An epic fantasy game that refuses to leave the table – GameTyrant
Eldervale mansions there is a lot going on but it is never overwhelming. And the Game Trayz inserts really help bring this game in and out of the box in a way that all games should consider.
The sixteen factions are divided into eight elemental groups, two factions per element. Each faction is part of a double-sided player board that serves as a cover for its component board. Inside this board are the workers, dice, and player markers needed to start the game. On this same board are locations for your resources. The resource and worker inserts tell you the maximum and cost of the resource, respectively. The tray / lid is where you place your prepared units. The dashboard tracks points, elemental power, as well as combat and orb rewards. Resource inserts also act as deck and discard slots for the magic card deck. And everything else in the game fits into other storage solutions.
Now I don’t normally start a gameplay exploration with a look at in-game storage, but Eldervale mansions does such a good job to make it all come together. Game Trayz inserts control all of the chaos of this big box game, but they’re also central to how it plays – efficiently and beautifully.
It’s a perfect example of how careful design and attention to detail can turn something that would otherwise be a good game into a fantastic game. That’s what Accommodations has succeeded.
To just watch what you’re going to do in the game, we need to dive beyond the magnificent surface and descend into the depths of worker placement, area control, tableau cards, and Ameritrash’s hybrid synergy and of Eurogames.
Players take turns placing workers or picking up all of their units from the board. Placing workers will guarantee some action on a certain hex tile and it could start a battle. Collecting workers brings them back to the ready area of your player board, but also allows you to perform actions on your collected Tableau and Adventure cards. These two types of turns form the core of Accommodations and will continue until one of the two end-of-game criteria is triggered: either a player’s sixth home is built, or the last Kingdom tile is placed on the board. After that, a final round takes place before the final scoring.
The placement of workers will be done with two types of Kingdom tiles. Elemental realms that have resources, dormant elemental power, and maybe even a boss and his lair. And the Ruin tiles, which grant specific actions to the players who activate them. It is up to the player to find the right rhythm of placement of the workers and to regroup them.
However, space is limited in Eldervale. Not everyone can claim the land. So, battles will certainly take place, which involves the activated space where two different factions are located (as well as any monster rushing in) and any adjacent space with a unit that wants to enter the fray. You can have a battle between two factions. Or you can have a battle between four factions and a boss. It just depends on the layout of the hexagonal tiles and the decisions of the players.
The great thing about combat, however, is that it never feels unfair or devastating. It’s just part of the game. Players who lose send their units to the Underworld, but they also earn sword coins for each unit sent there. So that makes them stronger the next time they fight. And some factions have abilities related to the Underworld. And some quests reward you for losing. And other things are happening that make it not that bad.
The fight is still present. But it’s not debilitating like some other games end up feeling.
In addition to the main cycle of unit placement, combat engagement and regrouping, Eldervale mansions also introduces magic cards, which consist of spells that affect in-game events, quests that grant victory points upon completion, and prophecies that grant end-of-game bonuses when their requirements are met. These influence the game in nuanced ways that help vary the gameplay.
The score, however, depends on how well you’ve coordinated your elemental power, dwellings, and adventure cards. The stronger you are in an element, the more it will increase your score for dwellings and adventure cards. Finding a level of synergy between your movements is important. Yes, you can get lucky, but you can definitely improve your chances of winning if you aim for the right kingdom tiles, the right maps, and the right battles. None of my factions went over 100 points in the first game, but the next two games topped that scoring marker with one faction scoring over 150 points.
There is room for growth and depth of strategy that makes me look forward to playing over and over again.
I’m happy that Eldervale mansions is in my collection and I can’t wait to play it with friends. It’s going to be this shiny new toy that I want to parade in front of people when they come.