Review – Elysium
A card drafting, set collection and tableau building game.
Year Published: 2015
Designer: Matthew Dunstan, Brett J Gilbert
Publisher: Space Cowboys
Game Time: ~60 Mins
Set-up Time: >10 Mins
Theme: Ancient Greece
Mechanic: Card Drafting, Set Collection, Tableau Building.
How to win: Get the most Victory Points by collecting Legends in your Elysium.
Mythic Greece. As an upstart demigod, you want to earn the favour of the Olympians and become a figure of legend yourself. Gather heroes and powerful artefacts, 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.
Set up can vary depending on the decks used. I’ll use the basic ones in the example and give more details on the others in the Round Up.
Put the Pediment, Quests and Steps board on the table and put the Marker on round one.
Give each player a player board and give a random player 1 the turn one token, hand the rest out in clockwise order. Each player takes 4 gold, 4 columns and VP equal to your player order token.
Shuffle 5 decks and put a number face up in the Agora depending on the player count.
Lay out the relevant Level/Family bonus tiles
Each of the 5 rounds, or ‘Epochs’ consists of 4 phases.
Phase 1 – Awakening (An overly exaggerated name for “set-up”)
You discard cards in the Agora and fill it back up with new cards. Obviously in round one of the game you have already done this during set-up.
Phase 2 – Actions
In turn order, you MUST take either a Family card or a Quest tile…
You MUST have the matching column matching the acquisition condition of the card you want to take.
Then, you MUST discard ANY one of your columns, it doesn’t have to be one you used to claim the card though.
When you take a card, you put it in your domain (above your board) and check for abilities…
Lightening Bolt – Instant – Ability activates when placed in the domain and only once
Infinity – Permanent – Always active but only while it’s in your Domain
Arrow – Activate – Can be used each Epoch only while in the Domain by tapping it to use it
Circle – Trigger – A one off ability that can be used in any Epoch while it’s in your Domain by removing the ring token
Egg Timer – Chronos – Gives you end game scoring while it’s in your Elysium (more on cards in your Elysium later)
Snake – Eleusis – Need to have at least 1 other Eleusis card to activate it in your Domain
Lyre – Legend – Used in the next phase while its in your the Domain
If you cannot take a Family card, you MUST take a Citizen. This is usually bad but it can be good depending on your strategy and the available cards.
When you take a Quest, you place it next to your player board. If you cannot take a Quest, you must pass and take a remaining quest tile but flip it face down.
After 4 rounds you should have taken 1 Quest and 3 cards and have removed all of your columns.
Phase 3 – Writing the Legends (Transferring cards from your Domain to your Elysium
Reallocate turn order disks in the new turn order with incomplete (face down) tasks getting the highest turn order disk with current turn order breaking ties.
The players receive VP and Gold based on the Quest tile they had.
In new turn order, you can transfer cards from your Domain to your Elysium based on the Lyre number on your Quest token. Cards cost Gold equal to their level and must follow the ‘Rules of Legends’…
Level Legends – Same Level but different Families to a maximum of 5 cards
Family Legends – Same Family but different Levels to a maximum of 3 cards
They don’t have to be transferred in order and you can have any number of complete or incomplete Legends but once a card is added it can never be moved or discarded. A Citizen can be transferred into a Legend as long as it already has 2 or more cards by paying the cost of the card it is replacing… A Citizen is essentially a Joker.
If you complete a Family Legend, take the highest value remaining bonus token matching the family.
If you have a Level Legend of at least 2 cards you take that Levels bonus tile. If a player has a Level Legend of the same level but has more cards they steal the bonus tile.
Phase 4 – End of the Epoch (Sounds good, but it’s just the clean-up step)
Get your columns back, un-tap cards, move the Epoch marker and go back to Phase 1
Remove from the game all cards in Domains and SINGLE cards in any Elysium, then score the rest…
Family Legend – A 2 card Family gets you 3VP and a 3 card Family gets you 6VP
Level Legend – In a similar way Legends score 2 VP for 2 points, 4 VP for 3 cards, 4 cards gets you 8 VP and 5 cards gets you 12 VP.
Add points from Chronos powers and gained VP earned during the game.
-2 points for each Citizen in your Legends. While a wild card, they do lose you points too.
Most points wins with the Tiebreaker being the player with the most Gold.
So this game is VERY strategic… and tense.
You have the 4 columns and you think the hard part would be choosing the right card, but it really isn’t. The hard part is figuring out what you’re going to be left with.
Not being able to take a card and having to take a Citizen is bad, but not too bad. If you’re lucky you can use it to complete a Legend, if you’re luckier you can use other cards to gain a benefit from it.
But not being able to take a Quest card is really bad. You not only potentially lose out on the number of cards you can transfer to your Elysium, but you definitely lose out on Gold and/or Points.
As turns continue and people use their columns you really get screw someone over if you want to. You can take cards and Quests JUST to leave someone without options, mwaha ha ha!
The game varies too, with 8 decks and only 5 used each game is slightly different. These are the 5 suggested starting ones. They are simple and work together well.
Athena is all about you doing something and also doing something for the other players.
Poseidon is the opposite, attacking your opponents.
Hades helps you transfer to your Elysium.
Hephaestus lets you gain gold.
Zeus gives you Victory points.
The other 3 add a bit more…
Hermes lets you reuse your card powers as well as activate cards in other players Domain. One card also has the ability to switch a Column in your play area for one you already used!
Apollo uses the Oracle. These cards will be moved into the Agora next round so you get a preview of some of the cards coming up next round. Some of Apollo’s cards let you take a card directly for the Oracle.
Ares adds a new way to score – Prestige Points. The cards give (and take) Prestige and you get end game points for having more than other players.
So each combination offers a little something different. Everyone will have their favourites that they will like to see which is why I like to fully randomise those used. People will also have their least favourites… I initially didn’t like the attacking of Poseidon but I now think this interaction is pretty good, if not frustrating.
The downside is the text on the cards. There is a lot of variety of actions and the text is tiny. The icons are OK but I generally find they’re only useful as a reminder AFTER I read the card to begin with.
It’s also a fairly difficult teach… While the game is simple there is a lot going on. Also, the fact that you need to have the columns to take a card but you can get rid of any column once you do doesn’t sink in as easily as it should. maybe it’s me? 🙂
A nice tense game that I do like to play occasionally.
I give it 7/10