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Tzvika Harpaz


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Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

Athlas - Duel for Divinity is the name of the new game by the Israeli publisher GOLDEN EGG GAMES. It focuses on the divine world of Athlas in which two players take the role of Athilians, some kind of half-gods, who - once come of age - are dueling each other. The winner of the fight is chosen to be among the next gods who are sent to one of the other worlds around Athlas to be worshipped by mankind or whatever beings exist there. Quite typical for a game by GOLDEN EGG GAMES, we are confronted with a great illustrated huge board and rich game components: over 60 nicely molded plastic figures and 170 skillfully designed cards are waiting to be set-up. After finishing setup, most players I have played the game with were deeply impressed, and even after a lot of testing I still admire the great look of the game. But of course, for a game this wins only half the battle, because the game will have no real success if the rules themself don't work. Especially Elad Goldsteem, the publisher of GOLDEN EGG GAMES, should know this rule, because he had some problems with the kickstarter campaign and the rules of his first game, Golden City of Karez. So let us have a closer look at the gameplay of the new game:


Athlas - Duel for Divinity consists of two phases: in the first phase the players design three Alphas. Now what is an Alpha? Well, an Alpha is more or less a pattern of a being that your Athilian can summon from during the game. The creation of an Alpha is done by choosing from different classes, abilities, equipment and spell cards. For this each player gets an identical set of 85 cards. So, for example you could choose a ranger class card that is equipped with a magical staff, armor and two spells. Each class card tells you the life points, the basic values for attacking and defending and how many things your being can carry in its hands. Besides, the spell points on the class card determine which spells you can chose for the deck of your Alpha. Some equipment cards can also increase your abilities to hold things or to cast spells, so for example you can improve your magic skills with a magical wand and thus take more and/or stronger spells for this being. The whole procedure must be done for each Alpha and must be hidden from your opponent. As a matter of fact, this phase can be performed simultaneously or - optionally - before the two players meet, and so a lot of speculation will occur about what your opponent's Alphaswill look like. With this explanation some of you might fear, that Athlas - Duel for Divinity is a complex deck-building game. Well, this was my first thought as well, but I have learned that in reality the creation of your Alphasis quite simple and not so complex as it seems to be. Once you have understood the game principles, the Alpha creation phase can be done in about twenty minutes. And due to the limited amount and well balance of the cards there is no danger of loosing a game just because your opponent has better cards (like in collectable card games like Magic) or knows the huge amount of cards better (as in most living card games, like Netrunner). Well at least that is the current status of the game, you never know what the future will bring...

Nevertheless, for new players it may be advisable to choose from the also available pre-designed Alphas. If you do not know the game, you might be unable to cope with this creation phase, because you do not know how the different cards exactly influence the later gameplay. So it will be very tedious for beginners to chose well-matching cards, and this is probably the reason why two totally different sets of pre-designed Alphas (each set consisting of 3 Alphas) is included in the rules. To my taste, it would be desirable to have more of these pre-designed Alpha^s, because I play games with a lot of different people who regularly do not play each game as often as I do. Of course, I could create Alpha for them in before, but then I would know their strength and so I would have a big advantage when designing my own Alphas. But probably it is only a matter of time before we can find lists of pre-designed Alphas in the internet...


In the following phase, the command phase, the real game starts. In this phase the players summon units of their Alphasto the fighting zone on the board. Every turn one additional unit can be summoned. This however costs us exactly as many summoning points as the sum of the costs of the different cards the Alpha is composed from. So, for example, if the sum of the summoning points of all cards of an Alpha is 21, each new unit of this Alpha that is sent to the board decreases our available summoning points by 21. As a result, it is not wise to create Super-Alphaswith many cards to cover nearly every situation, because their costs will be too high and you will probably not have a chance to use all of the cards of this Alpha. In this light it is much better to specialize your Alphas in a cost-effectively for given game situations and different opponents. This way a higher number of units can be sent onto the board.

And a huge number of units on the board is also quite useful to reach the aim of the game: during setup three relics are placed in the middle of the fighting zone and it is the players' aim to hold at least two of these tokens with one of their units to win the game. So, a good strategy is to collect the relics with one unit while other units block and fight the enemy units near the relics. But that is much easier said than done, because units can be equipped with a lot of special abilities or spells that make it difficult to block all ways.

During a player's turn the units on the board are activated one by one. For this each unit has a movement and an action point allowance that can be spent for the activation of the various cards a unit possesses. Depending on the cards that were chosen for the Alpha, there are many different possible actions, both passive ones (like a regeneration) and triggered ones. Next to movement, the attack abilities are of great importance. Attacks usually are ranged by the chosen weapon card. So - knowing the cards of the enemy units - you, can calculate what possible moves your opponent could do and which of your units he could attack. In response, you can move your units out of range with a clever maneuver or send strong units to the front that can be wounded by the enemy but are not killed in a round. The fighting rules are very simple: you just have to add all attack values of the cards a unit can use and subtract the defenders armor values to calculate the damage points. Basically, there are three different types of attacks and not every Alpha that is good in defending against magic attacks will also stand against melee attacks. Another point to consider in combat is the territory you and your opponent stand on. Being on a higher level enables a unit to add a +2 modifier to its attack value (with the ability "terraforming" even the type of the territory can be changed during the game). Quite interesting and also very important for the game is the fact that all units of the same Alpha use the same life point supply. So one unit of an Alpha can be wounded at the one side of the board and with the next move the opponent can attack another unit of this Alpha at the other side of the board, killing it is the remaining life points are consumed by the second attack. So it is also important to find the best sequence to attack the opponent's units. After a unit is killed, the life points of this Alpha are set back to the maximum for the rest of the units on the board.


To make things a bit more unpredictable, each player has a set of divine intervention cards to disturb the actions of his opponent. This is the only thing in the game that is not calculable, and some of the intervention cards even have an effect which lasts for several rounds, so that they temporarily change the rules of the game. Divine intervention cards are also taken in the creation phase and are sorted in an order that cannot be changed in the command phase. If you do not like your next divine intervention card, you only have the possibility to get rid of it by removing it from the game. As only four cards can be chosen in the creation phase, this detail might seem to be negligible, but in my testing rounds a divine intervention card played at the right time was often the crucial factor to win the game.

Athlas - Duel for Divinity has fully convinced me. I like the idea of designing my Alphasand sending copies of them to the arena. The game is easily set up, and the command phase turned out to be very fast-paced. Compared to the similar Mage Wars the game is less complex with the big advantage that new players easily find their way into the game. Still, there is an advantage for experienced players, especially in the creation phase. So, as I have mentioned before I would have liked the game to include more pre-designed Alphasto compensate this disadvantage. On the other hand, if you keep your cards sorted (weapon cards separated from spell cards etc.), the creation phase remains manageable already after a first game.

I was glad to see that GOLDEN EGG GAMES has accepted the criticism concerning their first game. This time Athlas - Duel for Divinity comes with a well-structured, comprehensible rulebook with many examples. Maybe a casual gamer will still have some problems in understanding each detail on first read, but on the other hand I would think that a casual gamer is not the typical target group for this type of game... As far as the graphical design is concerned: once again Antonis Papantoniou has made a great job, so that - as already said - the game looks just awesome when it is ready for play!

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Copyright © 2014 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany