16 March 2021
You’ll be in your element
Take everything you have on your fantasy wish list and throw it into a pot, mix it with some great board game mechanics, sprinkle some fairy dust, stir carefully and then pour it straight onto the tabletop – and you get Dwellings of Eldervale. This is a truly exuberant concoction of worker placement, area control, tile laying and combat mechanics, mixed in with components that range from simple pawns to lush miniatures with sound effect bases. It feels like there are too many things, that are all too different and that couldn’t possibly come together in coherent gameplay, but they do. More than simply coherent, it is entirely captivating, even if it may take a hot second to get your head around.
The game of Dwellings of Eldervale can be very roughly divided into four different avenues – building dwellings, combat, dungeons and an elemental track – all of which will require players to collect resources by placing their worker meeples on the modular central board. The key avenue, as the name of the game would suggest, is to build dwellings on the elemental planes of Eldervale. A dwelling is a worker meeple crowned with an adorable roof hat, the purpose of which – besides looking ridiculously cute – is to earn victory points but also restrict players’ action range. Players start with a certain number of meeples and can summon more during the course of gameplay, including the more powerful fighter, wizard, and dragon meeples, however that pool of workforce is not infinite. The more worker meeples that you convert to dwellings, the less workforce can be sent on errands to collect resources or perform other actions.
However, in Dwellings of Eldervale meeples are not just the worker bees, they also have a fighting spirit. Combat is based on dice rolls, but instead of traditional comparing of rolled totals to establish the winner, it’s the highest value that counts. For example, a singular roll of a six beats six dice that rolled fives. This makes an encounter with an elemental monster, even at the very beginning of the game, feel winnable: you might have fewer dice than them, but you could roll better. Dwellings and other meeples located close to the combat area can contribute and help the fight, which encourages strategic placements and planning. Players can fight monsters and other players – and they might fight everyone at the same time – so there is always plenty of player interaction.
Finally, dungeons can give players some extra abilities and actions useful for an extra edge during the game, while the elemental track will power-up spells as well provide another avenue for victory points. There are also other little mechanisms, player faction abilities, reward tracks and bonuses that enrich this game and intertwine all its elements into one magical whole. It will likely take a couple of plays to solve all the victory point-earning avenues it has to offer, but that is half the fun.
It is a lot, but it is also not that complicated. The mechanisms are familiar enough that they are easy to pick up, but presented and adapted in such a creative way that makes them feel fresh and exciting. Dwellings of Eldervale may be excessive, but it is also impossible to resist.
PLAY IT? MUST-PLAY
Dwellings of Eldervale is one of those rare examples when the phrase ‘epic fantasy’ does not feel pretentious as a descriptor. Even if you don’t buy the most exuberant edition, this board game is deliciously magical.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED TERRA MYSTICA
If you enjoyed elements of Terra Mystica such as a board composed of diverse terrain types, building dwellings, individual player powers, you will find similar in Dwellings with bonus cute roof hats and big elemental monsters.
Designer: Luke Laurie
Publisher: Breaking Games
Time: 60-150 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 96 Treasure Tokens
- 2 Custom dungeon trays with lids
- 104 Adventure cards
- 48 Scoring markers
- 100 Deluxe wooden resources
- 20 Gold tokens
- 120 Cardboard resources
- 2 Custom resource trays with lids
- 1 Elemental scoreboard
- 9 Orbs
- 18 Large scale monster miniatures
- 1 Ghosts of Eldervale playmat
- 2 Custom monster trays with lids
- 1 Watcher meeple
- 5 Player reference aids
- 2 Mercenary miniatures
- 9 Sound FX bases
- 20 Standees
- 12 Plastic Stands
- 53 D6 dice
- 1 Bifrost bridge hex tile
- 1 Custom discard tray
- 32 Elemental and Ruin hex tiles
- 72 Meeples
- 48 Dwellings rooftops
- 5 Trove tokens
- 5 Tactics tokens
- 8 Dual-sided faction boards in custom player trays
- 8 Elemental starter cards
- 9 Monster cards
- 24 Solo mode cards
- 60 Magic cards
This feature originally appeared in Issue 53 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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