Elo Darkness - A Kickstarter Preview
PUBLISHER: Reggie Games
DESIGNER: Tommaso Mondadori, Alberto Parisi
PLAYERS: 2 - 4
TIME: 45 - 60 MIN
Introduction to Elo Darkness
I received a prototype version of Elo Darkness and final components and (some) artwork was not included.
Elo Darkness is a MOBA (Massive Online Battle Arena) simulation board game with customizable player decks. Each player will control a team (deck) of five heroes and various action cards. The goal of Elo Darkness is to advance until you reach your opponent’s base from at least one of the three different lanes.
Elo Darkness features 30 Heroes in five different classes for a total of 180 cards. There are a total of 80 item cards and 128 Action cards as well!
Players will construct a deck of 40 cards, including 5 Heroes (one of each class) and 15 Action cards. They will also create an item deck.
Each class relates to a specific role: Marksman, Mage, and Fighter are associated with specific lanes on the map and are referred to as Laners.
Jungler and Support classes can assist the lanes in combat. Junglers are lethal for your opponent while support will provide resources and control effects. These heroes also have the GANK trait, which means they may be strategically played during combat to add influence values to a challenged lane and you immediately activate the text box effect of the card.
These cards have the laner or gank trait and represent generic combat maneuvers players can use. While Laner Hero cards are related to specific lanes, action cards are not restricted to a specific battlefront and can be used as needed.
There are three lanes in Elo Darkness: Desert, Forest and Volcano.
The lanes in Elo Darkness represent different battlefronts. Minion tokens will begin the game in the middle of each lane, and depending on which player wins each lane’s challenge, the minions will advance one-step closer towards the opponent’s base.
Start of the Game
To begin the game, players will each draw seven cards. A normal game lasts 10 turns.
During each turn of the game, players will alternate performing three main phases:
- Farming: Players can buy items and choose to discard Hero cards in order to gain resources.
- Backing: Players can strategically retreat from a lane in order to draw cards from their deck and gank the opponent on other lanes. Gank refers to retreating from one lane to buff and strength another.
- Combat: Players simultaneously select their Hero or Action cards to fight separately on each Lane. The winner of a challenged lane advances towards the enemy base, destroying towers and conquering positions along the way.
This phase is incredibly important for hand management and resource collection. There are two actions you can take during this phase:
- You may discard one or more Hero cards from your hand to gain the resources indicated at the top left of the card. It’s important to note, that when you discard a Hero during this phase, that Hero will gain 1 Experience point. This will permanently strengthen that Hero’s influence value of all of their cards.
- You can spend Gold to buy items of your choice from your item deck. When you buy an item, place it on one of the item slots on the board. You can have a max of three in play. Before acquiring new items, you can sell old ones to gain half of the item’s value in Gold. You can also acquire the upgraded version of an item you own, by paying the cost of the base item and the cost of the upgraded one. This is annotated in the top right of the item card.
During this phase, in player order, players can decide to retreat from one or more lanes. When a player retreats, they move the Minion token back one space. There are two reasons a player may choose to retreat:
- They draw one card from their deck.
- They place the roaming card on the respective laner slot on the board. The Hero associated with this lane obtains the Gank trait until end of turn and can be used to assist other lanes during combat.
When a player retreats from a lane, that lane is solved for combat purposes. Note: It is possible for roaming cards to occupy every lane. If this happens, the turn ends immediately.
This phase is divided into two sub-phases: Deployment and Challenges.
Deployment: for each free Laner slot, players simultaneously select a Laner card from their hand and place it face-down on the slot. Each spot is linked to a specific lane on the board and you must play the correct Hero card associated with the respective Laner slot by matching the top left icon on the card to the board. If a player does not have enough cards matching the available Laner slots, they must use a Free Lane card. These are played face-up and are publically available for use. Once both players have made their selections, they reveal all of the placed cards in each lane.
Challenges: represent the battles that occur on each lane. Players declare and resolve challenges one after the other. This sub-phase is the crux of your planning. The first player declares a lane to challenge. Once solved, it’s the opponent’s turn. The player who activates a challenge has initiative. This is important because when a challenge is declared, players take the following steps to resolve it:
- Follow initiative order, ability text on cards deployed on the lane are triggered.
- Players, following initiative order, alternate performing 1 action until both players decide to pass. The available actions are:
Play a card with the Gank trait from your hand.
Activate a Hero ability Chain.
Activate certain item effects.
Pass the action to the opponent.
When both players pass, the challenge is resolved. The player with the highest total influence value is the winner. Follow these steps when a player wins a challenge:
- Advance the Minion token on the lane one space towards the opponent’s base.
- Destroy a tower if you overtake its space. When you destroy a tower, you choose between gaining 2 Gold or drawing 1 Card from your deck.
- Give one Experience point to each Hero corresponding to the Hero cards used during the challenge.
- Check for Heroes Death. The winner of the challenge may be able to kill the opponent’s participating Heroes according to the influence gap between players. During a challenge, players’ Heroes may become threatened in one of two ways: they use the Get Greedy action or as a direct consequence of a card effect. The defeated player decides which of his Heroes die. When a Hero is killed, the corresponding Hero Token is removed from the board. It will return to play on the Exhausted side at the beginning of the next turn.
When a challenge ends, each player discards all the cards committed to the lane and then exhausts all participating Heroes.
End of Turn and Beginning a New Turn
A player’s maximum hand size is five cards unless altered by effects or equipment. Hero tokens are flipped from exhausted to ready and the turn token advances one space, flipping to a new color for the first player of the next turn.
When a new turn begins, each player draws two cards from their deck. Before moving to the Farm phase, players check for event triggers: Monster Objective or Super Minion Spawn.
How to Win
The game ends immediately when a player invades the opponent’s base, overtaking the last location from one of the three lanes. If, at the end of the 10th turn, no one satisfies the victory condition, the player who conquered the most Towers is the winner! In case of a tie, players count the total Experience points of all their Heroes as if they were victory points.
What Might You Like?
First and foremost, the artwork in this game is great. The game oozes the MOBA feel throughout each aspect of the game. Playing with the recommended “starter” decks is extremely helpful in speeding up set-up and familiarizing players with the game.
Constructing your deck of 40 cards and finding synergy and combos between each character is fun and immersive. There’s a lot of depth and asymmetric strategy behind which Heroes you add to your deck. Each phase of the game: Farming, Backing, and Combat provide interesting and thoughtful decisions to make.
A solid base game with a world and mechanics begging for future expansions.
What Might You Dislike?
Set-up time can be troublesome, as you not only have to set up the board, various tokens, and chits but also construct a 40 card deck (unless you’re playing with pre-made decks). If you want to maximize the customization features in the game, plan to set aside 15-20 min prior to actually playing to construct your deck.
Visually, a few of the Heroines seem risque but that is in the eye of the beholder.
The first few games offer a steep learning curve so be prepared to play closer to 60+ minutes as you navigate the rules and Heroes.
The fact the game primarily play 1v1, though there are options for a 2v2 and solitaire mode, may be off-putting to some players.
Drawing cards is the single strongest feature in the game. If you are not drawing cards, you are very likely to lose. This means that any team you create needs to allow you to not only pressure the lanes but keep your hand well stocked as well.
Elo Darkness is a clever game that combines hand management, variable player powers and simultaneous action selection into an immersive, thematic and fun MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) board game. Thanks to Elo Darkness, you and your friends can simulate the general strategies of Smite, League of Legends, Defense of the Ancients or Heroes of the Storm within approximately 60-90 minutes. Elo Darkness chooses to focus on the strategic level details of MOBAs but it does it well enough that it recreates a MOBA feel within the bounds of its design. Elo Darkness will reward players who explore its intricate details and uncover the combos and synergies waiting for them.
You will like this game if: you enjoy beautiful high fantasy art, clever game play, hand management, variable player powers and simultaneous action selection. Additionally, if you enjoy MOBA video games, strategy games and unique card play, then Elo Darkness is a game for you!
Elo Darkness enters the Kickstarter Arena on September 26th!
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