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Monday, September 23, 2013

Elder Sign Game Review

Recently, I have found myself playing lots of "board games" with friends.  Some Monopoly, some Risk, but mainly I've been on the lookout for some real nerdy type games.  I put board games in quotes because i'm not sure what to call a game that doesn't have a board.  "Card Games" just doesn't sound the same, and would take more explanation as to how it was not a traditional card game like Poker or something.  So I stick with Board Games.

Last night was the first night spent trying to sort out the latest aquisition - Elder Sign, part of the Arkham Horror series of games.  It is very much a part of the resurgence of H.P. Lovecraftian-type games, where the player battles all sorts of tentacled creeps and ghouls - including Cthulhu.  I like dark, sci-fi games like this, so Elder Sign sounded like something I'd enjoy.

The premise is simple - you and your pals are investigators, trying to fight off evil in a darkened museum.  Spooky, eh?  There are different rooms and scenarios you have to solve called "Adventures" and they are represented by cards - the whole thing is card based, by the way.  No boards.  As you move your character through these rooms, you have to roll dice in order to clear the room and claim your prizes, which consist of artifacts or Elder Signs.  Fairly simple.  As the game is set up and you have chosen your heroes, you draw a card from the monster pile to find out which of the The Ancient Ones you must stop during the game.  The goal is to acquire a predetermined amount of Elder Signs in order to seal The Ancient One away before it gets awakened.  Included in the game is a clock face that keeps track of game time, with the clock advancing 3 hours after each players turn.

Elder Sign, with all it's little cards and pieces

As an added twist, the game has a deck of Mythos Cards.  When the clock hand reaches 12 Midnight, you must draw another Mythos Card.  These little things throw wrenches into your game play, as most of the time they require you to add what's called a Doom Token to The Ancient One card in play.  If you add enough tokens, the monster comes to life and generally eats your insides out.

Elder Sign is for 1-8 players, and I played it with 4, with a game taking about an hour, give or take.  Gameplay was fast, once we got the hang of combat, and the characters were rich enough to make you want to read the small text on each card for more background.  I really enjoyed this game, and will be playing lots of it as we draw closer to Halloween.  I cannot see myself playing alone, as it is a cooperative game that encourages you to share information among your fellow Investigators, but the artwork and design is cool enough that solo play isn't out of the question.

If you are looking for a fun, nerdy game to play, I recommend Elder Sign.   The rules are lengthy and it will take at least one round of gameplay to understand them, so play with a group that is fine with waiting for you to look their questions up.  You can find this game at most specialty game shops, or pick it up from me right here!