Dragons. Wizards. Warriors. The Underworld. and Mighty Monsters!!
This week’s Kickstarter highlight was an easy one for me. Nothing against the other campaigns that are ending in the next week, but there is one that really stands out — at least to my tastes and interests.
Designed by Luke Laurie and developed by Peter Vaughan, Dwellings of Eldervale finds players controlling unique factions seeking to adventure, battle, grow in power, and ultimately dwell in Eldervale. To do so, they will be using their workers, warriors, wizards, and dragons to battle and claim dominance over 8 elemental realms. The game is meant for 2-5 players (with a solo mode, Ghosts of Eldervale, included as well) ages 14+ with a play time expectation of 60-150 minutes –> so, roughly 30 minutes per player.
So, with basics out of the way, how does the game play? The mechanism that I noticed first is that Dwellings is a worker placement game with two aspects that stand out to me –> 1) Unique workers. Every faction has four different types of workers that can be summoned and used for exploration and battles, with each worker type having its own specific quality. Workers can Build, Warriors are Aggressive fighters, Wizards can Teleport, and Dragons have Flight. Beyond that, for each faction, two of the four characters will have a unique faction ability. For example, the workers of the Elves of Briardell have Longbows and can help fight from adjacent hexes without needing to move into the “battle hex.” Their Wizard is a Wandering Sage who can move to an adjacent hex at the end of your turn without triggering a battle. 2) Recall abilities. One of the worst moments in a worker-placement game is the recall turn, a turn in which you do nothing but get your people back so that on the next turn you can take more actions. In Dwellings, recalling is actually a very valuable action. For any worker that didn’t “bite it” and go to Underworld, that worker can then be placed on an action slot in your tableau to trigger a plethora of possibilities.
From there, let’s talk about tableau building. Players will want to build a strong tableau to ensure that the recall action becomes increasingly more valuable. Everyone will start with an Elemental starter card which provides several basic recall actions. During the game, though, players will want to acquire Adventure cards which will add greater recall abilities.
Next, let’s move into talking about the game’s modular board. At the beginning of each game, a random placement of starting hexes will be placed on the table. These will be the initial locations available for players to send their workers — to explore and battle. The Dungeon space will trigger a new hex to be added to the board by the active player. Watch out! Some of these new hexes will bring giant monsters on to the board!
While Dwellings of Eldervale focuses heavily on action selection, resource collection, hand management, and tableau building…it is also a fighting game — and the battling looks like a blast! At times, players will be fighting each other for area control. Sometimes, a warrior may set off to battle a monster — and then at other times the Monsters will come to you!
The battling is dice-based and mathematical odds can derived to “assume” who should win a battle, but the system used allows for some epic upsets, which is spectacular — plus some spells from your hand can be used to prove that your faction is tougher than expected. Preparing for a battle is all about dice count. Being able to bring more dice to a battle equals a higher chance of winning. The monsters will have set amounts of dice rolled for them and (just like the factions) they have variable powers which could even impact which type of worker can join the battle. Once the dice are prepared, they are all rolled. Instead of adding up dice for a battle total, all eyes focus in on everyone’s best single die. Thus, in most battles, you will be looking for the all-important six to be rolled. The monster also rolled a six?!? Then, go to the 2nd best die. The monster’s other four dice are a 4, 3, 3, and 1. Meanwhile, you managed to roll a one and five with your other two measly dice. Well, five beats four and you took out that Treant!
Meeples lost in battle are not permanently lost — instead, they are sent to Underworld, earning you a sword for future usage, and will return at your next recall — unfortunately, they won’t be allowed to recall back to your tableau.
Speaking of monsters, if you back the Deluxe edition or higher, your monsters will upgrade from standees to 50mm and taller miniatures. These behemoths look awesome and will make an imposing presence on your board when they appear in Eldervale. Even better, a stretch goal of the campaign has already been reached which upgrades all of the Monster minis from a standard gray color to their elemental color (as pictured above). For someone who doesn’t want to have to paint his minis, this color upgrade is outstanding!
There is also a Legendary tier which adds 8 more monster minis to the game (an alternate monster from each element).
As a final gameplay discussion, I want to address the name of the game — “Dwellings” of Eldervale. One of the actions available to players is to utilize the Mill which will allow a Worker located on an elemental hex to “Dwell” in Eldervale. That worker cannot be recalled and is basically ‘lost’ to you for the rest of the game…BUT, dwelling is a foundational aspect of the game. When a dwelling occurs, it triggers victory point scoring; during play, your dwellings adjacent to hexes featuring a battle will add a die to your roll; and they are also significant in end-game scoring. Throughout the game, you will have opportunities to move up the elemental tracks. The end-game score of your dwellings and Adventure cards will be based on the level you reached on the Elemental track. Put together the right combo of Elemental track success, Dwellings, & Adventures and you will see your score tracker zoom around the board at the end of the game.
Now, I don’t want to wrap-up without giving a little focus to the variety in this game. There are 8 elements and thus 8 factions. There will be plenty of plays’ worth of fun just exploring the different factions and finding ones that fit your play style. Through the campaign, currently 6 of the elements have unlocked a 2nd faction. Once you pick your element, choose from either side of the board for the faction you want. My guess is that by campaign end on Thursday, the last 2 elements will have unlocked their bonus factions as well (so 16 total!) –> each with its own two unique worker abilities.
Furthermore, you will never play with all 8 Elements at once, so the variety of Adventure cards available will change from game-to-game. Along with that, the Monsters who may terrorize the board will change each play — and if you go Legendary, you have two monster options for each Element as well.
Tons of variable play options, multiple paths to victory, the replayability of Dwellings of Eldervale looks to be off the charts!
Last, I want to highlight the components of this game. Every pledge level includes GameTrayz — 13 of them I believe!! Every faction comes with its own GameTrayz, so that each player can grab their element and immediately be setup for play. There are two resource Trayz, a Discard Tray, and two Dungeon Trayz. Not only are GameTrayz excellent for box organization –> they also help take a game that could easily involve high set-up and tear-down times and significantly cut down on prep so that everyone can more quickly get to playing.
The basic edition of the game will include cardboard resource tokens and coins (which look nice), but at the Deluxe level and above, the resources are upgraded to custom-shaped wood pieces, and the coins will be metal with a custom dragon-design.
Dwellings of Eldervale is currently set to fulfill next May and for anyone who backs this title, I have a feeling your summer 2020 is going to get off to a spectacular start!
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