In Elder Sign, you’ve seen the sign, and it’s full of the deepest, darkest Lovecraftian terrors….  Who knew that a night at the museum could be so horrifying?  Maybe it’s all those mummies and creepy eye-following portrait paintings, or maybe dark magicks are being bought and sold behind the scenes, even in the gift shop…

game box featuring two investigators and a monster
Elder Sign game box

It’s up to you to defeat The Great Old Ones, Cthulu-Style…

Elder Sign hails from Arkham Horror Files through Fantasy Flight Games and was designed by Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson.  Described as a game of suspense and supernatural investigation, essentially you and your friends are trapped in the museum trying to thwart the end of the world, classic cultist style.  The Great Old Ones are rising up to join their wayward followers and it’s up to you to stop them.  An Ancient One will be unleashed upon the unsuspecting world if you don’t prevail before world annihilation.

The museum has been a façade in which monsters and cultists facilitate the coming of the end by acting as harbingers of doom in so many different ways.  The setting is vast but you can only explore a few rooms at a time, as laid out in an array of six cards drawn at random and replaced as the horrors within are defeated, some of which can unlock new locations in another dimension.  Each room has a series of tasks that are accomplished by rolling special dice to match, making sure to satisfy all of the card requirements before vanquishing the evil lurking there.

game setup as seen from the side with rooms arranged in the middle and player investigators at the edges
game setup

So many people, so many ways to perish…

Investigators are drawn randomly from the character deck.  Each possesses unique stats and abilities that aid them in some tasks, ignoring certain card effects, possessing talents useful in navigating otherworldly realms, gaining more loot, and so on.  If your investigator perishes, you lose all of your swag and the world is one step closer to doomsday.  But you can keep playing by drawing another investigator and rejoining the fray.

The goal is to collect Elder Signs, eldritch symbols that sealed away the Ancient Ones.  How many such sigils you need varies depending on which Ancient One is about to be released.  You can earn them from your adventures solving rooms in the museum or gain them using the spoils of your conquests.  Items offer assistance in the form of extra dice, holding rolls for later use, and more.  There are common items, unique items, spells, and even sidekicks that can aid you in a myriad of ways.

using the special dice to solve adventures based on room card criteria
resolving adventures with dice rolls

Well-guarded secrets lurk at every turn…

Elder Sign is a little too true to life for me – I almost didn’t review it because I have recurring amnesia when it comes to this game.  Apparently the Great Old Ones have massive powers that extend beyond the cards and the dice and the walls of the museum that I am personally deeply attuned to.  Fortunately my friends don’t seem to have this problem so they can keep me on track.

Hell, we must have played Elder Sign 4 or 5 times before I could even recognize or remember its name.  Still now, the game itself is a complete blank to me every time we set it up until we get a ways in and it starts to be somewhat familiar again.  And now it slips from my psyche even as I type this review.

Ancient One Hastur, The King in Yellow, accompanied by doom tokens with an array of Elder Signs to his left
Ancient One Hastur, The King in Yellow

The Good…

But I do enjoy the game.  It’s another cooperative game, which I love.  It scales well, whether you are playing solo or with 7 of your best buds. The fast-paced dice-rolling adventures and card text are flavorful and amusing.  Although it can be frustrating going up against the same scenarios over and over when you are losing ground, the game is pretty easy to get the hang of (thank goodness since I have to relearn it every time).

The Bad…

My biggest gripe is that it often turns into a slogfest trying to get enough sigils to vanquish the rising evil, and so it goes on for a long long long long time.  The game claims to only take 1-2 hours, but we typically seem to drag it out for much longer into the night.

The Ugly…

I am giving Elder Sign exactly 4 Cthulus.  Since I can’t seem to recall why I wouldn’t give it more or less, it is earning precisely 4.  I can only invite you to explore the museum and thwart the horrors that lurk behind the beautifully curated displays to save the world for yourselves, as I have no recollection of what we were just talking about…

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

As always, if you buy anything from the links provided, we will get some $ back. And check out more game reviews on Haunted MTL here.

About the Author

Jennifer Weigel is a multi-disciplinary mixed media conceptual artist residing in Kansas USA. Weigel utilizes a wide range of media to convey her ideas, including assemblage, drawing, fibers, installation, jewelry, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video and writing. You can find more of her work at: https://www.jenniferweigelart.com/ https://www.jenniferweigelprojects.com/ https://jenniferweigelwords.wordpress.com/

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