Have you ever eaten the perfect lemon meringue pie? Anyone can follow a recipe and make one, but sometimes those standard ingredients are put together and baked so well that the outcome is just awesome. Dwellings of Eldervale takes lots of standard game tropes and mechanisms and gives you something amazing.
Your task is to become the most dominant faction in the realm of Eldervale. At your disposal you have a handy band of six workers, a warrior, a wizard and a dragon. You cast spells, explore new territories and try to master elemental powers. You collect resources from the hex territories and spend them on adventure cards and to build dwellings. The theme is pure fantasy.
The quality of the game trays in Dwellings of Eldervale make setting up a fairly complex game an absolute breeze. There are sixteen playable factions: two for each of the elemental powers. These come in eight custom trays. The adventure cards, magic cards and resources also come in custom trays. The board is constructed from land hexes which are randomised for each game.
In the standard version the monsters are card standees. In the deluxe version these are plastic miniatures. In the legendary version there are eight extra monsters and they all have bases which exude monstrous sounds every time that you move them.
All versions of the game come with four mini-expansions and two miniatures included. This is very welcome.
The game box is a divisive issue. When you buy the base game you get the standard components and two empty cardboard boxes that could hold the contents of the deluxe and legendary expansions. There are also slots to hold the sound bases. You may say that your box is therefore unnecessarily large, and that its galling to have a reminder of the components that you lack. You may equally think that this avoids having to buy the ‘big box’ at a later date or have multiple boxes for the same game. I own about a hundred games. This box is the biggest.
Dwellings of Eldervale is a complex game that is very clearly explained by the rulebook. The book has logical instructions with helpful diagrams and examples. The main book contains the rules for all versions of the game. This avoids you needed to check multiple books if you buy the deluxe or legendary editions later. There is a separate book for solo play and an appendix that gives more detail on all of the adventure cards.
Art & Graphics
The game box and rule book are adorned with beautifully drawn artwork showing dragons, wizards etc. The game hexes, adventure and magic cards all follow the same art theme, but the printed instructions and icons are clearly displayed. There are very few icons to learn, and the icons used are very logical.
The game board is constructed each game from five base hexes with three more added in each player’s colour, plus a further six in neutral colours. You can gain points by winning battles, buying and casting spells, and building dwellings. When you build a dwelling, you place a roof section on one of your workers, and so lose them for future worker placement use. This provides a tasty push-pull dynamic. Each faction should also vie for mastery of different elemental powers. The greater your control of these elemental powers, the higher the score of your other actions.
If someone occupies a tile where you have a meeple a battle ensues. Dice rolling determines the winner. If you have workers or dwellings in neighbouring hexes, you roll more dice. If you have collected sword resources or some magic cards you can mitigate the result. You can also take a regroup action; usually when you have placed all your workers on the hex board. This action involves recalling workers on your starting faction card, or on the adventure cards that you have purchased, to take further actions. Although actions pass around the game table, Dwellings of Eldervale does not involve rounds. The game ends when any player has built their sixth dwelling, or the last available hex tile is added to the realm.
Dwellings of Eldervale contains sixteen playable factions: two for each of the eight different elements. Each faction has its own starting abilities. Each element has thirteen adventure cards that can be purchased. The number of elements that would be used in a game is equal to the number of players plus two so, for a three player game you would use five elements. As mentioned above, there are four mini expansions included with all versions of the game. This all adds up to amazing replay value.
Dwellings of Eldervale is a modern hybrid game that involves resource management, and dice-rolling for conflict resolution. There is also worker placement, area control and card play. Initially, this concoction can seem daunting, but the gameplay is very logical and everything fits together seamlessly. If your game group enjoys a big crunchy game with monster, dragons, magic and exploring, this is very highly recommended.
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