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Dwellings of Eldervale Review

Dwellings of Eldervale Review

Stats at a glance

Players: 1-5

Duration: 60-150

Difficulty: Hard

Published: 2020


Publisher: Breaking Games

Worker placement board games set in a fantasy world are hard to come by, with most drawing inspiration from history, sci-fi, and more recently, nature

Designers behind Dwellings of Eldervale decided to do something different and have created an epic worker placement game with magic, monsters, combat, and a variety of races and factions. The result is a fantastic fantasy worker placement game that ranks among the top in its genre! Let’s jump into our Dwellings of Eldervale review.

Brief Overview of Dwellings of Eldervale

Dwellings of Eldervale falls in the worker placement category, but it’s really a hybrid/mix of a variety of genres. Placing and retrieving workers is certainly at the core of the mechanics, but different types of workers, magic cards, and monsters are just a few factors that make Dwellings of Eldervale unique.

Difficulty-wise, Dwellings of Eldervale is rated as a medium-heavy game. Most of the complexity and challenges come from the initial hurdle of learning all the mechanics, but once you’ve grasped the concepts, the game becomes a lot easier to play. 

The game is playable by 1 to 5 players, with an average game time of 1 to 3 hours, depending on the number of players and their experience. 

The components are excellent and only get better with the more premium editions of the game. The cost of the base game is okay, but it tends to ramp up quickly as you go through editions. 

Dwellings of Eldervale (Legendary Edition)

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Versions & Expansions

Keeping track of the versions of Dwellings of Eldervale is a bit confusing, but here’s what you need to know. 

In the first release, Dwellings of Eldervale was available in Standard, Deluxe, and Legendary editions. Now in its second edition, the game’s available in a different content structure. 

Dwellings of Eldervale Second Edition: Standard

The standard edition is the base game that includes everything you need gameplay-wise. We’ll go over its contents in the unboxing section of the review.

Dwellings of Eldervale (2nd Edition)
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Dwellings of Eldervale: Deluxe Upgrade Kit

The Deluxe upgrade kit replaces certain base game components with higher-quality alternatives:

  • 8 50mm miniatures that replace miniature standees
  • 20 metal coins
  • 100 wooden resources
Dwellings of Eldervale (Deluxe Upgrade)
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Dwellings of Eldervale: Legendary Upgrade Kit

The Legendary kit adds even more monster miniatures and other components to enhance the gameplay experience. The most notable are the FX bases that create noise when you move the monster on the board. 

Added components: 

  • 8 additional 50mm miniatures 
  • 9 sound FX bases compatible with all miniatures
  • Legendary monster standees

Dwellings of Eldervale: Shapeshifter Mercenary Mini Expansion

The Shapeshifter expansion comes with a miniature, a standee, a game card, and an accompanying set of rules. This expansion was included with the 1st edition standard game but is now sold separately.

Dwellings of Eldervale: Shapeshifter Mercenary
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Dwellings of Eldervale: Minotaur Mercenary Mini Expansion

Just like the shapeshifter, the minotaur is a mini-expansion that was previously included with the standard edition. It includes the Minotaur miniature, a standee, rules, and the game card.

Dwellings of Eldervale: Minotaur Mercenary
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Unboxing Dwellings of Eldervale

Dwellings of Eldervale board game components and box

The 2nd Edition Standard version of Dwellings of Eldervale includes the following:

  • 1 Sticker Sheet
  • 1 Discard Tray
  • 1 Elemental Scoreboard
  • 4 Dungeon & Resource  Trays With Lids
  • 30 Realm Tiles
  • 104 Adventure Cards
  • 8 Elemental Starter Cards
  • 5 Player Aids
  • 60 Magic Cards
  • 10 Monster Cards
  • 8 Monster Standees & 12 Stands
  • 5 Monster Die
  • 96 Cardboard Treasure Tokens
  • 120 Cardboard Resources
  • 9 Orbs
  • 48 Faction Die
  • 8 Faction Trays & 8 Boards
  • 48 Rooftops
  • 48 Score Markers
  • 72 Meeples
  • 2 Realm Tiles
  • 10 Trove and Tactic tokens
  • 1 Mother of Dragons Mini
  • 1 Frost Giant Mini
  • 1 Ghost of Eldervale Playmat
  • 1 Watcher Meeple
  • 24 Solo Mode Cards

Dwellings of Eldervale is packed full of components, even in the standard version of the game, so let’s get straight to the components and see what we’re dealing with!

The first plus for Dwellings of Eldervale is the inclusion of sorting trays. They’re great for speeding up the setup and packing of the game, and there’s also one for every player so that the player pieces are neatly organized and visible. 

The one problem I have with player trays is that they use faction boards as snap-on lids. Faction boards feature different races and specific game rules associated with them, and they’re well-designed. However, as they’re made out of cardboard, placing tension on the edges through the snapping process can damage them over time. 

It’s not uncommon for a board game to quickly outgrow its original box as new expansions come out. With Dwellings of Eldervale, you shouldn’t have that problem, as the 2nd edition box features space for both the Deluxe and Legendary upgrade kits, as well as the mini expansions currently available. 

In terms of the overall art design, the best description I can make is “deep-colored fantasy”. The intense color palette sells the more serious setting the game is trying to portray. The fantasy theme itself is a bit generic, I won’t knock it down for it because of how good the artwork is. 

How to Play Dwellings of Eldervale

There’s a lot going on in a game of Dwellings of Eldervale, but I’ll do my best to give you a brief rundown.

Game Setup

Starting a game of Eldervale is surprisingly simple, as most of the components are organized into trays. Players select from a pool of 16 factions which are attuned to one of the 8 magical elements, two per element.

Based on the factions selected, take the corresponding element sets plus two additional sets to form the tiles that will act as the game board. For each element, you’ll get 3 elemental realms (tiles), a monster, and an orb. Treasures and monsters are placed on element realms that are on the board.

Player components are neatly packed in trays, so just remove the faction board off the tray, and place three workers from the tray on it. Once you draw 5 cards from the magic deck, you’ve completed the setup!

Worker Placement 

Dwellings of Eldervale is played through a flexible number of turns, ending when one of the players creates their 6th dwelling or when the last realm tile is drawn. Like any worker placement game, the core actions in Eldervale include placing and retrieving workers from the board. 

During the game, you’ll place workers on the realm tiles and trigger the corresponding action. The first worker must go into an unoccupied realm, but each subsequent worker must be placed adjacent to one of your other workers on the hex grid.

Workers are your basic units, but as you progress through the game you’ll be able to unlock the warrior, wizard, and dragon. These units have special abilities and more placement versatility. Placing a unit on a tile occupied by another player’s worker or a monster will trigger a battle.

Resolving Actions 

To put down a worker on a tile, you must be able to pay the resources required to execute its effect. The tile action is mandatory, meaning you have to perform it whether you like the outcome or not (like starting a battle or getting attacked by the monster). It kind of reminds me of “kicking down the door” in Munchkin. 😉

The realm actions are fairly standard for a worker placement game, like drawing magic cards, gaining gold, and increasing the worker count. The dungeoning action is a bit different, as it adds a new tile to the board and provides adventure cards.

Regrouping action returns workers to hand from both the realm board and the underworld if a worker was killed in battle. When regrouping from the realm board, you may place a worker on one of the cards you’ve played to trigger its effect or return it straight to the faction board. 

As the name of the game implies, creating dwellings is a very important part of the game. To do so, you must place a roof piece on a worker occupying a tile that has no other dwellings built. Once you pay the cost, you’ll score victory points and gain elemental power (move on the elemental track).


There are so many actions I haven’t mentioned, like free actions and adventure mechanics, but those are for the most part something you’ve seen in other games. What I felt was more important to explain were battles, as it’s unusual to see this aspect in a worker placement game.

Battles are triggered when you place a worker in an area occupied by another player, or by a monster. Placing a worker adjacent to a monster will cause it to move, potentially in the direction of your worker. 

Once the combat is triggered, troops can join from areas adjacent to the battle tile, even those of players not initially involved in combat (making it a free-for-all). The battle is resolved with a dice roll, with the number of dice influenced by the tier of worker and sword tokens. 

The winner gains glory or chooses to gain elemental power if a monster was defeated. Losers have to move their units into the underworld, from which they can be respawned later and grant sword tokens to empower future battles.

Your First Game of Dwellings of Eldervale

As you can tell from the previous section, there are a lot of things going on in a game of Dwellings of Eldervale, making it easy to lose track of the objectives. 

Creating dwellings seems like the obvious objective of the game, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to get sidetracked and forget to do it in favor of other, more exciting goals. Dwellings are the best point generators and they help in combat, making them very useful.

Getting the most out of your workers is so important in a game with placement & retrieval, so for the first few games follow the general rule of spending all of your workers before pulling them back.

Despite the actual time spent playing, Dwellings of Eldervale progresses very rapidly, and the end of the game will likely catch you off guard. The best way to prevent this is to not over plan — thinking just a few steps ahead is all you need. If you gradually increase your power and points, you should win over someone waiting for a massive points combo. 

My last advice is to pick your battles carefully and not overdo it unless you’re playing a battle-oriented faction. No matter how many dice you bring to a fight, it always comes down to chance, so the less you’re exposing yourself to uncontrollable risks, the better.

Pros & Cons


  • Brilliant Gameplay
  • Variety of Game Modes
  • Component Quality

The way Dwellings of Eldervale works is rarely seen in a worker-placement game, where player interactivity is low to non-existent. Adding combat to the mix makes Eldervale a lot more exciting, especially with the free-for-all battles that can occur.

The base game mode is excellent, but then you get the alternate game modes that significantly increase replayability and keep the game fresh. There are two mini expansions included with the game, 2v2 mode, drafting magic, and a couple of other ways to add variety to the game.

The third highlight of Dwellings of Eldervale is certainly the components. Take away the cost, and there’s nothing bad that can be said about them, from standard to legendary edition. The only nitpick is the durability of faction boards, but that can be avoided with careful packing and use.


  • Too Many Mechanics
  • Upgrade Kit Costs
  • Limited Availability

While I like most of the things Dwellings of Eldervale does, I feel like the designers crammed too much stuff in the game to make it more challenging or deep. Discarding treasure tokens to get treasure resources, slotting treasures into cards to gain rewards… all of it feels a bit overwhelming and can bog the game down. 

I’m not a big fan of “deluxifying” games, a trend that was common for video games but has now moved into board games as well. Granted, with board games you literally get what you paid for, but I feel as if the Deluxe and Legendary editions of Dwellings of Eldervale are not worth the investment, and that money is better spent on a new board game.

Next to the confusing editions/versions, Dwellings of Eldervale is still suffering from limited availability. The game is released in certain intervals and the best way to get it is by preorder, which is not as great as just buying the game whenever you want.

Dwellings of Eldervale Review (TL;DR)

Dwellings of Eldervale is an excellent title for any fan of worker placement games that is looking for something new and different. 

The use of the fantasy theme and mechanics not commonly seen in the genre makes Dwellings of Eldervale stand out not only as a unique but also as a well-designed title!

Conclusion: Verdict?

The thing that got me interested in Dwellings of Eldervale the most is the theme. Sure, it’s a bit generic, but it kind of reminds me of Warhammer Fantasy and I liked it because of it. Also, I couldn’t really remember another classic fantasy worker-placement game, apart from Lords of the Waterdeep.

Playing it was enjoyable, but I feel that the game doesn’t need to be as complicated as it is, especially when none of the individual mechanics are complicated on their own. 

Still, if you’re looking for a new worker placement game you can play with friends on a regular basis, Dwellings of Eldervale is worth considering. The variety of factions, game modes, and the way it creates a mix of mechanics makes it distinguishable from other games, and more enjoyable as a result.

Dwellings of Eldervale (Legendary Edition)

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We hope you enjoyed our Dwellings of Eldervale review! What do you think about this worker placement board game? Have you tried the base game or the expansions? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.