Mythology has been the subject of great discussion in the Zatu chat channels. In the past month or so, we’ve published features on games featuring mythology in general and the games which brought to life the stories of the Norse and Vikings. Now it’s time to give Greek mythology games a chance.
Now I love Greek mythology. It is insane and messy and usually comes down to which mortals annoyed the gods, or (equally as likely) which mortals attracted them. Specifically, Zeus. But before I get smited by the lord of the sky, I love these stories. The Greek Pantheon is by far my favourite mythological dysfunctional family.
If you like construction in white stone and azure domes, I would suggest looking at Santorini. Based on the Aegean Island of the same name, it takes inspiration from the unique buildings with blue domes. Here’s how you play: Each player takes a god or goddess card. This is your patron, serve them well. Taking turns, players move one of their two pawns to a square adjacent to where they are and then build a part of a building in a square adjacent to where they now are. (This can be orthogonal or diagonal.) A player (or pair of players if playing in a team) wins when one of their workers climbs to the circular peak of the third story. However, your opponents are also able to climb your buildings, and with the single step per round, it’s easy to see what strategies are forming. Whether you’re able to do anything about it is another matter. You can cap the buildings at their peak with a blue dome or use your god or goddess powers to try and influence the game.
This game has such mechanical simplicity and the rounds can be played incredibly quickly. In addition, the replayability is incredibly high because of the variety of gods, with an expansion of the Golden Fleece also available. The gameplay is simple to teach, but like Chess or Draughts, there are so many tactical options, it can take a good while to fully master it. The artwork is stunning too, so I would highly recommend picking up a copy when you can. You will not be disappointed.
From the Minotaur to Menelaus, Greek mythology has some of the craziest and most captivating stories going. When you ask people what they know about Greece they will likely say the mythology. The myths have been retold countless times across countless forms of media from bard to the big screen. Now, you can get a taste of these stories in a board game (and really what more could you want). With a pack of mythical beasts and the favour of the gods at stake, Cyclades is the perfect game to satisfy your cravings for Greek mythology, board games, and Greek mythology games all in one go.
Published by Matagot, Cyclades sees players bid for the support of the gods Zeus, Athena, Ares, Poseidon, and Apollo as they attempt to wrest control over the Aegean islands. Each round players pay coins to win the gods’ favour in the hope of using their powers to best their rivals. Part of an unofficial mythic trilogy with Inis and Kemet (also by Matagot), Cyclades also lets players set loose some of the most fearsome beings from Greek mythology, such as the Cyclops or Kraken. Each god grants different powers related to their own, for example, Poseidon allows players to move and add ships, while Ares allows the moving of troops. To win, players must think carefully about who they are going to bid on and when, or else you face being left with nothing and enemy troops on your shores.
With its constant risk, thanks to the auction system, no two rounds of Cyclades feel the same - let alone two games. This game also scales nicely for bigger groups as the maps are double-sided, so you can have more room for higher player counts. This keeps things feeling tight and competitive no matter how big a group you are. Cyclades is a smashing game and features all the drama we know and love from Greek mythology.
If you are looking for a mythic struggle which bundles classical Greek warfare and mythology into a tight, punchy, 2 player head-to-head card battle then Omen: A Reign of War really hits the spot.
In Omen you are fighting for control of three cities, and you take it in turns gathering wealth, playing unit cards, fighting over cities and making offerings to the gods.
Turns break down into a series of steps: acquiring cards or coins or both (Wealth); paying coins to play cards to the tableau of your side of the three cities (Surge); activating Oracle cards from your tableau (Portent); determining fights (War) and choosing whether to offer up card from your hand for more coins or cards (Offering).
Play is swift but full of satisfying decision points. The Wealth mechanic at the beginning of your turn and the Offering step at the end encourage you to plan out the rhythm of one turn to the next – though this is quite frequently thrown by the aggressive plays of your opponent.
The Surge step always presents difficult choices on what you want where. You have to balance the impact of card effects when played, against deciding when or how you might provoke war in a city to your best advantage. You also have one eye on the types of units deployed in each city. Certain combinations from the exotically classical selection trigger epic Feats which are another source of VP at game end.
And when a war is fought, it is always a pyrrhic victory in which the victor discards two from their side of the city tableau and the defeated discards one. So what to keep and what to discard can be a tough call.
Omen plays in 30-45 minutes – though if you are anything like me you will end up playing several games back-to-back. The art and design are smashing - a real table presence albeit compact and small-box. Really this is a Greek mythology game worthy of the gods.
For those who aren’t familiar with Greek mythology, Elysium is a section of the underworld where heroes and those related to the gods would go when they died. In later stories, it was expanded to include the righteous and those chosen by the gods as well as the heroes. It is also a board game (obviously, otherwise, why is it in this blog?). You and up to three friends (or enemies, I suppose) take on the role of an ambitious demigod, attempting to rise to Elysium, and joining the realm of the gods. Five families are shuffled together, choosing from eight, and are placed in the Agora.
You take it in turns to play through five epochs (rounds), which have the following phases:
Awakening; Actions; Writing the Legends; and End of Epoch.
During the Awakening phase, you set up the play area, refreshing the market effectively. In the action phase, you can take one of the quest or family cards from the Agora (so long as you meet their conditions) and you can enjoy the beautiful artwork of the cards. It’s important to pay attention to the rewards you get from your choice of quest and any powers you have already gathered. Writing the Legends awards you points and money. And, finally, the End of the Epoch tidies your domain before setting you up for the next round.
It’s an excellent strategy game, with a variety of replayability with the eight different families available mixed into different combinations. Sound confusing? A little, but once you play a few rounds, it slots into place. The stories of Ancient Greece are epic, so now it’s time to write your own in this Greek mythology game. Good luck, heroes!
Ok, I’m going to admit something to you all. I love Disney films. Hercules is probably one of my favourites. Hades is probably one of my favourite villains. Does the film give an accurate version of Greek mythology? No. Is playing as Hades in a game of Disney Villainous fun? Absolutely.
As part of the Wicked to the Core expansion, you can choose Hades as your villain. His goal is to start your turn with three Titans in Mount Olympus. Sounds simple. Move them from the underworld across to their destination. On your turn, you move your player piece to one of four locations. Then you activate the actions in any order. You can gain power or activate an item. Also, you can play a fate card. This is one of your opponent’s good guys. You play these to scupper your opponents’ chances. Likewise, your opponents can use Hercules, Zeus and other fates to reduce your chances of succeeding too.
Villainous is an asymmetric game. This means each player has different conditions to win. Despite this, Villainous feels fair. I’ve never felt at a disadvantage playing as Hades. In fact, I think each character feels well balanced in comparison with others. The artwork of the game is stunning too. Each player piece is majestic looking, yet also quite sinister.
So yes, writing about Villainous: Wicked to the Core in a feature about Greek mythology games is a stretch. It doesn’t change the fact the game is a lot of fun. You can also play as Hades against any of the Villainous collection. If you know a fan of the film, this is a Titan-ic recommendation by me.