An alchemy game is a staple of many game libraries. Players are tasked with combining elements to form bigger and better things. This week, Fairway reviews a pre-Kickstarter copy of Elements by Rampage Games, LLC. to see if there’s any magic in its mix of cards and gems.
Elements is a classic alchemy card game with a twist for two to four players. It takes about 20 minutes to play. Rampage Games is launching Elements on Kickstarter on March 31.
Initial Impressions ^
- Straight-forward gameplay.
- Has the same sort of appeal of a game like Little Alchemy, without the infinite guessing.
- Use of gems plus cards for elements makes for some interesting decisions.
- Each player turns starts with a randomized initial action.
- Updated art and graphic design will add to its appeal.
The Gameplay ^
Elements is played over several hands. At the start, players have one gem and a hand of elements. There are three kinds of elements: basic, secondary and meta. Basic elements are earth, air, fire and water. The secondary elements are oil, metal, energy, or wood. The meta element is a kind of wild card. Players use the elements cards and gems to form their target substance.
At the start of each turn, players roll two dice. Each die indicates one of six possible initial starting actions. Players choose one of the two possible actions as a starting action. This starting action are things like: draw a card from the discard pile and trade elements with another player or the table.
During their turn, players can form secondary substances or their target substances. Players can use collected gems to form secondary elements like oil and energy.
In a twist on the classic alchemy games, Elements gives players three paths to substance formation:
- Play element cards from their hand,
- Attach element gems they have in play, and/or
- Play meta element cards or gems instead of a missing element.
For most substances, any combination of those three can complete a substance. When a player uses a Meta element cards or gems, the player cannot collect a substance’s bonus gems. Yet, because certain actions let other players take element cards in play, using gems can be advantageous.
Once complete, the elements used to form the substance are used up and removed from the game. The player scores the points on the card, gains an extra gem of their choice, takes any gem bonuses if Meta was not used, and draws a new substance card.
Elements in gem form play an interesting role. Players collect them through random actions or by completing substances. The gems provide a bit of flexibility during element creation and can be used to combine two base elements into a secondary element.
The game ends when the first player reaches ten points.
On the green ^
Elements does a number of things right. Getting at the appeal of mobile games like Little Alchemy, Elements contains many interesting substances for players to create.
Elements’s use of glass gem makes it more than a simple draw-one, play-one card game. The gem form of elements are different than the cards. Unlike the cards, players can combine gems into secondary elements, and the gems aren’t susceptible to certain of the actions of other players.
Elements uses die rolls to provide variation to the starting actions to good effect.
The game is quick, to the point, and easy to pick up.
Where it comes up short ^
This little game has a lot going for it. A few things merit some mention:
Graphic design. The version reviewed is a pre-Kickstarter version and the graphic design left a lot to be desired. The designer revealed some of the art for both the substance and element cards recently. These will vastly improve the graphic design and art of Elements.
Even with these changes, Elements might still suffer some of the initial gameplay quirks: frequent recounts and rechecks of elements in play and which, if any elements, are still needed.
Player references. There is a lot of things individual players need to remember: which primary elements combine to make which secondaries, what “actions” correspond to what initial actions, etc. The rules contained the reference at the back which meant one player read them aloud each time or the rulebook was passed back and forth.
Meta. Meta is powerful, but there’s a price to pay for using Meta: you don’t get gem bonuses. This fact is a strong deterrent when you’re creating substances with gem bonuses. However, not all substances offer gem bonuses and the bonuses aren’t as useful by the end of the game. So meta tends to reward happenstance rather than strategy.
Other Thoughts. ^
Gems. It feels like there could be something even more special about the gems. They are a relatively infrequent occurrence in the game. One thought was to make the gems are reusable.
Substances. Players draw their target substances from a facedown pile. As such, players don’t know the elements or the value of the next substance they’ll draw. This means that there is little strategy beyond trying to gather the proper elements. One thought was to make the substances available in a face-up draft. In this case, players could select which of the available substances to pursue. This choice might also make Meta more interesting if a player wanted to dispatch a substance sooner in order to pursue a face-up substance.
In the hole ^
Elements is a good, little game for those looking for a physical, multiplayer replacement for games like Little Alchemy. Elements is a satisfyingly complete, light alchemy game that can be used for a light filler.
Elements makes it into the hole with an extra stroke. ^
This post was originally featured on The Inquisitive Meeple