Game Title: Elder Sign
Designer: Richard Launius & Kevin Wilson
Manufacturer: Fantasy Flight
Elder Sign was one of the first co-operative games we were introduced to back in 2014. Once we got a little more addicted to gaming it was near the top of our ‘to buy’ list. Realising that the game was pretty much out-of-print we actually happened upon it by chance when visiting Skipton in Yorkshire and stepping into Strange Games. This shop was an awesome find in such a small town and really astonishing given that large cities like Southampton, where we live, still don’t have a board game store.
In Elder Sign each player takes on the role of an Investigator, each of which has a special ability which might help them to heal or improve a dice roll in the game. The goal for the Investigators is to defeat the Ancient One before it awakens, which is done by collecting a prescribed number of Elder Signs. Elder Signs are collected when an Investigator completes the challenge in one of six random rooms in the game at any one time. Completing these challenges can also give a player special items that can be used to improve their chances of staying alive, defeating monsters or being successful in further rooms. However, if an investigator fails to complete a task then there are negative effects such as loss of Stamina, Sanity or the appearance of monsters or Doom Tokens which advance the progress of the Ancient One.
The game is fundamentally one of mitigating dice luck. Six or more dice are rolled and must match given tasks in each room. Only one task can be completed at a time and normally any room may have up to three tasks. For me, this generally results in rolling every dice needed for the whole room in my first roll, but never being able to successfully roll the matching symbols again during my turn.
|6 standard green dice, with Investigation, Terror, Peril and Lore results, plus the bonus red die (with Wildcard) and yellow die (with four Investigation).|
There are definitely some tactics at play in choosing which room each character is best placed to tackle based on any special abilities, the negative effects of failure and any bonus items each player may be carrying, so it’s not all a ‘dice-luck the game’ situation. It’s also important to keep an eye on the clock and ensure that you achieve the important tasks before the clock strikes midnight and new monsters are summoned into the rooms of the museum.
|An investigator lucky enough to have obtained two Clue tokens (allowing re-rolls), Spells (on which dice results have been locked), one Common and one Unique item (both allowing the player to add additional dice to their roll) and an Ally.|
We’ve got to the point where we do win this game on most occasions, even against the stronger Ancient Ones, but after trying both expansions (Gates of Arkham and Unseen Forces) at StabCon South, they definitely seem to make the game more challenging, so I look forward to these arriving in the post in the next couple of weeks.
I admit that the Cthulu theme wasn’t one I’d heard of before playing this game and since this game seems to not be very heavy on theme it hasn’t yet drawn me in, but it is quick, works with two players and does draw me into the mission of defeating the Ancient One, so for that it gets a 7.0/10.