Updated: Feb 1
A couple of months ago I went out and bought myself a nice Android Tablet. Primarily I was sick of carrying around my massive 17” laptop and then only using it to browse the internet. However a nice side effect of that purchase was the ability to download and play board games on the go. I had no interest in Elder Sign, in fact I have no interest in the Cthulhu Mythos or the works of H.P. Lovecraft in general but I am a fan of Fantasy Flight and for £2.50 I couldn’t resist adding Elder Sign to my tablet.
Fast forward about two weeks and I’ve ordered the board game, it’s sitting on my bed still wrapped in brown paper and I’m forcing myself to not open it until Easter! Fast forward a few more months and it finally comes the time to break that seal and get the real thing to the table… Did I like it after months of anticipation? You’ll have to wait and see!
Something terrible has awoken within the museum, a dark presence that seeks to wreak terrible hardships on all of humanity. Only a brave band of intrepid adventures can hope to stop it and seal it away forever behind the elder sign. Only through judicious use of ancient lore and careful investigation can you hope to best the terror and the peril that awaits…
Elder Sign packs a lot into a small space. In the box you’ll find:
6 Green Dice
1 Yellow Die
1 Red Die
1 Entrance Reference Sheet
16 Investigator Cards
8 Ancient One Cards
48 Adventure Cards
8 Other World Adventure Cards
12 Common Item Cards
12 Unique Item Cards
12 Spell Cards
8 Ally Cards
32 Mythos Cards
16 Investigator Markers
30 Sanity Tokens
30 Stamina Tokens
15 Clue Tokens
22 Monster Markers
5 Mask Monster Markers
12 Doom Tokens
17 Elder Sign Tokens
As always, everything, including the box, is really nice quality, the rulebook is well laid out and there is some awesome artwork included. However, as this is a dice game, we should probably talk about the custom dice. Awesome quality, really clean, really clear, far better than Quarriors, for example, where you might struggle to tell the difference between a 1 and 2. Overall FFG has done an excellent job here and considering I picked the game up for only £2 more than I paid for Citadels, I think that it’s great value for money!
How to Play
To set up the game give each player an Investigator and choose an Ancient One. Place six Adventure cards in a 3 x 2 grid in the centre of the table. Set the clock to Midnight and draw one Mythos Card and resolve it.
Play then begins, Each player takes it in turn to place their Adventurer token on one of the available adventure cards or on the Museum Entrance.
If they choose the adventure cards they now take all six green dice and roll them, adding in yellow or red dice if they choose to spend cards and/or special abilities. Using the results they roll they can now complete one line on their chosen card, if the card has an arrow on it the lines must be completed in order starting at the top and working down.
If they failed to complete a line they can choose to lock-in one die on their character (once per turn maximum), then they must discard 1 dice and roll again.
Completing a line locks-in all dice that were used to complete it, the rest of the dice are rerolled to complete further lines. If the player completes all the lines on the card he can claim the rewards in the white section of the card, if he fails he suffers the penalties in the red section of the card. The player then advances the clock by quarter of an hour and play passes to the next player. If the clock strikes midnight a Mythos card is drawn and resolved.
Play continues in this fashion until the adventurers have acquired enough Elder Signs to vanquish the Ancient One or until the Ancient one has filled up all their Doom Spaces with Doom Tokens, at which point he awakens.
If the players can gather enough elder signs or defeat the awakened Ancient One they win the game.
Elder Sign: Omens is a great implementation of the board game, although it strips out some elements of the game for the sake of simplicity, such as battling the awakened ancient one. However, it is a pretty tough game, my win rate is probably less than 50/50.
The same cannot be said about Elder Sign itself. I have yet to lose a game. Admittedly we forgot a fairly important rule in our first eight games. When an investigator dies you get a new one, with full health and full starting equipment, economically it made more sense to get yourself killed off when you were out of good stuff to play so that you were reborn as a badass. We however didn’t notice the “add a doom to the doom track when an investigator is killed” rule.
However, even playing with this rule has not caused us much further issue as we can vanquish foes quite quickly. That said, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad game, it still requires co-operation and we still need to make tactical and strategic choices in which adventure cards you take out to avoid taking doom tokens.
The issue with the game being too easy could be fixed very simply by changing the Mythos deck. Every time the clock strikes midnight (every four turns) you draw a card and apply its effects, however most of these cards can be avoided if the adventurers have or discard certain cards. Harder Mythos cards will lead to a harder game.
I don’t like the fact that you can buy your victory, there’s nothing more anticlimactic than a player handing in 10 trophies and ending the game, surely it’s more fun to wait with baited breath to see if that final die comes up in your favour!
I also dislike the Ancient One battles. Essentially you are required to roll the dice and achieve certain results to remove doom tokens from the ancient one and every 4 four turns the Ancient One attacks back. This is fine while you have four or more players in the game, but when it gets down to one there are a upto 24 dice rolls between Ancient One attacks, making the end a rather slow march to victory or defeat rather than an awesome climatic battle.
It might sound like I don’t like Elder Sign, but that’s not true. I like the fact that it’s not another co-op that just grinds you down until you want to cry. I like the production values and the game play and the sensation you get when your last roll comes up just the way you wanted it to.
I also like the potential the game has for thematic expansion, if the Cthulhu expansion for the tablet version is anything to go by.
In short I like the game, but for gamers who like a challenge, get the ios/android version with the expansion.