Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Elder Sign from Fantasy Flight Games unboxing and review

With Fantasy Flight games announcing a new expansion for Elder sign called Omens of Ice ,  I thought it was about time we looked into the original core game Elder Sign.

Elder sign is a solo or cooperative game for 1-8 players based on the Cthulhu Mythos of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft.   

It is 1926, and the museum’s exotic curios and occult artifacts open barriers between our world and the elder evils lurking between dimensions. Other Worlds begin to leak through and terrifying creatures of increasing strength steal through them. Animals, the mad, and those of susceptible minds are driven to desperation by the supernatural forces that the portals unleash. In the midst of this chaos, a handful of investigators race against time to locate the eldritch symbols necessary to seal the portals forever and stop evil Ancient Ones from reducing humanity to cinders.
 
Elder Sign is a fast-paced, cooperative dice game of supernatural intrigue for one to eight players by Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson, the designers of Arkham Horror. Players take the roles of investigators racing against time to stave off the imminent return of the Ancient Ones. Armed with cards for tools, allies, and occult knowledge, investigators must put their sanity and stamina to the test as they adventure to locate Elder Signs, the eldritch symbols used to seal away the Ancient Ones and win the game.
 
lets take a look inside, and see how it plays....

 Its Fantasy Flight so you get two sheets packed to the edges with Tokens, always high quality, but sooo many tokens!, investigator tokens, the clock token, stamina and sanity tokens for your investigators, monster tokens, clues, doom, elder signs, so many tokens, ther is no box control with this game so save up your baggies you get with other games and spend some time sorting the tokens into separate bags, this will save so much time later on.
 The artwork is great, as is the quality fo the components.
 Each monster has a value he is worth if you defeat him, and each havbe some greatbut different flavour text.
 
I love taking the time to read the flavour text scattered across this game, it really brings me into the world.
 You also get the little catalogue of other FFG goodies, and an advert for Elder Sign Omens a digital version of the game, which we will look at another time.
 You get a nice full colour rulebook, that is easy to follow with plenty of diagrams.
 You can see things are nice and clearly explained, and I did not feel lost at any time learning or playing.
The back of the rulebook has a very handy reference guide, showing all the different faces of the dice, and overviews, which is very useful.
 
you get these special custom dice for the game, that have different faces on them which relate to what you need to roll to complete adventures.
 You get plenty of decks of cards, these are all mini sized cards, so you get a deck for Unique items, which can add dice to your pool, as each investigator starts each task with the 6 basic green dice, so these can add extra dice, lock down results or more.
 You get a deck of allies that can aid you in your quest
 A deck of spell cards that can provide you extra abilities
 The Mythos deck, which flips over each time the clock strikes 12 (you move the clock 15 mins each time an investigator acts) having some unpleasant effects
 You get the common items deck, you often start with a mix of items, or can gain them for rewards when completing tasks.
 The Museum entrance card, which is where you start the game and can move to each turn, you can perform the tsk on there though at a cost sometimes.  You can gain trophy's to spend by defeating monsters and completing tasks
 You get the adventure deck. this shows you the task, gives a breakdown of the punishment if you fail, the reward if you succeed, and the dice tasks you need to perform to complete them.  The numbers are the amount of trophy points your investigator gains for completing the whole card.  The art on the cards is excellent as is the quality, these are large tarot sized cards, and have some great flavour text extracts on them helping with the atmosphere.

 You also get a deck of Other world cards, sometimes a portal can open up to another world, these tend to be more difficult then normal challenges, but gain greater rewards.
 Some spell items you have can be used to voluntarily open an other world portal
 Once the clock is assembled with the provided peg you must turn it 15 mins after each investigator acts, and each time it reaches 12, add a token to the doom track and draw a mythos card as the time runs out for you,
Elder Sign pits players against the terror posed by one of eight possible Ancient Ones. Each of these otherworldly horrors insinuates its unique presence into the world, hindering or limiting your investigators' ability to seek the Elder Signs. If evil persists, the Doom track advances, bringing the Ancient One closer to awakening.
This is what it looks like set up and ready to go.  Olivia has taken Jenny Barnes, and I have taken Bob.
The Clock progresses inexorably forward, reducing the time available until the great otherworldly horror emerges. Each time midnight strikes, there is a chance the Ancient One’s power will spill more fully into this world. Monsters may appear, and the Doom track may advance. Investigators must find enough Elder Signs to seal away the Ancient One forever before it awakens, or they will find themselves forced into combat, directly confronted by the being’s awesome power.
An example of some of the Ancient ones available, there are more so keep an eye for an article about them.
At the beginning of each game, and each time the Clock strikes midnight, a player must draw a new Mythos card. These cards mirror the increasing influence the Ancient One has in the world. As the investigators continue their desperate exploration, Mythos cards release monsters into the museum and surrounding area, advance the Doom track toward completion, strike at the investigators’ resources, or add new dimensions to the Adventures awaiting the investigators and players alike.
Because the Mythos deck spreads the Ancient One’s influence round by round, players must move quickly. Their investigators must undertake harrowing adventures, confronting supernatural monsters as well as sheer terror and madness. All the while, they must keep their wits about them, looking for whatever clues they may find among the aisles of artifacts and esoterica. The investigators cannot afford to fail, lest the Ancient One awake.
 
To locate Elder Signs, investigators must successfully complete Adventures within the museum and its environs. To resolve an Adventure, you must match dice results against the requirements for each of the Adventure card’s tasks. If you fail to complete all of an Adventure’s tasks, your investigator suffers the consequences. Often this means a loss of sanity or stamina—or both. Investigators who have their sanity or stamina reduced to zero are devoured and removed from play. Other failed Adventures push the Doom track further forward or release monsters into the world, making the investigators’ task all the more difficult.
 
When you successfully complete all of an Adventure’s tasks, you unlock its rewards. They can yield clues, provide new resources, introduce investigators to new allies, or uncover vital Elder Signs. Not all rewards are good, though, and the successful completion of some Adventures may release monsters or lead to Other World Adventures, bringing greater risks and rewards to the table.
Elder Sign features 48 Adventure cards representing the supernatural events and places of intrigue in and around the museum the investigators must explore to stop the Ancient One. During game setup, players build the museum with six initial Adventure cards, chosen at random. The staggering number of possible museums means that investigators will almost never pursue the same sets of clues in two separate games. Additionally, all Adventure cards feature unique requirements, and many have powerful text that radically alter gameplay.

Given such eldritch perils, what drives the men and women called to explore the museum? Each of the sixteen available investigators have individual talents and resources they bring to the search for the Elder Signs. Many investigators dedicate themselves to a specific research focus, allowing players to alter dice rolls or substitute one die result for another. Some focus on acquiring more resources. Others can restore sanity or stamina to investigators who have suffered the loss of either.
 
We were not, as I have said, in any sense childishly superstitious, but scientific study and reflection had taught us that the known universe of three dimensions embraces the merest fraction of the whole cosmos of substance and energy. In this case an overwhelming preponderance of evidence from numerous authentic sources pointed to the tenacious existence of certain forces of great power and, so far as the human point of view is concerned, exceptional malignancy.
   –
H.P. Lovecraft, The Shunned House
 
Players may select the investigators of their choice or choose them at random. No matter which investigator you control, you must use your investigator’s talents and resources strategically. Investigators have access to common items, unique items, and spells which may afford extra dice during Adventure resolution or allow a player to substitute one die result for another. Most investigators begin with two starting items and can acquire more through the successful resolution of Adventures. Clever use of investigators’ talents and timely item use are crucial as players work to bend the luck of the dice to their favour.
 Olivia took Jenny, she starts with a random common item, which is a pretty good one!
I picked Bob, and started with 3 items, these gave me extra dice when I needed to spend them, so should help to give me a good start ion the game.

In addition to the investigators’ talents, spells, items, and allies which allow players to adjust dice rolls, the rules permit players to “focus” dice, saving one die result for a future roll at the cost of an extra die. Players can only focus a die once per Adventure card, so judicious use of the focus rule is essential to the completion of the more complicated Adventures, especially when monsters appear!
Players may cooperate to assist each other’s rolls, but any investigator assigned to assist another risks losing sanity or stamina even when it’s not his turn.
 When the 6 starting tasks are set up you choose where you will move to try to tackle.  If you fail you take the punishment, and the task remains.  If you complete it you take the task for yourself, and replace it with another one from the deck.  Olivia started with Don't Fall asleep, as if we did not get rid of it early we would lose a sanity each at midnight.  She decided to use her Tommy gun to gain an extra yellow and red dice.
 She rolled, and got a terror he needed, and a wildcard.  This can be used as a terror (luckily she used the tommy gun to get that dice!

So she places them on the spots on the card to show that part is complete.  Then she rolls her pool of dice again looking for a terror.  If she gets one she can put it on there and complete the task.  If she rolls and fails to get what she needs she must remove a dice from the pool and roll again continuing until she either passes or fails.
 Here I can spend 2 dice to complete the task of getting a 3 investigate.
 Olivia getting her roll on.... I think the suggested age of 14 plus is more an advisory possibly due to the horror nature, but its no issue for Olivia since she managed to watch Annabelle on her tablet (thanks parental lock fail!) and it did not bother her.  I think its good fro most ages, so long as they can cope or they just concentrate more ont he rolls needed than the theme itself.
 Great art, and again disturbing but excellent flavour text.  There is space here for a monster to potentially appear, but luckily he has not.  Monsters can come out at midnight on the doom tracker, or from the mythos deck, or even from a task itself.
 As shown here, the next time the clock strikes midnight a monster will appear, so I willd raw randomly from the monster bag and hope its not a scary one.
 The tasks can sometimes be tough leaving you worrying If you can complete them all, so making sure you are stocked up with items, and clues (which let you reroll your dice) Is vital.
 
Yig creeps closer to awakening.  If he wakes up we must battle him! and he is not easy so its best to ensure you get the needed number of elder signs, in his case 10 to shut him down first.
 
All in all, is it good? well yes.. its excellent in fact, I love the game, its fun to play solo, or with a group as well, and with the combined variety of items, adventures and investigators, plus the differences in Ancient ones, and randomness of the mythos deck no game should ever really go the same way.
 
highly recommended for all gamers out there, even if you do not know much about the world of H.P Lovecraft you will adore this game, and if you are already a fan it is simply a must have as it can be played in a group or played solo.
 
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