On a dark and gloomy, monsoon season of a Saturday night, my girlfriend and I found ourselves rather bored from our video games, burnt out on painting Warhammer 40k miniatures and sick of having movie marathons. Naturally, this led us to our favorite gaming store Imperial Outpost to assist in finding a game to entertain us.
Browsing their vast selection of war games, role playing games, card games and so many more, we decided to go with a board game. Immediately, we came to the conclusion of getting Arkham Horror. If you’ve never played Arkham Horror, here is their description of it:
“It is the roaring 20‘s, and while there’s electricity in the air, unnatural storms are brewing as well. Strange things are happening in the small Massachusetts town of Arkham; people have gone missing, sightings of indescribable creatures grow more and more frequent. And the very air thickens with a sense of foreboding that roils like an acrid mist through the streets. The Ancient Ones are stirring…”(Source).
This is a good summary of the game but I think I have a better one for it: “Everything will go horribly wrong. Prepare to go insane, get devoured, sent to other worlds and ultimately fight creatures far stronger than you armed with a spell book and tommy gun.”
We’ve played it before and loved it! However, we weren’t exactly excited about the thought of the set up time, all of the pieces it came with and length of the game. That is when we found Elder Sign!
Looks friendly enough!
From the box it informed us that it was only 1-2 hours of play time, allowed for 1-8 players, had just as much insanity, hardship and tommy guns as the bigger version!
Needless to say, we were sold. We bought the game and hurried home to start playing!
Judging by the decreased size of the box, lower price and reduced play time, I already assumed that there would be certain areas that would be a bit lack luster in certain areas. Not to mention that usually I play Arkham Horror with 4-8 players every time and in this instance it was just the girlfriend and I. (Not saying you aren’t fun, Madam Geek! You’re awesome!) I thought that I would still enjoy the game overall.
What Actually Happened
Before chaos ensued.
adults in their mid-twenties kids on Christmas, we tore open the game and popped out everything that was in the box. Madam Geek set up the playing area while I made sense of the rules.
I randomly drew a Scientist name Kate and she drew a photographer named Darrell. Each character had a different stamina and sanity level. I had a huge sanity pool but not so much stamina. Darrell had balanced sanity and stamina levels. From playing the game we found that every character was either great in one area or had a unique ability.
For example, Kate’s ability was that no monsters could spawn during her turn while Darrell’s ability allowed for him to increase the value of his investigation die. (We had no idea how awesome this ability was when we started.)
So we started the game. Now the point of the game was that an incredibly powerful monster was trying to get into the world and we have to either gather enough Elder Signs(Get it? :D) to stop it or gather enough items to battle it(Not always the best option). You gather items and elder signs by completing various adventure that were randomly drawn from a stack of cards. You also have a clock to represent each day. Every time the clock strikes midnight, the monster gets closer to coming in, monsters can spawn, rules can change etc.
Once we understood the concept and read the rules we jumped right in. We found out that certain adventures have their own hindrances if it does not get resolved and also if we fail to resolve them, we get hurt or the beast gets closer to entering the world. To complete adventures, each card has symbols that you must get by rolling 6 dice.
There are many item cards that help with re rolls, adding in extra red/yellow dice for a greater chance, saving certain results for future uses etc. So it added a level of strategy to the game that made it very much enjoyable!
There is a lot to Elder Sign that I did not go over and everything we experienced seemed to help balance the game out. Ultimately, we felt as though the game was difficult and that the threat of this monster coming through into our realm was a serious possibility. It helped us focus and plan out which adventure to tackle and if it was worth using our items on it.
We ended the game only two Doom Tokens away from the monster coming through when we got lucky and resolved an adventure card that gave the last two Elder Signs we needed.Had we failed, then I am not so certain we would have won the game seeing as how we spent our items trying to combat monsters and resolve adventures. We really did feel like we earned that victory which is a rare feeling newer games offer today.
Learning Curve: Medium
Madam Geek was happy.
All Elder Sign images were pulled directly from http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/