The up-and-coming French board game publisher Space Cowboys—the people behind Splendor—have brought us yet another game that has nothing to do with either space or cowboys. Elysium is a game of literally mythic proportions that takes you back to the glory days of Greek mythology. The purpose of the game is to gather heroes, resources, and even the gods themselves from the center of the board in order to “write” legends. There are two kinds of legends you can write: family legends, where you combine three differently numbered cards from the same Greek god’s family; and number legends, where you combine up to five different family cards with matching numbers.
It should be noted that while the game claims you are “writing” these legends, there is no actual storytelling involved. This game is about pure strategy, and using the resources that are available to your advantage. At the start of each epoch (the five rounds that make up the game) a number of domain cards—which varies based on the number of players—are laid out in the middle and over the course of four turns each player must choose three of these cards and one of the quests. The cards and quests chosen can grant you bonuses at the end of the epoch, by giving you extra gold or victory points, or by allowing you to transfer another card into the Elysium to write your legend. The cards can also give you special abilities that either give you an extra boon, or force your opponents to lose resources of their own. Each god’s family had a specific theme to their cards’ abilities: for example, Hephaestus’ cards revolved around giving you more gold, and Poseidon’s cards always hurt your opponents in some way.
As somebody who has drafted cards in Magic: the Gathering, the feeling of picking domain cards was all too familiar for me. Not only did I have to think about which cards might benefit me the most—whether they help finish one of my legends or give me some other resources—I had to think about which cards would hurt me or help my opponents as well. Many times I found myself taking a card that did not help me at all, only so that it could not be used against me.
At the end of the game, whoever has the most VPs (victory points) is the winner. You earn these VPs throughout the game, either through your quest or your domain cards, but the end of the game is where you start raking in the big bucks. You earn so many VPs for having complete, or almost complete, legends, and specific cards you have in your Elysium can grant you even more points if certain conditions are met. And gold is not worth a thing at the end of the game, so don’t be afraid to spend it all!
Space Cowboys might be new, but their future projects are definitely worth keeping an eye on.