Element is a 2 to 4 player game from Rather Dashing Games where players are “Sages” that are able to manipulate the elements at their will. Players will use the elements (Fire, Water, Earth, and Wind) to try and capture their enemies. Whoever can capture their opponent first wins.
How to play
The game is played on a chess-like board, but players only have one pawn, and can only move one space per turn, orthogonally or diagonally. Players also grab up to 4 stones randomly from the holding bag. Players may place up to all of these stones during their turn, and may place them at any distance from themselves.
The most fascinating aspect of this game is how the stones work once placed. The stones need to be placed strategically because each will affect the stones around it differently.
Fire stones can be placed as a single stone which stops a sage from passing through that space. If another fire stone is placed next to it, orthogonally, the fire will start to spread, meaning the player can take another fire stone from the bag and place it on the other side of the initial fire stone. This can be done until the line of fire spreads across the entire board.
Water stones are able to douse out fire stones and if placed or moved on top of a fire stone, immediately remove the fire stone from the board. Water stones also move in a snake like movement each time one water stone is placed orthogonally adjacent to another. The best way to imagine this is the old computer game “snake”. If you place 1 water stone next to another stone, both stones MUST move 2 spaces (like a flowing river) in the direction that the last water stone was placed. If they move over fire stones, those stones are removed. Each time a water stone is added to the river, it moves again, but it moves a number of spaces equal to how many stones make up the river. Water is also not able to be passed through by sages.
Earth stones can cover water stones and remove the water stones from the board. Earth stones are unable to be passed through, but may be removed by wind stones, as I will discuss shortly. If an earth stone is placed ON TOP of another earth stone, it creates a mountain. The mountain consists of all earth stones touching the mountain, and each earth stone touching those, as far as the line of earth stones goes. Mountains can not be passed through, even if there is an available space diagonally through the mountain. They also may not be replaced. They remain there for the entirety of the game and can be added to in order to create a larger mountain.
Wind stones replace earth stones (as long as they are not part of a mountain). Wind stones are different from the other stones because they are used defensively instead of offensively. Wind stones should be placed next to your own sage and allow the sage to ride the wind and escape the space they are on. The sage jumps over the wind stone, landing safety next to it on the other side. This can be done orthogonally or diagonally. Wind stones can be stacked up to 4 high, called a whirlwind, to allow players to jump up to 4 spaces at a time. This is a free move.
And coming in full circle, fire stones are able to replace wind stones on the board.
Also, players may choose to pick less stones from the bag on their turn, and each stone they do not take gives them one more space to move that turn.
As soon as one sage is completely surrounded, the other sage wins!
As soon as I heard about this game, I knew I had to have it, and it did not disappoint in any way.
Element has a classic feeling to it, like it has been around for hundreds of years, being played in courts by kings, or in inns by travelers drinking ale.
The mechanics of the game are extremely smooth, and the rules are tight, with no loop holes.
I love the way the stones replace each other and how each stone has its own special ability. The theme really shines through here as all of the elements have abilities that just make a lot of sense, and it feels fun to throw the Earth’s elements at each other.
Its so engaging to think of different strategies to surround your enemy and to see how the stones spread and move as the game goes on. As the stones move, players need to constantly reevaluate their plans and how they can draw the right stones from the bag to make the plays they want.
Setup is an absolute breeze. Unfold the board, place the sages and get started. Easy! Needless to say take down is just as easy.
I played this game many times in 2 player and the variations in stone placement and opponent strategies made each game different and exciting. I love trying new strategies and trying to capture your enemy in fun, creative ways.
When I finally got the opportunity to try 4 player, I had just as much fun as in 2 player. Turns are fairly short, so there isn’t a ton of waiting time, and in 4 player, someone gets captured in under 10 minutes, every time.
The components are high quality, including the box, board, and pieces.
The art, as little as their is of it, is very convincing and locks in the theme. The minimalist approach here was really smart, adding to the classic feeling of the game.
Another really important highlight of this game is the price! It is dirt cheap, and I cant think of another 4 player game with this level of strategy that is in this price range.
Element is a game that I highly recommend for anyone who loves high strategy, that doesn’t need all the bells and whistles employed in lots of games these days. For myself, being able to strategize in this way, without needing to explain rules for over 30 minutes, was such a relief. With short play time, easy setup, and simple rules explanation, I can say with surety that Element will find itself on my table very frequently.
Play on boys and girls.