Elder Sign Game Overview
Welcome to our Game Overview for Fantasy Flight Games‘s Elder Sign.
In our overview, you will find a spoiler-free description of the game, along with details of the components and gameplay. Our Game Overviews strive to be informative and impartial.
Do you want to find out HOW to play this game? Then, read on. If you are interested to know what we think, check out our Elder Sign Game Review. Also, do you like this game, check out our World of Arkham Horror page for other great games.
The Game – Elder Sign
Elder Sign is the dice game in the Arkham Horror Files, and no, this isn’t Yahtzee. Instead, Fantasy Flight Games has created a compelling dice game for the whole family that includes elements found in other games in the series. This game may be smaller in overall scope (the core game takes place at the Miskatonic University Museum). However, it still packs a punch when playing. This game is geared toward ages 14 & up and is suitable for 1-8 players. In this game, the investigators face adventures represented by cards. By rolling the correct dice at the right time, they can gain the rewards of the card. Fail to complete an adventure card, and the game heads toward the return of the Ancient One. Let’s find out how to play!
- 1 Cardboard Clock with an hour hand
- 1 Entrance sheet
- 8 custom Dice – 6 Green, 1 Yellow, 1 Red
- 80 Large cards – 8 Ancient One Cards, 16 Investigator Cards, 48 Adventure Cards, 8 Other World Cards
- 12 Common Items Cards
- 12 Unique Cards
- 8 Ally cards
- 12 Spell Cards
- 32 Mythos cards
- 16 investigator markers
- 30 sanity tokens
- 30 stamina tokens
- 15 clue tokens
- 22 Monster Markers
- 5 Mask Monster Markers
- 12 Doom tokens
- 17 Elder Sign tokens
Elder Sign is relatively easy to set up compared to other games in this series. Take the clues, stamina, sanity, elder sign, and Doom tokens and create pools for each on the table. Then put down the clock and set it to midnight. Layout the Entrance Sheet and choose an Ancient One to play. Then shuffle the Other World deck, mythos deck, and the item cards into various piles. Each has a unique back. Then, shuffle the adventure cards and deal out 6 to the table. if any adventure card has a locked die icon, place that color of die on it
Each player chooses an investigator and draws their starting items from the various item decks.
Then place All Monsters into a Mythos Cup or bag. Only include the monsters with a mask on the back if the Ancient One you are playing is Nyarlathotep; otherwise, discard those to the box.
Finally, draw the top mythos card and resolve the immediate effect on top.
In Elder Sign, investigators explore the Miskatonic Museum’s rooms, completing adventures as displayed on the adventure cards. The game’s goal is to gather Elder Sign tokens before the doom track of the Ancient One fills up and the Ancient One awakens.
To do this, each investigator needs to complete adventure and other world cards. These cards offer both penalties and rewards. One of the rewards is the Elder Sign Tokens. So, completing these adventures is the key to the game.
Each investigator’s turn breaks down into three phases: a Movement Phase, a Resolution Phase, and a Clock Phase.
The investigator can move to any Adventure card, Other World card, or back to the Entrance Sheet during the movement phase. Each has different outcomes for the investigator’s turn. The adventure cards and other world cards will require the investigator to complete adventures and win the game.
The entrance sheet allows an investigator to Receive First Aid, Search Lost and Found, or Buy a Souvenir.
- First Aid – an investigator can do one of 3 things: Regain one stamina or one sanity; Spend two trophies to regain either all stamina or all sanity; Spend four trophies to regain all stamina and all sanity
- Search the Lost & Found – This allows an investigator to roll one green die and then consult the entrance sheet to see what they have found.
- Buy a Souvenir – An investigator can spend trophies to buy one of the listed items.
When an investigator completes an adventure card or other world card, they get to keep that card. Each card has a number inside a green circle. This value is the number of trophy points you have earned. Some monsters also have a trophy value. For all trophies, you may spend cards equal to or more than the price of the item.
During this phase, the investigator completes the Adventure card, Other world card, or Entrance Sheet. To complete an adventure or other world card, the investigator must complete all rows on the card, called tasks.
Each task has icons, some of which match those on the dice, while others are conditions that must occur to be successful. Here are the icons that can appear in a task.
- Magnifying glass – this will have a number, and you must have a dice roll equal to or greater than this number.
- Scroll – this is a lore result and appears on the dice.
- Skull – This is a peril result and appears on the dice
- Cthulu tentacles -This is a terror result and appears on the dice
- Clock advance – The investigator must advance the clock by three hours
- Brain – The number next to this icon reduces the investigator’s sanity
- Heart – The number next to this icon reduces the investigator’s stamina
Some icons have more than one symbol, and you can roll either.
They will roll all green dice (red or yellow — see below). When completing a task, move the appropriate dice to the spaces on the adventure card. An investigator must have rolled all icons in a task to move those dice to the task. Incomplete tasks are not allowed. See focusing and Spells for how to store dice for a later roll.
Success at a task
Suppose an investigator is successful in completing a task. In that case, they then roll all remaining dice to try and complete additional tasks. If they can complete all tasks on the adventure card, they have successfully completed this adventure. Completing the adventure, nets them the rewards listed at the bottom of the card.
Failure at a task
When an investigator fails to complete any task on their turn, they must discard one die from the dice pool and reroll the remaining dice. Before discarding one die, an investigator may focus a die on their card (move it) and another investigator located at their adventure.
When an investigator fails to complete a task and rolls a Cthulhu tentacle any Terror effects listed on the adventure card and the current mythos card are resolved.
If an investigator fails to complete all tasks on the adventure or other world card, they have failed this adventure. They will then incur all penalties at the bottom of the adventure card.
Rewards and Penalties
If an investigator wins their adventure, they receive all items on the lower right of the adventure card (The rewards section). These are the symbols you’ll see in the rewards and penalties section:
- Gun – Take a card from the common item deck. These often allow an investigator to add a yellow die to their dice pool.
- Dagger – Take a card from the unique item deck. These often will enable an investigator to add a red die to their dice pool
- Book – Take a card from the Spell deck. These will allow you to store a die (See below)
- Footprint – Take a clue token. Clues will enable an investigator to reroll any number of dice
- Person – take a card from the Ally deck
- Star – These are Elder signs and the main item you need to collect to win a game. When you collect one of these, put it on the Ancient One card
- Planet – Draw one Other World card and place it face up next to the other adventure cards
- Brain – Lose one sanity
- Stamina – Lose one stamina
- Monster – spawn a monster at any adventure card with an open monster space
- Cthulu – add one doom token to the Ancient One’s doom track
Red and Yellow Dice
If you have a common or unique item in your possession, these will often allow you to add a red or yellow die to the dice pool. To do this, you must discard the item card to the discard pile. The added die could stay in the dice pool for the entire adventure unless the investigator discarded it on a failed roll.
Specific Adventure cards and Other World cards will have a locked die with green, yellow, or red. If one of those cards comes out, place the die of the correct color on the lock icons. An investigator can not use this die until the task it appears on is completed.
One other note: The red die also has an investigator icon on it. It is a wildcard and represents four investigation, lore, peril, or terror.
After rolling dice on an investigator’s turn, they may commit a spell to the task. This spell will allow you to store a die without changing its result. When a die is on a spell, any investigator may use it to complete a task. If the die is red or yellow, if an adventure card comes out with a locked die icon, the die is removed from the spell and placed there.
If an investigator has to spawn a monster, they take one monster token from the monster cup or bag. They place it on any task on any adventure card with a white border. They will either fully cover-up or partially cover up existing tasks. The investigators will now need to complete this monster’s task instead of the task on the card. If there are no white-bordered spaces available, place the monster at the bottom of an adventure card.
When a monster task is completed, but not all tasks on the adventure. In that case, the investigator defeats the monster, and the adventure card’s original task returns to play.
After an investigator completes the resolution phase, they advance the clock 3 hours. If the clock moves to midnight, the investigators resolve the At Midnight effects on all cards and the “next time the clock strikes midnight” effects on the Mythos card. Then they draw the next Mythos card.
The Doom Track
Various game effects cause Doom to be advanced. If this happens, the investigator adds one doom token to the doom track. When the icon below the space they are adding a token to shows a monster icon, they also spawn a monster to the board.
Whenever the Doom Track becomes full, the Ancient One awakens. If this happens, all investigators move their marker to the Ancient One Sheet and must battle the Ancient One.
Battling the Ancient One
The gameplay adjusts to an Attack Phase and a Clock Phase.
In the attack phase, the investigator rolls dice, trying to complete the battle task. If they complete it, move all dice to the task and remove one Doom. Then reroll the remaining dice and try to complete it again. If they fail, they remove a die and reroll the remaining dice. Once the number of dice in the pool reaches zero, they move onto the clock phase.
If a successful attack removes the last Doom, the investigators win the game!
The investigator advances the clock as usual. However, when the clock reaches midnight, the investigator resolves the Ancient One’s attack.
Stamina and Sanity
Specific game elements including has the investigator incurs damage or horror. If an investigator gains damage or horror, they remove one token of that type from their investigator sheet. If they get to 0 on either, they become devoured. When devoured, the player returns the investigator to the box along with all cards or tokens collected. The player then adds one Doom to the doom track, then picks a new investigator to play.
If the Ancient One has awoken, they eliminate the investigator from the game. The clock, however, continues to advance even when the player is eliminated on their turn.
We are currently running a special offer for October when you buy $50 worth of Arkham Products and receive a FREE copy of the Investigators of Arkham Horror book (a $40 value). This book is a full-color coffee table-sized book with stories of many of the investigators. We are not selling this book in our store currently, and you can only get it as part of our Arkham Horror Files October promotion.