Big Bad Con was, in all senses of the word, an extraordinary time. Over the course of the three days I there, I played some incredible games with some incredible people. In this series of posts I’m going to go into the games I played and share my experiences with them. (For this game, there is a strong chance I misspell some things as I could not find a place to reference some things).
Across the planes my avatar moves, an embodiment of Shadow. Flanking me are my skeletal warriors. We march towards the avatar of Flame, ready to knock it and its minions off the map. And soon, I will become the body of my dark god. And in the distance, the beating winds of Barasu, ready to lay waste to all.
On Friday afternoon I had some free time. I had finished my morning of Games on Demand. My friend was off to assume his Ranger responsibilities, so I had some time to kill. I’d heard about the Board Game room but hadn’t visited. I thought I’d check it out. It was Friday afternoon of the Con, so the room wasn’t too packed. Arranged along the walls were tables with a bevy of games, mixtures of familiar and completely unknown boxes.
But at one round table, there was a small sign. Looking for Players. I went over. On a large hex-filled board were cut-outs and cards and cubes and player sheets. I’m a big fan of all varieties of board games, but the ones I rarely get the chance to play are those complicated ones, with all the miniatures and moving pieces and disparate goals and player-on-player strategy. So, I eyed the pieces, asked the person if there was room for one more, and took my seat. I didn’t know what to expect.
Elemancers did not disappoint.
The core of the game is as follows: you and up to 5 other players split into two teams, taking one of the roles of an avatar of Light or Dark, Creation or Destruction. Then, you attempt to collect goals around the board to eventually obtain some item that drastically alters the power of your pieces. Finally, you win the game by advancing all your groups and moving to a certain position, having the most claimed spaces on the board, or lose to the dragon Barasu as it takes away everything you worked to achieve.
Mechanically, each of the 6 groups play similarly. You have your monsters that you add to the board, each with their own special powers they can use during combat. You have your avatar, which has extra health and adds it’s abilities to others. You claim a space by moving one of your monsters to a space of the matching color.
It took our group of 4 a long time to get used to the rules. It’s a complex game with layers and layers of strategy, resource management, and mechanics. But eventually, we all got the hang of it.
While we played, we cycled in our roles as participants and playtesters. A break in action would lead us to ask questions and clarify what was happening, or we’d bring up some concerns we had with the depiction of some of the avatars. But over the nearly 3 hours I played, I really felt like this was a game I wanted to play more of.
But as it goes with games like these, we weren’t able to finish. One player had to leave around 2 hours in, and I had promised to meet back up with a friend. I thanked Jarrett, both our facilitator as well as designer of the game, and headed off. I still think about the game, ways I could have incorporated different strategies or played different turns with my allies.
I’m glad the game is still in progress as we did raise a number of usability and mechanical concerns, but it’s far enough along that I could see this as a game in my collection. With that said, I think this type of game is a bit of a hard sell. I’ve always had a difficult time wrangling friends together to teach and play games like Elemancers. However, given that you can play with anywhere between 2 and 6 players, I think that alleviates some of the concerns.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, make sure you keep an eye out for the Kickstarter(even if I absolutely am loathe to give business to them given their recent union busting “shenanigans”) sometime in January 2020.