Review

Elysium: Build your own Olympian legend

Elysium

  • Designer: Matthew Dunstand, Brett J Gilbert
  • Artist: Various
  • Publisher: Space Cowboys
  • Player count: 2-4
  • Play time: 60 minutes
  • Mechanics: Set collection, drafting, Tableau building

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Mythic Greece. As an upstart demigod, you want to earn the favor of the Olympians and become a figure of legend yourself. Gather heroes and powerful artifacts, please the gods and bear their power to write your own epic tale.

Let your allies achieve their destiny and enter the Elysium, home of the glorious and the brave. Once the stories are written, only one demigod will be chosen to stand at the side of Zeus.

Overview:

Elysium is basically a card drafting game where players recruit cards and quests from a common pool each round, using a very innovative mechanism (more on that later).

The game is played over 5 rounds. During set-up of the games, 5 of the available 8 families are chosen and shuffled together to form the playdeck. The 8 families each have a deck of 21 cards, with every deck being very different from the others. The following families are available in the game:

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a sample of some Hades cards.
  • Zeus (lots of extra scoring possibilities)
  • Ares (introduces prestige points. Another way to score points)
  • Hades (Focuses on transferring cards to the elysium)
  • Poseidon (messes with other players)
  • Apollo (adds the oracle to the game. An additional set of 4 cards)
  • Hermes (uses powers from other player’s cards)
  • Athena (powerfull abilities, but gives opponent something as well)
  • Hephaestus (Focus lies on gold)
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A sample of some Zeus cards

Once a card is recruited, it is immediately placed in a player’s domain. This is the area above his personal player board. Quest tiles, once selected, are placed next to your player board and determine a couple of things:

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Quests
  1. player order (activates in the next phase)
  2. the amount of gold and possibly victory points a player gains
  3. the amount of cards a player is allowed to transfer to his Elysium (the area below his player board)

Each player has a set of 4 different colored columns. These are what determines which cards you can acquire during your turn. Each card has a combination of colors in the top right corner. You need to have the columns in those colors available to be able to take a card. After your selection you need to discard one of your columns. (not necessarily one of the ones you used this turn to bu a card.) This means that as the round progresses, you’ll have less choice. The same goes for quests, apart from the fact that you need to discard the exact color of the quest you took. pic2683021_md.jpg

In some circumstance you might not have the resources to aquire a card during your final actions. In that case, you take a citizen card. (represented by the back of all cards). These count as wild cards f

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A citizen card

or set collection purposes, but penalise you during end scoring. If you don’t have a column left to get a quest, you flip one of the remaining ones and flip it. These broken/failed quests give considerably less rewards.

There are several types of abilities on each card. Some are activated instantaneous once you recruit them. Others are activated once, once per turn or at game end for instance. Below you can seen a nice picture with all different abilities.

Cards only have abilities once they are in a player’s domain. At some point however, players will try to transfer cards to their Elysium and build legends with them, as that’s what scores points at the end of the game. transfering a card to the elysium costs money, depending on the level of the card.  Legends can be built in 2 different ways. either by family or by level. A complete family legend consists of a level 1,2 and 3 card of the same family. For each family in the game there are 2 bonus tokens, rewarding players that complete a family legend first. The legends by level consists of up to 5 cards of different families, but of the same level. There are bonus tokens for these available as well, but these are held onto by the player currently in posession of the largest legend of that level.

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Level bonus tokens

During end scoring a couple of things are scored. Whoever has the most points after this scoring wins the game:

  • per legend points are scored based on the amout of cards in it.
  • bonus tokens
  • points gained during play
  • Chronos powers on cards in your elysium
  • Prestige points (If Ares is used)
  • deduct points for citizens in your elysium

 

The Review

For those of you that have read the entry of my top 10 games for 2015, it might not come as a surprise that I really enjoy this game. The overal presentation is very well done. Each family deck is illustrated by a different artist. Even though ther art styles are very different, it somehow still feels very cohesive. The box insert is very clever. The quality of the components is fine for the price point. I’ve sleeved my copy as I think the cards will suffer from multiple plays. Even though most mechanics used in the game are very familiar, I think the restrictions in selecting your cards was really well done. The game can be easily expanded upon as some of the greek gods were missing from this game                  (I personally would love to see decks for Aphrodite, Hera, Dyonisus and Artemis) Maybe stand alone expansions with other pantheons would be an option as well, but I don’t really see that happening.

In another review I’ve seen a variant where the Oracle, which normally only gets used if Apollo is present in the game, is allways used. I have yet to try this variant, but I think the bit of foreshadowing for the next round could be a welcome addition for some players.

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The oracle

What I like about the game:

  1. Replayability: With only 5 families in each game, there is tons of replayability. Each set-up has a very distinct feel
  2. Overal Presentation: I mentioned most of this already, but I love how this game looks
  3. Rulebook: Well layed out and very easy to understand
  4. Plays well with all player counts.
  5. Clear iconography: No need to check the book very often.
  6. play time: By no means a filler, but the 60 minutes on the box is very accurate. Ideal for it’s ‘weight’.

What I didn’t like as much:

  1. Very thin theme: Even though I like the theme, it’s really only pasted on very thinly. I somehow don’t get the feeling I’m a demigod trying to find my place in Olympus.
  2. Take that: It can be very nasty at times.
  3. Ares: I get the feeling that you can simply not neglect prestige points when they are present in the game. The difference between 1st and 3rd place (16 to 4) is very big in my opinion. In my plays with Ares (5 at this point) were never won by the player who scored 3rd or 4th place in Presitge points.

 

Final verdict: 8/10

 

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