Sometimes it’s fun to take two very old things and mash them together to make a brand new thing. This is what the new game Crossing Olympus does with chess (dating back to the 6th century AD) and the ancient Greek Pantheon, mixing the two together with just a dash of modern skirmish gaming to produce a brand new two player experience that’s currently live on Kickstarter. The folks over at Bold Move Games were nice enough to send a preview copy of the game for me to check out and check it out I did!
As an aside, since this is a preview copy pics don’t necessarily show the final form of the game’s packaging or pieces as they would appear in the game when it ships.
What’s In The Box?
The game itself is fairly minimalist, with most of the components being cardboard or plastic. This is not a bad thing. The parts are all extremely well printed and easy to read, even in a prototype, and it makes the game extremely light an quite affordable (which can be a problem for these big thematic games). It’s honestly about the size of a normal chess board and pieces. The plastic parts are incredibly detailed, as both the bases and HP clips are molded with classical elements to make everything feel that much more “Olympian.”
The art for this game is, by the way, fantastic. Each member of the pantheon is just oozing with personality, and there’s a great mix between the classical and modern in each one. Some of the gods like Zeus and Poseidon are pretty straightforward, but they’ve also done some cool stuff by turning Hera into a duel-wielding rogue or giving Athena the look of a hoplite. They also are pretty damn diverse in both look and body type, meaning this isn’t the classic all-white pantheon people are used to. My personal favorite is probably Hephaestus, who is shown rising from a volcano holding his smith’s hammer high. The only issue is that, other than the border, there isn’t much difference between the “Dark” and “Light” gods. Yes, they’re supposed to be exact copies, but I’d love to see a “Dark” Aphrodite or “Light” Ares.
How’s It Play?
As I said, the game is at it’s core a new version of Chess. Your pieces each have their own move (delineated in a helpful booklet) that can be normal (Hephaestus can’t go diagonally), “normal” (Dionysus moves like a knight), or just weird (Artemis can move two spaces any direction or seven spaces sideways). It’s the combat that really shines in the game though, as each character has their own unique attack range as well as move range. There’s also some really unique special abilities that can affect the battlefield in minor ways (Hermes’s speed boost or Hephaestus’s attack boost) or major ways (Athena makes adjacent gods immune to damage and Hades can basically render adjacent gods useless). Some effects, especially Athena’s and Hades’s, can be borderline oppressive and lead to cautious stalemates as the other player tries to get around the extremely powerful on-board effects. All of it, though, is deeply thought out and captures the flavor of each god perfectly. Dionysus moves like a drunk and can take enemies off the board to his party (called a bacchanalia in the Kickstarter, which had my inner antiquities scholar writhing), Hades binds people to Tartarus (with really neat chains that let you physically let you lash people to him on the board), and Zeus moves slowly but has insane damage and his lightning bolts can jump over enemies and allies.
You summon your gods at your gate (marked at either end by a little temple), but can only move, attack, or use an ability each turn. Much like chess, it’s an incredibly slow moving game that requires a lot of thought and planning in order to win. The unique nature of the gods adds an extra layer of strategy, as some gods are more useful depending on the board state and a well placed Athena or Hermes could win the whole thing. Sometimes, it feels more like a puzzle than a skirmish but that’s honestly fun in its own way, and the feel of the game can and does change depending one what gods are where.
If you’re a fan of mythology, especially the Greek Pantheon, I think this is an incredibly worthwhile game to back on Kickstarter. The game infuses the gods into every aspect, and they all feel unique and impactful. There’s some oppressive elements, but they’re still not instant wins and can be dealt with. Gameplay has very little swing and is quite methodical, although it can be very hard to come back from losing if it gets late enough into the game. Art and production value is top notch as well without being excessively fancy, meaning you get quite a bit of shelf appeal without having to drop a massive chunk of change.
Currently, the goal of the Kickstarter is $15,000 and it’s raised $2,381 of that goal. If it reaches that, it’ll have stretch goals that beef up the production value, add in extra bits, and potentially add in Icarus as a playable character. The campaign runs through January 9th and is scheduled to ship in August 0f 2020, so go give it a look! And stay tuned to The Fandomentals for more Kickstarter news and previews from the world of tabletop!
Thanks to Bold Move Games for the material for this review, as well as some of the images.