Monday, November 14, 2011

Board Game Night: Elder Sign

At our last board gaming night, we played Elder Sign. I'm not a real big fan of cooperative games, but this one I liked quite a bit. The basic premise is that the players work together to stop a Lovecraftian abomination from awakening. To do this, you take turns attempting to complete quests, which you do by essentially rolling dice to get specific results, and playing cards as necessary to improve your chances. Victory gets you more cards, new quests, and occasionally Elder Signs. To win, you have to get enough Elder Signs before the abomination awakens. Fail in this, you can still win by beating the abomination in battle, although the manual implies this is an incredible longshot.

I liked it because it was not too complicated, and since noone had played it before there wasn't a lot of vets ordering newbs around, something that annoys me about co-op games. The gamers who were into deeper mechanics were not so impressed. In fact, the host called it the weakest game of the night. While a game about risk management is fine, a game that's pure luck is lame.  I thought Elder Sign hit the right balance, but I can certainly see where the others are coming from. We would attempt hard quests with cards and then win them without needing the cards boosts, then attempt easy quests and fail. Still in all, I had fun and would definitely play it again.

The final battle when the abomination awakes is really anticlimactic: little strategy, surviving characters just roll dice for ten minutes straight until he dies or we do. We played against Yig, and made critical mistakes by wasting our resources early and switching strategies twice later in the game, leading to Yig awakening and promptly killing everyone but my girlfriend. She then faced Yig alone with no cards and no helpful abilities. She had 80 rounds of rolling 2-6 dice each and had to get, essentially, a pair of sixes in any 8 of them to win the game for us all. She got 7 before she ran out of rolls. So close.

It's a good idea, being able to fight the abomination, but I can't say it really works right. It's like The Game of Life, where if you're losing at the end you have that 1 in 10 chance to win anyway and make the entire preceding game irrelevant.

Still, if we had won that way, it would have been hilarious.

"With all our hearts and minds, we strove to seal off the gate, to prevent the dread beast from entering this world. But alas, we failed, and could only watch in helpless despair as he burst forth to enslave and devour all humanity. So my beloved young apprentice, who was having none of that, beat him to death with a stick. As his soul fell back into the ethereal void from whence he came, I thought I heard him cry out 'WTF HAX!!' Truly, Yog-Sothoth hath no fury..."

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