#556 – Crossing Olympus [Preview]

Box

Base price: $35.
2 players.
Play time: 30 – 90 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Check it out on Kickstarter!
Logged plays: 3

Full disclosure: A preview copy of Crossing Olympus was provided by Bold Move Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game. 

I feel like one or two Kickstarter games a month is a good pace. To that end, I’ve picked up a few more for the foreseeable future. Husker, Crossing Olympus, 10 Gallon Tank; there’s a bunch of games hitting Kickstarter soon, so, might as well review a bunch of them. Plus, there will be exciting stuff coming in 2020, I’m sure of it. Either way, let’s dig into Crossing Olympus and see what’s up.

In Crossing Olympus, the gods have grown a bit tired of their ongoing stewardship of humanity and have decided to maybe end it once and for all. Not great, but, you know, the Greek pantheon is not known for being not super fun. They decide to split themselves into light and dark sides (as you … do) and fight it out. The winner gets to determine what happens to humanity, so, … choose wisely? Who will triumph in the battle of the gods?

Contents

Setup

Set out the board:

Board

Deal each player 12 God Cards:

Gods

Give them the corresponding pieces:

God Tokens

There are a bunch of extra pieces, also, like the bases for those or Hades’s chains, so grab those too:

Chains

Cool, right? Either way, every player draws 3 cards and Light goes first (the board should be empty):

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay 1

Alright, so, as mentioned previously, the Greek pantheon is fighting … itself to determine the fate of humanity. As they do. So you’ve got light gods and dark gods feuding on the board. The player who can make it to their opponent’s Gates of Olympus space (or eliminate all their opponent’s gods) wins!

On your turn, you may do one of three actions: SummonMove, or Attack. Let’s outline those.

Gameplay 2

Summon

To Summon a god, you must reveal its card from your hand and place it on your Gates space at full health. If there’s already a character on your Gates space, you may move it and summon a new character on your turn. The newly summoned character does not get to move.

Gameplay 3

Move

Each character has their own movement rules, so, check the character card to determine which applies in this specific circumstance. Some say DIRECT, which means that the path of travel must be an unbroken straight line, whereas others say ANY, so they can zigzag or maneuver around. You generally may move up to your maximum movement, so a movement of 3 DIRECT may also move 1 or 2 DIRECT.

The gods aren’t terribly friendly, so you cannot move through your own pieces or opponents’ pieces. Everyone wants to be friends with Dionysus, though (dude knows how to party), so he can freely move over or around other pieces.

Gameplay 4

Attack

This is a lot of the crux of the game, so, you’re going to be doing this a bunch. When you deal damage, you don’t move; you just attack. Your attacks may travel a certain distance, but they cannot pass through pieces. Some characters also have area of effect attacks, meaning that they attack all opponents around them (area of effect attacks cannot hurt friendly pieces). When you’re hit, your health lowers permanently (you cannot, currently, recover health). If you hit 0 health, your piece is removed.

Special Ability

Some characters have special abilities that they can also use. This may be in lieu of or in addition to a movement or an attack. Keep an eye out for how that chains up with other pieces, as well.

Gameplay 5

End of Game

If a player eliminates their opponents’ pieces, makes it to their Gates space, or renders them unable to move / attack / summon on their turn, that player immediately wins the game!

Player Count Differences

None! Two-player only game.

Strategy

  • Get Athena out early. Her Aegis Shield is going to be very helpful as you try to advance other players to the front lines to battle your opponents. With it, she prevents all damage, which is nice.
  • Similarly, take Athena out early. You don’t want your opponent to summon a bunch of unkillable goons to try and aggress your Gates. If you see her, put a stop to her. I usually use Artemis to try and take her out from range, since there’s not much she can do to stop it. Unfortunately, this also essentially eliminates Artemis, but honestly, that’s usually worth it.
  • Zeus at the front of the line is not bad at all. Zeus doesn’t really do much damage (in the sense that very few players end up within his range), but his threat level is extremely high. He’s essentially a chess equivalent of a queen; he’s got a lot of power, so, players will try to avoid his wrath if at all possible. Plus, he’s also got a lot of health, so it might be worth moving him into a threatened position to take out a high-value target or two. Losing him hurts, though, so do try to keep him around as long as possible.
  • If you’re good at chess, Dionysus is definitely a good friend to have. If he ploomps on someone, he immediately removes them from the game (unless Athena is guarding them). It’s useful for players who have some mastery of how a knight moves.
  • Watch out for Hades. His ability to bind players makes him dangerous, as they cannot move or attack while he remains adjacent. This also allows him to keep maneuvering around that enemy while they’re restrained, which means that he can deal with them at his leisure while he chains up other enemies. That’s, understandably, extremely bad for you if he starts to get that party started, so try to avoid him.
  • Honestly, you’re going to just need to be aggressive. Try to get into a space where they have to move into your threatened squares in order to make any progress, as that will give you some advantage as the first attacker. If you have to cede a piece or two to get that advantage, it might be totally worth it. You just don’t want to lose too many people in the pursuit of eventually getting one of your opponent’s pieces. Not a good trade.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • I’m a sucker for just about every Greek mythology game. It’s one of my favorite game themes. I think it’s because I grew up playing Age of Mythology and picked a Greek (or Atlantean; I see you, expansion) civilization every time. Mostly because Medusas were dope units, but that’s neither here nor there. It just means that most times a Greek mythology-themed Kickstarter comes across my desk, I’ll be checking it out.
  • Some of the combos are pretty interesting. I really like a few of the player powers and how they interact. It’s definitely interesting, and I can’t wait to see what else potentially gets added.
  • I love the character diversity in the art. I said a similar thing about Cards of Olympus, which I reviewed a while back, but it’s super cool to see the imagining of Greek mythological figures as various people of various ethnicities, ages, body types, etc. It’s engaging for me, as someone familiar with the mythology (and as someone who gets excited about diverse character art), so I’m always excited to see it in a game.
  • The powers seem generally pretty thematic, as well. I’m a fan of that. It seems like the game really wants to dig into its own mythology, just like Santorini (and that’s one of my favorite parts of that game!).
  • Being honest, I do kind of appreciate that it comes with two rulebooks and player guides. It means I don’t have to do as much heavy lifting with regards to teaching the game, and I can show them as they follow along in their player guide. It does make the game easier to teach, even if I wouldn’t necessarily call it particularly easier to learn.

Mehs

  • I get why all the pieces need to be rectangles, but it doesn’t really do much for me from a thematic perspective. I wonder what they’ll be in the final version of the game?
  • As a contrast to my earlier point, the length of the player guides does suggest this is a fairly complicated game. I think it’s a lot to grok for your first game, especially since the standard game involves using all 12 in a deck together. It seems like it might be a game that benefits from scenarios or more structured play, like a 3v3 matchup or actual narrative components that both players can play through. That would actually be interesting if there were some kind of campaign mode, given the narrative elements already exist in the game’s initial lore / setup. Wonder if that could work.

Cons

  • It’s a bit too combat-focused for my personal tastes. I’m just generally not a huge fan of “here is an enemy; reduce their health to 0” games. I find that they tend to run long (and I feel like it’s acknowledged in the 30 – 90m playtime) and I’m just generally not a huge combat person. A one-hit knockout? Fine, I can make that work. But hitting and keeping track of health bars and multiple pieces while I move just isn’t really my cup of tea.
  • Probably a bit too chesslike, as well. I wonder if I’m being a bit unfair, since Santorini is one of my favorite games and it also has some very chesslike elements to it. I think the reason I’d say that this one is getting dinged for that is that Santorini is a bit cleaner and simpler than Crossing Olympus, which seems to thrive in a more complex space. It’s similar to the Miyabi / NMBR9 dichotomy I’ve either mentioned or I will mention soon because time is super fluid and relative when you’re asynchronously writing board game reviews all the time. I think I tend to prefer the simpler and more streamlined versions of games, even if there’s a weight component to them that I’m not factoring in.
  • Drawing the gods at random can lead to frustrating outcomes. An early Athena protecting everyone around her makes it hard for other players to get a foothold unless they get Artemis to start picking her off gradually. If that doesn’t happen, then they have to get to her another way, and that’s not always super easy. It may end up leading to some frustration. That’s, again, why I think scenarios would be so interesting.

Overall: 6.25 / 10

In Progress

Overall, Crossing Olympus is fine. I think I’d probably be a lot less pleased with it if it weren’t a pretty well-implemented combat game with one of my favorite themes. I appreciate how much work was seemingly put into the characters and their special abilities, and it feels like what you’d want a light chess / skirmish game about Greek mythology. That said, like I said in my Funkoverse review, that’s not really 100% my bag. The combat element can be fun in games where it’s kind of woefully out of place (like Santorini’s overpowered best friend, Bia), but a whole game dedicated to tracking health and stats isn’t going to be my favorite. That said, game’s still pretty fun. I’d love to see a bit more abstract version of this without as much health / combat; I think I’d be pretty into that. But then again, I suspect that that would … just be Santorini, again. Not that my opinion’s the be-all, end-all, here; I just don’t really love skirmish and combat-heavy games, as most people know. This does have some great artwork going for it, though; it’s intense and diverse and really gives credence to the idea that the Greek pantheon isn’t just … a bunch of British dudes living on a cloud or something (I’ve also really appreciated how much I’ve seen this idea echoed in other games, lately, like Santorini or Cards of Olympus). If you’re into skirmish games or chess, though, or you love Greek mythology and want to see another interpretation of it, you might be interested in Crossing Olympus when it hits Kickstarter!

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