Reviewed by Herb Levy
FIGHT FOR OLYMPUS (Mayfair Games/Lookout Games, 2 players, ages, 12 and up, about 30 minutes; $28)
In this new two player game from Matthias Cramer, each player uses heroes and soldiers to thwart the ambitions of their opponent to claim their own place in the sacred home of the gods: Mount Olympus. It is this struggle gives the game its name: Fight for Olympus.
Fight for Olympus comes small boxed with a deck of 98 cards, a game board, 5 markers and 20 damage tokens. Each player is on opposite sides of the board which is a long rectangle with different, specific, areas starting with a victory point track on one end (the scoring marker beginning at 0) and continuing with Mount Olympus, The Oracle of Delphi and Troy at the other end. These are the areas of contention and players stake their claims on them through use of their cards. The complete deck is shuffled, 20 cards randomly removed, and each player dealt a starting hand of six cards.
Three types of card populate the game: Heroes, Soldiers and Equipment, all to be found in the four colors of the game: red, blue, yellow and green. Both Heroes and Soldiers have an attack value (noted by a shield) and a defense value (marked by a skull). The attack value is how much damage that unit can inflict upon its opposite unit. Defense is how many hits that unit can withstand before being eliminated. Heroes are, as to be expected, the most powerful and each has their own special ability. Sometimes, the ability is a one shot deal; sometimes, the ability is permanently in effect or just in effect when an attack is made. Soldiers are less expensive to play but have no special powers. Equipment cards may be added to Heroes or Soldiers to enhance their values.
Each turn consists of three phases, always done in the same order (except for the first player’s first turn when only two phases of his choice, generally one and three, are done). The phases are Play Cards from your Hand, Attack and Draw New Cards.
Any number of cards may be played from your hand on a turn. Soldiers are generally cheap and are placed at an empty area on your side of the board. Often, playing a card requires DISCARDING cards of the designated color(s). For example, to play the powerful Agamemnon (below), you would need to discard two green cards, one yellow and one red. The weaker Soldier Tauri and the Helmet Equipment card can be played without discarding any card. (A maximum of one Equipment card may augment an already played Hero or Soldier to increase their power.) On the other hand, if you wanted to play Agamemnon, you could discard Tauri (yellow) and the Helmet (red) to satisfy the yellow and red requirements of Agamemnon. (You would still need to discard two green cards though.) Once cards are played, attacking may commence.
All units with an attacking value of at least one (or a special ability) attack the area it faces. Attacks occur in a specific order, from the 2 spaces of Mount Olympus, space by space down to the three areas of Delphi to the single spot of Troy. If the opposite area is occupied by your opponent’s unit(s), your opponent sustains damage equal to the attacking value. (These hits are tracked by placing damage tokens on the card.) Once hits taken equal or exceed a card”s defense value, that card is defeated and removed from play. If an area under attack is unoccupied, the attacking player receives a reward. For each Mount Olympus space unoccupied, the attacker receives 1 Victory Point shown by moving the Victory Point track marker one space closer to you. If a spot Delphi is vacant, then the attacker may claim one of the available color markers. These markers may be used to satisfy a cost requirement when playing a card (rather than discarding a card from your hand). If Troy is the uncontested area, then the attacker gets to draw a card. A turn ends by the active player drawing two cards from the draw deck.
Play continues until either one player manages to move the Victory Point marker all the way to 7 (for an immediate win) OR all 6 spaces on your side of the board are occupied when you start your turn (also, an immediate win) OR the draw deck runs out (in which case, the player who has the Victory Point marker closest to them claims victory).
One of the best parts of the game is the built-in decisions of how to use your cards, particularly the Heroes. Heroes can be used for placement and attack and for their special abilities. But they can also be used to satisfying the requirements for burning cards to place a different card. (In face, many Heroes, such as Agamemnon, display a circular four color icon which indicates they can be used to satisfy ANY color requirement.) This forces you to weigh the relative worth of a particular Hero’s power/ability with its value in getting a different card onto the table.
As this is a card game, there is a certain amount of luck to the draw but card-counting is not an option as 20 cards are randomly removed at the start. That is why your ability to determine where your opponent is most likely to place his forces (to reap the important rewards available) is critical. Is your opponent down to only a card or two, then Troy, to get another card, may be in his sights. Or maybe snatching a marker at Delphi so that a card need not be burned is a more attractive option. Know your enemy! Perhaps, your adversary has been successful in pulling that VP marker closer and closer. In that case, defending against him in Mount Olympus would be critical. This “cat and mouse” aspect of play is only enhanced by the beautiful artwork done by Jose Gonzalez Cava that makes good use of clear and bright colors. Surprisingly, no insert comes with the game to hold the cards and board snugly in place.
Matthias Cramer has made an enviable reputation for his large boxed game designs (think Lancaster featured in the Summer 2012 issue of Gamers Alliance Report and his co-design of Rokoko [Winter 2015 GA Report]). With Fight for Olympus, Cramer has explored the lighter side of gaming. The game fits neatly into the niche of two player, back and forth struggles that combine card combinations with shifts and feints in attack direction (reminiscent of such games as Reiner Knizia’s Lost Cities and Richard Garfield’s Pecking Order) benefiting from an extremely clear rules set (as well as two “overview” play aid cards) to help you get right into play. Fight for Olympus is a fast paced game that can easily fit into a lunch hour break or as an opener or closer for a Game Night when two of you are waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive. A change of pace for Matthias Cramer, for sure, but, for sure, a “Fight” worth having. – – – – Herb Levy
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Fall 2016 GA Report Articles