After spending the evening watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Saturday, we decided to head home and wrap up the night with a new board game. Hitting the table for the first time was Elder Sign.
Elder Sign is a cooperative game designed for 1-8 players. The primary mechanic the game draws upon is dice rolling.
The idea is the players represent a team of investigators who are attempting to seal away an Ancient One with Elder Signs before it awakens and devours the world. The players gather Elder Signs by completing adventures within the museum.
Elder Sign is based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. It is designed by Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson, designers of Arkham Horror (check out the latest expansion for Arkham Horror!). It was nominated as a Golden Geek Best Thematic Board Game in 2012 and is published by Fantasy Flight Games.
Setup isn’t too difficult. Keep in mind, there are a lot of decks, so make sure you have them separated correctly. First, Randomly, or choose specifically, the Ancient One you will be attempting to defeat. Then, take the Ancient One’s card and place it by the clock. Shuffle the equipment decks (common and unique) the ally decks, and the spell decks and place them in an area where all players can reach them. Place the Museum Entrance card at the top of the play area. Then, shuffle and deal out six adventure cards. These represent the adventures the players must go on to attempt to collect Elder Signs. Shuffle and place the Other World deck next to the Adventure Deck.
Finally, each player either randomly or selects the investigator they wish to represent. Investigators start with specific items, go ahead and distribute those now. Decide who gets to go first and begin play.
Each turn is played in phases: Movement, Resolution, and Clock.
Movement – The players moves their investigator to and Adventure card, Other World Card, or the museum entrance card. Or, the player chooses to stay where they are at.
Resolution – If the player is on an Adventure or Other World card, the player may attempt to complete the tasks on the card by rolling the dice. If the player chose to go to the entrance, the player may choose to perform an action listed there.
Clock – Once the resolution phase is complete, the clock is advanced three hours. When the clock strikes or moves past midnight (12) something happens. Play then continues clockwise.
Seems simple, right? Let’s take a closer look at completing an adventure.
First, to complete an adventure, the players must roll all the dice available to them in their dice pool. These are the green colored dice. To add a yellow or red die, the player must have an item that allows them to do so and it must be done before rolling the dice.
After rolling the dice, the investigator checks the adventure card to see if their roll matches the requirements. It is important to remember the tasks on the adventure can only be completed one at a time. Some adventures indicate the tasks must be completed in order. Make sure to check the adventure before you roll the dice. These adventures have an arrow indicating the order they need to be completed in.
As you complete an adventure you will receive rewards. These are indicated at the bottom of the card. Unfortunately, your reward can also be a monster, so watch out. Conversely, if you fail to complete and adventure, you will suffer a penalty, also at the bottom of a card.
There are other effects that can be included on an adventure, be sure to look over the card thoroughly. Also, there are ways to lock and secure your dice. Make sure to read the rules.
We should take a moment to look over our investigators. Each investigator has a Sanity and Health indicated by a symbol and number on the card. If at any point one of these numbers hit zero or less, the investigator has either gone insane or has died. Discard everything associated with that investigator and then draw a new one.
One of the biggest things looming over the investigators is the clock. As the clock strikes 12 you have to draw a Mythos card and resolve any effect listed there. The cards can have two effects: Midnight and Lingering. Typically, this is when the Ancient One receives Doom counters (counters needed to awaken).
If the Ancient One awakens and there are investigators alive, they can now fight the Ancient One and try to return it to the otherworld.
If, however, the investigators are able to collect the required number of Elder Signs before the Ancient One awakens, they win and the world is saved!
That’s a pretty quick look at the game so make sure you read all the rules.
Overall, I really enjoyed this game. I felt the gameplay was easy, although we stuttered over a couple of rules here and there. Thematically, this game is excellent with artwork that compliments it well. The randomness of the dice rolling adds to the despair the investigators feel as they attempt to complete adventures and seal away the Ancient One. Thankfully, we sealed him away while only losing one of our team and before the last Doom counter hit the board.
Although there are a lot of pieces for this game, I still feel like it is small enough to take to your local bar for board game night. Which is always a hit with The Forge Herald crew. While I really enjoyed Elder Sign, I don’t think it’s necessarily a must have for your collection. That being said, if you’re a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos this game should please you.
Overall Score 6/10
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© 2017, Patrick Cossel. All rights reserved.