Before I begin, I was sent a prototype of the game, and will receive a copy of the game in exchange for an honest preview. This is not a paid preview. If you would rather watch a video of this review, or a how to play video, or playthrough you can check it out below. Get your own copy here.
I have learned something about myself over the past year. I like playing games where I get to be a god, and manipulate the petty mortals to do my bidding and make sure the universe knows that I am the greatest god out there. Kleos, Theurgy were two games that I quite enjoyed over the past year or so, and both have the same broad theme. So perhaps the universe is telling me something…I just might be a god! No that doesn’t sound right. I just might be a pawn of a board game god! That sounds more likely.
In Elements of the Gods you use the five elements, Earth; Fire; Water; Wind; and Death to manipulate the placement of worshipers on the board which allows you to build monuments, and gardens and score you oodles of points. A brief aside here, I feel like the kid with the monkey on Captain Planet would have been way happier with a “death” ring, instead of his lamo “heart” ring.
The game plays out over a series of Rounds. Each round consists of five turns. On each turn a player will play an element, then play (or discard) a card. The elements will effect the meeples on the board. They cause them to move into new positions, or in the case of Death and Earth, they cause them to be removed from the board or placed back on the board respectively.
The movement of the meeples is of the utmost importance because, broadly speaking, the placement of the different colors of meeples on the board is what allows you place out your monuments, and the gardens, both of which are your main avenue of scoring points. The placement of the meeples, combined with the placement of gardens and your monuments are what allow you to play the divinity cards which are where you score big points, and is also the end game trigger (first player to play five divinity cards triggers the end game).
Once the fifth card has been played the round is finished out and then you commence with end game scoring. Whichever god has the most points is the winner.
So what do I think?
The game has a very small ruleset. It is very easy to learn how to play the game, though it is really hard to master. Every element you place has far reaching effects on the board, and that is a delight. It allows you to try to play the long game, and set up moves several turns down the road, and go for the instant gratification of immediate card plays. It is a delight. There is something extremely satisfying about playing cards, because it means you have successfully manipulated the board state in your favor, so you are constantly receiving little victories as the game goes.
The board is attractive as is the art. Though I wish there was more of the card back art in the game, it is so cool I think. The reason this lands in tasty is that I have only seen the prototype contents, which are fine, but they COULD be amazeballs. I am hoping they will be amazeballs…if Dusting (the publisher) is reading this I hope he is now inspired to make them amazeballs.
I have already praised the relative simplicity of the game, but I do wonder if eventually I will not want something more. Expansions are clearly a possibility in this game, but we shall see how they are implemented. They could take the game to new heights, or could bog it down in minutia.
Analysis. Paralysis. Oh. My. Me. (Get it, cause you play as a god?) This is a game that can absolutely degenerate into staring at the board and driving yourself progressively more insane as you try to figure out the perfect play. There are so many options. I also wish that there was a card or some kind of dedicated space for the afterlife space to add to the theme realization.
Bringing it all together
Elements of the Gods is an incredibly simple to learn game, that, despite its simplicity, might be impossible to master. Every move you make has so many far reaching consequences it is a true delight to play. The art is very attractive, and there is amazing potential for the components to be awesome-sauce. The only real drawback to the game is that if you are prone to analysis paralysis this game will be the death of you.
Make me read that and I will smite you!
* Potential for a brilliant production
* There is a real delight in every play, every action you take can have insanely far reaching consequences
* The rules are simplicity itself, though mastery is extremely hard to obtain
* Real potential for mega analysis paralysis in this game
* My wife loves it, and was sad that I had to send it on