Fight for Olympus is designed by Matthias Cramer and published by Mayfair Games (in Europe, at least). It’s a light card game for two players that will take mere minutes to set up and get started. A game usually lasts ten to twenty minutes; along with the straightforward rules, this is an ideal game to kill some time or to play between more involved games.
The theme is relatively light. The Olympian gods are fighting among themselves and some are even leaving. You and an opponent are vying for control over the sacred mountain. The geography of the battlefield is represented by a beautiful game board made from sturdy cardboard that is placed between the players in the middle of the table:
The board is divided into three regions, each with one to three slots for cards. At the far left is the city of Troy with a single slot, meaning each player can only play one card on their side of the board. In the centre is Delphi with two card slots at either side. Finally, occupying the right half of the board, is Mount Olympus itself, with three card slots on either side and a victory point track.
Before play begins, you randomly remove 20 cards from the 98-card deck and then deal each player six cards each (their hand). The remaining cards form a draw deck next to Troy (on the table); leave space for a discard pile. A purple victory point token is placed at the zero mark on the victory point track. Wound tokens, which are also purple but slimmer, are put in a pile to the right of Olympus. Four coloured tokens (green, red, yellow, and blue) are placed at Troy. That’s all the setup necessary to get started.
Play itself is simple and consists of three phases:
- Play a card from your hand;
- Draw two cards from the draw pile to your hand.
The objective in playing cards is to take control of the board. There are three types of cards: heroes, soldiers, and equipment. Heroes and soldiers are similar, with heroes being usually stronger (they have higher Attack and Defence values). Equipment cards are played to heroes or soldiers and enhance their Attack and/or Defence values. You can only play one equipment card to a hero or soldier card.
To play cards, you need to pay the resource cost. This is specified to the left of the card’s main picture and consists of colours. Each card also has a specific card or, in the case of some of the more powerful heroes, the colour is blank and serves as a joker. To play a card, discard cards from your hand to pay the cost. For example, the heroine Penelope has a cost of two green: to play here, you will need to discard two green cards from your hand (or a green card and a blank one, etc.).
The amount of cards you can play from hand are limited only by the resources you have available. Many cards have one of three special abilities: some have an effect that comes into play when they are first put on the table, others have an effect that occurs every time the card attacks, while still others have an ability that is always in effect. For example, let’s take Penelope again: her special ability comes into effect when she is first player and reads: “you may move an enemy unit of your choice to a free space on your opponent’s side.”
When you’re done playing cards, the second phase starts: attack. You start with the first card slot at Mount Olympus and then move down to the final card slot located at Troy. Each card attacks one at a time. If there is an opposing card at that slot (i.e. one played by your opponent on their side of the board), your card inflicts damage. Put wound tokens on the opposing card. If the opposing card has more wound tokens than their Defence value, it gets discarded, along with whatever equipment card it may have. Importantly, your opponent doesn’t get to counter-attack.
If the attack is unopposed, that region’s effect comes into play. For each unopposed attack at Olympus, you get 1 victory point. You move the token on the track one space towards you. At Delphi, you get to pick one of the resource tokens there (green, yellow, red, blue). These tokens can be used to pay costs when playing cards: after using them, put the tokens back at Delphi. An unopposed attack at Troy allows you to draw a card: since cards are both resources and troops/equipment, this is a powerful ability.
After attacks have been resolved, the third and final phase starts, which consists of simply drawing two cards from the draw pile and putting them into your hand. Then, it’s your opponent’s turn to play, going through the same three phases. In this way, play continues until there is a winner.
Speaking of which, there are three ways to win:
- If at the start of a player’s turn, all six slots on that player’s side are filled, that player wins.
- If a player has seven victory points, that player immediately wins.
- If the draw pile is empty, the player who has the victory token on their side wins the game (otherwise, it’s a tie).
In my experience, it’s rare that the draw pile gets exhausted during play; most often, you win either by reaching seven victory points or by filling all slots on your side. Especially the latter can sort of sneak up on you.
I really enjoy playing Fight for Olympus. The theme is relatively light, but the artwork on the board and the cards is splendid, with most of the key Homeric heroes represented, along with an assortment of other famous ones drawn from Greek mythology (such as Atalanta and Hercules). It does a good job of evoking the mythical past.
The production values here are really good and well worth the (very reasonable) price. Here’s a random assortment of cards to show off the artwork:
The rules are simple and can be explained in just a few minutes. In my experience, people get the hang of it after a single game, making it a perfect light game to play whenever you have ten to twenty minutes to kill. People searching for “heavier”, more complex games might be disappointed, though.
In sum, I thoroughly recommend Fight for Olympus.