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Subject: ABC: Absolutely Beginner's Conclusion (after 4 sessions of gameplay) rss

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Maddock Krug
Germany
Salzgitter
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Hi there,

I played ES now four times (since Saturday, when I bought it). And what am I supposed to say?

I) Game content

I really like what I see and what I hold in my hands. The cards, the printing, the quality of the dice, the tokens, everything seems to have quite a decent quality to it - from the way they look and feel. The place you need to play the game I underestimated a lot the first time I played the game. With always six+ locations open, with the different card-stacks and token-piles, with some place to roll the many dice, you really need some room for the game to play. Maybe not as much as with AH or MoM, but still a lot more then with Yatzee, which seems to be a common misunderstanding with critics of ES (more about that later).

2) My first four game-sessions

a) My first game I played with Kate Winthrop against Yog-Sothoth. I lost this game because especially I had a lot of bad luck (several adventures I tried three or four times before I successfully passed them). From checking the rules and the FAQs afterwards I understood that I did a couple of things very wrong. The end of the game was pretty "close"; with having stuck to the rules more thoroughly I would have lost more clearly. So my misunderstanding of some rules was more in favor of me ...

b) During the second game I again used Kate Winthrop against Azathoth. Now, with a better understanding of the rules, consideration of the official FAQs and again some very bad luck with some adventures (three to four attempts to pass a few adventures) Kate was devoured, and Sister Mary was her successor. But she was not able to prevent Azathoth from appearing ... So sad. But this time the end of the game was slightly more open ...

c) The third game was weird. In this order I challenged Cthulhu himself: Kate Winthrop, Amanda Sharp, Dexter Drake and finally Harvey Walters. Yes - four characters in a single solo-game, one after another. But I did something horribly wrong regarding the rules of the game: Any time I failed a task, terror struck, and I let all the terror-effects in the game take place; and through the better part of this game-session I had four to five adventures open with terror-effects. So I let my characters suffer a lot more sanity- and health losses, often loose the terror-dices or even loose an adventure before it got really started. And besides this it really did not matter that I forgot to apply the effect of Cthulhu itself on the sanity- and health-scores of the investigators.

I lost this game-session far from close. And even realizing my fail at applying the rules properly I concluded: Why on Earth keep people commenting this game as being flawed by being too easily won?

4) And then the fourth game happened. Sister Mary challenged Yig. With the excepetion of one adventure, Sister Mary passed each adventure on her first attempt - sometimes beating all odds (meaning: with plenty of luck with rolling the dice). Pretty soon a mythos card showed up and had the lingering effect that with the next midnight Yig would earn two doom-tokens thus awaken him; but Sister Mary already had 28 points in her trophies and already eight elder signs arranged against Yig (and that although she had lost two elder signs due to defeating two cultists over the span of the game). So the following two turns Sister Mary spent her time in the souvenirs shop and bought the final two elder signs ... My first Victory against the game AI ... And this game really was soooo easy ... Checking the rules afterwards I was not aware of doin' things wrong this time. Yeehaww!

3) Some first impression conclusions

a) Elder Sign is not an easy game. It can be easy, if you are very lucky with your dicing; but you have no real influence on what you roll with your dice, do you? And that is why it may be pretty hard to say that ES is a somewhat easy game. I only played it four times now, I only won once, and that with an exceptionally good result. Anyway: It is not the right time for me to consider ES an easy, a medium challenging, or even a hard game to play, because I played it only four times yet. But these first sessions don't let me think of ES being an easy game - although I did some things wrong in the first games.

b) The dicing is pretty hard to grab, because it is "so different":

You start an adventure by rolling your pool of dice: =>

aa) If your roll shows enough symbols you need for a single task, you may solve the task and re-roll all remaining dice for another task (without using any die for focusing!, which is pretty important I guess);

bb) but if your dice don't allow you to pass a task or if you decide against solving a task, you failed this roll, meaning: =>

aaa) apply the terror effect of your current adventure and mythos-card;

bbb) loose one die (your choice);

ccc) maybe focus one die (only once per roll; and during your turn per investigator only one die on the same location!);

ddd) re-roll the remaining dice and return to step aa); if there are none, you failed the adventure ...

This may be extended by certain spells, items and clue-tokens.

( Did I get that right in the end? This is, what I did not like about the rulebook that FFG did not deal with the focus-rules in the same place as "failed tasks" are described, which is why I got confused or better: insecure about understanding this properly).

c) There are many different things to think of during your game play. Characters with one low stat have to be used very carefully in certain situations; some adventures cost you two points of health or something, which may be very challenging, if you also play against Cthulhu himself. Then you should thoroughly consider what items to use when and how to (re)gain items and especially clue tokens making your life a little easier (in theory at least). Any time a monster shows up, where do you place it (if you may choose), what other circumstances should you account for, etc.? Any time you fail a task, you loose a die; and your focus and maybe your spells only help you very limited to save up certain die-results, which involves a lot of planning through many adventures. And then you should also keep in mind: many adventures need you to apply at least four, often five dice to successfully apply to tasks. Also you realize that by your investigator approaching certain adventures you heavily influence the appearance of monsters and elder signs a lot. So, there are so many small thinks to think of. And that is, why ...

... ES is by no means even comparable with Yatzee or similar games. This is something I read so often. And I need to disagree: ES is not Yatzee. Period.

4) ABC: Absolutely Beginner's Conclusion

So all in all I like this game and the options you have within this game. Although your success depends hard on your luck with your dice, you also have many different strategic elements within this game as well. I like the mixture of these various elements. And that is also why this game is not for something inbetween, because you easily spend a lot more then an hour on a single game-session; in comparison: Yatzee you may play on the fly ...

All the best!

Mad

tl;rd
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Paul S
United Kingdom
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Good review. I agree with your assessment.

And yes, I think you got it right in the end.

It definitely gets easier as you learn to play, but victory rarely seems guaranteed to me (though we gave Shubby a good kicking last night).

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Chris Lawson
United Kingdom
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MaddockKrug wrote:
You start an adventure by rolling your pool of dice: =>

aa) If your roll shows enough symbols you need for a single task, you may solve the task and re-roll all remaining dice for another task (without using any die for focusing!, which is pretty important I guess);

bb) but if your dice don't allow you to pass a task or if you decide against solving a task, you failed this roll, meaning: =>

aaa) apply the terror effect of your current adventure and mythos-card;

bbb) loose one die (your choice);

ccc) maybe focus one die (only once per roll; and during your turn per investigator only one die on the same location!);

ddd) re-roll the remaining dice and return to step aa); if there are none, you failed the adventure ...

You might not have meant exactly what you typed above but just to check...

You only apply the Terror effect if

(i) You failed to complete a task this roll
and
(ii) At least one of the dice you rolled produced a Terror result
and
(iii) The Adventure card your investigator is currently located at has a listed Terror: effect printed on it. Note: there is one Mythos card that has a lingering Terror: effect so if that one card is out then it would also apply at this point.

From your post, it seems to imply that you applied the Terror: effect everytime you failed a roll (you seemed to not take step (ii) into account).

In such cases (where the Terror effect might be triggered), don't forget that you can use a Clue token to re-roll the dice that had the Terror results. Most of the time you might want to use the Clue to re-roll dice to see if you can complete a task but sometimes when you are just rolling one or two dice towards the end of resolving an Adventure, it may be worthwhile to use a Clue token to try and ensure the Terror: effect isn't triggered.

As for the game difficulty, I'm sure once you get used to using the Clues and Spells at the optimum times and tackling the Adventure cards in the best order, you will find the game easier

Key is getting a good start, go for the easiest Adventure cards that gain you Items and Spells. Only then go for the Elder Signs on the Adventure Cards (Other World Adventure cards are best for this). Defeating Monsters even if you fail the Adventure is still a positive (as long as you place your Monsters with some thought). Don't waste time (i.e. turns) and Trophies on anything else but Elder Signs (except to heal you investigator when really needed).

And good to see you enjoyed your first games
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Maddock Krug
Germany
Salzgitter
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Hi there,

thank you very much for your supportive comments.

xris wrote:
...
You might not have meant exactly what you typed above but just to check...
...
You only apply the Terror effect if
...
(ii) At least one of the dice you rolled produced a Terror result
and
...
From your post, it seems to imply that you applied the Terror: effect everytime you failed a roll (you seemed to not take step (ii) into account).
...


Yeah, you are right insofar, as my small wrap up of the dicing-mechanics does not consider all the details. As for the terror-effect: I did this mistake only in my third game-session. No idea, why I did so or how this could happen, since in the game-sessions 1, 2 and later 4 I applied the terror-rules thoroughly and as mentioned within the rules. So thank you for stressing this point in order to give me the opportunity to clarify this.

All the best!
Mad

Edit - Correction for clarification.
Now, what I replied here is utter nonsense. That's why I needed to edit this posting. Maybe my sanity was below 0 or something.

What I did wrong in game #3 was that I applied all the terror-effects being on the gameboard anytime I failed a roll, and at least one of the rolled dice showed the terror-symbol.
But what I did not do in any game: I did not consider any failed roll as one activating any terror-effect, since none of the rolled dice showed any terror-symbol.
So this particular rules-detail I kept in mind all the time.
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Chris G
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Good summary of the game. I've been playing this on iPad enough to know that I don't want the physical game. I find it's much easier with one investigator then with more. But ultimately I find it all comes down to the luck of the dice and the luck of the draw. I can't honestly say that any victory or loss that I've had has ever felt like it was down to a choice I made. It all came down to how the dice fell. You can mitigate some luck a bit, but bad luck leads to fewer choices, leads to quicker doom. Good rolls gives you more skills, more trophies the ability to further increase the odds etc... I rarely if ever have felt like the game played down the middle where the choices I made shifted the difference it always felt like I was at the whim of the dice - much like Yahtzee.
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Edwin Karat
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Clue tokens are what I used to make the game absurdly easy. A single clue token allows you to reroll any failed dice -- not just all of them. And you can keep doing it. Two clue tokens and an extra die seem to be enough to virtually guarantee most adventures. Just build a bank of extra clue tokens -- not only are you safe, but you only spend them if you need them.
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Chris Lawson
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karat wrote:
Clue tokens are what I used to make the game absurdly easy. A single clue token allows you to reroll any failed dice -- not just all of them. And you can keep doing it. Two clue tokens and an extra die seem to be enough to virtually guarantee most adventures. Just build a bank of extra clue tokens -- not only are you safe, but you only spend them if you need them.

I fully agree. Mind, I'm not sure 2 Clues plus an extra die is quite the virtual guarantee but it's close and a great position to be in. Only problem is that you need to get them in the first place.

One reason why I think Joe is maybe the best of the 16 Investigators.
xris wrote:
Key is getting a good start, go for the easiest Adventure cards that gain you Items and Spells. Only then go for the Elder Signs on the Adventure Cards (Other World Adventure cards are best for this).

In my post above I should have said "Key is getting a good start, go for the easiest Adventure cards that gain you Clues, Items and Spells.
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