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Elder Sign: Omens first impressions

G Updated December 13, 2019
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Elder Signs Omens
There Will Be Games

If you haven't seen it already, Elder Sign: Omens is out now, for iOS.  Here's the iTunes link:   Apparently the Android version was released, then pulled, so I guess you'll have to wait for that, but it should be out soon for Android, as well as specific versions for iPad and Mac.

This app is fantastic in terms of graphics and execution.  Seriously, I don't know if there's a better board game app in that sense.  And the gameplay is very well done and easy to work with, even on the small iPhone/iPod Touch screen.  It was a little buggy at first... I had to restart about 10 times in my first game, but strangely it's as though my device "got used to it" or something, as it's been pretty stable since then.

There are quite a few changes, mostly small ones, between this version and the dice game.  The difficulty does seem to be increased, as I've lost 2 out of the first 5 games I've played (compared to 2 losses out of about 25 plays of the dice game).  One thing that I'm not crazy about, though, which relates to the difficulty increase, is that you can now get hit with 3 doom tokens at once at midnight, which seems excessive and random.  Yes, I want the game to be a lot more difficult, absolutely, but I'd rather see a more steady stream of single doomies at midnight, or even two at a time (and that happens, too, in the app), as opposed to three at once.  As it is, because of screen loading time, the app can take quite a bit longer to play through than the dice game, and it can seem kind of lame to play all the way through it only to lose out of the blue because you got hit with 3 doom tokens at once.

Actually, the 3 doom tokens at once gives me an idea... I think it might make a good variant for the dice game (and the app) to have something akin to the Innsmouth Deep Ones Rising Track, where certain things add tokens to it from time to time, and you can move to certain adventures (or maybe back to the Entrance) and spend Clues to remove those tokens or to fill up a different track (like the Feds Raid Innsmouth track). But if you don't do that soon enough, then 3-4 doom tokens are added at once, or maybe you just lose altogether. To me, that would be a lot better than adding 3 doom tokens at once completely at random at midnight, because there's some sense of control and expectation you have over that happening.
But anyway, that's another story...

A lot of people were anticipating that when the app came out, they'd be able to deduce the correct rules for the dice game (which there has been a lot of confusion about) from the rules to the app.  But I think that's not going to be a good idea at all, because the app has numerous small changes, and many of them are just done with the intent of making the programming easier and/or adjusting the difficulty.  So I really don't think the two versions can be integrated smoothly, nor should they be expected to. 
Examples of the some of the changes include: 

  • Azathoth is the only GOO.  So there's no "final battle" and no special ability of the GOO.  I don't miss the final battle, really, but I do hope they'll add some other GOOs for variety and for their special abilities.
  • There are no Allies.  Not a huge loss, but hopefully they'll return at some point.
  • When an investigator is insane or unconscious, they are not replaced.  I'm also not sure that a doom token is added when an investigator dies.  I think that's not the case anymore, although that would seem to make the game less difficult, not more.
  • Only 1-4 investigators per game, only (instead of 1-8).  I'm completely fine with that, as I usually play with 3-4 for solo games.
  • Spells are cast after rolling, but don't hold over for other investigators.  I understand that according to Richard Launius, the way the app works is how Spells were always intended to be used, but I actually much prefer how Spells work in the rules for the dice game, where you have to decide before rolling to use one, and then choose one of the dice you rolled, but you can also save dice on Spells for other players to use later.  To me, the uncertainty of that is more akin to how Spells work in Arkham Horror, and the decision to use them is more difficult, and yet I still find the Spells to be very powerful.  As it is in the app, it's essentially just another "focused" or "assisted" die, and it's not nearly as interesting to me that way.   So I'll keep playing the way the rules are written for the dice game version.
  • There aren't any "at midnight" or "lingering" effects (other than for some adventures). Basically, when midnight hits, something happens (usually a doom token or monster is added) and that's that.  There are no "Mythos Cards."
  • As mentioned above, there are now 2-3 doom token midnights. 
  • There is a scoring system, but to me it doesn't really make sense, as it gives you points per the number of turns you take, and the number of tasks/adventures you complete, etc.  I think you should get a higher score if you win the game and have fewer turns.  But this rewards taking longer to complete the game (which may not happen by design, if you just suck), and it doesn't penalize you for failed adventures and such.  I like the idea of there being a scoring system, I just don't think it's a good one the way it is.
  • When other investigators "assist" they are not penalized if you fail the adventure.
  • When other investigators "assist" you can focus/assist multiple dice at once.  In the dice game rules, only one die per roll on a failed task can be used to either focus or assist.  In this version, for example, if you have three investigators at the same location, and you fail a task, you can place three dice to focus/assist, one on each investigator.
  • The "wild" side of the red die can be used for "4 investigation" whereas in the dice game it can only be used as "1 investigation."   That's a strange difference if they were trying to make this game more difficult, but it's possible that was the original intention and it's just another example of the screwy rules of the dice game.
  • Monsters are automatically added to the adventures... you don't get to choose where they go.
  • The Lost & Found risk/reward is a little different... I can't remember exactly how, but I recall that the details aren't the same.  I actually found myself using that a couple times in desperation, and I don't think I've ever used that in the dice game.
  • And probably a few other things that I'm forgetting, but you get the idea...

Looking at that list, I'm thinking how it's annoying that after the confusion about how some things are supposed to work in the dice game, this coming out now probably makes it worse.  And now you essentially have to relearn the game, or at least relearn a lot of details of it, to know how to play this version effectively.  And then when you go back to play the dice game, you have to remember those differences.  Oy. 

But the bottom line is, this is really a must have as far as board game apps go.  On its own, without factoring in any of the confusion between this and the dice game version, it's a really great game and it's just incredibly well put together in terms of the production and graphics.  The price of $3.99 for iPhone/iPod Touch is very reasonable (I was expecting $4.99 or $5.99).  Hopefully, they'll add some more of the GOOs in there, as well as some other tweaks and changes (no more 3 dooms at once, please, unless I know it's coming or have some means of dealing with it!).  But it is great already, as it is.

- Grudunza

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This article was written by a member of
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