Thank you for stopping by for this lovely review by The Husband of Sellswords: Olympus. We here at Living by the Board were lucky enough to receive a review copy of Sellswords: Olympus and since my husband is such a huge fan of the game and supernaturally good at it (unless I’m just supernaturally bad at it… I am.) I let him take the reins on this one. I hope you enjoy! It was quite a fun long-winded review!!
Alright people, let’s preface this review with a little transparency. Sellswords: Olympus is the psudo-sequel to Sellswords. And I LOVE Selllswords! I am (around) THIRTY victories, and ZERO losses at this game! (Can you feel my “victory air hump” through your electronic devices, loyal readers?) So, let it be known, I went in to this review with annoyingly high expectations, and a ravenous lust for a new entry into this revered (by me at least, shut up!) series. So, Imma fanboy all over this review.
Alright, this is usually the point in time when I draw the most ire when I’m trying to articulate how to generally describe how to a game of Sellswords actually plays. So, for all my Japanese Role Playing Game aficionados out there, this game plays like a mega sized, ultra refined version of Triple Triad from Final Fantasy VIII. For all of the rest of regular people out there, Sellswords is a card drafting/head-to-head card placement game. …Was that confusing? I feel like that was confusing. I am heavily reliant on people being Final Fantasy fans to understand my pitch. Okay, let’s restart. I’ll go a little more in-depth to explain.
Sellswords is played over the course 2 rounds, where you fill a 5×5 grid with 2 sets of cards (1 for you, 1 for your opponent.) I bet you’re saying to yourselves: “Disembodied voice in my head, 5×5 equals 25…but 6x2x2 equals 24.” Well, there’s a neutral card placed on the board known as “terrain cards” that cause effects (or affects) across the whole board. At the beginning of a round, you (and your opponent) draft 6 cards, round robin style, and get ready to place cards.
Each card is doubled sided, red for one team and blue for the other, this helps to distinguish which cards have been claimed for which team. Every card has several bits of easy to understand information on their faces. First is the name of the card (in the upper left hand corner.) Next are the combat numbers (which are on top, bottom, left, and right edges of the card.) Next, there is a special, card specific, ability (more on that later.) And lastly, there is an ability type icon, which indicates when/how the card’s specific ability is used.
Let’s explain “combat numbers.” The numbers bordering your cards can be used directly to assault your opponents cards by comparing the combat values of the sides of the two cards that touch. For instance, says that my opponent laid a card out had every side bordered by the number “5,” and I have a card that has three sides that all have the number “4…” but it has one side that is a number of “6.” I would place my card so that the “6” was touching any side of my opponent’s card. That’s it, at its core it does little more than high numbers to low numbers…until you start factoring in some WILDLY strategic gameplay elements. First and foremost, you can place cards on the grid facing ANY direction. So, you could place a card down with its feet facing up, or it’s head facing to the left or right, et cetera It opens up a PLETHORA of depth in gameplay. So, if your combat number is greater than your opponent’s when playing your card, you would flip the card over (to your color) denoting that you have beaten that card, which will add towards your score at the end of either round of play.
Alright, terrain cards are neutral cards that you place on the center of your 5×5 grid, that (mostly) effects/affects both players. The effects range from awarding extra points at the end of a round, to just being an elaborate place holder on the grid.. Now, abilities work similarly to terrain card, except that they work in favor of the person playing that card. The effects of these cards vary so very dramatically, that’s it’s hard to explain without dedicating a whole paragraph JUST to properly illustrate the wide variety of excellent abilities at your disposal. So, I’ll let you all find out on your own after you procure at least one of these excellent titles for your own collection.
At the end of both rounds of play, you calculate your score based upon how many cards you out on the field, and their formation. For instance, having a large number of cards in a single row or column of the grid will net you more points than having the same amount of cards scattered all over the grid. This method of scoring leads to many, MANY tactical decisions on placing your cards across the grid, and I personally love it.
On to the theme and aesthetics! The theming of the two games differs greatly, insofar as the first appears to be largely concerned with Norse mythology, and Level 99’s existing gallery of characters. Whereas Olympus deals with (you guessed it!) Greek mythology. Though, I must say Olympus does a vastly better job of embodying its theme. All of the cards in the Olympus deck actually deal directly with its theme (Hercules, Perseus, Achilles, et cetera,) and the first Sellswords felt like only it’s terrain tiles had anything to with the Norse theme. And, though a minor touch, all of Olympus’s cards have a laurel wreath bordering their combat numbers. I don’t know why, but that tickled me somethin’ fierce when I first saw it….I’m a simple man, gosh darnit.
Let’s take a moment to talk about the cons of these games. To be honest, this con exists in darn near every Level 99 Games title I can think of off of the top of my head, that infuriating rulebook! Let me specify, the rules are actually fairly well articulated, and decently laid out for ease of use. HOWEVER, every time you have to consult with the rulebook it’s like having to unfurl an antiquated road map. It’s a single sheet of paper folded in on itself again, and again, and again…Is this day and age, it just feels like there has to be a more effective way to package your rules, Level 99 Games, jeez.
Alright loyal readers, that was my in-depth review of (in essence) both “Sellswords” and “Sellswords: Olympus.” They both have virtually identical gameplay. But, sometimes it the minor touches that you come to truly revere in a game. Both titles have great chibi-esqe, anime inspired art. Both titles use great card stock, and have a fine finish. But I tell you this, for all of the similarities, Sellswords: Olympus is just one notch above its predecessor. Art and graphic design, despite being in the same motif as the first, simply is more aesthetically pleasing this time around. Font is easier to read, theme is very prevalent the newer title, and the terrain titles and abilities were simply more interesting than on the first go through. In retrospect, it’s as though the original Sellswords was almost like the skeletal model of this dueling system, and Olympus was the next logical (refined) step. Faceless denizens of the interwebs, as much as it pains me to say this…I think the sequel actually outstrips the original in every way, if only by a little in some distinctions.
Look readers, I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money…wait a friggin’ minute…YES I AM! BUY THIS FRICKIN’ GAME SO THEY’LL MAKE MORE! I cannot recommend this more, and I look forward to lording my unbeaten streak over my family for years to come.