Thursday, December 28, 2017

Been a while since my boots touched Elfenland

It’s been many years since I last played Elfenland. It won the Spiel des Jahres and was Alan Moon’s first major success. And it saw frequent play at one of my gaming groups of the past.

But it’s a game I’ve never really gotten into. I picked up a copy many years ago and ended up giving it away with that copy unplayed. Although I have hung onto the card version, King of the Elves. Which also hasn’t been played :P

Elfenland is a gorgeous game. The artwork is whimsical and detailed, depicting a world of elves and dragons that makes Harry Potter look like death metal. And the player pawns are these chunky wooden boots that are still some of the cutest pawns I’ve ever seen. The game still hold up well visually by modern standards and has to have been beyond amazing when it came out in 1998.

The game is basically one big traveling salesman puzzle. There are twenty cities or towns on the map and your goal is to visit as many of them as possible. You also have a secret town card that you want to end up at at the end of the game. (I’ve been told that that is a variant but it’s the only way I’ve ever played)

The board is a network of roads between all these cities but, here’s the thing. You need some kind of transportation on those roads, be it an elf-cycle or a magical cloud or a troll pulling a cart or a dragon. Oh and you have to pay for them with matching cards.

So, on each of the four turns that make up the game, you take turns placing transportation tiles down on roads (each one can only hold one) and then paying with your cards to travel as far as you can.

There’s some interesting additional stuff. You also get one tree down tile that will block a road for one turn. Not every transportation works on every terrain. And some cost two cards to use, making them more expensive.

Honestly, looking back at Elfenland, I’m not sure why I’m so meh about it. It’s definitely an interesting design and I honestly can’t think of another game that’s really like it. And it certainly has a lot of player interaction, in the classic German Family Game (the school of game design, not the country, Alan Moon is English) style.

It might well be that the one group that I played it with (quite a few times in fact) treated it as a negotiation game with a strong sense of cooperation and efficiency. (Which is off because they’d play most games as vicious as can be, bless their blood thirsty hearts) I know that there are groups out there that play Elfenland as an aggressive, mean game, making routes more difficult and more expensive. 

And, as I have mentioned before, I have kept King of the Elves, the card adaptation of it. After all, I could break it down to a much smaller box :D

I can see why Elfenland is brilliant. Maybe sometime, I will experience it.

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