Olympians - Game of the Gods

Overview:

Olympians is an incredibly fun card game set in the world of ancient Greek mythology. At its core, Olympians is a trick taking game, played over a series of rounds. In any given round, players may find themselves going it alone against their opponents in the Quest for Glory, or teaming up to prevent a fellow challenger with a powerful hand from gaining an advantage.

Each player is attempting to be the first to gain enough Victory Points to be honored by the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece. Players gain or lose Victory Points depending on the number of Favor points they capture by taking tricks during play. The first player to acquire 10 Victory Points is the winner.

Olympians is based on variations of two great strategy card games: Schafkopf and Sheepshead.

For over 200 years, the game of Schafkopf, and it's many variants, have been popular throughout Bavaria and other parts of Germany and Austria.

And Sheepshead, a translation of Schafkopf, is played in various pockets and cultures in North America, often with rules varying from town to town. However, many people find the game cumbersome and difficult to learn.

But Olympians uses a new, intuitive card deck that makes it super-easy to learn. Points are clearly displayed on the cards and feature custom suits themed around Greek mythology. And different game modes and variants keep the game fresh and exciting.

Players:

Olympians can be played with 2 to 6 players, but it is most commonly played with 3, 4, or 5 players.

Quick Rules:

  1. Shuffle and Deal.
  2. Test of Bravery: See if anyone is willing to take up the Quest for Glory. If no players accept the challenge, play will be for the Trojan Horse.
  3. Contest Play: Play the tricks. The player to the left of the dealer leads the first trick. Players must follow suit if possible. The player that wins the trick leads the next trick.
  4. Scoring: Count the Favor points and score the round.
  5. Repeat until one player reaches 10 Victory points.

The Deck:

The Olympians deck contains 32 playing cards consisting of four suits (Arrows, Shields, Helmets and the Olympians). There are also 4 additional reference cards, which are not used during play, but can be used for reference during scoring.

Suits

Arrows, Helmets and Shields are called the Battle Suits, and contain 6 cards each.

There are 14 cards in the Olympians suit, representing the major Gods and Goddesses from Greek mythology. They are a “trump” suit, and are more powerful than cards from any of the Battle Suits, but not always more valuable.

Favor Points:

Slightly more than half of the cards have Favor Points, illustrated inside a gold coin. As shown, the 5 of Helmets is worth 10 Favor Points, and has a Rank of 5. The total Favor Points for all the cards is 120.

Rank

All cards have a rank, the higher the rank, the more powerful it is. For example, the 4 of a suit is higher and more powerful than the 2 of the same suit. Note that for Battle Suits, the rank only applies within the same suit. That is, the 6 of Shields is the most powerful card in the Shields suit, but it has no rank or power in a trick if a different suit was led. See the Contest Play section for more details of the trick playing phase.

Goal of the game:

Each player is attempting to be the first to acquire enough Victory Points to win the game, usually 10, unless another amount is agreed upon beforehand. Victory Points are won (or lost) during a series of rounds.

Phases of each round:

Each round usually takes 3-5 minutes to play, and uses the following sequence:

  1. The Dealer of Fate: Responsible for shuffling and dealing the cards.
  2. Test of Bravery: See if anyone is willing to take up the Quest. If not, play will be for the Trojan Horse.
  3. Contest Play: This begins with the player to the left of the dealer leading the first trick.
  4. Scoring: Count the Favor points and award Victory points for the round.

The phases are explained in more detail in the following sections.

The Dealer of Fate

Fate was an important concept in Greek mythology, even the gods and titans could not escape their fate. In Olympians, your fate is often dictated by the hand you are dealt. So it is only fair that players take turns being the Dealer of Fate, rotating around the table in a clockwise fashion. The dealer shuffles and deals the cards, typically grouping 3 or 4 cards at a time to each player.

The full 32-card deck is shuffled thoroughly prior to dealing. The number of cards dealt to each player is based on the number of players in the game. All players receive the same number of cards and the remaining cards go face down into a separate pile in the center called Pandora's Box.

The Dealing Tablet reference card lists the number of cards each player receives and how many go into Pandora's Box.

Test of Bravery:

After the cards have been dealt, each player looks at their hand and decides if they have what it takes to become the Hero and attempt the Quest for Glory. This typically requires a fairly powerful hand coupled with skillful play in order to win tricks and capture enough Favor Points. The player to the left of the Dealer of Fate is given the first option.

If the player declines, the process continues clockwise until a player accepts the option, or until all players have had the option. If every player declines, then the hand is played in an alternate mode called the Trojan Horse, in which players attempt to capture the fewest favor points.

If a player accepts the Quest for Glory, they become the Hero and must first discard two cards from their hand into a pile in front of them called their Temple. Note: The favor points from these discards will be counted in the Temple at the end of the round.

The Hero then draws the two cards from Pandora's Box into their hand. At this point, all players should have the same number of cards in their hand.

Quest for Glory:

The Hero

The Hero is attempting to capture as many Favor Points as possible during the round, but must win a majority, at least 61 points, in order to be successful.

The Hero's opponents act as a team to prevent the Hero from succeeding. Even teammates with marginal hands can be a powerful force by strategically leading, sloughing, and dumping cards with high favor points at opportune times.

The Hoplite

In four and five player versions, the Hero sometimes has a secret accomplice, known as the Hoplite. The Hoplite is usually determined based on being dealt a specific card, such as Ares, or Hermes, depending on the variation being played. The Hoplite must attempt to help the Hero. The Hoplite shares in the Hero's glory (or disgrace) and generally receives Victory points equal to half that awarded to the Hero. Also, the Hoplite may not reveal himself or herself, except through the act of playing the designated card during Contest Play.

Trojan Horse:

All players act for themselves in attempting to capture the fewest favor points. The cards in Pandora's Box are set aside, becoming the Trojan Horse. The Trojan Horse cards remain face down. The player that captures the last trick of the hand receives the Trojan Horse cards and adds them to their Favor Points tally.

Contest Play

Contest Play begins after the Test of Bravery phase:

Scoring:

When the round is complete, if playing the Quest for Glory, the Hero (and Hoplite if applicable) add the Favor Points in their Temples together, and are awarded Victory points based on the sum as listed on the Victory Point Tablet.

If playing The Trojan Horse, then all the players count the favor points in their Temple, and the player with the least number of Favor Points earns two Victory points. In the case of a tie for the least number of Favor Points, all the tied players receive one Victory point. If one player takes all the points in Trojan Horse mode, all the other players lose 4 Victory Points.

Victory Tablet Favor Points Captured Victory Points Awarded
Hero Hoplite
Conquest 120 +6 +3
Triumph 91 - 119 +4 +2
Victory 61 - 90 +2 +1
Defeat 31 - 60 -2 -1
Disgrace 0 - 30 -4 -2

3 Player Game

The three player game is one of the most popular, and is the basis for most of the other variations.

In this version, there is no Hoplite. When a player attempts the Quest for Glory they are alone, and the other players are cooperating against that player.

The Deal

Cards are customarily dealt to each player in groups of 3-4-3, with 2 cards going to Pandora's Box after the first group of 3 cards has been dealt to each player.

4 Player Game

There are several ways to play with 4 players.

Variation: "Dealer Sits Out"

Deal and play the 3 Player version, but the rotating dealer sits out. Many people prefer this style because they get to play 10 cards per hand, and the game dynamic of "2 players against the Hero" is preserved.

Variation: “Two Teams of Two”

This is a four player variation where players partner together into two teams of two players, seated across from each other. The teammates pool their Favor points together for scoring purposes.

The Deal:

Each player receives 7 cards, typically dealt in groups of 3 and 4 cards, with 4 cards in Pandora’s Box.

The Quest for Glory:

If a player accepts the challenge to become the “Hero”, they must first discard two cards from their hand unseen to their “Temple”. They then pick up two random cards from Pandora's Box and add them to their hand, just as they would in a standard 3 player game.

In addition, the two opposing teammates each have the option of exchanging one card with one from Pandora’s Box. However, their discards are NOT placed into their temple, instead they are placed back in Pandora’s Box where they will be awarded based on the following options (which should be agreed upon prior to play):

The Last Laugh: The cards in Pandora's Box are awarded to the team that captures the last trick.

The Ares Accord: The cards in Pandora's Box are awarded to the player or team that captures the trick containing “Ares - God of War”, the 7 of Olympians.

The Hermes Doctrine: The team that captures "Hermes - Messenger of the Gods", the 4 of Olympians, receives the two extra cards or discards from Pandora's box.

NOTE: When playing "The Ares Accord" or "The Hermes Doctrine", there is a chance that card could be one of the two cards in Pandora's box. In that case, revert to "The Last Laugh", so the team that won the final trick is awarded the cards from Pandora's box.

Trojan Horse:

The team that wins the final trick captures the cards in Pandora's Box.

The team with the fewest favor points gains 2 Victory points.

All other play remains the same as standard 3 or 4 player versions.

2 Player Variations

There are several different and unique variations for two players.

The Quest for Glory: Battle Mode

In this variation, deal the cards as normal for the 3-Player Game. Ten cards are dealt to each of the three hands, and two cards go into Pandora's Box. Each player receives a hand and there is a third “spare” hand. If a player accepts Pandora's Box and becomes the Hero, they then choose Single Battle or Double Battle.

Single Battle:

The Hero plays only against the other player’s hand, the spare hand is not used, and the Favor Points in it are not counted at all. If the Hero collects more Favor Points than the opponent, they score 1 Victory Point. If the Hero captures all the Favor Points in the two hands, they score 2 Victory Points.

Double Battle:

The Hero plays against both of the other hands. The spare hand is placed face up, and the opponent plays both hands against the Hero. This is significantly harder than Single Battle. If the Hero collects more Favor Points than the opponent, they score 2 Victory Points. If the Hero captures all the Favor Points, they score 4 Victory Points.

The Quest for Glory: Battlefield Tactics

Similar to the Single Battle option for the Battle Mode variation, the Hero plays only against the other player’s hand, the spare hand is not used, and the Favor Points in it are not counted at all. The opponent, however, gets to look at both hands (briefly, for just a few seconds each) and choose which hand to play during this battle. If the Hero collects more Favor Points than the opponent, they score 1 Victory Point. If the Hero captures all the Favor Points in the two hands, they score 2 Victory Points.

The Quest for Glory: Exploration Mode

In this variation, deal the cards as normal for the 3-Player Game. Ten cards are dealt to each of the three hands, and two cards go into Pandora's Box. Each player receives a hand and there is a third “spare” hand. The spare hand becomes the “Treasure Box”. Every time a player wins a trick, they take the top card from the Treasure Box and add it to their Temple (without looking at it). The Hero receives Victory Points based on the three-player table (see above).

This mode can also be played for The Trojan Horse, with the player capturing the least Favor points scoring 1 Victory Point.

The Trojan Horse

If neither player is willing to accept the challenge of the Quest for Glory, play reverts to "The Trojan Horse" mode. Deal the cards as normal for the 3-Player Game, but the spare hand is not used at all and the points are never counted. The player that captures the last trick must add the cards from Pandora's Box into their Temple. The player with the least number of Favor Points scores 1 Victory Point. The Treasure Box idea (from Exploration Mode above) can also be played in The Trojan Horse.

Winning the Game:

The first player to receive 10 Victory Points wins the game.



Back of the Box

"Akropolis" by Leo von Klenze, 1846

Prove yourself a hero and rise above your fellow competitors to earn your place alongside the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece.

Olympians is a fun, fast-paced, strategy card game set in the world of ancient Greek mythology. You will use your wits, strategy, and sometimes the help of your fellow heroes to rise above the rest. If you have the cards, and enough bravery, you can attempt the Quest for Glory. But it won’t be easy, your fellow competitors will be trying to thwart you at every turn, and the price for failure can be severe. Choose your actions and your alliances wisely.

Olympians is based on two of the all-time best strategy card games: Schafkopf and Sheepshead.

For over 200 years, the game of Schafkopf, and it's many variants, have been popular throughout Bavaria and other parts of Germany and Austria.

And Sheepshead, a translation of Schafkopf, is played in various pockets and cultures in North America, often with rules varying from town to town. However, many people find the game cumbersome and difficult to learn.

But Olympians uses a new, intuitive card deck that makes it super-easy to learn. Points are clearly displayed on the cards and feature custom suits themed around Greek mythology. And different game modes and variants keep the game fresh and exciting.

So give Olympians a try, and see why it really is the Game of the Gods.