FTW Staff Picks - Elysium
For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.
Genre: Card Drafting / Set Collection
Designer: Matthew Dunstan, Brett J. Gilbert
Player Size: 2-4 Players
Game Length: 60 minutes
For fans of: 7 Wonders, Seasons
7 Wonders has always been a popular board game among groups since its initial release. Its simultaneous card drafting style lends itself to quick games with minimal downtime. Combined with its ability to play up to 7 players and you have a unique choice for large groups of gamers. The biggest hurdle to overcome with it has always been the various icons that you have to remember. And when first trying Elysium I felt a similar level of discomfort trying to wrap my head around everything. To me, Elysium feels like a more comprehensive version of 7 Wonders.
In Elysium, players compete against one another to earn the most victory points by writing Legends of the various Greek gods. Each of the 8 gods is represented by a unique deck of cards. During the setup, players will select 5 of the 8 decks to use throughout the game. Each Epoch (round) players will draft from the face-up available cards in the Agora, using 4 different coloured columns as currency. During the ending Phase of each Epoch, players may transfer cards from their Domain to their Elysium. Legends score VP depending on how large they are, and bonuses are awarded to players who complete the various Legend-types earliest. After the fifth Epoch, the final scoring begins and the player with the most VP is declared the winner!
Elysium is a classic case of quick & easy to play, but difficult to master strategically. Reading each situation and trying to maximize your VP output is a puzzle at every step. Becoming comfortable with taking a turn will likely take several plays. In that sense the game reminded me fondly of Seasons. Drafting combinations that work together well is the crux of winning gameplay. And the round-to-round randomization of cards that are placed in the Agora create situations that require players to plan-on-the-fly.
In 2015, Elysium was one of the three final nominees for the Kennerspiel des Jahres. Since then it has received minimal fanfare and surprisingly there are no planned future expansions. For a game that seems ripe for more variety, it appears that Elysium has not performed well at retail and even at our cafe it sees minimal play. Not every game can find success, even with a sublime approach on a visual and gameplay level. It's unfortunate, but hopefully it can become a late bloomer down the road. It's certainly a game that deserves more love than it receives.