Game Buzz: Orléans & Elysium

Today’s Game Buzz covers two games coming soon to a game store near you.  Hopefully.  Let’s start out with the one that’s already out across the pond.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Orléans (2-4 players, 90 minutes) came out at Spiel 2014, published by dlp games and designed by Reiner Stockhausen.  Tasty Minstrel is handling US distribution of the game, which isn’t due until next September.  They’re actually running a Kickstarter campaign right now, and while I would typically wait until my monthly Kickstarter Blitz to talk about it, their campaign ends the day before the Blitz is posted, so I wanted to be sure to mention it.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

This game is set in medieval times around the French city of Orléans, and players are trying to gain supremacy by gaining followers.  The game comes with two game boards (one large and one small), 4 player boards, 4 cloth bags, 4 merchant tokens, 40 trading stations, 28 cubes, 104 character tiles, 90 goods, 16 technology tiles, 14 citizen tiles, 47 coins, 20 building tiles, 18 hour glass tiles, 2 overview tiles, and a start player tile.  Each player begins with a bag, 5 coins, 7 cubes, a player board, a merchant, and 10 trading stations.  You also get a set of followers (farmer, boatman, craftsman, and trader) that are placed on the market places of your board.  One cube from each player goes on each character and development track.  Your merchant token is placed in Orléans, and goods tiles are shuffled and plead randomly around the board.

Orléans takes place over 18 rounds, each with 7 phases of play: hour glass, census, followers, planning, actions, event, and start player.

HOUR GLASS: Draw the topmost hour glass tile.  This tells you the event that will take place during the round.  It will be resolved in the event phase (all except Pilgrimage, which is resolved during actions).

CENSUS: The player with the most farmers receives a coin, and the player with the least has to pay a coin.  In either case, ties result in no money exchanging hands.

FOLLOWERS: Draw a number of followers from your bag equal to the number indicated by your position on the Knights track.  These are placed in your market.

PLANNING: Use your character tiles to activate certain actions.  Each one requires a certain set of tiles, and tiles will stay in place until the set is completed.  You can also choose to save some tiles for future rounds.

ACTIONS: In turn order, carry out a completed action or pass.  If you pass, you’re out of the round.  Followers from used action are removed from the board and placed back in your bag.

  • Farm House – Add a new farmer to your bag, then advance your marker on the Farmer track.  This will get you a good, as well as help you out during the Census phase.
  • Village – Add a new boatsman, craftsman, or trader to your bag.
    • If you take a boatsman, advance your Boatsman track and receive coins.
    • If you take a craftsman, advance your Craftsman track and receive a technology tile.  These can be used to replace the required character for the rest of the game – they are never removed.
    • If you take a trader, advance your Trader track and choose a place tile.  This gives you a new place you can activate in planning.
  • University – Add a scholar to your bag, then advance your Scholar track.  This gives you development points.
  • Castle – Add a knight tile to your bag, then advance your Knights track.  This tells you how many followers you can draw during the Followers phase.
  • Monastery – Add a monk tile to your bag.  They can be used in place of any other character.
  • Ship – Move your merchant along a waterway to an adjacent town.  If you pass a goods tile, take it.
  • Wagon – Sam as Ship, but move along a road.
  • Guildhall – Build a trading station in the town your merchant occupies.  Each town may only have one trading station (except Orléans, which can have one per player).
  • Scriptorum – Advance one space on the development track.
  • Town Hall – During planning, place 1-2 characters in the town hall.  During this phase, move them to appropriate spaces on the Beneficial Deeds board, gaining you coins or development points.  Monks can’t be used in place of other followers here.  You also get a citizen tile.  Tiles placed on the Beneficial Deed board remain there for the rest of the game – you don’t get them back.

EVENT: Once everyone has passed, resolve the round’s event.  The only event that doesn’t get resolved here is Pilgrimage, which means you can’t recruit monks during the round.

START PLAYER: Past the start player token to the left.

After the 18th round (tracked by the hour glasses tiles), the game is over.

This game is being advertised as a bag-building game, and this trend needs to stop.  It’s a play on deck-building, where you build a deck of cards in play.  But this is not a bag-building game in the same way Quarriors is not a dice-building game – you are not building a bag.  You are building a pool of follower tiles.

That aside, the game does look very interesting, and it’s getting a lot of good buzz.  FairPlay magazine named it the #1 game of Spiel last year, for what that’s worth – it’s voted on by fair attendees, and like GeekBuzz, there’s a lot of politics involved.  Still, I’ve heard very good things, and I’m glad to see it getting a wide release in the States.  It’s over $100,000 on Kickstarter right now, and the campaign ends on January 29.  You can pledge for $45 at the project page (linked at the end of the article).

On to the next game!

image by BGG user Mr Poulpe
image by BGG user Mr Poulpe

Elysium (2-4 players, 60 minutes) is a collaboration between designers Matthew Dunstan and Brett J. Gilbert.  It should be released soon by Space Cowboys.  In the game, you are a demigod in ancient Greece trying to gain the favor of the Olympian gods.  The game comes with 168 cards (8 families of 21 each), one two-part temple board (pediment and steps), an oracle board, 16 columns, 6 quest tiles, 4 order of play discs, an epoch marker, 12 trigger rings, 4 player boards, 19 bonus tiles, 16 family legends bonuses, 40 gold tokens, 25 prestige point tokens, and 45 victory point tokens.

image by BGG user 55cards
image by BGG user 55cards

In the beginning, you set up the temple by placing 2-4 quests (depending on the number of players) between the Pediment board and the steps board – this is your temple.  Each player will get a player board, as well as a turn order disc (#1 is determined randomly, then others are dealt clockwise), VPs equal to their turn order, 4 gold, and a column of each color.  You’ll choose five of the eight families to use in the game – for the first game, it is recommended that you use Athena, Hades, Hephastus, Poseidon, and Zeus.  There are other suggest combinations for future games, but you can choose randomly if you wish.  The cards of the chosen families are shuffled into one 105 card deck, then draw three times as many cards as you have players (plus one).  These are placed in the center as the Agora.

Elysium plays over the course of five epochs (rounds).  In each epoch, there are four phases: Awakening, Actions, Writing the Legends, and End of Epoch.

AWAKENING: This is where you refresh the Agora – discard cards from the previous Epoch, then draw a new set.  This is skipped in the first Epoch.

ACTIONS: On your turn, you either take a quest or a family card.  You’ll end up having four turns, during which you must take one quest and three family cards.  In order to claim either, you need columns on your board matching the acquisition condition.  After this, you dismiss one of your columns (to necessarily one you needed to claim the card).  If you can’t fulfill the acquisition condition of a family card, take a citizen instead – draw the top card of the pile and place it face down in your area (called your domain).  If you can’t fulfill the condition of a quest, you must pass after you have taken your last card.  After everyone has completed their turns, you receive one of the remaining quests, but flip it to its incomplete side.

During your turn, you can use the powers of the cards you have taken.  Some are done when you take the card, some can be used once per Epoch, some are always in effect, and some can be used only once per game (you spend the card’s trigger ring to make that it is done).

WRITING THE LEGENDS: Firs, reallocate the order of discs based on who took which quest – quest #1 gets disc #1, and so on.  Anyone with an incomplete quest gets the disc with the highest number, with current order breaking ties.  You receive the gold and points indicated on your quest, then may transfer cards from your domain to your Elysium.  You can transfer a number indicated by your quest.  This will cost gold based on the level of each card (1-3 each).  Cards transferred will go into a Legend, and there are two types:

  • Level Legends – Cards of the same level, but different families (max of five cards).
  • Family Legends – Cards of the same family, but different levels (make of three cards).

You can add cards to Legends in any order, and can have any number of incomplete Legends at a time.  Cards cannot be transferred between Legends.  Citizens can be used as wild cards, but only if you have at least two cards in the Legend.

END OF EPOCH: When all players have completed their transfers, you get your columns back and move on to the next Epoch.  After the fifth Epoch, it’s time for a final scoring.  All cards in your domain plus any single cards in your Elysium are removed from the game.  You can use Chronos powers to gain bonus VPs.  Then, each Legend is worth points depending on how many cards are in it – 3-6 points for a 2-3 card Family Legend, and 2-4-8-12 points for a 2-3-4-5 card Level Legend.  Subtract two points for each citizen in your Legends, and the player with the highest score wins (gold breaks ties).

Space Cowboys had a massive success with Splendor last year, and followed it up with a very cool pirate game called Black Fleet.  Based on those two titles, I’m interested in anything they put out – the components have so far been fantastic, and the games have been very fun.  Additionally, I really enjoyed Dunstan’s first game, Relic Runners (even though it wasn’t a huge success for Days of Wonder).  This one looks like another excellent game – not a lot of resources to manage, but some careful planning is needed in order to get what you need.  This one will be fun when it comes out – I hope to have a chance to play.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for reading!




    • Yeah, the classic Euros are still around, but they’re really getting overshadowed in this country by the more thematic games. Still, it is nice to see a good one pop out every now and then.

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