Stats at a glance
Ages: 13 +
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
The year is 1926. Reports are flooding in, minute-by-minute of peculiar mishappenings taking place around the vicinity of the Miskatonic University Museum. What could be the culprit?
From door to door, the museum is bustling with strange activity. What’s even more worrisome is that it houses the evilest and occult artifacts to grace this world. As the gates to worlds beyond leak open, you’ll need to work fast to investigate, battle, and stave off the greedy Ancient One and its minions before your world is incinerated overnight.
It’s not a task for the faint-hearted. You and your team of investigators must uncover the hidden symbols needed to close the portals as you’re slowly losing your mind. The countdown is on, and your people depend on you for the fate of their very existence.
Brief Overview of Elder Sign
Elder Sign is a cooperative game for 1-8 players, lasting up to 2 hours in full battalion mode. Roll dice, manage your hand, and race against time to keep the Ancient One at bay.
Brought to you by the same designers who delivered Arkham Horror madness, you’re in for a challenging treat. Roll your way out of horror, and into victory with the help of your teammates. The game is best played with 4 players, but any amount will do.
Unboxing Elder Sign
The game comes with the following components:
- 1 Rulebook
- 1 Cardboard Clock
- 8 Customized Dice (6 green, 1 yellow, 1 red)
- 1 Entrance Reference Sheet
- 80 Oversized Cards
- 48 Adventure Cards
- 8 Other World Cards
- 16 Investigator Cards
- 8 Ancient One Cards
- 76 Small Cards
- 12 Common Item Cards
- 12 Unique Item Cards
- 12 Spell Cards
- 8 Ally Cards
- 32 Mythos Cards
- 147 Cardboard tokens and markers
- 16 Investigator Markers
- 30 Stamina Tokens
- 30 Sanity Tokens
- 15 Clue Tokens
- 22 Monster Markers
- 5 Mask Monster Markers
- 12 Doom Tokens
- 17 Elder Sign Tokens
Lots of components, loads of high-quality pieces.
The rulebook is to the point, complemented with diagrams and pictures for a quick and smooth setup. The clock is made from heavy cardboard with an adjustable hand that players spin around as they duke it out against various portal-dwelling beasts.
The dice are colorful and abundant with mini engraved icons that prompt actions and reactions in the game. As you roll for adventure cards, you’ll be pleased with the concoctions of icons that pop up. After the game is finished, it packs down well into an average-sized box that perfectly houses the components, and keeps markers and cards in their respective places.
Thematics are 100%.
The designers truly hit it out of the park when they designed the theme and design. There are multiple elements added just to boost and solidify the horror theme that I enjoyed, such as the Mythos cards, assorted tokens, and detailed game art. There is flavor text to extend the theme as far as players would like to take it.
For ASMR fans, you’ll be over the moon. There are around 150 cardboard tokens to punch out. No rips, tears, or bends are necessary. These components are built to withstand monster attacks and portal jumps.
Elder Sign Expansions
There are several expansions in the Elder Sign franchise, with the fan-favorite being the Gates of Arkham. Which one suits you best?
Gates of Arkham
- Much more difficult to win
- Fresh locations
- New rules for adventure cards,
- Harder to regenerate health, sanity, and stamina
- A bulk of new cards
- The addition of cursed and blessed dice
Omens of Ice
- Weather conditions to add to your struggle
- New items and supplies for your adventuring
- Set in Alaska
- Phobia cards for lasting negative effects
- Epitaph cards to build graveyards
- Epic Battle cards
Omens of the Deep
- Three new Ancient One cards
- Eight new investigators
- Addition of Pacific Adventure cards
Omens of the Pharaoh
- Ability to gather specially powered relics to help fight monsters
- Dice re-rolls and extra advantages
How to Play Elder Sign
Unlike most games with a dense plot, and lengthy game time, Elder Sign doesn’t take a lifetime to set up and tear down. Learning to play is pretty simple after the first run-through, and nothing is mind-breakingly difficult to grasp in terms of turn-taking.
It’s worlds easier to set up the playing area once you know the visual aspects of each token marker. Fantasy Flight Games includes a diagram of the setup in the rulebook to settle any misdirections.
Everything on the table revolves around the clock, tick-tock! Set the hands to midnight, and follow the step-by-step images to arrange your playing table.
Choose an Ancient One card at random, or vote on a common enemy amongst your team. Players can either choose their investigator role from the sixteen choices included or deal them out at random. When all decisions are finalized, dish out the corresponding tokens and stamina markers to each player. Flip over a mythos card, and begin your journey into the occult void.
Before you dive in deep, examine the Ancient One card closely to determine what you’ll need to overpower this threat. It’s intelligent to keep these factors in mind when your investigating team selects adventures.
There are three core turn phases in Elder Sign:
- The Movement Phase
In the movement phase, players decide to move their investigator marker to any of the museum’s rooms (marked as an Adventure card or Other Worlds card) or choose to stay put.
The main objective here is to complete the objectives on the Mythos card without wasting time. You may need to employ items or call on allies to get you moving quicker. Along the way, monsters will interfere and slow you down and it’s up to you to stay focused on the goal.
- Resolution Phase
A few actions happen during this phase. The investigator will choose to attempt or intentionally fail the adventure. If they choose to pass this adventure, the game immediately goes into the clock phase.
If an investigator opts to attempt the adventure, players gather dice and roll for effects and resolution, while the monsters await their fate patiently.
- Clock Phase
Where has all the time gone? Hours pass by. If the clock’s spindly hands strike midnight, the time has come to resolve all the effects in play.
Deal damage on monsters, Other World cards, and the Ancient One before the next investigator in your task team begins their turn.
Elder Sign concludes once investigators secure the amount of Elder Signs printed on the Ancient One card, or when the final doom token is removed from the doom track.
Pros & Cons
- Epic as a two-player game.
- Solid dice-rolling cooperative mechanics.
I always love when a game can convert well to a two-person variant. It’s not every day that I feel like dedicating three hours to a long, 8-player game, so this conforms to my gaming personality well. You can pick it up for a quick play with fewer people, try the player versus board variation, or grab a large group. Either way, it keeps its quality, theme, and excitement intact.
In terms of dice rolling games, Elder Sign can’t be beaten. Fantasy Flight goes above and beyond on the theme to make sure the die-rolling mechanics don’t become routine and stale. Every roll is another chance to overpower the Ancient One or go a bit mad.
- You will want to spend lots of cash on multiple expansions.
Yes, I understand it’s not an actual con. Expansions bring new life to games that get repetitive by incorporating new elements, characters, and villains. You don’t need to purchase any expansions for Elder Sign, but everyone I know has at least one.
There are expansions that make the game easier to win, more confusing, and even longer than the initial two-hour playtime. It’s all up to your personal preference.
Elder Sign Review (TL;DR)
If you’re looking for a 1-8 player, horror-themed, dice-rolling, and monster-overpowering experience, Elder Sign is your game. The Ancient One rears its beastly head now and then to keep you on your feet, and occasionally devours your soul for a midnight snack. Call on your comrades to assist you in victory, because it’s all for one and one for all in this tabletop adventure.
As you seek the Elder Signs to seal the portal forever, you’ll suffer from declining insanity, stamina, and monstrous roadblocks.
Mysteries at the museum already piqued my interest, so I jumped into Elder Sign without fear and ended up thoroughly enjoying the ride. I did get gobbled up by the Ancient One, but he spat me out thanks to the help of my fellow investigators.
The dynamics of the dice rolling completely navigate the gameplay. Lucky rolls change the name of the game and drive the Ancient One back into their portal, giving all investigators a second to breathe before the museum goes full-on chaotic once again. It’s all in the luck of the roll.
Elder Sign is quick to learn, fast to master, and epic to experience. Both the monster and Ancient One cards are legendary for visuals and all the tokens, markers, and mini cards fulfill my thematic dreams.
Which games have you played in the Fantasy Flight franchise?
We hope you enjoyed our Elder Sign review! Drop a comment below and let us know what you think about this cooperative Lovecraftian board game. We’d love to hear from you!
Lurking deep in the dungeon is an intermediate board gamer, testing her luck in Clank! When Jess isn’t writing about board games, she’s probably at a gaming cafe learning the ropes of a new game or savagely harvesting wheat in Catan. Her favorite types of games are deck-building, strategy table toppers, or social deduction thrillers like Werewolf. If you don’t see her after dark, you know why.