Elfenroads (White Wind)

Game by Alan Moon.

Review by Bob Rossney.

Elfenroads is for three to six players.

The board is a network of 24 towns connected by roads and, in some places, rivers. The roads run through fields, forests, deserts, and mountains. The object of the game is for players to move their pawn through as many of the 24 towns as they can before the end of the game's eighth turn.

There are eight different modes of transportation in the game-- elfcycle, magic cloud, troll-wagon, etc. Each player has a hand of cards that allow him to use one or another of these, and a supply of money.

Each turn, a number of transportation counters become available and are auctioned off. The players then take turns placing the counters on roads (with at most one counter per road). Finally, the players move in turn, playing cards from their hand for each counter they are using, and removing the counter from the board as they pass. [Ken - I think Bob must have been having on off day when he wrote this review. The transportation counters are only removed at the end of the turn. Several players may move along the same route during a turn and each player may use the route several times during their turn. The transportation counters are removed at the end of each turn.]

What makes the game work is that each mode of transportation has different characteristics. Giant pigs, for instance, can move easily through fields and forests, but can go nowhere else. It only requires one unicorn card to use a unicorn to cross a desert, but two if you're using the unicorn to move through the mountains.

Playing the game well involves planning a route through the board that optimizes the cards that are in your hand and the counters that you have bought, while doing what you can to harry your opponents (by putting expensive counters on routes that they need to take). Because each player's move consumes the counters that have been played on the board, the person who moves first in a given turn has a signif- icantly different set of objectives than the player who moves last.

The game continually presents you with decisions. Should you try and outbid opponents for a counter that you think you need? Should you build up routes you want to take, or make it harder on your opponents? Should you collect money, which will help you buy counters, or cards, which will help you use the counters you already have? A lot depends on what your opponents are planning to do, and while it's possible to make educated guesses, you can never tell for sure what counters and cards they have secreted away.

The components are beautiful. The game was designed for sale in the German market, which has much higher expectations than the American market; the pawns and markers are wooden, the money consists of plastic coins in various denominations, and the marker that indicates who's the first player each turn is a big wooden dragon (the same one that was in Moon's earlier Elfengold). The illustrations on the board and cards, by Doris Matthaus (who has done Moon's earlier games and Hexagames's Vendetta) are whimsical without being cute.

Every group I've played this with has wanted to play it again. I haven't yet played it with more than four people; I have a suspicion that parts of the game, like the auction, will tend to drag in a six-player game. (Moon claims it's best with four to six.) With three and four, it's an engrossing and hugely entertaining game.

Its only drawbacks are its price and its scarcity. White Wind's games cost about $50 apiece, are printed in numbered, limited editions of 2,000, and are intended for sale in Germany. They're rather hard to come by in the US.

[Ken - Unfortunately, Elfengold is now sold out. Look for it at auction on the Net or at game cons. Also, White Wind released their first unlimited edition game, Phantoms of the Ice, at Essen 94.]

Copyright 1994, Bob Rossney.

The Game Cabinet - editor@gamecabinet.com - Ken Tidwell