There is something intimidating and equally intriguing when picking up a box as big and heavy as Dwellings of Eldervale. The realisation that not only are you likely going to need 2 hours to setup this behemoth, you will also need even more time to fully understand the depth of the rules to even get started. This was exactly what I felt as I pulled Dwellings onto the table, and yet my fears were unfounded, in fact I was set up and ready to play my first game in under an hour.
So how exactly has designer Luke Laurie and publishers Breaking Games achieved such an amazing feat? Well, to start they’ve included an incredible insert and easy to use game trays for each individual faction, that immediately cuts setup time in half. Workers, tokens, resources, and reference cards all fit snugly and are held in place by double sided faction boards.
Adventure cards and tokens also come with their own trays ready to be used in play and the two remaining trays hold all resource tokens and cards in easy reach of the players. The insert and trays just go to show how much respect Luke and the publishers have for your time, and it genuinely makes me sad whenever I open a big new game and it doesn’t follow suite.
So, the setup has been addressed, but those wonderful inserts aren’t helping anyone learn the game faster. The reason I was ready to play so quickly, was due to the fact that at its core Dwelllings of Eldervale is a simple game. On your turn, you have two options – play a worker or regroup your workers. This combined with the main goal of building all of your dwellings makes your first game of Eldervale a quick start.
That is not to say that the game can’t be complex or doesn’t have any strategic depth, it really does. But it allows you to learn this on the go, giving you the chance to develop your strategies with further plays without hampering the experience.
To further aid the start, players can choose from 16 factions. Each faction is ranked from easy to hard, and all have two unique worker abilities. This allows you to quickly pick up the easier factions without having to worry about complex powers for your first game.
Playing The Game
We all play games to try and win, well maybe not all of us, but certainly most of us. The gaming experience is important but watching your victory point marker sit ahead of the rest is like the cherry on top. Dwellings of Eldervale gives you many paths to victory, that will scratch the thinkers itch many gamers desire when playing their games.
Players will be placing workers, gathering resources, battling players and monsters, unlocking special workers, and trying to travel up multiple tracks across the board, all working towards dwelling in Eldervale and collecting victory points.
There are 2 tracks to keep an eye on, besides the victory point track. The elemental track is determined by the factions players choose as well as a few additional elements added in based on player count. These represent the realms of Eldervale for your game and should be a major focus if you want to rack up a winning amount of victory points at the end of the game. This is where a lot of the strategy comes into play. The track will multiply many of your points at the end of the game for your Dwelling locations and acquired adventure cards, so it is important to utilise this track, whether you focus on one or two elements or try and get on them all, is entirely up to you.
The glory track is used to measure how well you do in battle with various rewards for climbing up the track. When battle is triggered either by a rushing monster or by placing one of your workers in a realm with an enemy unit, battle commences once you have finished your turn action. Players then determine battle dice, by pulling adjacent units into battle, using adjacent dwellings, spending sword tokens and utilising faction abilities.
Once dice have been gathered players (and monsters) roll simultaneously, then each single highest dice roll. The highest is the winner, with a tie meaning you move onto the second highest until a winner is determined. The winners gain glory for defeating their opponents and can choose either glory or elemental progress for defeating monsters. Defeated workers are sent to the Underworld, earning you a sword but with the cost of being unable to use actions on regrouping.
Regroup actions allow players to use actions on their starting cards and adventure cards before they return to the player board, the starter actions being Dwell, Summon and Gather, but adventure cards will allow for even more interesting options.
The final method to score points is through magic cards. These are treated as a resource when needed and come in three types: spells, quests and prophecies. Spells are surprised one time use cards that can be triggered for free, usually under a condition listed on the card, the more powerful ones may require you to have a certain level of elemental power or cost before you can use them. Quests allow you to score VP during the game by achieving certain goals, when met you score these immediately. Prophecies are end of game goals that activate during scoring and allow you to gain VP based on meeting conditions listed on the card.
Don’t Dwell On It
Dwelling of Eldervale has a lot going on, in fact I’ve barely scratched the surface of it all. There are placement rules to follow, with special workers getting new rules and more battle dice. Monsters all have unique abilities that can change the game whilst they are active, and I haven’t even mentioned that Dwellings are created by putting cute little roof hats on top of your workers which means you no longer get to use them for the rest of the game. There’s even a great, challenging solo mode built into the game for you to explore if you can’t get the group together or just want to try out a new faction on your own.
All of this is best experienced by just playing the game, don’t try and do everything at once and just let the game reveal itself as you play it. By the time you finished your first game, you’ll be itching to pick a new faction, add in different monsters and explore a completely different strategy.