There has been much discussion and history associated with this game. When it was released in 1997, many game players who had been familiar with Alan Moon's earlier Elfen games (Elfenroads, Elfengold, and Elfenwizards) jumped for joy. Their hope for an identical re-release of the scarce 1992 Elfenroads game was not satisfied, as the new game is streamlined and plays faster than the original.
Despite the newer quicker play, it seems that those familiar with all the games are voting for Elfenroads as the best of the series. A recent poll of Alan Moon games at the The Westbank Gamers Site showed how gamers rate his games
|Courtesy Funagain Games|
There are 4 turns and 8 cards per turn, so perfect play should net you a final score of 32 cities if you plan your routes carefully and make use of other player's transportation counters. However, because some routes require 2 cards and other players will throw obstacles in your path, on average a person will score less in a turn. Getting stuck behind a counter for which you have no cards, a common tactic used by veterans, will cost you 3 cards of any kind - an expensive toll to pay. Thus, an average play will net 4 or 5 points and good play will net 6 to 7 points. On the other hand, one transportation counter and four cards may be retained per turn (for a maximum of 5 counters and 12 cards per player per turn) which may enable a player to bag 12 cities in a single turn. So you see there are many possibilites in a single turn.
The game components are nice. Each player receives a card with a matrix of the transportation costs, a lifesaving addition to the game. The great transportation counter illustrations and beautiful game board map by Doris Matthaus are a nice touch and give the game much of its wonderful lighthearted feel. We always make pig and troll noises when we travel with these counters. Each person receives a jigsaw puzzle-like wood boot to represent their elf. However, the city markers, while also of wood, are small cylinders that easily roll off the board and on the floor. I would have prefered wooden cubes or cylindrical hexagons like a pencil. The playing cards are on a wonderful textured stock that is thick but flexible, allowing you to shuffle as if the cards were well broken in. The cards also wisely have no text on them, enabling the game to play without any association to one country.
The English translation can use some work. For such a simple game, it took me several rereadings of the rules to get it right. We even played the first game incorrectly, drawing for counters first and dealing cards seconds, owing to our confusion and misreading of the rules. I would also like to see rules translations contain more of the diagrams from the original rules. Perhaps it is a copyright issue, but if there are diagrams in the original rules, I would like to see the diagrams scanned and placed in the text of the translation. In this day of Hypertext Markup Language, this is not a difficult technological step to improve the readability of the rules.
But all nits aside, let me stress that I find this an enjoyable game for new players and old players alike. New players easily grasp the rules and concentrate on their strategies by the second or third turn. Veterans enjoy the game because no two games are similar. Player's paths interact. On some games a big circle is a good path. On other games a letter S or a figure 8 are ideal. In any case, to win a player must make use of his opponent's transportation counters. There is constant interaction and the players interact and make use of their opponent's choices with every turn. Finally, the game time is excellent, taking about 45 minutes to an hour. This is an ideal time for a game because if the game was close, it allows an immediate replay. If the night is short, it allows you to move on.
I rate this an excellent game with much enjoyment for novice and expert players.