Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Elder Sign: Arkham Horror + Dice - Two Hours = ?

Elder Sign is Fantasy Flight Games' new dice-based Silver Line board game set in the Arkham Horror universe. It is an 1-8 player co-operative adventure game with heavy dice rolling, light strategy and high theme. In Elder Sign, you and your friends assume the roles of investigators in a museum that is the eye of the Cthulian storm. Some have said that Elder Sign is Arkham Horror-light, with dice instead of cards. So, what does that mean? Is Elder Sign worth your hard earned $35?


Inside the slim new Silver Line box, you will find 8 custom dice, 80 oversized cards, 76 small cards, a cardboard clock, a "Museum Entrance" card and a bunch of tokens. The insert works perfectly, with a cut in the middle to store all necessary tokens, as well as areas for the cards. On either side of the recession you can pull up the insert to store anything you didn't in the center. Fantasy Flight is quickly becoming my favorite insert producer.

The 8 dice come in 3 varieties; 6 basic green investigation dice, 1 yellow die that represents common items, and 1 red die that represents unique items. The basic dice have all of the results needed to pass the tasks you will face, while the two other dice have an slightly modified faces that will hopefully make your tasks easier.

The oversized cards include the 16 character cards, 8 Ancient One cards, and adventures themselves, while the small cards are the items your character can pick up through the game.

Lastly, the tokens represent stamina and sanity, monsters and characters. The character tokens are not the same style as Arkham Horror or Battlestar Galactica, but are roughly the size of a 2-dimensional die. They are easy to lose, unfortunately, and I feel that the game could've benefited from a better character token.

Basic Gameplay

At the start of Elder Sign, the game board is made up of 6 Adventure cards, the Museum Entrance (where all of the investigators are located) card, and the decks of items, adventures, and mythos cards. You and your fellow investigators are trying to collect enough Elder Signs to seal off the Ancient One's breach. Each turn represents three hours of game time, and each time the clock strikes 12 o'clock you add a Doom Token to the Ancient One card, and draw a new Mythos Card which often hinder your attempts. Once the Ancient One's Doom Track is full, if you have not acquired enough Elder Signs indicated on the Ancient One's card, the Ancient One awakens.

On your turn you can only do two things, which are:

Moving Around the Museum. 
You are allowed to move to any Adventure card face-up on the table or back to the Museum Entrance. After moving to your desired location, the fun really begins. 

Attempting an Adventure.
 Each Adventure card will have rows of tasks. In the above picture, the Adventure is "Lights Out", and the tasks are the three columns below the flavor text. The first task requires an "Investigation" result of three or higher. The second task requires two "Peril", while the third task requires two "Lore". When you attempt an adventure, you will always roll the 6 basic dice in hopes of matching the tasks one at a time. If you match one of the tasks, you remove your matching dice and place them on the task on the card and re-roll your remaining dice to move on to the other tasks. If you fail to match any tasks, you will remove one die from your dice pool and try again until it is impossible to complete the tasks.

If you successfully complete all the tasks, then you have completed the adventure and you gain the rewards located in the white rectangle on the bottom-right of the Adventure card. Occasionally, a card will reward you with an Elder Sign. If you fail the adventure, then you suffer the penalties located in the bottom-left of the Adventure card.


Elder Sign truly is a light version of Arkham Horror. It offers all of the mystery, intrigue, terror and adventure that Arkham Horror offers, but it sheds some of the tedium and length. It's short enough to be a filler while you wait for some of your group to file in, but engaging enough to be the main course. There is a surprising amount of variability in the game between the different Ancient Ones, all of the adventures and the difficulty that the monsters add.

Did I mention difficulty? Elder Sign is hard! Above I gave the basic rules, but there are several more intricacies waiting for you in the Museum that will leave you cowering in the corner while you wait for Cthulu to devour you. All in all, Elder Sign is a game that emphasizes teamwork, but does not sacrifice fun. The components are quality, and the game is very polished.

Table Talk gives it an 8 on 10

Monday, October 10, 2011


Hey everyone,

Welcome to Table Talk Reviews' webpage! A new review will be coming shortly, but before that happens I felt that I would share a little about myself and the purpose of this blog. I hope that this post helps you decide if this blog is for you.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: we're in a golden age for board games. Each week something new and exciting is coming out, and from month to month it seems like theres a new face popping out. It can be difficult to decide what is worth the ever-inflating price tag and what isn't. This is where I come in.

My name is James Ramey, and I'm an obsessive board game buyer. Of course, I also play those board games, but I never seem to get to play enough. I started collecting board games in 2008, and until about a year ago had a small collection of games. Now, my collection sits at a comfortable 55 games and expansions, and is constantly growing and shrinking.

I aim to help you cut through the masses of board games by reviewing my ever-growing collection, offering you a balanced look at the games-in-question. Each week, I will review a different game, covering the components, basic rules, and final conclusions.

Stay tuned to this blog, you never know what's coming across the table!