* I would like to point out that the pictures you see in this Preview do not necessarily reflect the final product of the game as this copy was a demo only. All components are subject to change based on the designer’s choice.
Publisher: Reggie Games
Designers: Tommaso Mondadori and Alberto Parisi
Time: 45-75 min.
In ELO Darkness, players are put in The Creation: Arena where they will battle for a world leaving the Elsewhere in the past. Those who reign supreme will be the leaders of the new world. You will gain the trust of Heroes to fight for your side hoping to destroy the enemies base to rule Creation. Make sure you use your Heroes wisely, choices are tough and can be detrimental to your victory.
ELO Darkness is played over a series of rounds until one player reaches the other players base.
At the beginning of the game, each player will take five Heroes, one of each color and their associated action cards and their tokens, a copy of all items available, and other action cards to equal 40 cards in their deck. Each player will also get 3 Roaming/Free Lane cards and put them on the side of the board. Players will shuffle their deck of cards and draw 7.
The game board is set up where there are three paths to each players base. These are the three avenues where the players will battle to try and overtake the others base. A player only needs to reach the base in one of those lanes to win the game. Each path will have a Minions marker on it where the battle is taking place in that lane, during that round. For each battle in the lanes, the minion marker will move towards the player who lost the battle. If there is a tower on the space where the battle takes place, it will be removed from the game if it was on the same side as the player that lost. Each lane will have a Hero tied to it, but in your base area you will have 2 additional Heroes that will be able to support the battle in any lane.
Each round will consist of many phases. Farming Phase is the first phase where players can decide to keep the cards they have in their hand or discard some to gain a benefit. After players have decided whether to keep or discard cards, they can then buy items from the market. Simply pay the cost of the item and place it on their side of the board where the items belong.
The next phase is the Backing Phase. During this phase each player will have the opportunity to back down on one path. When doing this it does a couple of things that are key to the game. It immediately closes the lane from any battles that will take place and then frees up your Hero that is associated with that lane to use in other lanes. Normally three of your Heroes would stay in their own lane, but this is the time to move them if you want……at a cost. You would have to move the Minion marker one step closer to your base to be able to do this.
When the Backing Phase is done, you are now ready to battle in the Combat Phase. There are two parts to the Combat Phase, first being Deploying. For every lane that is still open, because no one chose to Back it during the Backing Phase, each player will play a card to those lanes face down. Those cards need to be a general Laner card or a card with the Hero in that lane.
When Deployment is done, each player reveals their cards and then it is the Challenges part of the Combat Phase. The first player of the round will choose a Lane to Challenge then each player will take turns choosing to perform certain actions. They can play another Hero card, of a Hero in that lane. They can activate an Item Card. They can play another Hero card who is in the Gank area. They can Stall, by simply letting the other player choose to do something then react to it. And lastly they can get Greedy. Play will continue until each player passes. The player who has the highest influence at the end will be the winner of that Challenge. Each Hero that was used during this fight is exhausted and the next player then chooses one of the other lanes that is open to Challenge. Every round each lane will have a Challenge unless it was closed due to the Backing Phase.
That brings us to the final phase in the round which is the Refresh Phase. During this phase, each player discards down to 5 cards, then draws 2 for a total of seven. If you have less than 5 you still only draw 2 cards and each player gains one coin.
Play continues until one base has been breached. The breaching side will be declared the winner.
I am beyond impressed with how the team at Reggie Games was able to bring the atmosphere and strategy of a MOBA into a board game. I will start off by saying that I am horrible at games of this genre, where it is me and a deck of cards going against someone else with a deck of cards, but there is something here that I really enjoy. There is a real strong strategy focus in every phase of the game. Hard choices need to be made and they are tense. Do I get rid of cards in the Farming Phase to get more gold and possibly buy a new card, but then I am thinning by hand of cards for the combat phase. Do I back off in one lane to try and throw more Hero support in another lane, or just take my chances in every lane. During Combat, do I play a Hero card that is in that lane or do I choose a general Laner card, and wait to play my Hero. ELO Darkness has a solid strategy feel throughout.
Game play is pretty smooth once you get a couple rounds in. It can seem a bit weird to new players but that wears off pretty fast after a couple rounds, then you start seeing what you should have done or what you can do in the future.
There is a nice deal of replayablility here. There are 5 different color Heroes, you need one of each color in your deck. There are two Heroes for each color. You can mix and match the Heroes and see which combination you like best. There are also tons of expansions that could be done to make it even more changeable. Each Hero has their own specialty that feels distinctly different from the others. Some are good at getting gold, while others are good at strength. There are even ways to play 4 player games as teams.
The rule book needs some help with clarification and better explanations. The flow of how they explain things seems to be just a bit off. I have no real major concerns here and the game can be learned from it, but just needs a little tweaking.
As a person who has dabbled in the MOBA genre from time to time, ELO Darkness does a great job at bringing that to the board game industry. If you are a fan of MOBA gaming, this should be right up your ally. Every so often a game comes out that is a hybrid of other games that it just makes sense. ELO Darkness is that game. Similar to Clank!, Tyrants of the Underdark and Super Motherload that take a simple deck building mechanism and add an extra layer with a board…..ELO Darkness does a similar thing with Two Player collectible card games like Magic. This fantastic marriage of two player combat plus an added layer of strategy, with an objective based board, works surprisingly well and I can’t wait to see what can come of this game with the addition of expansions. Overall, this game is really fun to play and introduces some nice new interesting elements that don’t over stay their welcome.