Monday, January 23, 2012

The Elder Sign

I haven't had a lot of time recently for either my regular gaming or solo games.  That's a depressing situation for me, since I enjoy gaming so much.  I had the opportunity to pick up a great board game designed for 1-8 players.  It's by Fantasy Flight Games and is called Elder Sign.  Follow the link to check it out.

In short, you play the part of an investigator who is attempting to prevent a breakthrough of the evil Old Ones by searching a museum for magical Elder Signs.  You have to accumulate a certain number of these signs before the Old One can manifest and destroy the world.  Not exactly Yahtzee, is it?

Veteran solo players are likely to have already played this game and know all about it.  But for the benefit of those who might not have heard about it, I'll make a few comments.

The Physical Game
The game uses lots of cards as both the playing field and as game pieces.  Special dice are key to the game.  Overall, the artwork on the cards is great and really has a cool, creepy feel needed for Lovecraftian horror.  The flavor text on the cards adds to the ambiance as well as creates a kind of narrative.  Overall, it looks great on your table.  It will take up a sizeable area when you lay it all out.

Game Play
The rule book was a bit confusing.  It's organized good.  But there's not an example of play and so the rules don't come together in your head.  At least not for me, anyway.  I tried stepping through with the book in order, and I had reasonable success.  I made some errors that made it too easy to win.

You will have lots of counters and stacks of small cards.  You should have cups or some other containers for all these pieces ready for when you play.  Keep your cats away from the small pieces.  As I learned, my cats turned them into toys and yours might do the same.

The basic mechanic is that you select an adventure card and complete the tasks on it.  To complete tasks you roll the dice and match them to what you see on the cards.  Sounds simple?  Not as simple as you would think.  The combinations of dice can get tricky, plus things can happen to your dice that make them unusable. Also, if you fail a task you can re-roll, but you have to throw out a die to do so.  That makes combos harder to hit.  If you fail an adventure, bad things happen.  That's the gist of the game.  

Solo play is not only possible, but it is built for it.  In fact, if you play with others, you are doing so cooperatively.  So this is not a game to "face off" against anything other than the Old One crashing into your museum.

What really topped things off for me is that Elder Sign Omen is now available for iPhone/iPad/iPod.  I immediately picked it up for my phone.  It plays beautifully, and I imagine playing on an iPad would be even better.  Nice thing is it automates rules and bookkeeping.  This helped me learn where I made mistakes in my rules interpretation.  There are some adjustments for online play, but it's still the same game. If you have an Apple product, I highly recommend the app.

So, there you have it.  That's my take on Elder Sign.  I'm picking up Gears of War next and it should be mailed to me soon.  I'll let you know how that goes.