As an ambitious demigod, fighting for your place at the top of Mount Olympus, you must recruit heroes and undertake quests to forge impressive legends. Over five epic Epochs, you must build powerful card combinations and then destroy them as you transfer them to your Elysium to gain valuable victory points.
Elysium is a strategic card game for 2-4 players, the recommended age is 14 and given the strategic nature of the game I think that would be about right. It is estimated that games should take around 60 minutes to complete, and I think that seems fair, although particularly strategic players may need longer.
Inside the Box
My first impression of Elysium is how well made it is; the artwork is great, and not just on the box, the playing pieces and rules are equally well designed and consistent to the theme of the game. There has been a lot of thought put into the design of the actual game too, and not just in how it looks when set out on the table, they have taken a lot of care over how it looks in the box and how it will pack away for storage. There are plenty of bags to pack away the smaller pieces and every element has its own place in the sturdy plastic insert.
The cardboard pieces are made of very thick cardboard, and the wooden columns are bright and chunky. They have even included stickers with symbols printed on them to help colour blind players distinguish between the different columns. A great job all round!
The game takes place over five epochs, each epoch consisting of four phases. In the first epoch, phase one is used to set-up the playing area and stock the agora of family/hero cards, in subsequent epochs this phase will instead be used to reset the agora and refresh the family cards.
Play begins in phase two. In the first epoch play begins with a player chosen at random and proceeds clockwise, but in subsequent epochs play order is determined by your chosen quest.
On your turn you must take either one quest or one family card from the Agora, they all have an acquisition condition that must be met before you can select them and that is determined by your columns. For example, one hero may require you to have a red column still available, if you had discarded it on a previous round then you may not now take that card and you must take another.
The amount of gold, victory points and transfers you will get in the next phase is determined by your choice of a quest, as is the turn order of the third phase. Quests also have an acquisition condition that must be met, so get your timing right and choose your quest card wisely or you could end up being allocated one at the end of the epoch.
During your turn, you may also be able to use the powers held by the cards in your domain, the specific criteria are indicated on the cards by a symbol and there is a mini guide given to each player to help you.
Finally, you must dismiss any one of your remaining columns, be careful to plan ahead, if you fail to meet the acquisition criteria for any cards or quests in future turns you will be awarded an incomplete quest or a citizen card. Play continues in turn until all players have one quest and three hero or citizen cards.
Each player should have a quest at the start of phase three and turn order changes now to reflect the number on your quest. In this phase, gold and victory points are awarded and you may now transfer hero's from your domain to your Elysium when you pay their cost in gold. Building legends of two or more cards is the best way to win victory points at the end of the game, and bonuses are available for complete sets of families and levels. But be careful, many heroes lose their powers when they are transferred.
Reclaim your discarded columns, tidy your domain and move the Epoch marker along the track in phase four, ready to start all over again in phase one. The game ends when you have completed five Epochs. Then it is simply a case of adding up the victory points and the player with the most points wins.
Final Thoughts on Elysium
Elysium is a great strategy game, and I love playing it. The first time you play, the game recommends simplifying play by removing certain families and the Oracle element, this is a good idea for your first game or two but in subsequent games, they will add interesting new ways to play and strategize.
The game encourages plenty of forward-planning, so there is no downtime between turns. Keeping an eye on your fellow players and the moves they are making is essential, and your success or failure could depend on it. As could knowing what columns the other players have available and being able to predict their subsequent moves, especially if you prefer to play the role of saboteur!
Elysium remains loyal to its theme, which did make it a little confusing the first time I played as I found it very easy to get confused between the terms Epoch, Agora, Domain and Elysium as we went through the rules, but once we got playing it all started to make sense, but confusing terms aside, the rules were actually pretty easy to follow