Odyssey: Wrath of Poseidon
- Designer: Leo Colovini
- Publisher: Ares Games
- Players: 2-5
- Ages: 13+
- Time: 30-45 minutes
- Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Ares Games.
Odyssey is an all-against-one game where one player takes on the role of Poseidon, the god of the Sea, and the other players are Greek sailors trying to get their ships to the Sacred Island (which is conveniently found in the center of the board).
In the game, the Poseidon player sits on one side of the table with one of the four game boards in front of him. The game box is placed between Poseidon and all the other players, and an matching game board is on the table for the other players to use. Throughout the course of the game, neither side is able to look at the board of the other. Poseidon’s board is reality – all of the ships and pieces on that board are in their real locations… the board in front of the players just shows their best guess as to what is going on.
At the start of the game, the four player ships are placed on their starting spaces. Regardless of the number of sailors – all four ships are put into play. Control of the ships should be split up as equally as possible.
The game is played over 11 rounds. The players must get all four of their ships to the central Sacred Island before the end of the game while Poseidon tried to prevent this from happening.
Each round starts with Poseidon playing one of his storm tiles. He starts the game with two storm tiles in each of the four ship colors and three black tiles. The color of the tile shows which color ship is affected, and Poseidon changes the location of the matching colored ship to any adjacent space (either orthogonal or diagonal). If Poseidon plays a Black storm, he gets to move all four of the ships to an adjacent space. Of course, the players don’t know in which direction the ship has moved, but they’ll try to find out on their turn.
The sailors now get to move each of their ship and conduct a survey. They can decide the order of the ships to move in this phase. The color of the ship is announced, and then that ship moves one space in any of the eight directions (each board has a matching compass rose). Poseidon moves the ship in the stated direction – and then he has to tell the sailors something about where the ship is.
If the ship would be moved off the board, Poseidon tells the players that ship would have left the board and instead it remains in the space where it started the round. If the ship would move onto the Sacred Island, this is announced to the players. This ship does not move for the rest of the game, but it does remain on the board to be seen in future surveys.
In the survey, the sailors are told what is in the space where the ship is (woody island, rocky island, plain sea, deep sea, etc.) and if any other ships are present in that space. Furthermore, they are told how many islands and ships are seen in total in the eight spaces surrounding the ship. So, a sample survey might be: “The Yellow ship is in deep water. Surrounding it are two woody islands and a ship.” The players then try to use these clues to help locate the position of that ship. All four ships are moved in this manner, and the players try to deduce where all their ships are.
This ends the round, and the next round starts when Poseidon announces the storm for the round. Of note, he cannot play a Black storm in two consecutive turns. The game ends at the end of the 11th round. Poseidon wins if only one or two ships makes it to the central island; the sailors win if three or four ships make it to the central island.
There are a number of different variants included in the rules to increase or decrease the difficulty of the game – such as having Poseidon not mention the color of the storm played to make it more difficult for the sailors to determine what has been moved.
There are also a few other variant tiles that can be added to the game
Sea Monsters – 2 extra tiles are added to the storm deck. When these are played, Poseidon simply tells one color ship not to move that turn. Surveys are still performed. As this gives the sailors two extra turns, it should be to their advantage.
Lighthouses – 2 board tiles that are added to the board. This is also to the advantage of the sailors because it gives them unique landmarks to see in their surveys.
Maelstrom – two Maelstrom tiles are added to the board. Anytime one of the colored ships moves onto a Maelstrom, it is announced that it is in the Maelstrom and then Poseidon moves it one space in any direction. The Maelstrom tiles never move, so eventually the sailors may be able to deduce where they are – but it will make their job more difficult.
Fog Banks – two Fog Bank tiles can be placed on the board. They will make the game much more difficult for the sailors because anytime that a ship is adjacent to a fog bank, all that they will learn in their survey is that they are in thick fog. Islands and other ships will not be seen even if they are adjacent to the surveying ship.
My thoughts on the game
Odyssey is an interesting deduction game. I have played it 4 times now, twice as Poseidon and twice as a sailor, and honestly I’ve found both sides to be equally challenging. The game played with the basic rules was a bit straightforward, but the addition of some of the variant tiles has helped us modify the game to suit the players.
When playing with my all adult group, we’ve had to make the game a bit harder – and we have enjoyed using the variant where the color of the storm is not told to the sailors. Poseidon still has to follow the rules of not playing Black twice in a row, but it becomes much more difficult for the sailors to know where the ships are when they are not sure which ones have been moved by the storm.
However, when playing with some younger gamers at a recent convention, it was nice to have the Sea Monsters and the Lighthouses to add into the game to give the sailors a little bit more chance to both figure out where their ships were as well as a few more turns to get them to the central island.
Between the different variants and the four different board layouts, there is enough different ways to play the game to fit just about any skill level of player.
It is an interesting puzzle as Poseidon to try to move the ships into places where it won’t be easy for the sailors to deduce where they are. Of course, you can’t see their map, so you don’t know exactly where they think that they are – though with careful listening to the conversation on that side of the board, you can probably get some hints. Oftentimes, moving the ships closer to the target island can really confuse the sailors.
As a sailor, you need to use the landmarks on the board, as well as the other ships, to figure out where you are. In our all adult games, we’ve moved to the level where we do not identify the color of the storm in order to keep everyone on their toes at all times. It feels like it might be slightly tilted in the favor of Poseidon, but without this change, the sailors were really never confused for long about the location of their ships. Having to add the extra level of deduction to figure out which ships had been moved each round has increased the difficulty level to the right place for us.
If you like the puzzle-y/deduction games, this should be a good choice for you. It is suitable for most ages, and the many different ways in which the game difficulty can be modified means that you can shape it to just about any group of gamers.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y
- Neutral. Craig V
- Not for me…