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Elden Ring: The Board Game preview – arise, tabletop gamer

Elden Ring: The Board Game

Elden Ring: The Board Game – console not required (pic: SteamForged Games)

GameCentral goes hands-on with the Elden Ring board games and discovers how it aims to make open world exploration work on your tabletop.

With The Games Awards just around the corner, it’ll be a close fought race between Elden Ring and God Of War Ragnarök for the coveted Game of the Year award. Whoever wins there’s also a reasonable chance of hearing about DLC for Elden Ring but that’s not the only new content that’s (hopefully) on the horizon. The board game adaptation of Elden Ring will arrive on Kickstarter this month and we’ve already played it.

Designed by SteamForged, makers of the Dark Souls board game and role-playing games, this joins a wealth of other video game crossovers on Kickstarter right now, including Cyberpunk 2077, The Last Of Us, and Runescape.

With Elden Ring, SteamForged want to include everything that makes the original such an enigmatic experience, with attempts to try and recreate the core experience so that it’s recognisable and authentic but also enjoyable for anyone that’s never played the video game – or someone that’s never played a modern board game.

Earlier this week, we attended the preview event in the gothic setting of The Monastery (which is exactly what it sounds like) in Manchester, close to SteamForged’s offices. There we got to play a prototype of the game, although much like any video game it may undergo some design changes by the time it’s released in 2023.

One of the main criticisms of Dark Souls: The Board Game was that if one of your party died you failed as a group, which often felt more like group punishment than a pleasurable Friday night in. Elden Ring hopes to be more amenable towards players, by slowly unfolding a version of the original’s open world environment.

The board game will focus primarily on exploring Limgrave and the Weeping Peninsula, as trying to cover the whole Elden Ring map would take up more than just your dining room table (although there’ll almost certainly be expansions, for those who want to see Caelid’s Scarlet Rot creeping across their kitchen).

Elden Ring: The Board Game

This shouldn’t tarnish SteamForged’s reputation (pic: Metro.co.uk)

In order to keep the play time down to something sensible, Elden Ring is designed for session play, with each quest taking a maximum of two hours. The designers are aiming for players to spend around 60 minutes exploring and 30 minutes in combat, followed by a return to the hub area of Roundtable Hold. This paired down approach will hopefully allow players plenty of time to explore, while ensuring the game remains focused and purposeful.

‘The big difference you find between Dark Souls is that it is very combat centric. Every time you enter into that game it’s all about… I’m diving into one combat and I’m looking at enemies around me. As soon as that combat is over, I’m thinking about the next one,’ lead designer Sherwin Matthews told us.

‘In Elden Ring over half that game was exploration. You’re just seeing what’s on the horizon, roaming around this landscape to find out what’s new. And it’s always something where we wanted to really drill into what it is, that stepping into the unknown. What’s out there, what are we going to see next?’

This sense of exploration will be achieved by the use of a modular tile system, that looks a lot like family favourite Catan and allows players to build the map of the Lands Between themselves. Each location has resources to trade with merchants and other characters but, just like the video game, there’s plenty of creatures to fight as well.

While combat isn’t the sole focus of this game it’s vital that players use strategy when they do have to fight. Just as the video game relies on different builds, and having the right tools for the right job, preparation is also key in the board game.

The mechanics of the game are actually quite simple, with each player having three actions to complete per turn – to keep gameplay fast and engaging. These three actions can include moving, interacting with icons on the map, combat, discovery, or laying down new tiles.

Elden Ring: The Board Game

Everyone loves Alexander (pic: StormForged Games)

It’s the same with combat, where you get three actions to take your best shot before passing over to the next player. In combat you have an attack deck of cards, which determines the range of your attack, but there’s also an effect deck which you draw from when you make a hit on an enemy or block one of their attacks.

Timing and gaining the initiative is as essential in the board game as it is in the video game and the reactive feeling of the combat was something that SteamForged wanted to try and capture as accurately as possible.

To that end, each combat encounter is divided into rounds. At the start of each round, the initiative cards for each player and enemy involved are shuffled and dealt in a row, determining an order in which the characters get to act. Each human (or rather Tarnished) player then has their own unique card and a specifically assigned space in the play order.

‘Combat is something where it’s very cerebral, Elden Ring has always been a game where it’s focusing on the details that the enemy has when they’re coming to attack. It’s looking at their stances, it’s trying to work it out. When there is the opening, you’re looking, you’re thinking about combat operations, you’re thinking about timing states,’ said Matthews.

‘We want to replicate all of that and the way that our system works will be very, very familiar to players, so they can really drill into that core DNA of what it is but at the same time, it’s innovative and fresh.’

While Dark Souls: The Board Game was combat heavy and as hard as you’d expect from something associated with FromSoftware, the focus with Elden Ring is on managing stamina. This requires a more careful and considered approach, where mastering how to spend your actions and cards is one of the most vital skills.

The success of the Elden Ring video game means the board game has a lot to live up to in terms of the depth of the gameplay and lore, not to mention the awe-inspiring scale of the video game. After all, it’s not easy to replicate the fear and wonder of riding past a dragon or a monstrous dog with a bite the size of a great white shark, but Matthews is confident we will be wowed.

‘It’s a real celebration of Elden Ring and we’ve really combined all of those elements of the game into our experience, so it’s a whole new way to experience your favourite game.’

Elden Ring: The Board Game will begin its Kickstarter campaign on November 22.


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