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Subject: Mile High Reviews Elder Sign rss

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Ben Bowers
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Hello, Ben Bowers here and welcome back Mile High Reviews! Today we are going to look at Elder Sign by Fantasy Flight Games. This game is a dice version of one of my favorite games: Arkham Horror. (Which I will do a full review of at a later date) This game has a theme that I really enjoy; the Cthulhu Mythos are based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. This is a theme that is used a lot in gaming, but this game is one of the few good implementations of it. This game also is actually a different version of a game that has already been released. I will cover this concept in a later article, but a lot of the time these games are not as good as the ones that they are based on. Elder Sign is an exception to this rule. OK, so now that we are through the introduction, and some venting about the game industry, lets get on to the review.

Components

Elder Sign is a game in Fantasy Flight Games Silver Line. It comes in smaller box that most games, but the box is still big enough to hold all the pieces, plus any expansions that might come out.

The game has the traditional amazing art that is standard in Fantasy Flight Games. The game components themselves are high quality. The game comes with 8 custom dice, 156 cards in two sizes that represent everything from the creature you are fighting, to guns, to allies that can join you.

The other items in the box are a collection of chits that are used throughout the game. These are made of nice think cardboard and feel like they will stand up to many plays.

Game Play

This is a cooperative game in which the players all have to work together to save the world from an ancient being that is trying to wake up and wreck up the planet. To achieve this, players have to move around and try to complete different tasks. The goal is to get enough elder signs placed on the ancient one before it wakes up.

Each ancient one has a certain number of signs needed between 11-14. Each ancient one also has a track that gets filled up through game actions. If it is filled up players have to fight the ancient one. This is not an easy fight and players should try and avoid it.

At the start of the game each player picks a character card.

Each character has a special ability and a certain amount of health and sanity. If either of these falls below 0, the character dies and players have to pick a new one. The game takes place inside a museum, the players start at the entrance . On their turn, there are several actions they can do. At the entrance, they can heal, trade trophies for other things, and try to scavenge items. The bulk of the game is players going to adventure cards and trying to complete them.

At the start of the game 6 adventure cards are placed on the table. Each time one is completed or through other game means, a new one is added to the table. Each card requires players to roll certain symbols on the dice. Players start with 6 green dice. If they complete a task they can reroll all of the dice that were not used. If they fail, they can set aside a die and then reroll the other dice. If they complete all of the tasks, they get the reward for the card; if they do not complete all of the tasks, they suffer the consequences. There are certain items that can add a yellow or red dice to the dice you can use. These have different and better symbols on them and are a great aid to players trying to complete an adventure. There are other things that can happen from adventure cards. Players might lose sanity or health or a monster might appear or a whole host of other terrible things. Players continue in this mode until they are able to defeat the ancient one or it wakes up. There is also a clock that moves forward 3 hours at the end of each players turn. Whenever the clock gets to 12 a new mythos card is flipped up. This changes the game in some way. It might make a monster appear or each players lose 2 sanity or a host of other good and bad things.

As with all Fantasy Flight Games, there are many other little rules that control the game, but I have given you a good overview of how the game plays out.

Overall

I like this game. It has a lot more depth then one might think from a dice rolling game. Arkham Horror, its bigger cousin is amazing and this captures some of the depth of that game. This game also oozes the Lovecraft theme. You really feel like you are exploring the museum and stopping the ancient one from waking up. I also like the idea that this random group of people is brought together by fate to try and save the world. On top of all this, the game play is fast and fun.

That being said, it can have some issues. It says that it can be played with 1-8 players. But I would not recommend it for more than 4 players. With more players the game play gets bogged down and the game takes longer then it probably should. This game also suffers from some rules issues. I would recommend reading the FAQ on Fantasy Flight Games website, it should help answer some of the rules questions that might come up during the game play. If your game group is looking for a simpler cooperative game and likes the Lovecraft theme, I would recommend this game. If you are looking for a heavier game that is similar I would check out Arkham Horror as I think that is a better game overall.

Until next time guys, this is Ben Bowers signing off!
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bryden
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First, your review is well thought out and should be applauded as such but I feel that I need to insert a couple tidbits from my somewhat limited experience(I don't usually do this btw)

gentlegiant303 wrote:
It has a lot more depth then one might think from a dice rolling game.

I must have been playing a different game in an Elder Sign box. Not once did I (in a 4 player game) think hard about a decision. This is on par with Roll for the Ages after you have played it about 10 times. I found that I did not need to pay attention at all.

gentlegiant303 wrote:
Arkham Horror, its bigger cousin is amazing and this captures some of the depth of that game.

I hope that this isn't true (I have never played Arkham Horror). If so, this does not improve my feeling of AH. At no time did I feel like we were under any pressure and I took the "weakest" character and we fought against one of, if not the, "toughest" boss.

gentlegiant303 wrote:
This game also oozes the Lovecraft theme. You really feel like you are exploring the museum and stopping the ancient one from waking up. I also like the idea that this random group of people is brought together by fate to try and save the world.

I must have missed this as well. I felt like I was rolling dice trying to get a full house or 2 pairs most of the time. The theme could have been a mountain castle in outer Mongolia and we were all ninja yaks making a siege for all that it really mattered.

gentlegiant303 wrote:
On top of all this, the game play is fast and fun.

Well the first part is correct although it seemed like it lasted longer than the 25 minutes or so to play the game.

Can you tell that this was one of, if not the, biggest bomb of last year for me?

Better co-ops with an integrated theme:
Ghost Stories
Mage Knight
Flash Point Fire Rescue
and soon to come, Robinson Crusoe

All are much more challenging (Flash Point needs to be played at an advanced level (heroic) to achieve a real threatening feeling) to play.

My apologies for interjecting my feelings. I will return to my corner now.
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Tiger Wiccan
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This largely seems to be one of those "love it or hate it" type of games. Although I'm going to go against what I just said and say that I LIKE it, lol.

I would like to LOVE it, since I paid for the physical version of the game not knowing that Omens was going to eventually come out on a platform that I would eventually own (I did not have an iPhone when Omens was announced). I will say that as a mobile game, I do actually love it, so I'm still within my original statement. whistle
 
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Kevin Driske
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NoDicePlease wrote:
First, your review is well thought out and should be applauded as such but I feel that I need to insert a couple tidbits from my somewhat limited experience(I don't usually do this btw)

gentlegiant303 wrote:
It has a lot more depth then one might think from a dice rolling game.

I must have been playing a different game in an Elder Sign box. Not once did I (in a 4 player game) think hard about a decision. This is on par with Roll for the Ages after you have played it about 10 times. I found that I did not need to pay attention at all.

gentlegiant303 wrote:
Arkham Horror, its bigger cousin is amazing and this captures some of the depth of that game.

I hope that this isn't true (I have never played Arkham Horror). If so, this does not improve my feeling of AH. At no time did I feel like we were under any pressure and I took the "weakest" character and we fought against one of, if not the, "toughest" boss.

gentlegiant303 wrote:
This game also oozes the Lovecraft theme. You really feel like you are exploring the museum and stopping the ancient one from waking up. I also like the idea that this random group of people is brought together by fate to try and save the world.

I must have missed this as well. I felt like I was rolling dice trying to get a full house or 2 pairs most of the time. The theme could have been a mountain castle in outer Mongolia and we were all ninja yaks making a siege for all that it really mattered.

gentlegiant303 wrote:
On top of all this, the game play is fast and fun.

Well the first part is correct although it seemed like it lasted longer than the 25 minutes or so to play the game.

Can you tell that this was one of, if not the, biggest bomb of last year for me?

Better co-ops with an integrated theme:
Ghost Stories
Mage Knight
Flash Point Fire Rescue
and soon to come, Robinson Crusoe

All are much more challenging (Flash Point needs to be played at an advanced level (heroic) to achieve a real threatening feeling) to play.

My apologies for interjecting my feelings. I will return to my corner now.


You forgot to add Arkham horror to the better Co-Op games list, seeing as you added another game you have not played, Robinson Crusoe
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bryden
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locherbread wrote:
You forgot to add Arkham horror to the better Co-Op games list, seeing as you added another game you have not played, Robinson Crusoe

Ba-da-boom

I wouldn't rate Arkham Horror as one that would appear on my list of best co-ops due to the length and randomness of play. I have heard that it is very thematic and a "classic". There are a couple of local gamers that really like that game, have multiple expansions etc.

For me Arkham Horror is in the same class as Betrayal at House on the Hill. I played that a couple of times and it was excruciating to play and over the top random. There were at least a couple of gamers who will not let that hit the table again. The owner of BaHotH also is one of the Arkham fans and says that AH is a longer version of BaHotH.

That didn't help AH's cause either.

I would not compare Elder Sign to these 2 games and I did not go into Elder Sign expecting an AH experience. I remain untainted.

I compare a good co-op against those that I mentioned. Elder Sign is not in the same league, imo.
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micro mantis

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some general ramblings about ES.

I've played a few solo games of ES and finding brydens comments matching my own feelings. I think my main issue is deciding if it's best to play one single character or single characters in turn* or say 2/3 together. So far i've tried two characters together and one alone. When I say best what i mean the best character breakdown that provides for the most compelling game, not necessarily winning. *One glaring issue with investigators replacing devoured ones is that if the old one is released they might have little or no clues or trophies to avoid being devoured.

So far i've found the elder signs too easy to accumulate, and i'm feeling that whilst the battle requirements at the end are variable, it seems unbalanced as some monsters are easier than others eg yig eats away at stamina/sanity but nyarlathotep will devour. I also find that there's the decision to make between simply sealing away the old one or collecting enough clues/trophies to fight it. I did manage to fight an old one and beat it (nyarlathotep) with plenty stored clue tokens, but i wonder if i'd have been better just playing the (powerful) clue rerolls to gain more elder signs. Some investigators seem so powerful, eg a solo game with just kate means no monsters appear except outside her turns.

Now admittedly there are decisions to make in the game as mentioned above but it still feels a bit anticlimactic no matter the outcome (Admittedly a very different game but I find the very simple forbidden island -solo- much more tense as the end approaches, theres that constriction of the island that makes basic strategy important)

I almost feel like ES should have had scenarios built into it, eg scenario #1 easiest (the curse of yig....or whatever it would be called): you use museum cards x thru y, mythos cards x thru y, the old one is b and you can have a maximum of 8 items per player at any time, using upto 6 characters in any combination.

I might try a house rule whereby characters have a limited number of items, so you really have to balance and think carefully when to use that spell for eg but I find that of several games ive played recently ES is the only one that feels like it wasnt really playtested, i'm always thinking 'this should be done that way, or why is that so easy?' its like ever aspect of the game needs tweaking somehow. I read that the digital version omits the final battle and the object is to seal the monster away, in a way i'd have preferred that simpler scheme with the board game, which might have allowed a simple simple 'seal yig with 8 elder signs, but now try beating the next one at 9, (video games of course can enforce such progression lol).

Overall I find a game fairly enjoyable though laboured, unlocking a red dice in a room needing 7 dice to complete can be fun when the spells/items more limited (you do have to think a bit about whic is the best side to lock etc) but thats about the extent of the tenseness for me.

I think there's potentially an interesting game in ES but it just feels very unfinished and dare i say broken, maybe its just the dice component that frustrates me, part of me thinks 'it is what it is, trade it and move on' but another wants to see if that hidden potential can be realised with some house rules.







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David Williams
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gentlegiant303 wrote:
Elder Sign is a game in Fantasy Flight Games Silver Line.

This is not correct. As far as I can tell FFG no longer has a Silver Line. And when they did I don't think Elder Sign was in it.
 
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Bill Foley
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The Old Man wrote:
gentlegiant303 wrote:
Elder Sign is a game in Fantasy Flight Games Silver Line.

This is not correct. As far as I can tell FFG no longer has a Silver Line. And when they did I don't think Elder Sign was in it.


No, it was. I bought it right when it came out, and my box cover has the Silver Line logo (and title) on the corner.

It is true that FFG no longer has a Silver Line, though.
 
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David Williams
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I stand corrected.
 
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