Every so often a game is released which takes you by surprise for all the right reasons and Orichalcum, from Bruna Cathala & Johannes Goupy, does just that. Please read on to find out why you need this game in your collection.
Weirdly, I want to start this review by talking about the end of the game because Orichalcum has one of the most satisfying end-game conditions I have ever played. Once a player reaches five points and they have no monsters on their island the game ends immediately with them alone winning. No one else around the table gets another turn, and there is no opportunity for any catch-up of equal turns, or tie breaking conditions. The game just ends. You might think this feels unfair and that surely the first player will always win but this is definitely not the case (especially as the first player can change every round).
At the top of all players boards are five indentations where you place your permanent points and non-permanent points. You read that correctly this game has points that you may only hold onto for one or two turns and then they may be stolen by another player. These temporary points are the titans, that I will discuss later in the review. As all players points are visible you can see how close each other are to winning. You can also see how you can stop them from winning by stealing the titans away. This all makes for a very tense but highly enjoyable experience as you are constantly looking for ways to optimise your turn to score points as quickly as possible whilst also blocking your opponents.
So Many Mechanisms
On your turn, you draft an action card which contains a land piece for your island and also a monster if your land piece includes a volcano. Then you place your land piece (which may trigger titans), carry out the action shown on the card if you wish to and then carry out an additional action if you pay the cost. That sounds like a lot but it will only take you a few minutes to complete your turn. The different actions are Build, Fight, Recruit Hoplites and Mine Orichalcum Nuggets.
Build. One option is to take a building from the building board and place it on your island on the same terrain type that you took it from. The buildings provide permanent bonuses that increase your nugget production, or help you in battle or maybe even allow you to hold more than one titan at a time. Or you could build a Temple by covering four adjacent different terrain types on your island (cleared volcanos are wild), this would give you one permanent point to place above your board. Finally, you can create an Orichalcum Medallion by spending five nuggets. This would also give you a permanent victory point.
Fight. When you fight you choose which monster you want to attack on your island (looking at the minimum score required and bonus for beating) and then decide how many hoplites you want to assist you. If you use none you would only use one die and for each extra hoplite you use (maximum three) an extra die is added. The dice are six sided with the number 6 replaced with a skull. If you ever roll a skull you automatically defeat the monster, otherwise you have to compare your rolled die’s with the monster’s score. If you defeat the monster you lose any hoplites you used and then you can decide if you want to fight another monster on your island.
For each one you defeat they go into the space allocated on the bottom right of your board (to be used as a resource later). You also get a one time bonus such as extra nuggets or a new building or even taking control of a titan. If you ever lose a battle then that part of your turn is automatically over, however any hoplites you used stay on the monster space and will be used next time you battle that monster.
For each one you defeat they go into the space allocated on the bottom right of your board (to be used as a resource later). You also get a one-time bonus such as extra nuggets or taking control of a titan or maybe even reducing your opponents nuggets. If you ever lose a battle then that part of your turn is automatically over, however any hoplites you used stay on the monster space and will be used next time you battle that monster.
The final two actions, recruiting and mining, provide extra hoplites or nuggets for you to use later on. The amount you obtain will only be one at the beginning of the game but by placing the right buildings and using titan powers you can increase the number significantly.
The hoplites, nuggets and defeated monsters are used to ‘buy’ an extra action which means you could battle, collect hoplites, build or collect nuggets again. Some buildings reduce how much you have to pay for this extra action.
Hoplites are also used at the end of a round to determine who will be the starting player for the next round. Towards the end of the game the starting player can become very important so collection of the most hoplites will start to be fought over between the players.
I have mentioned the titans a few times so let me explain how they work and why they are so important.
Clash Of The Titans
Titans are obtained in two ways. Firstly by defeating a monster with a titan mark on it will give you that titan (including stealing it from a player who has it currently). Secondly by placing three or more of the same terrain together (or adding to a chain of three or more linked terrains) will also give you a Titan connected to that particular terrain (and once again steal it from another player).
When you obtain the titan you place them face up in the next available slot for points. Whilst you hold them they are a point and you could win the game as soon as you collect them (if they fill the fifth slot).
The titans have a one-time special power (such as an instant kill or double gold nugget production) and when you use this power you turn them over so they are face down. If ever you would obtain them again by the placement of new land on your island or by defeating a monster with them as the bonus, you turn them back to the face up side allowing you to use their power again. If another player steals them from you they automatically turn them to the face up side.
As previously said there are buildings that allow you to hold more than one titan which could mean you win the game with two or even three temporary points. A risky strategy but one that could be worth gunning for if your opponents are ignoring the titans.
Talking of opponents let me tell you about the special rule for two players.
Two Player Specialty
This game handles two players so well with such a simple rule change. It says that at the end of a players turn they take an extra action of choosing one of the available action cards (with its land and monsters etc) and discard it. This means that you can study your opponent's board and then throw away the exact card they would want to take (of course they can do the same to you). I love playing the game at two player and can highly recommend Orichalcum to people who prefer two player games.
Greek God Or Greek Salad?
This is a very clever game with many moving parts but in no way is it too complicated to play with new players. I like all of the mechanisms used in the game (especially the action selection cards, push your luck fights, and engine building) and the game ending scenario of one player reaching five points (with no monsters) which immediately stops the game is brilliant. The game length is only 25 minutes for two players and roughly 45 minutes for four players so it won’t take up a whole evenings play, but you will definitely want to play again straight away.
On the negative side the game is a table hog so be prepared to make room for all of the player boards, action card board, buildings board and all of the components that are needed. One other complaint is the fiddly nature of the refill between rounds.
If you like games with quick punchy turns, lots of important decisions to make, some push your luck and engine building, a little bit of aggressive drafting (or more aggressive with only two players), great artwork and components, and a unique end game scoring condition then Orichalcum is the game for you.
That concludes our thoughts on Orichalcum. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Orichalcum today click here!