Welcome back to another edition of A Roll of The Dice reviews, with your game guru, me. This week we are climbing out of the pits of hell, and unleashing a game of Lovecraftian proportions, Elder Sign. From the makers of Arkham Horror, Netrunner, Age of War, and so many more games, comes one of the more unique outtakes on a horror game I have had the joy of playing.
While fending off demons, and trying to solve the mystery of the map, you are also doing your damndest to defeat whatever major horror has found joy in attacking your small group of people. This game can play anywhere from one to eight people, and if you know me at all, I love me any game that can be played solo. I will say the sweet spot tends to be about four, as that is the amount of turns before the clock strikes midnight, and all sorts of lovely crap comes knocking on your door.
The main goal of the game is to collect Elder Signs to defeat the main monster your team is against. This can range, with the median being about eleven or twelve signs. This can be done in quite a few combinations, which we will touch on in a bit, but for now, why don’t we see more about the overall feeling of the game.
FEELING / THEME
Elder Sign is definitely in the horror/survival genre, and gives you a feeling of dread. It is meant to immerse you in a world that demons rule over, and give you the personality of a single person working either alone, or in a small team, trying to fend off the end of the world. Elder Sign is also meant to make a person think strategically about their next move, sometimes even a few moves ahead. When you think you are winning this game, you are almost always losing, and losing badly. Elder Sign is not for the light hearted gamer, as some games I’ve played have just rolled over us, to the point that half the players are eliminated before the horror even comes to pass.
PLAYERS / TIME TO PLAY
As mentioned, this game is meant for one to eight players, with the most fun (in my humble opinion) coming from the standard four people. I have tried it solo, in which case I was usually able to get through an entire game in about thirty minutes, but in a group game, I would set aside an hour to an hour and a half. You need to have some time to add strategy, and come up with a way to stop the world from crumbling down around you. Well, that and praying to whatever God you believe in to save you butt.
On the box, it suggests Twelve Plus for the age, but if your children are capable of basic thought processing, can read, and understand that the monsters are only real when they sleep, then you have nothing to worry about. My two year old watched us play, and he only had night terrors for a month (seriously, I am kidding). I would assume most of the twelve plus rating comes more from the actual thought that goes into playing this one. You can not just jump around the map hoping you do not die, because you will.
BACK TO IT
Well then, now that that’s out of the way, I am extremely excited to get into the meat and potatoes of the game. This game is a survival horror themed game, which brings quite a bit of fun to the table. Each player chooses (or is given randomly) one of the games investigators, in a race against time.
The turn starts with our first player, who will choose which investigation to take part in. You will then roll whatever dice are made available to your character, which is usually the main green dice, but you can get items and cards which will allow you to add a special yellow or red die. You are able to make a roll, and try to match the icons to the corresponding icons on the card you are investigating. If you manage to match all of the icons over a series of rolls, you will solve the investigation and win the prizes associated with said investigation. If not, then bad things may happen.
Every person who ends their turn, makes the clock jump a three hour time frame, meaning at the end of four turns, we hit the point of crazy monster ravageness. There is not a word to explain how screwed you MAY get based on these events. You should pray you only get a little screwed.
In the end, you need to find enough Elder Signs to destroy the main monster, and save the world. You do this by working as a team, and trying to make sure that together you are coming up with a good plan to sustain. This game is one that you can die very quickly, and very easily. So you need to use all resources, and constantly be worried about the worst case scenario, which you most likely haven’t even seen yet.
The game itself is well designed for a smaller group to play, with the fact that you can play a solo variation as well makes it very interesting.
The mechanics are very balanced, and in my own experience there is a slight edge for the game to win as opposed to the player, but like any good co-op game, that should be the case. I do not want to play a co-op game that is simple to win, or has no challenge. This one will definitely test your limits.
The overall design of the game pieces are fairly basic. The usual card stock, with some cardboard tokens. The artwork however is very dark, and a bit horror based. I love the overall feel of this one, and checking out the different artwork.
With so many small pieces, and no game board, it is fairly easy to lose a piece or two.
With so many horror themed board games, this one is a bit overshadowed by it’s almost identical twin (which is more fun, but also a bit more involved) Arkham Horror.
With there being so many investigators and so many monster mixes, there is a near infinite amount of replay value on this game. Mix that with the fact that we are using several different decks all at the same time, and we add a lot to that as well.
Since the game play time is not that much, it makes sense to be able to replay this game a few times without tiring of it.
Sometimes, not often, but once in awhile, the game will stretch on and actually get quite a bit boring. It will make the game itself feel like it is getting stale.
This game is an exciting thrill ride, that honestly keeps the team moving and working together.
It is an amazing filler game to play in between the big guns. It makes sense since it is a smaller run, with a shorter time frame.
The game will either be well liked, or feel stale, it completely depends on the actual group that is playing it.
Overall this is an amazing game, and a fun experience. Following the mythology of classic horror games, added together with a co-operative style, is an interesting time to say the least.
Thanks for tuning in again, and may all your die roll true!