"Earth, Air, Water, Fire.
Can't they all just get along?"
Elemental is an abstract-strategy board game, like Chess or Go. It's fairly simple: players take turns putting one token on a 10x10 board and gauging the effects of the tokens, and whoever has the most tokens when the board is filled up wins. Depending on the position of your tokens, they may do things like shoot fireballs, or move in tidal waves, or cause the Winds of Change to blow, or just sit there like mountains and be immune to everything else.
This is a game that sounds so simple most people won't be bothered to play it. And if they're not in Con-mode ("Must... buy... games...!") then they'll take one look at the sheet of a zillion counters that have to be cut out to play (not punched, mind you, but CUT) and the flimsy gameboard, and say, "The heck with this-- I'll spend my ten bucks on Magic cards!"
Elemental is the best strategy game I've seen in the last five years.
It's a little like what you'd get if you took the simplicity of Go, the "battle" feel of Chess, and the reversals-of-fortune of Othello, and then told them to fight among themselves.
See, you can start off by trying to build Mountains, which are 2x2 squares of your color tokens that are immune to all other effects. But then other players will interfere with your Mountain-building, and while you're scrambling trying to get your Mountains in place someone will hit you with a Tidal Wave, which is a zigzag pattern of counters that moves across the board, annihilating all counters in its path. So you build Fireballs and shoot down half their Tidal Wave in one swell foop-- except that they surround the base of your Fireball with two sets of two counters (the Winds of Change) and swap out your counters for theirs... and so forth.
It gets real complex, real fast.
The only complaint I have with the game is, again, the packaging. Since I picked up my copy at Origins, I just wandered over to the Armory booth and bought four good-sized bags of glass stones for $4. People forced to use the cardboard pieces may have trouble keeping them all together and on the board. But apart from that, this may well be the best ten bucks you ever spent.
Style: 2 (Needs Work)