Heavens of Olympus looked intimidating. The rule book was about 10 pages long, in little bitty type, without a lot of pictures. The board itself didn’t really have any text on it, just a lot of symbols. But there weren’t very many pieces in the box, nor were there many cards, so this couldn’t be too hard right? I sat down and started reading the rules, approximately 45 minutes later I was ready to teach it to others.
So what is the premise of the game? Zeus is bored and wants something pretty to look at, so he has told some minor gods (you) to put some planets in the sky, because planets are pretty. The person who makes the prettiest arrangement of planets will win Zeus’s favor, and will be rewarded by getting to look at the pretty new sky with him. As I was reading through the rules, and even while I was teaching the game, I couldn’t help but refer to the sky as “Zeus’s fishbowl” (you put things into it, and then stare at it, whee!).
In order to get planets into the fishbowl… errrm… I mean, into the sky… requires that you have planets in your possession. If you don’t, that’s not really a problem, you can have more made. There is a minor god (Hephaestus) who is a blacksmith character who will make more planets for you, at the cost of “power points”. If you already have planets in your storage area, then you can pay off another minor god character with power points to put the planet up into the sky for you. What if the place you want to put your planet is taken? Well, there is another minor god who you can pay off to move some planets around for you.
There is one more important minor god that you need to be aware of: Aether. Aether is the guy on the left side of the board with all of the pretty flaming torches. Those flames have numbers in ascending order in them, and determine how many of your planets are lit. You see, Zeus can only be bothered to look at your sky once per night and assess how you are doing (give prestige points). However, if Zeus can’t see your planets because they are too dark, well, then you are out of luck. So you pay Aether to light your planets. This is a resource that will deplete each turn and thus must be refilled often, at the cost of power points, of course.
Each night Zeus will give out points based upon three things: Do you have a planet in each region of the sky? (divided like a pizza). Do you have the most planets on a given orbit? (each concentric circle) Do you have any constellations? (planets that are grouped together and connected by blue lines) For each of these that you answered “yes” to, you receive a given number of points. It’s these points that allow you to win the game.
So how is this anything like “Power Grid” which the title of this blog implies? Well, there are two things that are very similar. Firstly, you have to pay to buy planets and pay to place them, kinda like the little houses in power grid. In power grid there is a cost for the house, and a cost for the connection fee. To me this seemed like a very similar parallel. Secondly, Aether’s Torch is very similar to the fuel in Power Grid. Each turn you must have enough fuel to power your plants, otherwise they do you no good that round. Just as in this game you must light your planets each round, or they do no good for you. I do freely admit that this game is more simplistic in both of these elements than Power Grid.
I have two complaints when it comes to the components and one piece of praise. Firstly, the outside track of the board, the one that keeps track of prestige points, is very difficult to use. Why? Because the divisions between each space is difficult to see. There is a dividing line in the pattern, but it’s faint and when looking at it at an angle, it’s hard to see where that line is. This didn’t make the game unplayable, but it did cause frustration.
Secondly, Rio Grande put this in a giant box. The pieces of the game are pretty minimal, and the board isn’t all that big. So why did it require such a large box? Things are loose in the box, rolling around a lot, because of all the extra room. It’s completely unnecessary. The box is also rather thin and flimsy, in comparison to most boxes by this company. A smaller, sturdier, box would have been much, much better.
Now for my one piece of praise, the box, board, and cards are all very pretty. They did a great job making a very visually stunning game. With the small exception of the prestige track, they didn’t lose any functionality while achieving this either.
So what did I think of this game in the end? It was OK. I would play it again. My players were a little more luke warm on it. They didn’t dislike it, but it didn’t really excite them either. I think one thing that left us feeling very “meh?” about the game was the theme. So many games have come out with the “Gods” theme lately and most of them have fallen a little flat for me. To me this game didn’t need the Mythological theme, I think that a much more whimsical theme could have been placed on it and it could have had a similar, or better reception. Like what? You could be putting fish in a fishbowl, or having aliens place the stars in the sky. Something more silly and whimsical would have stuck out more to us. A good game doesn’t need to piggy back on a trend, such as the resurgence of interest in “Mythology”.
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