Elder Sign review


pic1016970_md[1]This review has been sponsored by Grim Tree Games. Thank you for your support.

By Paco Garcia Jaen

It doesn’t matter if it wants to destroy everything around him and the world around us and basically enslave us. We love Cthulhu. I think it’s the eyes.

For that reason I love Arkham Horror, I like the Cthulhu card game and I even like Mansions of Madness with its flaky mechanics and rather silly adventures. Yes, it is sometimes about the atmosphere than it is about the game.

I will admit, though, that when I saw the promotional videos from Fantasy Flight Games, I yawned and I really wasn’t looking forward to Elder Signs… at all.

Another game in which a sign has appeared, some investigators have to go to the locations where the signs have appeared, gather clues, use spells and try to avoid the Old One raising. If they do, great! If they don’t, then they have the fight of a lifetime in their hands to try and destroy the evil entity. Very unlikely!

In order to stop the Old One from rising, you need to gather enough Elder Signs, which you do by conquering the locations that have them as a reward for surviving the experience. Easy!

Still, being a Fantasy Flight Game, there is one thing that you can pretty much guarantee; the production values will be second to none.

And they are!

pic1050608_md[1]When I opened the box I got exactly what I was expecting. Terrific quality cards, thick tokens, amazing illustrations and paintings and a gorgeous looking rules book. Oh, and nice looking dice!

So let’s assume for a second that you’re not like me and you actually want a good game for your money. How does Elder Sign do?

The hand of Richard Launius is totally obvious. This game reeks of Arkham Horror. For once reeking is a good thing, though!

Basically they’ve got the elements that make Arkham Horror a terrific game and put them into cards. Lovely locations where things happen and challenges must be overcome. If you do, you get rewards, if you don’t, you suffer. Lots.

Now we need mechanics. The basics of the mechanics? Yatzee.

pic1016971[1]Yes ladies and gentlemen. You just roll your dice and try to get the right combination of icons to match the challenge you must overcome. If you do, you get the rewards from the location, which can be items, spells, elder signs, clues or allies.

If you don’t, subtract a die and try again, and so on until you run out of dice or overcome the challenges.

Things are a bit more complicated than that, of course. You can use spells to add different dice to your roll, aiding you in getting whatever it is you need. Also weapons and other items to help you in combat, etc.

Every round, the clock provided advances and every midnight something happens. We all know midnight is a very odd time!

The things that can happen are things like monsters appearing, effects taking place and a whole plethora of annoying and sometimes lethal occurrences that Lovecraft would be very proud of.

Unfortunately the rules book is not the best written ever, and some of the rules are not very clear, like if you must discard allies cards once you use it. Also the rule about keeping dice to help the next player is not clearly explained. Normally I’d say it is me and my dyslexia making a mess of the rules, but I have played this game with two groups and all the players felt the same. So it’s not me!

The problem with that is that it takes away a lot of the cooperation mode of the game. It is very little you can do to cooperate with the other players unless you know how to do whatever it is that enables that cooperation. The rules fail there and it is a real bugger!

So did I like it?

pic1050656[1]Oh yes! I like lots of things about this game.

I like that it is very easy to pick up the basics. Even without the coop rule perfectly understood, the game plays well and it is very good fun. Can be frustrating when you try time and again to get the right results off the dice, but that’s part of the fun.

I love that it can be played solitaire. And it also plays well. You’ll go through investigators like you go through popcorn in the cinema, but it is VERY good fun. It plays up to 8 players, which also makes it a good game for conventions or when you find yourself with a large crowd. It has a 5 minutes preparation time, so very quick to start to play.

Despite my initial reservations about this game, I absolutely love it. First time I played I liked it and it left me wanting to play it again. The second time I played it and did it on my own, it left me wanting to introduce it to my group of friends. The third time I played, with my group of friends, over 2 hours went in a breeze and we all had a lot of fun. Even Neal!

At just over £20, it is an excellent purchase you will not regret!

You can buy this game from Grim Tree Games

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