16 June 2013

Elder Sign Omens (Android version) review

Never thought I would review a tablet game, but it seems like boardgames of great quality are slowly finding their way onto the tablets. It sure is an interesting development, and I can say that if more games that interested me were to be released on tablets (and Android in particular) I would buy them if they supported both single and multiplayer options.

Elder Sign Omens is a digital version of Elder Sign, a card/dice game that I would have never picked up since I don't like games card/dice games. I simply find them very abstract, have a cumbersome amount of components and require you to keep all the information in your head while playing without any real aid from such things that a real boardgame offers. As it turns out the digital version of Elder Sign fixed a lot of these issues and is a really enjoyable and to me also a very addictive game with superb production and replay value.

It's quite an achievement to keep me interested in a game like this for two straight afternoons, but the game has a lot more depth and tactical choices than it may appear on the outset. Add to that - it's challenging as hell! The difficulty level varies between the Great Old One's but you will always have to rely on the synergy between your investigators, use their skills to the max, and be careful about which adventures you play and in what order.

The goal of the game for the investigators is to collect Elder Signs, each Old One requires a fixed number to be stopped. These are collected by investigators visiting areas on the map in highlighted "adventures". Each adventure comes with a description of rewards for winning it, penalties for losing it, and potential rewards. Not all adventures award you with Elder Signs, most adventures reward you with artifacts, spells, items and things that boost your investigators.

Entering an adventure with an investigator has you roll dice from the common pool (6 green dice), the values on the dice have to match the symbols on one or more "tasks". Each task must have its required symbols matched and paid in order to be solved. The tricky part of the game is that you always have a starting pool of 6 dice, they are D6 with the symbols Clue tokens with the values 1/2/3 Clue, Peril, Horror and Lore. When you roll dice and have symbols that match the requirement - and use them to pay for a task - the dice are spent and your next roll will be at a reduced rate.

Likewise if you roll and have zero matching results, you are allowed to re-roll results, but each re-roll costs you 1 dice. There are some nice twists to this feature, when you pay for a re-roll a single adventurer may "lock" one symbol in place until it is spent, this makes it easier to match results that require the less common symbols (other than the clue token symbol). If you have more than one adventurer on adventure spot you can lock as many dice in place as you have investigators when paying for a re-roll. This can mean the difference between success and failure on the really difficult tasks and adventures.

Players can also boost their dice pool with a red and a yellow special die, if they spend common and unique items before a roll is made. This is also vital to complete difficult tasks - the yellow and red dice are also offer a different rate of symbols compared to the standard green dice.

Add to this the special rules for each investigator, special rules for adventures, penalties from the Great Old One in play and monster which occupy adventure spots and add penalties such as increasing the number of tasks, adding sanity and stamina damage or even lock certain dice reducing your pool unless they are killed.

The core game offers only one location (the museum), 4 Great Old Ones and a limited number of investigators. You unlock one extra investigator by completing the hardest campaign (and each of the expansions also allow you to unlock one additional investigator in each). It still offers a lot of challenge and fun trying out different teams and teams of varied size offer different possibilities and limitations. I liked the game so much that after beating the Azathoth campaign I decided to buy all the existing expansions which add a Cthulhu, a Ithaqua and a Nyarlahotep themed campaign.

The expansions are well worth the money if you end up liking the core game since they add a lot of new stuff to the game, additional investigators, monsters and adventures. The campaigns themselves also differ from the core campaign and add additional twists to how the game plays. The Cthulhu campaign starts out in the Arkham Museum and halfway through it moves on to an ocean region where players have to find artefacts to protect them from Cthulhu as well as spending clue tokens during adventures in order to find R'lyeh and defeat Cthulhu by doing adventures in the underwater city (which are extremely difficult to accomplish). The Ithaqua campaign too starts out in the museum with the difference that players collect equipment and items but also special crates with provisions needed for the second half of the game when you travel to Alaska - if you don't have crates of food to spend each turn your investigators will ultimately starve - making it a great challenge.

The Nyarlahotep campaign starts out in Cairo and players have two days to gather equipment and supplies as well as special "Allies" which are valuable help during later parts of the game when you search the desert for an ancient tomb. All of the 4 available campaigns offer different challenges and with a full array of characters and old one's the game has a LOT of depth and content.

Adding to that, it has great sound effects, very atmospheric music and just amazing artwork which is borrowed from the many games on the Lovecraft mythos Fantasy Flight Games has released over the years.

You can play Elder Sign Omens either by yourself and control all investigators or make it a multiplayer experience with up to 4 people, each controlling their own investiagor. The game does not however feature online multiplayer, so games with multiple gamers will have to be conducted "old style" around a shared tablet.

Best part of all of this is that the game is dirt cheap, and the expansions while almost priced as high as the core game still make the complete bundle a LOT cheaper than buying the real boardgame with all expansions. I think the total cost was 80-90SEK for the core game and the three expansions.

I hope this game is successful enough for Fantasy Flight Games to convert more of their games into digital versions. Would love to play Arkham Horror, Mansions of Madness, Battles of Westeros or other high quality games without having to worry about all the components and setup time.

I rate the game a 9/10It would have been a 10/10 if all the core Old One's would have had their own special campaigns like in the three expansions.

Also worth mentioning, this game requires Android 2.2 and later to run according to Google Play store

6 comments:

  1. Awesome! I wasnt sure if this would be my thing, it seems I will have to get it now.

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  2. This sounds awesome! I'll recommend it to my friend.

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  3. It's ridiculously addictive and has great gameplay. Still haven't beaten two of the original and none of the expansion Old Ones - came super close to beating Nyarlahotep/Dark Pharaoh but lost at the final showdown by a hair!

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  4. Must admit I rather like the card/dice game Elder Sign, always enjoyable and tense!

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  5. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

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  6. Thanks a lot for the review. It is diffucult to get decent information about the DLCs.

    I own the base game already and now I am convinced to purchase the DLCs as well =)

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