One Free Elephant
A Review by
Duration: 45-60 minutes
NOW LIVE ON KICKSTARTER
This is the second game from One Free Elephant. The first was the successful Ore-Some
What’s on the box?
First Impressions count for a lot and with this box those first impressions are going to be “WOW” and “OOH”. This box has, in this reviewer’s humble opinion. One of the nicest bits of artwork I have seen in a very long time. It is not over the top and in your face. It is calm tranquil and otherworldly. Yet at the very same time it conveys a sense of foreboding as an eclipse occurs.
Turn the box over and you are greeted with some thematic text.
“Summon the city of the Tattered King, one tile at a time.”
“Use your cultists to control the leylines, Conduct rituals, and Influence districts of the city of Carcosa itself. If they displease you, you can sacrifice them to the dark waters of Lake Hali for the pleasure of the king.”
- Recruit Cultists
- Gather Power
- Perform Rituals
- Go Mad
- Please the King
84 Carcosa Tiles
4 Hastur Tiles
4 x 10 Cultists
24 Ritual Stones Tokens
4 Chapter House Cards
4 Forbidden Lore Cards
It is at this point we must address the ‘elephant in the room’ When you first look at the back of the box the main picture art will immediately make you think of a certain other well known tile laying game. This is the curse of any tile laying game that has a worker placement mechanic within its folds. While not an inherently bad thing as it gives you a sense of immediate familiarity with the game mechanics. It will no doubt also give a feeling of “been there, done that” Let me be one of the first to assure you that Carcosa offers so much more than that. After all the back of the box does say “Go Mad, Die”.
First there is a really nice quality Rulebook which at approximately 16 pages is chock full of clear instructions and beautiful illustrations. Making it an easy game to understand (despite the hidden depth once you get under the hood).
This is followed by a compulsory handful of baggies to allow separating the different player components making set up even quicker.
The cultist player meeples in each colour come next and they are again not your box standard shape. Care has been taken to make the shape fit with the theme. There is then the bag containing the 4 Chapter House and Forbidden Lore cards.
You are treated then to the lovely looking Cult mat which is double sided with one side aimed more at the 2-3 player game. While the other having more spaces on the power track allowing for the 4 player game.
Finally you have the 11 punchboards with the Tiles and the Ritual Stones Tokens. N.B. I received a pre-production copy for review which is similar to the basic copy of the game. The quality of the components was to a very high standard.
And so it begins!
To start playing you begin with the 4 Hastur Tiles in a 2×2 square. This is the heart of Carcosa. What is immediately apparent is the designers have thought hard about Replayability. Because as long as you obey the basic rules of land to land, water to water, leylines to leylines. You will have a large number of starting set-ups to choose from ensuring games play out differently every time. Once play begins it continues until either 2 stacks of tiles are exhausted or one of the cults summon The King in Yellow.
On your turn you have several options available to you.
Cultists in recovery become ready and those in the asylum move into recovery.
Choose a tile placing your prophet on top the remaining stack stopping other cults from accessing those tiles.
Place or replace a tile (replacing tiles is only for replacing unstable tiles) remembering of course to obey the normal rules of tile placement games everywhere. Any replaced tiles are placed on the bottom of the smallest stack.
Place a cultist onto any tile placed if able (not always possible). Your cultists are your source of power generation.
Resolve tile/tiles when completing leylines. This involves stabilising the tiles connected to avoid them being replaced in the future. Be careful though as this can also generate power for the Rival Cults.
Sometimes you will be able to imbue a ritual stone with power. These can be extremely powerful as they can be used at any point on your turn.
It is at this point that the game can really come alive. Will you ‘Don the Mask’ to instantly recover mad or recovering cultists?
Or will you use ‘A Mask Betrayed’ allowing you to remove a prophet from a stack of tiles? You might even decide to use one of the other cleverly thought out abilities to swing momentum in your favour at a crucial moment.
Once the end game events occur the cult with the most power wins and can rightfully wear the Pallid Mask. Or will you bring about the Rise of the King in Yellow to survey his new domain?
This is a game that the creators have put a lot of thought into over accessibility. I say this because getting used to the Asylum-> Recovery->Ready movement of your cultists takes time to remember and they start your game with cultists in each position so you start to learn it from turn one. Learning how to best utilise the ritual stones and use of the leylines power will take time and encourages repeated plays as you keep spotting different ways of doing things. One Free Elephant and creator Nigel Kennington have obviously put a lot of effort into getting a surprising amount of depth into Carcosa so while it feels nice and familiar to start with you will find yourself wanting to play it again soon after as you think of different tactics. This is after all no French town but feels like it belongs in the Arkham universe.
Strategy Shmategy. Is it good?
After several plays at varying player counts I am still thoroughly enjoying this game and the fresh dark and foreboding breath of air it brings to the table.The strategy combination of when to recruit more cultists or sacrifice them combined with the ability to block a tile stack to potentially stop rival cults from forcing an end game while you generate more power Is very cleverly done.
I genuinely look forward to seeing this on Kickstarter and watching it reach the stretch goals as I know some of them are going to be upgrading the already high quality components and making the game even more luxurious (cultists into prophets is one Stretch Goal I know of).
There is a lot of game in this box and it is one I can honestly recommend very highly. Even if tile laying or worker placement is not normally your ‘cup of tea’ I urge you to give this one a look you will thank me.
Rate me up then
Ratings are tricky because they are subjective.
So instead I will say
Replayability – Yes lots
Portability – Yes fairly easy as box is not huge
Content – Top Quality from my experience
Theme – Nice clever twist on the cultist dynamic
Depth – Surprisingly deep and worth scratching the surface
Overall – 100% Back this on Kickstarter.
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