There’s infighting on Mount Olympus and some gods are packing up and moving out. This leaves some vacant spaces in the pantheon and you want to grab one. (Who wouldn’t?) Unfortunately, your opponent also wants one of these coveted spots, so you’re going to have to duke it out to see who enters the realm of the gods. Bring your heroes, soldiers and weapons (or your cards, as it’s far less of a logistical nightmare) and fight for your place among the gods!
How It Plays
Fight for Olympus is a two player, card-driven battle where players are managing hands of cards representing heroes and soldiers. You’re adding equipment to better your forces, resolving attacks, and deploying special abilities, all in an effort to win a spot on Mount Olympus.
The rules are simple. To begin the game, twenty random cards are removed from the deck and players are dealt hands of six cards from those that remain. The rest form a draw pile. Players take turns playing cards to the central board and then attacking their opponents’ units. (The board is divided into three areas: Olympus, Delphi, and Troy and there are spaces in each area where cards must be played. The areas of the board become more important during the attack phase of a turn, when area bonuses may be available.)
A turn consists of three phases:
1. Play Cards From Your Hand. You can play any number of cards from your hand, placing them down on your side of the game board one after another. To play a card, you must pay its cost by discarding cards of the required colors, or by using color markers obtained during a successful attack (see “Attack,” below). Multi-colored cards are wild and can be used as any color for payment.
Unit cards must be played on an empty space on your side of the board. They’re also the only cards that can be played directly to the board. Equipment cards can be added to an existing unit to increase its values, but each unit can only have one piece of equipment.
If you play a card with a special ability that activates on placement, you must resolve that ability before playing another card. Other special abilities activate only during the attack phase, while others are always in effect. There are many different abilities that allow you to break/bend the rules of the game, so play isn’t always as straightforward as described here.
2. Attack. Once you’ve played all the cards you want, every unit you have in play, including those played in prior turns, must attack. You always begin your attacks with the unit closest to the Olympus edge of the board, and then proceed space by space to the card space at the Troy edge of the board.
Only units with an attack value of 1 or higher can attack. That value can be the value of the unit itself, or the value of the unit plus equipment. If one of your opponents’ units is directly across from yours, you must attack it by placing damage tokens equal to the attack value of your unit on their card. When the number of damage tokens equals the defense value of the unit, the unit is destroyed and discarded from the game (unless a special ability prevents this). Note that attacking is not a back and forth affair. The defender does not get to strike back immediately, or attempt to prevent the attack. Damage is dealt, units are destroyed, and there’s no recourse.
If there is merely an empty space across from the attacking unit, you get to take the area bonus for the space in which your unit is located. If your unit is on one of the Olympus spaces, you receive one victory point and get to move the scoring marker one space toward you. If your unit is on one of the Delphi spaces, you can take one of the colored counters located in the center of the board. These act as a card of that color when paying card activation costs. If there are none in the center of the board, you can steal one of any color from your opponent. Finally, if your unit is in the Troy space on the board, you draw one card from the pile.
Once you’ve attacked everything there is to attack, you move to phase three.
3. Draw New Cards. Draw two cards from the draw pile. There is no hand limit.
Players continue alternately taking turns until the game ends. There are three ways the game can end:
- If all spaces are occupied on one player’s side of the board at the start of their turn, the game ends and that player wins.
- If a player has seven victory points, that player immediately wins the game.
- If the draw pile is empty, the player with the scoring counter on their side of the board wins.
Is This a Fight Worth Having?
I wanted this game because I love Greek mythology! Anything with that theme is going to attract my interest. (Heck, I wasn’t interested in 7 Wonders Duel until the Pantheon expansion was announced and then I was all over it.) I also love two-player games, since that’s the main way I get to play anything. So when I saw that this was mythology-themed and 2p only, I begged to be the one to review it for the Dragon. The question is: Was it worth the begging and pleading?
When I cracked open the box, the artwork made me happy. It’s very well done and the board, despite its small size, is especially attractive. (And it even has art on the back which, while not required, is a nice touch.) Everything gets high marks for attention to detail and attractiveness.
Once I stopped looking at the art, it was time to play. The rules are very easy to learn and, since there aren’t very many, you can be up and playing in just a few minutes. Many of the cards have special abilities, but these are all easily learned and discovered on the fly. The iconography on the cards is easy to understand and only takes a turn or two to internalize. Set up is a breeze: Lay out the board, shuffle the cards, remove twenty cards from the deck, and deal out two hands. Boom. You’re ready to play.
Fight for Olympus isn’t the most complex game in the pantheon. I would say that the complexity lies somewhere between Battle Line/Schotten Totten and 7 Wonders Duel. There’s a more going on than in Battle Line because you’re managing three possible victory conditions, the cards have special abilities, and the board offers area bonuses, but it’s less complex than 7 Wonders Duel which adds in resource management, a semi-random tableau setup, and money.
Olympus does share the “three ways to end the game and win” idea that 7 Wonders Duel offers. I enjoy this in 7 Wonders and I enjoy it here, as well. Because the game can end in multiple ways, you have to keep track of what’s going on in all of them. Otherwise, your opponent will sneak off with a win in victory points while you were too busy trying to fill your side of the board with cards. It’s not as simple as watching VP’s tally up, or someone march to the end of the board.
While this isn’t a heavy game, there is much to consider and monitor, in addition to the victory conditions. And the depth of this game doesn’t always come through on the first play. Players who’ve played Magic or other CCG’s/LCG’s will probably “get it” sooner than others because Olympus shares some similarities with those games. People unfamiliar with games like this just start slapping cards down in their first game. They don’t always see the strategies or how everything fits together. Olympus is one of those games where you hear players say, “Oh,” about two-thirds of the way through the first game because suddenly they see what’s really going on and begin to understand the questions you have to ask yourself.
Is it more beneficial to try to attack an opponent, or an empty space? Do you play lower value cards, basically using them as canon fodder for quick attacks, blocking empty spaces, and snatching bonuses and VP’s, or do you play the stronger, more expensive cards to try to create an unstoppable attack machine? What is your opponent doing and how do you react? In which area(s) of the board do you play cards? Do you try to win by getting to 7 VP’s, or do you try to win by filling up your side of the board? Or do you just stall and try to end on an empty deck but with the counter on your side?
Now, while all of these thinking points make for a good game, I wouldn’t call Olympus a great game. As much as I love the art, I have to say that the theme only sort of carries through in the gameplay. The fact that these are Greek gods battling for control of Mount Olympus is cool, but they could just as easily be aardvarks battling it out for, well, whatever it is that aardvarks want. If you’re looking for an immersive, thematic experience, this isn’t quite there. The art is cool, but the theme could really be anything.
There are also a couple of issues with the game that I can see bothering some people. First, this is a card game so the luck of the draw is going to have a huge impact on your chances for success. This is a bigger problem than in some games because your entire turn comes down to what you have in your hand. There aren’t any other ways to do awesome things if the cards don’t break your way.
Worse, some of the heroes are much stronger than others. If a player gets them and is able to come up with enough cards to be able to play them, the other player is in big trouble. The mitigating factor is that a person has to draw not only the great heroes, but also enough cards in the correct colors to be able to pay for them. The great heroes are expensive and it’s not guaranteed that you’ll get the cards to afford them, so I won’t say that this happens often. However, it can happen that someone gets on a roll and gets card after card and lays down all the perfect combinations to destroy you. While this feels great and is a lot of fun for the person pulling off the great combos, for the person on the other side, well, it’s pretty miserable. There’s really no way to come back.
This is the kind of game where bad stuff can happen to you and there isn’t much you can do to negate that unless you get an awesome card draw. And if the awesome draw comes too late… You’re still doomed. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many ways to get cards in the game. You draw two at the end of your turn and if you have a card in Troy that attacked an empty space, you get an extra card. That’s about it. Since cards are everything in this game, not having more ways to overcome a bad draw can be frustrating.
The one-way attack system can also feel a bit unfair and mean. If you are attacked, there is no way to defend against it or prevent it (or even hope that the attacker just misses). The attacker deals damage equal to their attack value and you have to take it. If your unit is destroyed, that’s it. You don’t get to fight back and that is not only frustrating, it doesn’t feel much like a battle. “Hey, let me just sit here while you pound on me,” has, to my knowledge, never been heard on any battlefield. Ever.
Fortunately, the game is short and quick enough to set up that repeat games are easy to play. This makes it a bit easier to take when you get pounded into the ground because you haven’t spent that much time on it and you know you’ll get a chance for revenge pretty quickly.
And, more good news, every game will play out a bit differently. You remove twenty random cards from the deck before every game. Because of this, you never know for certain what will be in the deck. Thanks to the random draw, you never know what you’ll get, either. So it’s impossible to build a single winning strategy because those cards may not be in every game and, even if they are, they may not be yours to play. This levels the playing field such that even inexperienced players can do well. It’s not the kind of game where the person who has memorized the deck has a huge advantage.
Olympus is a difficult game to rate. On the one hand, it is enjoyable. It’s easy, yet feels like you have some decent decisions to make. The three-way, tug of war scoring system gives you a lot to manage. I really enjoy that aspect a lot. On the other hand, a bad draw can lead to a very un-fun experience and leave you wondering why you bothered to make any decisions because none of them helped you. It also doesn’t have that something special that makes it stand out in the world of excellent two-player games. However, the fact that it is geared for two players does make it better than many games that say they play two, yet really don’t work that well.
Fight for Olympus is a solid two player card game, for certain audiences. I would say that if you love Greek mythology, it’s worth it for the artwork alone. Everything is well-produced and shows great attention to detail. The fact that there’s a solid game in there is a great bonus. It’s also good for people looking for their first or second two-player confrontational card game. It does sit in a sweet spot between being simple and light but not as complex as 7 Wonders Duel. There are many people who find Duel to be a bit much or Battle Line to be not enough and for them, Olympus is a good compromise. I’d also recommend it for anyone looking to draw others in to games like Magic, Android: Netrunner, Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn, or other CCG’s/LCG’s. The cards and gameplay share some basic concepts with those games, but in a much easier and simpler to understand format.
If, however, you already have a lot of two player battle-type games, or you’re looking for something heavy or innovative, I’d look elsewhere. I also don’t recommend it for people who can’t handle meanness. It sometimes feels punishing and while it’s not that your opponent is picking on you specifically (she’s just playing cards, after all), people who don’t like confrontational games will feel persecuted. The fact that you can quickly seek revenge next game is small consolation. And if you hate randomness, run far away because there’s loads in this game.
Olympus is fun, as long as you’re the right audience for it. It’s a solid game that plays smoothly and is entertaining as long as you’re prepared for a battle and not a friendly trek through the woods. Whether that’s enough for you is something only you can say. Fortunately, Olympus is priced reasonably enough that if you can’t try before you buy, you aren’t risking much.
iSlaytheDragon.com thanks Mayfair Games for giving us a review copy of Fight for Olympus.