English language edition
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Most races involve horses or cards, but in Elfenland players control young elves, who must traverse their fantasy land with all sorts of strange transportation such as giant pigs and unicorns. Each player must visit every city on the map and seek to find the best route for the modes of transportation that they use, while attempting to hinder the others in this light, interactive game. Players place tokens on routes with restrictions because of terrain and then use cards to attempt to finish quicker than the other players. Winner of the 1998 Spiel des Jahres, Elfenland has been used for years as a top-rated family game.
Few recent boardgames took on the status of cult classic as this game has. First, Alan Moon published it in a different form with a limited number of editions available. Word of mouth an cyberspace had this as a closet masterpiece to be enjoyed by a few lucky collectors. Then it won the 1997 game of the year. Despite this, I never saw the game played or even on sale at any game store.
Well, being such a fan of Alan Moon's games, I put it on my Christmas list and was glad to get it. I first played it as a two player games. It looked like a good game, but I was never sure if I was playing it well or messing up. There was a lot of thinking and planning. (Not to mention a cutthroat obstacle token). Luck did have a significant part.
The second time I played was with three players, and I really got the feeling I was involved in a great game. It is playable, has a good part luck and strategy and has a high "fun factor".
The more I've played it, the more I like it. It is slowly creeping to be a favorite. For the artwork, production and gameplay I have to give it the highest rating. Like Modern Art and Duel of Ages, I can see that a game can be great, but not everyone's cup of tea.
Elfenland is a wonderful game of strategy, player interaction, and a little luck. When I first saw this game I was not real sure what to think, but when I opened the box I was first impressed by the quality that was inside. My favorite part of a new game though is the ability to be able to get into the game and teach others to play. Rules are straightforward with the main areas of question highlighted. Needless to say my family enjoys this game and I am sure yours will too.
Elfenland is a beautifully produced journey game by Alan Moon (Ticket to Ride, Santa Fe Rails, Diamant and many more). Elfenland is a gorgeous game with wonderful stylised artwork, good quality components and one of the best map/boards in any game I have ever seen. The quality of the components makes Elfenland a real joy to play, and the Elf boots (the player pieces) add more than you might think to the feel of the game. The cards that come with Elfenland are some the highest quality cards I’ve used, the tiles are cute and easy to manipulate, the tokens are nice and made of wood and the box fits everything away very neatly and nicely.
In Elfenland the players compete to be the Elf that manages to visit the most Elfen cities in the land. The game runs through many phases every turn, players are dealt cards depicting the various methods of transport, players must then select a series of tiles (again depicting various types of transport) that must be placed on the planned routes. The cards represent (in my mind) the currency required by the various transporters while the tokens represent the availability of that type of transport on a particular route.
In order for a player to move from one city to the next they must use the cards to pay for the transport type available on the route they wish to use. Players take turn laying transport tokens on the routes, the key to this, and the element that adds all the fun and tension, is that only one token may be placed per route and if someone lays their token there first you must either work with it or find a new way. Once all the tokens have been laid, players move their Elfs along the various paths by paying the appropriate type and amount of cards to each of the transport types. This game plays very well with any number of players up to four, and though it can be played by as many as six my own opinion is that the games works best with four.
One very good addition to the basic game is the inclusion of city cards, using this advanced rule each player will be dealt a city card at the beginning of the game, at the end of the game the player’s score will be the amount of cities they have visited minus the minimum amount of roads between the Elf and their city. This advanced rule compounds the problem posed by the base game, adds a heap of tension and means that players really need to plan well from the beginning. It also means that the ‘Trouble Counters’ (counters placed that make routes more expensive to use), if well placed, can cause some serious problems for your or your opponent’s plans.
There are some great variants available online, including a great one for a two player game, in which the two players play the game on half the board. Elfenland is a very attractive game that appeals aesthetically to children and adults, it is also one of those rare games, that once grasped, can be played across such age gaps, and provides enough fun to engage young gamers, and enough tension and thought to keep older gamers at the table too. All in all Elfenland is a great game I am happy to own, it has a style unmatched in my game collection and is always fun to play.
I just wanted to add my two cents to this venerable pot of gold.
You can buy the Elfengold expansion or you can make the pieces yourself as some reviewers have mentioned, but either way, you'll turn this luck-filled mechanism into the gem it wants to be.
From the suggestions below, the one I really like is capping the number of rounds based on the number of players (to allow each person to be the start player only once). Can you say PRESSURE? I usually play with 4 people, so visiting all 20 cities in four rounds is a rarity, as it should be. You have to plan your routes carefully now and with the bidding element added, tactics becomes more prominent.
With Elfengold, it just feels right.
Just to add to Jakes review and the modifications he suggested on making Elfenland more strategic they certainly do up the brainwork. I incorporate all of them (some I was already doing) except for his suggestion about removing the 12 city cards. He said 2, but I think he meant 12. The city cards are what create most of the tension in the endgame. There is a race-quality feel about getting to your home city in the last round and it requires so much resource planning and outbidding for tiles that I would not want to remove that element from the game. I suspect he didnt like the city cards because of a possible advantage/disadvantage with certain cities and I tend to think that there must be some sort of imbalance just by looking at the map, but I dont know for sure which cities are more favourable. In any case, I think whatever imbalance there is has to be marginal and we play with all the city cards.
The suggestions give Elfenland a transformation that remove any urge of wanting to play it old style again. I think it was Moons downfall to produce so few copies of Elfenroads because it made the original Elfenland lacklustre indeed. This Elfengold variation is a desired change in scenery.
Several modifications will make Elfenland a more strategic, interactive game that makes the decisions as difficult as in El Grande and as profound as in Puerto Rico. Elfenland has style and substance, and an innovative system resembling only Taj Mahal, but that could very well be a misleading comparison (Elfenroads came first, I think). Elfenlands, like every good game Ive played, isnt short on tough decisions. Whether its outguessing and outmaneouvering your opponent, outbidding others for tiles, selecting which card to take . . . this game is awesome in its scope.
Rio Grande scores again with its mighty impressive bits and chits. They put so much effort into making this a visually appealing game, they create an urge to hang the map on a wall the pieces are outstanding with the board being the best bit of all.
I mentioned making some adjustments to the game, mainly changes that make it play more like Elfenroads. Some changes Ive seen on the internet and some Ive borrowed from other games:
1) Money easy to create and makes all the difference. I used the Elfengold suggestion and made 65 gold coins out of paper then laminated them: 25 x 1, 25 x 5, and 15 x 10 gold pieces. Players begin with 12 gold.
2) Remove the 2 city cards - they are an unfair advantage.
3) Gold markers for the cities again from Elfengold. I made them from paper, laminated them then taped them to the board: 7 on Al'Baran; 6 on Kihromah; 5 on Grangor, Mah'Davikia, Jaccaranda and Erg'Eren; 4 on Strykhaven, Dag'Amura, Yttar, Parundia, Usselen and Feodor; 3 on Virst, Ixara, Wylhien, Throtmanni, Tichih and Rivinia; 2 on Beata and Lapphalia.
4) Players earn gold for each city they visit and earn nothing on a repeat visit. When ending ones turn, gold from the LAST city visited can be forfeited to gain 2 random cards (AlBaran and Kihromah can earn 3 random cards).
5) The number of rounds = number of players (minimum 4 rounds). This ensures each player gets to be the start player once and only once.
6) For drawing cards, the number of cards face up = 1 more than the number of players, so that a 4-player game will have 5 face up cards (4 + 1). The start player chooses first and that card is NOT replaced, so that the next player has a choice of 4 cards left. Players can opt to take a random face down card. When the turn comes back to the start player, a whole new selection of face up cards (i.e. 5) are put out. This rotation lasts 3 turns.
7) For auctioning, the number of tiles auctioned = 1 more than double the number of players, so that a 4-player game will have 9 tiles auctioned (4 x 2 + 1). Tiles are auctioned TWO at a time and the last lone tile will be auctioned by itself. Auctioning operates by going clockwise beginning with the start player and either passing or upping the bid to stay in.
8) Lakes only require 1 raft card to travel on.
What I have found is these rule changes boost the strategic nature of the game by making resources more scarce and the tactical decisions more precarious. One can see how the auctioning now becomes more intense (I love it!) when tiles are paired off instead of sold individually. Gold is now a premium since it is your ticket to getting the tiles you need to visit cities to collect more gold . . . etc.
It is to be expected that nobody will visit all 20 cities. People have come close, though. Winning isnt about hitting all 20 cities anyway. Its about clever play and out-thinking your opponents, which Elfenlands has more of than most games on the market. It also has a beautiful map to boot.
I am just geeky enough to like the fantasy theme, I find the art superbly captivating, and I even enjoy the puzzle-like game play. It is a resource management game which means it not very aggressive. I like that because it leads to less tension among friends and family. Players unknowingly meddle with your plan by placing the wrong tiles in the path that you had planned out. You must then change that plan and figure out how get the most out of your cards without interfering with your long-term strategy. There is enough luck to keep the game interesting to new gamers and enough strategy to maintain the interest of more serious gamers. The rules are fairly simple and straightforward. What more could you ask for?
I was not sure I wanted to invest my well earned dollars in this game after reading differing views from various sources. While many people were giving it top scores, there were some who were giving very low scores. The game seemed appealing however, so when I saw it on a 50% off sale at the local game shop, I decided to buy it and give it a shot. I am glad I did!
The first thing that struck me about this game when I opened it was how beautiful it is. From the bits, to the board, to the cards, they are all absolutely excellent. I just like opening the box and looking at this game. It is by far the nicest looking game I have ever seen - and I think that in part is what makes it enjoyable. However, everything has its flaws and this has one - they used cylinders instead of blocks. As a result, when people (especially my kids) are collected them they sometimes end up rolling off the table if they don't place them on the flat side. But after telling them how to lay them (and thankfully they listened) this problem has pretty much disappeared. On a reissue Amiga should consider using blocks but this is an extreme nitpick.
The game itself plays very well. There is a possibility of some downtime if you get heavy thinkers, but this can be true of many games. However, I tell my kids when someone is planning their moves they should be doing the same and we end up having very little down time - it has not been a problem at all.
What about the rules? People have pointed out the changes in two places in the rules. First, Amiga say that you must play 2 raft cards when crossing either lake, Alan Moon says on one lake must use 2, but on the other you can use 1. Well since the first set of rules I read were Amiga's rules included in the game, we go by these. This is a minor rule anyway - I could go either way.
The other rule is significant. Either receive 8 new cards each hand regardless of the number you have remaining in your hand during the previous turn (Alan's rules), or receive only the amount that will get you back to 8 (Amiga's rules). Again, we have only played using Amiga's rules and the winner is consistently visiting 18 or 19 cities. I can't imagine getting 8 new cards each turn - that would just make it way too easy. After all this has been said, my recommendation is - just use the rules that come with the game (Amiga's). They work very, very well and are written very clearly. Also, and this is important, use the city cards. This is an optional rule included with the game that penalizes you if you don't land on your city at the end of the game. (This is a random city, distributed at the beginning of the game via a card). This rule adds just a little more tension to the game.
So far we have played this game with only 5 or 6 players. With that amount the game is great! I can't comment on less than that, however I don't think it would affect gameplay too much. My guess is that it may be harder to hit more cities, but this would not be a bad thing.
Is this a good family game? I would say most definitely yes, however I wouldn't expect younger kids to play as well as adults. My 12 year old daughter can play as well as most adults, while my 10 year old daughter also plays pretty well. My son needs a little help, but after a few games he is getting better. Keep in mind he is only 7 years old and the game recommends ages of at least 10. All that aside, this is a great game to introduce your family to a more strategic type of game, and they will love it.
I have heaped much praise on this game and I think it deserves it. But I will address the fact that some people have given it low scores. I believe the reason is that these people may be more of the really hard core, extreme strategy gamers. Yes, I could see this might be a little boring for them because the rules, and the varying moves in this game are quite simple. But for a family game, or even a game played with just adults, this is a fun, very unique game that plays in about an hour. Most people will love this game.
Board Gamers of Reno weigh in with a big high five for Elfenland. This is truly a wonderful race game that is extremely versatile. Anyone who bad-mouths this game is stuck with a low sense of imagination. Once you learn the basics of the game, you can virtually go anywhere with house variations to keep it fresh. First, always play with the designation cities as the final stop for players, then mix any of the following:
1. Use a cloth bag and draw tiles blind for each round;
2. Put the pressure on by reducing the rounds of play from 4 to 3;
3. Put a 'hearts' angle on the cards by having to pass three cards to your
neighbor...before or after the tiles have been played.
4. Allow obstacles to be used twice.
So if you dont own it, get it. Elfenland can be enjoyed by practically any
age group and customized with ease...
As long as your brain hasnt atrophied on TV!
Although I've never played a German game before, I'd heard so much about this one that I decided to give it a try. While it was different from any game I've ever played before, I wasn't disappointed.
We had another family visiting us this Christmas. We played Elfenland about 6 or 7 times, and they were asking where we found this game so they could purchase it. Every game was just as fun and engaging as the game before. The adults enjoyed it just as much as the kids, and the age of the winners ranged from 8 to 42 years old.
It has a good balance between interaction and strategy, and no game was exactly the same. Elfenland is neither too heavy nor too light, and the artwork and game components are very nicely done. It's easy enough for children to understand, while at the same time there's enough strategy to keep adults interested. The rules can also be adapted/altered to each gaming group's tastes. It was definitely our favorite game this Christmas.
We just had our games marathon recently where the 10 of us played about 12 games over 3 days in 2 groups of 5.
We loved this game, especially the constant dilemma each player faces trying to match their transportation counters and cards with those placed by their opponents. It always produces a close finish and you often won't know who can make that last stretch to claim the most cities!
The only variation we considered was that each player should know his/her city card, as many who were tied and lost due to the 'closest to city rule' felt that this was too random a way to go down after all that thinking and planning throughout the game.
All in all, we all loved it! By the way, Elfenland took a very close second place after... what else, Acquire!
Some critics feel that the Spiel des Jahres judges tend to pick rather light games. While this is often true, this is not necessarily a bad thing. There is a separate award given for hardcore strategy games in the Deutscher SpielePries. Elfenland is a very worthy winner of the SdJ, and is a real standout as a family game.
For those who want a meatier gaming experience, I strongly recommend picking up the Elfengold expansion, sold separately. This adds much to the game, rivalling the original limited-edition game of Elfenroads.
So there you have it. Elfenland by itself is an easy five star game for family consumption, if you have slightly older kids. Elfenland with Elfengold is a very easy five star winner in the hardcore strategy gaming field. Does that make it four thumbs up? Highly recommended.
This is a fun game. It seems deceptively simple at first glance, but you will find yourself in deep strategic thought trying to plan your move. You move your boot along the map using various transportation counters: troll wagons, giant pigs, magic clouds, elfcycles, and so on. Both players can use the same transportation counter, so you have to decide if you want to travel with another opponent, blaze your own trail, or a combination of the above. You have to plan a route and possible 'plan b' routes should your primary route be littered with your opponent's transportation counters which turn out not to match the cards in your hand. Suffice it to say there is lots of strategy. It is also an attractive game. Each elfen city that your boot visits has it's own unique architecture.
I like this game because of all these factors--but it tends to be a game you either love or hate. If you don't like a game where you have to use logic to plan a move, you may not like this game. If you like this game, you probably will like RoboRally or [page scan/se=0630/sf=category/fi=stockall.asc/ml=20]Through the Desert. A last note: I recommend the advanced option of using the town cards, but only after you have played the basic game a few times.
Being in the unique position of having played the derivative game (King of the Elves) BEFORE the antecedent (Elfenland), even I was curious to see what I thought of this game. I liked King of the Elves for its gorgeous art, clever card management, subtly important player interaction, and incredible value. Well, Elfenland is a board game, and a rather big one at that, so the game obviously isn't going to be as good a bargain, but it is an even better game.
With a whole board full of the same art now, you get a game that looks so beautiful and whimsical that you almost feel like you are playing a delightful children's fairy tale. But don't let my rather lofty aesthetic reflections turn you off this game. It is good, really good. Awesome card management now combined with even tougher decisions about how to get to all the cities. King of the Elves' strength is that the 'board' always changes, but the strength of Elfenland is that because of the travel markers and your opponents' opportunities to play them, each time you play, you must have a totally different approach. Racing around the realm with the different modes of transportation, trying to find a Dragon to take you across the desert, or being stopped short in the mountains because you have a Magic Cloud, but only Elf Cycles are permitted to pass thru--what an adventure! I find that the trade-off in 'mapping' between the two 'Elfen' games works to Elfenland's favor.
The game sounds too simple, which is why I didn't play it sooner. Who wants to race magic clouds through a fairy-tale setting? (Well, okay, I admit that lots of people including myself would really like to try something like that!) But as a game, I thought that it sounded too simple--almost like Sorry or Frustration with really good art. Well, that misconception got cleared up in a hurry. This is a great family game, a great gamer game, and it scales well from 2-6 players (something that can be said for VERY few games). I highly recommend this one to everyone. If you are on a shoestring budget right now, King of the Elves is a better deal, but not as involving a game. But you get a winner either way. Everyone who enjoys board games should have at least of of the two 'Elfen' games by Alan Moon. (Aside to Alan Moon: very well done! This game is delightful!)
At first I wasn't sure what to expect when our gaming group popped open our brand new copy of Elfenland. Impressive were the high-quality cardboard tiles and the wooden pieces, and the board itself was a marvel to look at, resembling the kind of maps you find in fantasy novels. At first, Elfenland seems like a simple race game: get to as many cities as possible in four turns, and try and visit more towns than anyone else. It wasn't until we were planning our opening moves that we realized the sheer amount of strategy involved in getting your opening gambit just right. If someone should cross paths with you, it is possible to piggyback along their course, saving you valuable transportation tokens. The scores are usually kept fairly close throughout the game too, and it is not always a good tactic to scoot out into the lead early, as other players may toss obstacles in your way in the later turns. While it has received mixed reviews recently, there isn't one player in our gaming group who doesn't recognize the sheer brilliance behind the design of Elfenland. Well done, Alan Moon.
Our family has played Elfenland several times now and the experience has been just plain fun. The game components are absolutely first rate - all pieces are substantial, well-made and look to be extremely durable. The artwork is fanciful and highly appropriate to the theme, and is carried through to every component of the game.
Game set-up is fairly simple, and the game is over in 4 rounds, usually taking an hour or much less. The strategy of the game begins once the selection of transportation counters is over, and you are confronted with reconciling what you have managed to draw with the movement cards in your hand.
All is not necessarily lost for the failure of your cards to match up to the counters. Sometimes, for example, if you don't have a transportation counter, you can use one laid down by another player. The ability to pass in the laying of the transportation counters allows you to lie low and take a chance that you might be able to do so. Also the caravanning rule allows you, through the expenditure of three movement cards, to follow routes for which you have neither transportation counters nor movement cards, which, if the counters you have don't work on the roads to which you have access, may allow you to break through into an area in which they do work, or allow you to get through to roads with counters which work with your cards. Either way, it is difficult to be completely shut down, as long as you keep thinking!
After placement of the movement counters, each player then moves in turn as far as the movement conters on the board and transportation cards in their hand allow them to move. Sometimes there are miscalculations and a player finds himself stranded. Sometimes, however, opportunities open in play which weren't apparent in the initial placement of counters, allowing a player to go further than they expected. The movement portion of the game goes around quickly, and is a source of great suspense as you watch to see just how far your opponents can get.
The result is a highly competitive race on each player's part for his or her 20 markers, one of which is on each city in Elfenland, excepting the start city, Elfenhold. Elfenland is a very different game from most of the games out today and requires creative thinking and the ability to think strategically and flexibly. It is, nonetheless, a game which our 11 year-old girl loves and at which she beats her parents with great regularity.
I recommend this game with great enthusiasm.
What seems on the outside to be a distinctly German 'cute' fantasy game turns out to be a highly replayable and enjoyable strategy romp, with plenty of pithy ruminations on resource management, opponents' actions and step-based progression. Assuming you've already read the basic description of the game, I'll highlight a few of the attributes that make this game great:
My wife and I have had this game for almost half a year and have yet to make a perfect score. The most cities I've ever been able to get to is 19 out of 20! (Darn Kirhoma!) And we haven't even started using the trouble tiles! The only possible cons of this game are the tendency for everyone to sit for ten minutes in absolute silence as they contemplate their cards, tiles and itinerary and try to guess what everyone else is going to do. This tends to make it a 60-120 min. game when this happens. I also doubt the ability of most 9-year-olds to compete effectively with adults in the same game, but I don't have one, so I don't know... I'm sure we will see an English version of the well-illustrated and written rulebook soon, but I wish I'd had one in the beginning!
This game plays equally well with 2 or more, and everyone we've played with has enjoyed it thoroughly. Don't let the pretty, hand-drawn graphics and cute elf-cycles and magic clouds fool you: this is a gamer's game. Do yourself and your friends a favor, and take a trip to Elfenland!
To have a game that plays this well for up to 6 players is a real treat! Luck certainly plays a part, as your meager 8 cards and 4 counters in each round rarely seem to sort out exactly to fulfill your every single hope and scheme. But there is always more than one way to do something, and careful or clever planning can keep you in the running while luck evens out over the course of the four rounds. The rules take perhaps 20-30 minutes to get a grip on -- with as many little details as, maybe, cribbage -- but after one or two games, everbody kens the rules and the competition becomes as keen as you like. Victory depends on getting the most you can from each and every card, and the finish is always close. At the same time it's a friendly, pleasant game, and in my opinion will be much played for years to come.
This family strategy game is very good. Although the concept is by fare new, the twist and theme is original.
The drawings and means of transportation are both fantastic and creative and really sets your imagination in motion.
Elfenland works very well for families and the occasional gamer, and might also go well with your gamerfriends.
I normally shy away from fantasy games, but took a chance on Elfenland, and was pleasantly surprised. While it does bear a fanstasy theme, this is merely an attractive veneer for a very competitive and challenging 'triatholon'-type racing game combined with a scavenger hunt, where the players lay out new 'track' each turn -- optimizing their own paths while trying to obstruct those of opponents --- then use a variety of transportation means available to collect as many tokens as they can. The theme could have just as easily been one of contemporary transcontinental racing using airplanes, trains, buses, ships, and bicycles.
Our group has really enjoyed playing this game, and I think families would enjoy it as well. Of the 60+ different strategy games we've played as a group in the last 1.5 years, Elfenland doesn't appear to be like any other. It's a serious strategy game that evokes lots of 'Gotcha' laughs and howls, and the competition is usually close right up to the end. Careful planning and anticipation of opponents' plans is crucial to this game.
So if you're like me and avoid fantasy games as a general rule, don't let the name of this game scare you away. Give it a try.
I bought Elfenland recently and introduced it to my gaming group.. it was by and large well received (the guy who complained it takes too long was the one who spent the most time analyzing his move.. so we can't blame the game for that). The bits are top notch, the (large) board opens flat, the cards high quality, the storage box has well thought out compartments, and with a small bag to draw out the tiles (not provided) you're all set. The coulours are appealing, of good contrast. It's a feast to the eye, and the possibility of cruising cross country on elf-bikes, trolls, unicorns, pigs, dragons and whatever else is a joy.. especially a propos after the recent Lord of the Rings movie.
It is said this is a kid's game. That may be, but my gaming group for some reason has worked pretty hard to turn it into chess. Which is nuts, but fun for most of us. Problem is that the game is taking longer than it should, as people get caught up optimizing paths - something a bit silly given the high luck factor in this game, but it's done mostly in an atmosphere of fun and enjoyment. I'm actually very surprised that the game was received as well as it was. We are also looking forward to playing the cards for the provided variation, where you look to see how close you get in the end to your secret city. I'm sure this will impart complete stress and caos.
I bought Elfengold at the same time because it's the expansion that converts the kids' game into a grownup one, as previous reviews suggested that grownups would enjoy the game more with the expansion. I can't comment on that yet - what I will say is that the expansion is horrendously overpriced for what little bits come in the box. I think I'm about as outraged by the cost of the air inside the box (which is what the box mostly contains) as I was when I bought Modern Art. I hope the expansion plays well. Given how nice Elfenlands is, I'm sure the expansion is well worth it.. but what a fleecing!
I play Transamerica on the online German Gaming Site, BrettSpielWelt. (www.brettspielwelt.de). I chose Elfenlands over TA (in a rare show of restraint, I only picked one game to buy between two) because EL is more colourful, has a better (more fun) theme, has considerably more meat (and I would expect with Elfengold it would have even more meat), and it's a really fun game with several variations built in, appealing to all ages. TA has less bits, less variations, a boring map, and a HUGE luck factor on the cards distribution (the first time you play it and get hosed with Boston or New York, plus Seattle and some other gem, you'll know what I mean). Not to say TA is not a good game.. it has its place, and many of my online gaming friends ask for it. I think EL has a higher replay value.. it's just more fun. Among my friends on the gaming group who have played both, there was concensus that buying EL was the way to go.
Elfenland can be, or can become, whatever your group of players wants to make it. At the base, it is a race not so much against others but against a 'system' performed over a puzzle (the board). The game is symmetrical in that all players have the same objective (visit 20 cities) and the same types of cards are available to all, although which cards you actually end up getting differs from round to round.
Once you have your resources, you try and figure out the most efficient way to visit all 20 cities using your resources. If this was all there is about this game I would not be writing this. The interactive part comes in when players place their tiles on the board, thereby dynamically altering the original layout. As each tile is laid out, the puzzle changes. Not only must you plan what could end up being your move, but you must react to placements by your opponents. Where did that Unicorn come from?
Granted that there is relatively little that you can do to impede the others, but since resources are limited, I feel that you need not stop the competition cold to win. Merely making their travel less efficient (than yours) will get you the win.
The order in which you place your tiles can be crucial. Players that do extremely well seem to have a knack to 'piggyback' on their opponents' tokens. For example, if you end up alone in a corner of the board, you'll have to place all the tokens necessary for your travels since you can not use previously travelled paths. When in proximity to others you may be able to use their tiles to travel, thereby saving your own resources.
Given a competitive bunch of players, the level of play can be elevated to a reasonably high (cutthroat) level. Or you could play it in a gentler, kindler manner. It's really up to you.
As a rule, I prefer non-race-type designs. Elfenland is an exception because I get the 'feel' of control, although I know that this is merely an illusion (when played cutthroat).
Overall Elfenland is a solid design.
Well, this was the very first German game I purchased (since then have tried others) and I was thoroughly impressed. Beautiful board and playing card/pieces help put this game on the right track for me. I was a bit nervous about only playing with two (2) players but it turned out to be surprisingly fun with two (and the more players the better). This game has just the right blend of luck and skill I look for in a board game. Virtually all the Elfenland games I've played have come right down to the wire. We have played this game consistently over the past 8 months and it continues to be lots of fun for a casual board gamer like me.
Well, my wife and I finally got a chance to try Elfenland at this year's Origins. We thought we should give it a fair shake after reading the reviews on here. Needless to say, when you play, you'll fall into one of two camps: those who love the game and those who walk away puzzled, trying to figure out what the fuss is all about. Both my wife and I fell into that latter group after the game. If I had written the review right when we came back from Origins, it might have only received two stars.
However, I can certainly see the merits in this game. While I don't think it's anywhere near Spiel des Jahres material, it does have certain interesting characteristics that can make it worth playing, hence my rating of three stars. I don't think I'll be hunting down this game to own for myself, but I'd probably sit down and try it again if I ever had the chance. Take that for what it's worth.
This game got so many rave reviews all over I had to acquire it. The first games were very fun, both with just a couple people and then with more. However, after these initial games (and the joy of comprehending a new play dynamic) the appeal faded like air rushing out of a balloon.
Here are some of its problems:
This game is great fun the first few times you play it, but don't expect a lot more out of it than that unless you love race games. If you love race games choose something like Mississippi Queen or Formula De.
How moving a big wooden boot around a board to pick up wooden cylinders can be so much fun is beyond me, but it is! The play of the game is straightforward enough - visit as many cities on the board as possible. The limited strategy of what type of transportation to place where, and which route to follow, is totally dictated by what transportation counters are available and the cards in your hand. This boils down to not really having much choice in the matter - you go where you are able.
I suppose that the enchantment of the game is that anyone can play this game (and do fairly well at the first crack) and the quaint artwork by Doris Matthaus accurately sets the mood - traveling through a fantasy land. All in all, it is a fun time with a short learning curve and a unique movement system. A worthwhile adventure.
Despite what is written on the box, In my opinion Elfenland isn't really a two-player game. It is very difficult to visit all of the destinations when you are only relying on your own transport tiles (since your opponent is probably in an entirely different place on the board). This problem vanishes with more players, however, as the number of options you have increases with the number of players.
Being a computer scientist, I understand just how inherently difficult the travelling salesman problem is - and this game is very much based on that problem. This is much of what gives Elfenland a lot of its ability to be replayed, as you try to work out better strategies each time. Not that your strategies always work out, since so much of the game comes down to luck - did you get the right transport cards and transport tiles?
I have tried to like this game. I love the artwork and I love the theme, but this game is, well, boring. You get some cards, then you pick tokens. You place the tokens on roads, and then you play the cards to move on the roads with tokens. The one who gets to the most cities wins. ZZZZZZ
In saying that, I want to add that King of the Elves is an excellent game (but requires a couple of rule tweaks). In this game, the bluffing factor, added to the many ways that you can outwit your opponents makes the game fantastic.
Pass on this game and buy King of the Elves instead. My kids refuse to play this game because it is boring, but they love Tikal...that should tell you something.
Okay, so the original was allegedly an AMAZING game, and Elfengold makes Elfenland like the original, but I was SO BORED wtih this game, I wasn't even going to waste money on the expansion! Now, I LOVE Capitol (Alan Moon), and I LOVE San Marco (Alan Moon), but Elfenland was horrible.
In short , the game is a methodical exercise in resource allocatement. Perhaps this game will appeal to non-gamers or families, but you have any desire to expend some creative brain juice, pick up San Marco or Capitol before Elfenland. My group had more fun playing 'the dot' game, where you connect dots and draw squares, then write your initialls in the completed box.
Hope this helps!
OK, maybe the traveling salesman problem isn't that interesting for me, or maybe the strategy of Elfenland is just too subtle for me to pick up. I have played this game several times, and each time it just seems like a mild mental exercise instead of a game. It hasn't been any fun!
You look at your cards, pick the transportation tiles that best fit, place the tiles on the board in the most advantageous way possible, maybe try to throw a 'bad' counter in the path of your opponents (if you have a counter to spare), and move your boot (pawn). No real strategy other than to avoid backtracking and try to tag along with another player so that you can possibly use the counters they put down as well as your own. The only player interaction, other than the aforementioned placement of 'bad' counters, is in placing obstacle counters, and really, they are somewhat predictable: if you don't play with someone who just hoses an opponent at random in the beginning of the game, the obstacle counters do not come out until rounds 3 and 4, and they are invariably directed at whoever is currently in the lead. If you are the leader, you can compensate for the obstacles that are bound to be headed your way.
The random destination cards add a little bit of variety to the game, but it is not enough to offset the fixed board and predictable game play. Maybe the Elfengold expansion adds more strategy and/or excitement to the game; I have not tried it. Elfenland by itself, though, leaves me with much to be desired. Beautiful bits, nice theme, but just not that entertaining to play. Not likely to make it off my shelf very often with so many other great games to play.
The awards that the game received prompted me to buy it. But it turns out to be a total disappointment. The strategy is there, but it's easy to master. Although the objective of the game seems to be different every time (i.e. different location), you will get bored with it very easily becuase the strategy you would use is independent of your destination. I have to admit that I had fun with it when I first bought it, but it is absolutely not something I would call 'game of the year'.
Bottom line: The game is now sitting under my bed with 1.73 layers of dust on it. I am glad that people commented the game here didn't overrate it. But on the other hand, I regret that I didn't check this site out before I bought the game.
I picked up this game amidst all the hype and junk running about how a great game it was, but after playing it a few times (even with the Elfengold expansion), I have to say it really is overhyped. It's a decent, light game, but I really don't see that much strategy. There are minor decisions to make throughout the game, but almost all of them seem obvious to me. Unlike the other reviewer who says the game is full of subtle strategy and has never been able to play a 'perfect game', I find it very unusual if someone doesn't hit all 20 cities and return to his/her capital. This assumes 4+ players.
I didn't like Elfenland. I wanted to. I can understand why people would like it... I just didn't.
I didn't like the little wooden boots, I didn't like the cutesy means of transportation. I didn't like hurting my head trying to get to the next place I needed to go.
To my mind, it reminds me of a more elaborate Sorry game. The confusing thing is that I generally enjoy race games...
Sorry, but it was a disappointing 'Game of the Year'.
Call me contrary, but I really fail to see what everyone is so ecstatic about when it comes to playing this game. Or rather, I think I have a good idea as to why I don't like it. If you re-read my last sentence, please emphasize that last 'I'. The problem I have with it is that there is almost no interaction with your fellow players. All right, I admit it: I like to outthink and outplay my opponent, but I'd like to have a say about how some of the turns come out. Too often it feels as if you could play this game as a solitaire. You use trouble counters to impede movement, but since you only have one, interaction becomes minimal. The one time that you can waylay an opponent's move is by outguessing them and dropping a 'bad' tile in the direction they were planning to go. Unfortunately, you only do this when the tile does you absolutely no good. I'd like to see how the new Elfengold expansion improves this game as I have heard that interaction becomes crucial in bidding for the tiles. We played the game with 3 players and I can see that 4 might have improved things a bit because paths tend to criss-cross much more frequently then, allowing for (again, mostly accidental I fear) more 'bumping' into each other's roads and tiles.
In 1992, Alan Moon released the game Elfenroads through his company White Wind. The production run was limited to 1200 copies. Alan's commitment on his limited edition games was that he would never reproduce a game without changing it in some way to ensure the investment of collectors. As the years passed since the release of Elfenroads, it became one of the Holy Grails of game collectors. Copies showed up on the Internet once in a while and fetched triple the original price or higher. People were dying to try the game that many considered one of the best games of all time. There was much rejoicing when Amigo announced that it was doing a simplified version of Elfenroads (as Elfenland). This year at Nuremburg the game was finally released.
As a bit of background, I was a member of Alan's White Wind club and got a copy of Elfenroads a short time after it was released. I felt then and feel now that it is one of the best games I've ever played. The interplay of the different systems made it a very enjoyable game. Even my parents (who aren't big game players) love the game, and bought a copy. However, the one drawback was that the game could run pretty long. The game took at least two hours, probably longer depending on your group's tendencies to sit and think everything out, kibitz, etc. Elfenland was specifically designed to streamline the game, one whole element was removed (money was used in the original to auction movement counters), and the number of turns was cut from eight to four.
In Elfenland, the idea is to travel around the map (beautifully rendered by the fantabulous Doris Matthäus) and visit as many of the twenty cities depicted as possible as part of a coming of age trial for young elves. The map shows a network of interconnected cities with varied terrain (woods, grasslands, mountains, rivers, desert and lakes). There is a set of transportation counters in a number of different types, and a deck of cards which depict the same transportation. The counters and cards are used in combination to travel around the board. There is also a set of markers in six colors and pawns (actually little elven boots) in those same colors.
The markers (which for some reason Amigo produced as little cylinders that roll all over rather than the ubiquitous painted wooden cubes) are placed on the map (one in each city for each player in the game), and the boots are placed on the starting city. Each player also receives a trouble counter which increases the cost of moving along a particular route and a card depicting one of the cities on the board as their secret destination (there is one card for each of the cities on the outer edges of the board). If a player reaches all of the cities by the end of the third round, then they win, otherwise the fourth round is played out and the destinations are checked. The distance from your destination is subtracted from the total number of cities you have visited and the player with the highest total wins.
From here, the rounds are identical in nature. Each player gets a number of cards (the number of cards is a bit in dispute, but I'll get to that later), and one transport counter face down. Five counters are then placed face up and the players choose one at a time (either one of the face up counters or one from the face down pool) until everyone has chosen three. Each player in turn may then place one counter at a time on the board or pass. The counters go on the paths connecting the cities and there may only be one counter between any two cities (aside from a trouble counter which is in addition to any transport counter). All players may use any of the transport counters on the board, provided they have the necessary cards. Once all players have passed in turn, the placing ends and the players play cards to move around the board. This is the heart of the game. Different transport methods are better in different areas and some can't even go in some areas (for example, the giant pig can only go through grasslands or woods, a unicorn only costs one card to use in the woods and mountains, but two in the desert). Trouble counters increase the number of cards needed by one. A player plays cards and moves as far as they like, picking up their markers to show that they have reached the different cities visited. If a player doesn't have the necessary cards for a particular leg of their journey, they can opt to caravan (provided a counter exists on the route), by discarding any three cards from their hand. After all players have moved, the counters are removed from the board and the cards are reshuffled. You may only hold four cards and one transport counter from turn to turn. Any extras are turned in to be reused on subsequent turns. Any trouble counters played on the turn are removed from the game. After this, the next turn commences with the dealing of cards and so on, and that's basically the game.
The allure of Elfenland (and Elfenroads) is in solving the traveling salesman problem that is constructed each turn by the interaction of the players. You must try to be as efficient as possible in moving around the board, and all your planning can go out the window when someone plays a giant pig on a piece of your route when you don't have a pig card in your hand. In my mind, Elfenland has highlighted the route solving portion of Elfenroads in the streamlining process. Instead of auctioning counters, and choosing cards you're forced to deal with what cards you've gotten and work with those rather than tailoring both your cards and counters together and going head to head with someone else to try to get that one dragon that came up. I feel that the original game is still worth playing due to the increased player control, but that the trade-off in time (since the new one clocks in at an hour to an hour and a half) probably means that Elfenland will come off the shelf a lot more than Elfenroads did. I wouldn't be unhappy playing Elfenland, but I know that occasionally I'd like to have the other to play.
One of things I had to deal with in writing this review was differing rules sets. Alan Moon posted his version of the rules on the net, and it turns out that they are slightly different from the rules that Amigo published. The main difference is that in the Amigo rules, you would receive enough cards to fill your hand back to eight, and in Alan's rules you would get eight cards no matter what. I played the game both ways, and it does make a difference in feel. When only filling to eight cards, I felt more pressure to make things work out right and burn through my cards (especially if they didn't look like they'd fit with the terrain I would end up in). Alan's rules gave me a lot more flexibility, and everyone made it to all of their cities or were only one short rather than up to two cities short for the Amigo version. The other change Amigo made was to make crossing both lakes cost the same (rather than one costing twice as much). I'm not sure of the effect of that since I didn't try the Amigo version, but I have a feeling it wouldn't make a big difference one way or the other.
All in all, I feel that Elfenland does a good job in taking the core of what made Elfenroads compelling and making a good game that takes half the time to play. For people who never got a chance to play (or even see) Elfenroads, it's a fine game and well worth having in your collection. Alan even provided the information people would need to try playing Elfenroads with the Elfenland set in his posted rules, and with a little DIY, you'd have both the games for the price of one.