Skip to content

Board Game Review – The Heavens of Olympus

2011 May 17
by Michael Schroeder

Review copy kindly provided by Rio Grande Games.

“What’ll it be today? I’ll take three planets please. Why do you want three planets? Because my plate is empty, that’s why! Duh! I need these planets on my plate (allotment board), so I can later enlist the assistance of Hermes to lay them out in, The Heavens of Olympus! But that other god sitting at that table over there better not ask for Hermes help at the same time I do, or else I’ll have to pay more…and I may just then decide to level his house with my godly powers. He’ll think again about having the same plans as me…”

Designer: Mike Compton

Number of players: 3-5

Age: 13+

Time: 60-90 minutes

The Heavens of Olympus by Rio Grande Games

The Heavens of Olympus by Rio Grande Games

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

“Zeus, the greatest of the gods, has decided that he wants to construct a universe to gaze upon from high atop Mount Olympus. He has enlisted the help of several unknown gods
to do this for him – and they have 5 days to fi nish the job. As a reward, Zeus has decided that the god who performs the best while making this universe will take his or her place
among the greater gods and be admitted into Mount Olympus. Each player takes on the role of one of these unknown gods working to help create the Heavens of Olympus. Th e
goal of the game is to earn the most Prestige Points. Prestige Points can be earned at the end of each round and during each round if specifi c actions are completed.”

Basic idea in my own words:

The Heavens of Olympus is an area control game that uses simultaneous action selection as the primary mechanic. Your opponents and yourself are unknown gods that are helping Zeus create the Heavens of Olympus. This is done by placing a set of planets, in your player color, into circular areas on the board. Depending on where your planets are in the heavens, at the end of each day are, you will be granted a certain amount of prestige points.

Game Board

Here is the game board, with the "heavens" of olympus, in the middle

How do you play?

Like, I said, the game is primarily run by the mechanism of, simultaneous action selection. What does that mean in plain English? It means that everyone secretly will select an action to do, then when everyone is ready to reveal those actions – they are done so. This is one of the points in the game that I enjoy specifically and where you’ll get pissed off at your opponents for choosing the same action as you.

What do you mean? Why would I get mad at them?

This is a source of tension in the game, or anxiety, which I like in games. Basically on your turn, everyone is going to be secretly selecting one of four different plan cards (outline below).

Aether's Torch

Aether's Torch

By selecting this plan card, you are choosing to raise your torch level X spaces. What do you mean? What’s this action really for? The story and purpose behind this action involves lighting up your planets. I guess I should backtrack here. During the game, there are three phases a round. And there are five rounds in the game. The rounds are really days. The three phases in the days are, morning, afternoon and evening. All these phases involve players selecting and resolving actions. So you will get three actions a day, essentially. At the conslusion of the evening phase of a day, it is night, as well as scoring. Once night comes, you must first dim any planets of yours, that are over the number of your available lit planets. Lit planets are defined by the number “below” (not under), your color marker, on the torch track. So for instance, if you have a marker on the number 6 on the torch track, look a number below…5 – you are allowed to have 5 lit planets during the night phase. For any more planets that you have in the heavens, they must be turned over. You’ll notice the opposite side of your cardboard planet chit, is a darkened planet. So, why do your planets need to be lit during scoring? Because only lit planets, count for any scoring purposes! So you must plan carefully! And try not to light up your planets at the same time as anyone else does it, or you’ll have to pay competition costs (explained later).

So, if you look at the Aesther’s Torch card above, you’ll see marked, you can light two torches, or go up two for two power points (currency in the game), and so on.

Hephaestus Forge

Hephaestus Forge

By selecting the above plan card, Hephaestus Forge, you are choosing to add one to three planets, to your allotment board. Your allotment board is a small board that sits in front of you which has three spots for three planets, total. Later on in the game, the planets you place, must come from this board, one at a time. But for now, you need to get those planets onto that board, and that’s done through this action! So if you look at the card, you’ll see, to forge one planet, you pay one power point, and so on and so forth. Please not, that you cannot place more than one planet on a spot on your board. So pay for what you need.

Hermes' Errand Card

Hermes' Errand Card

Hermes’ Errand Card, above, is a key plan card in the game. Well, really, they are all necessary, except for the next card, Zephyrus’ Breath, but that’s probably going to be used by you, too. This is the card that enables you to actually take one planet at a time, out to the heavens of Olympus. This card will require a bit of explanation in another section for legal moves on placing planets (see below). You’ll notice an illustration representing power points to the right, this means that once you place your planet, you tabulate how many power points you’ll receive. And power points are important and limited in this game – you’ll see!

Tabulating Power Points:

When you place your planet, you count up the number of spots in the section of the heavens, that you placed your planet, that are not your planets, and/or are empty. Here’s an example. Each section of the heavens, contains 10 spots for planets. If you already have 2 planets in the same section that your now placing your third planet in, you would count, 10-3 = 7  Then divide that number by 2. So 7/2 = 3.5. Then round up…4. you’ll now receive 4 power points.  So this encourages you to place planets in areas where you currently do not have many of your own planets. But at the same time, there’s a few different methods of scoring in this game, so you may want to place near you already, to get a better constelolation, for instance. That’s a large part of the game – to try and maximize your points and minimize your opponents through where you’ll be placing your planets! So like many other games, there’s the action of sitting there and trying to calculate how you’ll benefit the most and least benefit your opponents.

Zephyrus' Breath Card

Zephyrus' Breath Card

Zephyrus’ Breath Card, is the, “screw up your opponent’s plan card,” in addition, helping yourself. This card enables you to swap two planets. One of yours and one of your opponents. Swapping to empty spaces not allowed, and one of those planets must be yours). You do this by paying a power point, then making the swap, then you’ll receive a prestige point for being the person that chose this action.

Competition Costs:

In the game, once cards are revealed, for any other players, besides yourself, that chose the same action you have, you must pay a power point for this. This to me, is a nice aspect of the game. While it is limited in a way, it is also fun. I said earlier, that money is a bit hard to come by, or rather, it’s easy to have to pay out…so you want to try and conserve your money best you can – by trying to time your actions so that nobody else chooses this same action. I have found in my playing, that this often happens. So, its a wise idea to look around at other player’s allotment boards and try to choose something they will not choose – but of course, they’ll probably be trying to do the same thing!

Tyche’s Mercy:

“What?” This is not a plan, but an additional action that you must partake in, any time you need money (power points) in the game. This is an area in the upper left of the board, that tells you, if you need to pay competition costs or just standard action expenses in the game and cannot afford to, you can plea to this goddess? by sacrificing prestige points, for currency. If you are in first place in the game, or tied for first, you will receive one prestige, for sacrificing one power point. If not in first, you’ll receive two prestige for one power point. That’s reason one, for not wanting to be first all the time…

Conclusion of phases and days:

Once everyone finishes resolving their actions and points at the conclusion of morning or afternoon, a moon card gets passed around the board clockwise. What this is for, is determining first player, in each phases. At the conclusion of night 9where you scored point, the sun card gets passed around. What this is, is a reminder, that whomever has this card, is responsible for knocking down everyone’s torch levels. If you are first or tied for first, it goes down three points. If you are not first, it goes down two. So, that’s the other reason for not wanting to always be first in this game! Another thing to think about. Also, whomever receives the sun token, also receives the moon card, and the next day starts, unless it’s at the conclusion of the 5th day.

Other notes:

I wanted to also mention that in the begining of the game, you and the other gods get a head start and place two of your planets in the heavens for free. First starting with the player sitting to the right of the starting player, then proceeding counter-clockwise. Then you all do it once more time, but you may not place a planet in the same orbit, as you just did. More on orbits in the scoring section of this review.

Placing your planets and scoring:

The heavens are divided up into five sections. The sections are separated by a double line. For a 3 player game, the bottom three sections are used, but not the top two sections. For a four player game, four sections are used and for a five player game, five sections are used. Thank God, because this game would have a severe lack of tension if this rule wasn’t in effect. So, naturally, when placing a planet, it can only be in the sections allowed. At scoring, you’ll receive a point for each section of the heavens you are in. Also…

The heavens are split into four orbits. If you look back at the image of the board, you’ll see four circles that encompass the heavens. These are orbits. At the scoring phases, you’ll receive points for having the 1st most and 2nd most planets in these orbits. And…

You receive points for constellations. Constellation lines and your planets make up constellations. If you look back at the board you’ll see bright blue, straight lines, in between the orbits. These are the constellation lines. You get points for making constellations! So if you have three planets connected by constellation lines, you’ll receive three points. And…

You’ll receive points for having the biggest constellation (as long as there isn’t a tie).

Finally, at the last night phase, you can change in power points and for every three you have, you receive a prestige point.

Whomever has the most prestige points in the end, wins! If there’s a tie, whomever placed the least amount of planets wins.

That’s the game in a nutshell. I hope I have everyone a decent understanding of how the game flows. I did not provide every single detail so these can be found on board game geek, or in the game rulebook, located at the rio grande games web site. If I missed anything, I apologize.

Below are my thoughts in different elements of the game.

Components: 2/5

Sadly, as Drakkenstrike(?) has mentioned, the components in this game are suffering a bit. It’s really a shame, as the game is a lot of fun. First off, my copy is not as bad as Drakkenstrikes, but the board has some seam issues. Where it doesn’t lie flush on an edge. Also, the box is much too large the for game board and component, and the insert is worthless. I did bag everything, but regardless, the insert is awful. There’s one section of the insert in particular, that is clearly meant to house the cards, and they do not fit. A better solution is, to bag up the player tokens of a color, the plan cards, and and planets in their own baggies. The other complaint is the Necco Wafers, oh I’m sorry, I meant player tokens. They are too large, well, the ones for the torches are. Either the separation between the torch numbers should have been greater, or these tokens should have been smaller. The scoring track – should have some numbers on all spots, or a greater separation between spaces. The art is great in the game, by the way, but I think some things could have been done a bit better. On a positive note, the rulebook is read easily! And please, please, don’t let these issues deter you from buying the game, it’s fun!

Theme: 4/5

I enjoy the theme. It’s non-offensive and works in this game. While the game, I’d say, is primarily abstract, it tries and does link, the theme well here.

Luck factor: 2/5

I honestly can’t see where much luck comes into this game..aside from the random start player…

Strategy: 5/5

I’m going to go ahead and give this game a five for strategy. In this game, there is plenty to think about and to try and plan ahead your moves. From thinking about “what am I going to do in 3 actions, this day, and when to choose them,” is very important. Also, from decisions such as making sure your planets are lit, and not getting too overzealous when trying to forge too many planets or light too many torches just for the hell of it.

Overall feelings: 4/5

This doesn’t happen to me much. When I initially play a game, I know pretty quick if I like it. My first game was a three player game, and I somewhat butchered a part of the rules. We were scoring prestige points when laying planets down, instead of power points. That and the constant looking up rules kinda dampered the mood a bit. I did a poor job of administering this game. I did feel though, that even though only certain sections of the heavens can be played in, there was a bit of a lack of tension…not only from laying down planets, but from the card selection.

But I played the game some more, and I really enjoyed it much more. In a four player game, there was signifigant tension and screwage going on. It was fun trying to outguess and outplay my opponents. I have not played it with a five player game though, so I cannot comment on that. My buddies suggested and I also agree, that there should maybe be some more plan cards, such as a card that steals 2 power from each player, or something along those lines. I can see the competition costs going down though, in contention, so that would have to be balanced in some way. Also, I would like to see a 2 player variant. I don’t like it when games limit you to at least 3 players. It happens a quite a bit, but ah well, something I’d like to see.

All in all, I really enjoyed this game, and so did the others I played with. I must admit, I came into this with a negative bias, because of Drakkenstrike’s components review, but regardless of his opinion, which he’s totally warranted of, and his criticisms on the components, as well as mine, it’s a game still worth checking out!

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

Visit Practical Technology Courses to Get WordPress Training