Monday, May 15, 2017

ELO Darkness Kickstarter Preview


Quick Look:

Info:
Designer: Tommaso Mondadori and Alberto Parisi
Publisher: Reggie Games
Year Published: 2017 or 2018
No. of Players: 2 or 4
Ages: 13+
Playing Time: 45-75 Minutes
Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com
WARNING: This is a preview of ELO Darkness. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.

Let me be the first to admit that this is not the type of game I normally go for. ELO Darkness is a tabletop game that is based on the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) video game genre.

In ELO Darkness, two players (or four in teams of two; for purposes of this review, a player could also be a team, but terminology will be as if two are playing) battle to capture access to the other player's base. There are three lanes (Desert Lane, Forest Lane and Volcano Lane) which are battled for back and forth throughout the game, and a player can accomplish the task of capturing the opponent's base on any of the three lanes.


Three Lanes; Desert (Yellow), Forest (Blue),
and Volcano (Red) Lanes.
Players develop decks of 40 cards under certain guidelines which are used throughout the game (we used the recommended deck setup); these decks contain hero cards and action cards and form a draw deck for the game. Each player uses five heroes throughout the game. Three of these heroes are effectively assigned to work one of the three lanes ("laner" heroes), while two heroes are capable of supporting the work within any lane on a turn ("gank" heroes). These heroes "level up" throughout the game to become more powerful.

Colored markers indicate the level the hero is.
Leveling up adds influence to your hero's attack.
Each turn consists of several steps, during which players use cards and gold to set up their lanes for battle.

The Hero Elish. She mostly
operates in the Forest Lane.
Sometimes during these setup phases of each turn, a player may concede position on one lane to focus their efforts in attacking or defending another lane. Players start each turn with up to 7 cards from their draw deck and can add and lose cards through various card instructions or game phases. These cards are key to winning battles, both through their various actions as well as their listed influence. As battles take place on each lane in each turn, players advance on the lane by having more influence in the battle. The hard part is that if you exhaust all of your cards to win a lane, you may not have enough to win another lane, either in the same turn or in future turns.

As the game progresses, players work back and forth along the lane towards the other player's base. As they go, they destroy towers and make progress toward the other's base easier, even if they lose position on a turn. This back-and-forth continues until players ultimately capture their opponent's base.

(There are many other side components and complexities that aren't covered in this simple review.)

Review:

Normally when I get a prototype game that is this complex, the rules can be hard to follow. That is not the case with ELO Darkness. It is indeed complex, but you can set it up and try it out while you read and learn the rules, all without being overwhelmed. There are a couple of clarifications that I had to ask for, but all in all, the rule book is almost there, and with a whole Kickstarter campaign, that is a great place to be.

The setup certainly takes some time as deck construction is part of the strategy. We only played with the rookie deck ("tell me how many of what kind"), but building your own is a dimension of the game that some people really love. The instructions for setup are otherwise great.

Starting setup of two player game.

Although I didn't delve into it much in my introduction of the game, this game has a science-fiction theme with "Elders" fighting for control of a world they call "The Creation." This theme will appeal to many and it makes the game visually pleasing, but for me there wasn't much interaction with the actual game except for the heroes' names and other minor components. I was so focused on the resource and card mechanics just to be able to play that the theme sort of got lost in the game.

The Hero Thiara. Her work is
largely done in the Volcano Lane.
For us, the game lasted closer to the 75 minutes than the 45. I think as you get more familiar with the game, the time frame will shorten. I would also agree with the age recommendation of 13+. There isn't any age-appropriate material to be concerned about, but the complexity of the game play is enough to require the more mature crowd.

The components were still in prototype form with the publisher notifying me that some components were just placeholders for nicer final components. For a prototype, the components were good quality. All of our cards were of great quality and mine were sleeved (not sure if the final product will come that way). The artwork was also exceptional and we are told upgrades to some cards are still in the works. One thing I would point out is that much of the writing is very small, especially the thematic quotes (which don't affect the game's mechanics).

One of the action cards. This card adds
one influence to the fight, as well
as summons one of your used heroes.






The Good:
This game is solid. It looks sharp, plays true to it's description, has mechanics that work and sets up for great expansions and additions.

The Bad:
Still a prototype, the game component quality still has a way to go.

Final Thoughts:
Not a game I would excitedly pick up, but I was impressed nonetheless. I think MANY gamers are going to think this is a great game. The possibilities of endless additional heroes, action cards and other components make this a product that I see collectors coveting in the future. (Besides how sharp the presentation is, I might buy this one just for the box!!!)




Players Who Like:
I see this as a little bit of a board game version of Magic: the Gathering and other magical deck builders that attempt to recreate that theme.

I am giving ELO Darkness 7.5 out of 10 super meeples.

7.5 10

Check out ELO Darkness on:

              

About the Author:


Dave Merrell is a Professional Structural Engineer who specializes in Zip Lines and Challenge Courses. When he’s not swinging in the trees (or sharpening his pencil) he’s playing games, most often with some or all of his 5 kids. Dave lives in beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona.

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