Do you like playing games, but always have this one person you play with who is hyper competitive and kind of makes the experience less fun? One of my all time favorite games is a co-operative game. Instead of playing against each other, you work as a team to defeat the game. It has an incredible amount of randomness in it’s setup, so the replay factor is huge. In short, you don’t have to worry about one person winning every time you play and rubbing it everyones face, and you won’t get bored playing the same exact game time after time. That’s why I love Elder Signs.
Elder Signs is inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft. Specifically his stories about the “Great Old Ones”. In this game the players will take on the persona of investigators (chosen at random from a deck of cards), searching through the rooms of a museum (chosen at random from another deck), defeating monsters (chosen at random from a cup or bag), in hopes of finging the “Elder Signs” needed to re-imprison the Ancient One (who is also chosen at random from a deck).
See what I mean about the randomness in the setup? It’s rare that you will have two games where you play the same characters, going through the same rooms, up against the same Ancient One, and if you DO play the game so much that it that you feel you’ve seen it all before, there are five expansions that each add new investigators, rooms, monsters, Ancient Ones and even change the setting or some of the rules.
The game play itself is easy to grasp. Have you ever played Yahtzee? Very similar mechanics. The rooms and monsters will have specific combinations you need to roll on the dice in order to defeat them. Instead of numbers, the dice uses symbols for investigation, lore, peril and terror. You will have the help of your characters special abilities, spells and items you find as well as the other players. Unlike Yahtzee however, there are penalties if you fail to make the rolls required. It could be a loss of health or sanity (both of which you need to keep your character alive and sane). It could be adding more monsters to rooms in the museum, making the game harder, or it could be adding doom counters (Doom, dooooom!) reducing the amount of time you have to imprison the Ancient One. Did I mention you were on a clock? Yeah, you have a limited amount of turns before the Ancient One breaks free and kills everyone, or drives them crazy, or eats them. Possibly a combination of all three, and not necessarily in an order you would prefer.
Another item in the games “plus” column is that you can play up with up to 8 people. Few table top games have that high a player count.
If you like the game but want more story, you’ll be happy to know that Elder Signs is actually a streamlined version of Eldritch Horror, which is a streamlined version of Arkham Horror, so you have a few options if you want deeper gameplay in the same setting.
The theme and artwork may not be to everyones liking however, but I personally think it’s a fantastic game to pull out on Halloween. If you like the idea of a co-op board game, but would prefer something different, there are always Pandemic, Castle Panic, Marvel: Legendary, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle or even Gloomhaven if you can still find a copy. I’ll probably write about most of these later.