. You pay 1-8 power to advance your torch marker 1-5 spaces. The torch marker will sit just above the number of planets you can light. Since it starts on three, you begin the game with two lit planets.
- By appealing to Zephyrus, you can swap two planets (one of yours and one belonging to another player). You pay one power, and you get a point. Planets that have been moved in one phase can’t be moved again until the next phase.
You’ll choose one of these, then reveal. Players who choose the same plan must pay a competition cost before executing the action. This is power equal to the number of players who chose that action. So, if three people chose the same action, each player must pay two power in order to do the action. If this means you don’t have enough to do the action, you can pass and lose one point. You could also appeal to Tyche, which will get you one extra power to spend per point you give up. You can only use this is you don’t have enough power.
After the evening phase of each day, it is night. If you don’t have enough light for all of your planets, you flip some over to their darkened side. Zeus will then award points. You get one point per region where you have a lit planet. You get points for having the most or second most planets in a particular orbit. You get points for constellations (planets connected by constellation lines). You get two points for having the largest constellation on the board.
This goes on for five rounds. After night of the fifth day, the game ends, and you get one point per 3 power you have left. The player with the most points wins.
I mentioned a thematic similarity to Genesis in my introduction, but mechanically, the two games have almost nothing to do with each other. Genesis is more about set collection, whereas this one is more about area control. Actually, the game I’m most reminded of while reading the rules is Kingsburg, but only with the time mechanic (three phases of building over the course of five rounds).
I’m not really sure how well this game is going to play. The rules seem kind of clunky to me, and I’m not sure that the game will play too well. You have four choices for plans, and it seems like everyone will be stepping on each other’s toes, particularly at the beginning. Maybe that’s thematically appropriate – you’re supposed to be competing, and you’re all starting from the same place. There’s no luck in the game that I can tell – really, you just have to outthink your opponents. This seems to be a classic case of “Clearly I cannot choose the wine that is in front of me”, and I can really imagine this will encourage a lot of analysis paralysis.
This game seems to be a strategy-heavy game that will appeal to a Eurogame crowd. The theme doesn’t seem terribly connected to the mechanics – the game is definitely making an effort to be thematic, but it seems that it wouldn’t be that tough to make a retheme where you’re building housing subdivisions. A lack of a cohesive theme doesn’t break a game for me, it’s just a comment. In fact, I’m interested to see how this plays. You know everything that’s going on with all of your opponents, and you have to make the best plans you can based on that information. So, yes, I’m looking forward to trying it, but this is a try before you buy for me ($45 retail if you want to find a copy for yourself). Thanks for reading!