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The gods toss Ulysses around on the waves, manipulating nature to maneuver his craft. Each player is a god working to move Ulysses around to suit his own purposes, using card-driven route finding and goal scoring. Destinations reached are removed from the board and replaced with new ones by Zeus. If a player can claim 10 points from destinations reached, the game ends.
This game has a lot of elements which should make for a good game--there are player powers (a la Dune or Cosmic Encounter), bidding for movement, cards which cause players to swap personas, secret agendas, and a nice theme to boot. It should be an A 1 game, but it falls short a little.
The board has 18 sites containing six different, randomly-placed disks, each of which depicts one of Odysseus' adventures. That's not really important, the color of the disk is all that matters. Each site is connected to exactly three adjacent sites (creating a sort of series of triangles), and each path out of each site is of a different color, with only three colors on the map (yellow, green, and red).
On a turn, Odysseus' ship will almost always move exactly three 'hops' on this board, landing on a new adventure, which is set aside in the 'scoring arena' (beside the board for all to see). The way the ship moves is based on several rounds of bidding. Each player, in turn, places a 'wind card' face up on one of nine piles on the board (movement #1 yellow, #1 green, #1 red, #2 yellow, ...). When bidding ends, evaluate which color on each movement number is highest (e.g. #1 red, #2 green, #3 red) and move the ship accordingly, landing on a new adventure.
Now, secretly, each player (each a different Greek god) has a desired set of adventures for Odysseus, shown on a victory point card. For instance, one may receive 3 VPs for each black disk visited, 2 VPs for each red, and 1 VP for each blue. Thus, by looking at the 'scoring arena' and your card, you can easily compute how many victory points you have. If you ever have 10 or more at the end of a turn, you win.
Of course, there has to be a chaotic part to fit the theme. This is handled in two ways. First, each god (player) has a special power, which may be invoked instead of playing a 'wind card' to the board. For example, Zeus can end the bidding, Hades can play his cards face down, Poseidon can kill one of the nine number/color bidding stacks, Athena can veto any power, and so on. These powers can be used only once per round, so they must be used at the appropriate time to influence the final destination of Odysseus' ship. The second random element is the 'Dionysius' card. This is a special wind card which can be played instead of playing a wind card to the board or invoking a godly power. By doing so, the player switches roles with Zeus and becomes the baddest god. This power is un-vetoable.
That's about it. There is some management and look-ahead strategy. You can come up with a game plan. But mostly, you should just sit back and enjoy the ride. If played quickly, it is a fine game. But if players try to overthink each bid or even worry too much about where the ship may land, it can bog down mercilessly.
So, with the right crowd (fast, fun players), it should be a great, light filler game. If you play with the overly analytical types, steer clear.
Odysseus is buffeted cruelly by the numbered Wind cards. Wind cards are bid each turn for the right to move his ship zero to three spaces, as you try to reach an island. Each of the 18 islands has a randomly assigned disc showing one of Odysseus' six adventures. When you reach an island, you remove its disc. Your secret agenda shows which three adventures his ship must reach to score you one to three points. Declare yourself the winner when removed discs have scored you 10 points or more. "Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad." These gods (the players) drive themselves insane in these unpredictable seas.
The game places players in the role of Greek Gods, each of whom is trying to move Odysseus's ship to complete adventures that will score 1 to 3 points according to the secret agenda card that every God has received. Three adventure discs of each type (there are six adventures) are randomly distributed face-up on the game spaces at the beginning of the game, so players can see where they can score maximum points. The remaining 12 discs are used to replenish concluded adventures.
The ship is moved by means of wind cards round a game board which shows a circular map of 18 spaces, each of which is connected to three other spaces via links in red, green and yellow.
In order to determine where the ship moves, players use their wind cards. There are three zones on the board to place cards, each of which contains three areas for cards to be placed. Each zone corresponds to moving the ship one space. Placing cards in zone 1 will determine the first movement; zone 2 determines the second and zone three the third. The highest number of points on each set of cards in a zone determines which coloured link that the ship will move along. For example, cards totalling three reds and two yellows are placed in zone two, so the second move of the ship will be along a red link. If there are no cards placed in a zone, then the ship will not move beyond that zone, so if no cards are played in zone one, the ship will not move at all. More often, there will be a competition to move a ship along each of the links. The cards played to the left most area in a zone determine draws. So players have plenty of options as to where and when to place cards. All players can always determine where the ship will finish at any moment in time, because the leading colour of each zone is easily seen.
Alternatively, a player may use the power of his God. These are cleverly designed to interact with the game and their timing of their play can be crucial. The powers allow:
As points are scored, other players will begin to see what colours your want, although not the value. You can glean further information as no two secret agendas have the same combination -- in fact no two agendas will have the same colour scoring the same values, so you can be sure that if you score 3 points, everybody else will be scoring fewer points. The game plays quickly with very little down time. As you only get 3 cards at the beginning and only draw two at the end of a round, card resources are preciously. This causes you to stop competing when either you cannot do so any further, or when you feel you may still not get to move the ship to where you would really like and you settle for a lower number of points. This works well and the game feels as though it has a self-balancing mechanism. The game itself is quick to play, as you are always interested in where the ship moves to and have to considering when (and if) to use your power. Often the cancel power is held as a threat, which the player who has the instant freeze power waits (in vain) to be played. The game plays well with three players, and equally well with four or five, though I have not played with six players yet. More players cause more complication and less control over the ship's outcome, so if you want more control in your game, play with fewer players.
The presentation is good: solid board, wooden bits and chunky enough cardboard. Jumbo always seem to produce their games really well. Odysseus won't win any game awards, but it is a solid design and one I'd happily play at our next session. This shouldn't be too surprising as Dominique Erhard has some excellent credits to his name, including Condottiere and Serenissima. I'd recommend this game as one which is easy to learn, has interesting choices and which plays in an hour or less. Solid purchase.