Gearing up to preside over game of the year lists everywhere, and with critical adoration across the board, it’s becoming more clear by the day that Elden Ring isn’t an experience that anyone could ever be able to replicate. And luckily for the quality of the upcoming Elden Ring: The Board Game, developer Steamforged Games (the team behind many board games that adapt beloved IP) didn’t waste its time trying.
Knowing full well that Elden Ring is one of the most intimidating games to begin that players have seen in recent years, the team behind this tabletop take understood that they couldn’t just drop players into the vast expanse of The Lands Between and expect them to appreciate the minor details that make the game so special.
Part of the pack
Revealing all about the vast experience at a secret event in Manchester, UK that GamesRadar+ were lucky enough to attend, Steamforged Games’ Mat Hart, Rich Loxam, and Sherwin Matthews made very clear that they haven’t tried to squeeze everything in too soon. The main game, as well as its planned expansions, all take place in Limgrave, with more content based on areas to come. Yet that doesn’t mean the game doesn’t have scope, as it promises to allow for skilled players to take their Tarnished all the way to the final bosses from the opening moments with card-based skill levelling.
Familiar mechanics from the game are also reimagined to suit the tabletop in Elden Ring: The Board Game, with Stakes of Marika representing the lives with which players can retry the quest-closing bosses (which are physically massive miniatures, by the way) and the Guidance of Grace manufactured into a card-based quest system to keep players on track in a daunting and seemingly infinite Limgrave.
The game seems to accommodate whichever pace its one-to-four players choose to attack it with, and yet, Steamforged describes it as one in which "you have to be patient, you have to be clever". This is especially true in combat. The fighting comes under the umbrella of what the team calls 'combat puzzles' which pit you on a board in a player’s individual 'quest book' against randomised baddies, with each tile indicating a specific buff. Because you can take up the front for bonus damage or step back to recoup stamina and draw more effect cards (among other tactics), the game offers many different avenues for players to adapt to new and favourable playstyles, all while dishing out some serious punishment to enemies. Much like Elden Ring, though, the enemies aren’t gormless, and demand your full attention.
It’s interesting then, that the tabletop adventure makes combat specific to individual players (unless they choose to summon friends in) and allows for adventuring across the randomly-generated landscape for teammates to continue as the potentially life-threatening clash unfolds. This method seems to sacrifice stakes for the sake of allowing players to have a deeply personal adventure, which will be either a good or bad thing depending on if you play your games like a loot-hungry lone wolf or part of the pack.
The world might contain instances of RNG (random number generation), but Steamforged Games insists that the game remains familiar - the recognisable pillars of Elden Ring stay where you’d hope to see them, but the liminal space will be ever-changing. It’s certainly an interesting direction to take the adaptation of a game that removes the chains from the player without so much of a semblance of an intended route, yet it is made clear that this board game “isn’t a direct facsimile of the video game.” This is not Elden Ring, but instead is a brand new unpredictable adventure that is built off the game’s parts.
This may lead to some scepticism, with the game believing that it simultaneously is and isn’t the Elden Ring experience (except on a board this time), but it’s a game created by Elden Ring fanatics, for Elden Ring fanatics. It’d be difficult to start the game without that caveat anyway, as it’d be an immense hassle to explain to your party newbie what a Roundtable Hold is, but even so, there is one extra barrier to ensure that this is certainly a game for the most dedicated Tarnished - and that’s the price tag.
The core game box, according to the game’s Kickstarter that is set to launch on November 22, comes with the Core Pledge of $179, while the Entry Pledge contains a smaller standalone experience/expansion for $89. Finally, the All-In Pledge is a huge $429. This means that not only is your mate that bought it going to be pestering you to play so they can get their money’s worth, but it also means that Elden Ring: The Board Game is going to take a seriously intense fan to fully dedicate to it. Whether you feel you come under that banner is certainly something to consider, or if it’ll be one that you relegate to a semi-regular pilgrimage to the local board game cafe.
Regardless of its price tag, though, Elden Ring: The Board Game is a labour of love by the developers of Dark Souls: The Board Game, and it’s an undertaking by Steamforged Games that is likely to be adored by the most wide-eyed Tarnished for every year of its planned support, and appears to offer brutal quests and satisfying loot-farming in tandem. Even if little Timmy might need to learn about a cost of living crisis when it appears on his Christmas list.
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