Dangerous Games: Elder Sign



The chair creaks as you settle onto it. The candlelight flickers. All around you the ravenous faces of your so-called friends twist in delight as you slowly open the box laid out on the table. Welcome to Dangerous Games! Each week, we'll feature a horror/thriller/monster tabletop game you should be playing. Don't be scared… roll the dice… what's the worst that could happen?

Elder Sign

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" *cough cough* Oh, excuse me, I had something caught in my throat. What I meant to say was, "In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming." That’s right, board gamers, even the elder gods get plenty of attention on hobby shop shelves. Dead Cthulhu waits dreaming and now, with the board game Elder Sign, you can wake him up (Pro tip: don’t wake him up)!

Elder Sign is an awesome adventure card/board game for one to eight players. Released in 2011 by Fantasy Flight games, Elder Sign puts the players in the ill-fated role of adventurers and explorers stuck in a museum of curiosities. As time ticks by, the cracks between our world and the outer worlds thins in the museum, and it's a race against the clock to find elder signs to seal away the monsters!

Game Mechanics

Each player works in cooperation with each other player to try and save the world from Cthulhu and his buddies. A map of cards is set out under a clock which tracks the progress of the elder gods. Each turn players attempt to move to different areas of the "map" and resolve actions on the cards. Maybe you're investigating a strange noise you heard in the basement. Or maybe you're taken on a creepy guided tour. No matter what the action, the players must roll custom dice and match the symbols on the dice to the symbols on the cards. If they fail to do so, they lose sanity or stamina (or maybe both).

If the players succeed, they get weapons, unique items (like the Necronomicon), clues, and hopefully an elder sign to help them in the fight against the elder gods. This is totally a dice-based system, and plays out kind of like Nyarlathotep Yahtzee.

If the game proceeds to the point where the elder god du jour awakens, it becomes a mad dash to destroy him before he destroys you (and the whole world). When I last played, we were able to seal up the portal before Ithaqua came and froze us solid.

Replay Value

I've only played this game a few times, but I'm dying to play again. The subtle balance between luck and wit keep this game fresh. Also, there are plenty of Great Old Ones to battle, and tons of different cards/rooms to explore. Add to that the various abilities of the different characters players can choose from, and this becomes a very high-variant game.

Overall Impressions

If you're a Cthulhu fan this game is a must. It's quick and fun to play (clocking in at an hour to two hours tops). It's extremely easy to learn (and teach to others). The artwork looks exactly how you'd want it to look, and the play experience keeps you on the edge of your seat. Will you roll that last scroll symbol you need to roll? Will you die a horrible death at the hands of some twisted beast? Probably, but you'll definitely come back for more.