Fight for Olympus is a small box 2-player game where players play troop cards in an attempt to break through enemy lines and conquer Mount Olympus.
COMPONENTS IN BRIEF
Small tri-fold board, solid wooden disks for damage counters and color tokens, deck of cards (incl. soldiers/heroes/equipment).
GAMEPLAY IN BRIEF
Both players receive a hand of six cards. Your turn consists of three phases:
1) Play cards - You may play any number of cards from your hand by paying their cost (costs involve discarding cards of indicated colors). Hero/Soldier cards are played to one of your six board spaces, Equipment cards are placed on a Hero/Soldier. Some cards have an instant effect when played.
2) Attack - Each of your Hero/Soldier cards with an attack value greater than zero attacks, dealing damage to the opposing troop if one exists, or gaining the area bonus if un-opposed. Area bonus depends on the area:
*first space - draw a card
*next 2 spaces - gain a color token (discardable to help pay card costs)
*last 3 spaces - gain a VP (VP is on a zero-sum track, so my gain is your loss)
3) Draw - Draw 2 cards to end your turn.
The first player must skip either the Attack or Draw phase on the first turn. The game ends immediately if one player reaches 7 VP, or if the deck runs out, whoever has VP wins. The game can also end prematurely if a player has all 6 card slots full at the beginning of his turn.
*Bright and Colorful I've played a number of good card games with somewhat drab-looking cards, so it's nice to have a game that "pops" a bit visually. The cards have a good amount of white space to allow things to breathe, good art that suits the aesthetic, and a nice colored bar-frame on the left and bottom of the art. The result is a good-looking game with some visual appeal that's still easy to read. And more importantly:
*Easy to understand cards/rules, quick play. The layout of cards is very intuitive. I've played too many games where there are lots of numbers/symbols on each card and everyone always has to ask which one is the cost, which is the attack, which is the VP, etc. All four players I taught this game to had no difficulty in immediately apprehending the card layout - upper left icons are cost, big number with swords is attack, big number with skulls is HP. And cards have center icons to indicate bonuses that are Instant/Continuous/On attack, which are also noted in the text. Good to let players quickly grasp the rules and get into the gameplay -- which itself moves by at a very good clip, as games will often take well under a half hour.
*Highly interactive. Fight for Olympus is definitely a game of non-stop interaction, as you are constantly pushing and pulling with your opponent in an attempt to gain the edge. In addition to the attacking on open lanes for bonuses versus playing in occupied lanes to kill opposing troops (or at least prevent them from gaining bonuses), the fact that the VP track is zero-sum really adds to the push-pull feeling. This can definitely be a swingy game with turning tables and comebacks -- and whenever a player gets too far ahead and makes a comeback impossible, the game ends soon after anyway.
*Interesting spending decisions on card costs and placement. Your available troops range from the free 1/1 soldiers, to impressive heroes with beefy stats and powerful abilities, but which require you to discard five other cards in order to play them. This presents some interesting decisions as you have to decide whether to just grab area bonuses in empty lanes with tiny strikes, or accept a reduced board presence in order to build up your hand to the point where you can afford to play a fancy Hero card. In addition, there's also the choice of whether to aim for resources and incremental advantage, or play in the point lanes to aim for an early win.
*Fancy Heroes are cool. The big multi-color heroes are expensive to play, as befits their powers. Most of them have an interesting ability, whether they damaging opposing troops on attack, increase your drawing ability, or otherwise boost your troops. The smart decision was making all of these heroes into rainbow cards, not only costing multiple colors to play, but also counting as all four colors. The importance of this is twofold:
1) Multi-color Heroes can be discarded as a card of any color. This is tremendously helpful to help pay for costs of your cheaper cards, as the result is that when your hand is filled with cheap cards, you can probably cast some, and if your hand has mostly expensive cards, those expensive cards are wild resources for playing your cheap cards.
2) Because these Multi-color Heroes count as all four colors, they are affected by all cards that affect ANY color. This means that my card that is immune to red cards is immune to your hero, and my card that deals more damage to green cards deals more damage to your hero.
The combination of these aspects is a nice balance for the high-cost high-power heroes - their cost is mitigated by the fact that they are good to discard, and their power is mitigated by the fact that opponents may have a small toolkit for dealing with them. I think it's a good design decision.
*Variety between games. As with any game of this ilk, which although not a CCG will certainly feel familiar for players of CCGs, the fact that you draw random cards each time means that each game is likely to play out somewhat differently, depending on whether you draw a handful of free 1/1s, or a few middling troops, or giant heroes.
*Bad luck can sink you quick. While the deck does offer many ways to at least do *something*, it's certainly possible to have a hand of 4 cards (2 turns worth of drawing) and be unable to play a single thing. And if you aren't playing cards for 2 turns, absent a hero on your side, you are probably in trouble. And the luck issue is exacerbated by the fact that:
*Cards do not seem balanced. All cards are not created equal. This may be "fair" in that either player has the same chance to draw any given card, but that's small consolation when you're drawing piddly do-nothing troops, and your opponent keeps drawing troops that destroy or unsummon your cards on play.
Fight for Olympus is a nice, fast, high-confrontation game for two that is quick to pick up and teach with almost no setup required. I'm a little disappointed that my girlfriend didn't enjoy it as much as I did, but the other 3 people I played it with all seemed to like it well enough, and I liked it quite a bit. It ticks a few boxes for me (high variety, easy to teach, short setup/playtime, interesting options) and seems like a good game to pull out when you have that CCG-type itch but don't have anyone around interested in a complex CCG-type game.
IS IT FOR YOU?
Fight for Olympus has a lot of cards that have their own little special ability, and when your opponent plays them it does something bad at you. So if that bothers you, you may want to avoid this. And conversely, it's also not a terribly deep game, because it's a light 20-minute jaunt for 2 in a box. So if you're craving the depth of Magic: The Gathering, this sure ain't it.
But there's a lot to like about Fight for Olympus, whether you're looking for a colorful and accessible game to play with a friend, or something with cards that have different powers, or a great filler game to play at game night while you wait for more people to show up. This plays very smoothly, and while it would never be the main event of a gaming evening, I don't see myself turning down a game.
*Review copy provided by publisher