6 October 2016 | Elder Sign

'Tis the Season

Celebrate All Month Long with the Horror-Filled Dice of Elder Sign


It’s growing colder outside. Darkness falls at an earlier hour. Fire-colored leaves litter the streets. As bats take to the skies in search of prey, spiders and centipedes creep indoors in search of shelter. We gather in cafés, libraries, and homes, enjoying the warmth not only of blankets and walls, but of each others’ company. It is the season of apples, pumpkins, warm drinks, costume parties, and unspeakable horrors. 

Elder Sign enables you to enjoy facing those unspeakable horrors together with your friends and family—or on your own. The most accessible of our Lovecraftian offerings, Elder Sign is a fast-paced, cooperative dice game that can accommodate up to eight players. It transports you to the cobwebbed and vaulted corridors of the Miskatonic Museum, the misted New England streets of Arkham itself, and the frozen, uncharted Alaskan wilderness, all without taking up your entire evening. 

If you haven’t yet tried to defeat the evils of Elder Sign, but are curious about their nature, or if you have yet to venture into its expansions, read on. What you learn here may help you in the never-ending struggle against eternal evil—and the never-ending struggle to find new tabletop games. 

Night at the Museum

Full of ancient and uncanny artifacts from hundreds of cultures and misshapen, prehistoric bones from the farthest reaches of the world, the Miskatonic Museum is unsurprisingly one of the most haunted places in the haunted city of Arkham. It is there that your adventures in Elder Sign begin—and within the confines of that museum you will battle the Ancient Ones: the greatest evils ever known. 

On the right of the Ancient One card is the Doom Track. When it is full, the Ancient One awakens at full power and unleashes unfathomable devastation upon us all. Your job is to prevent that from taking place by gathering Elder Signs, found throughout the museum. Unfortunately, your time is limited. Each player’s turn moves the clock forward three hours, and every time the clock strikes midnight, a Mythos card is drawn, which may advance Doom, mysteriously drain your stamina or sanity, or cause a monster to spawn. 

You and your fellow players take on the roles of investigators who may not possess clean reputations or supernatural powers, but who are nevertheless capable of defeating Cthulhu, Azathoth, Hastur, and all their kind. You won’t be fighting alone, and you will be well equipped with deadly weapons, useful Allies,  arcane Spells,  and other strange tools.  These tools may enable you to more easily defeat monsters, to regain sanity and stamina or, more critically, alter your dice pool and dice results. For truly, dice are the heart of the game. 

To find the Elder Signs that you need to defeat the Ancient One, you explore the museum. On your turn, you place your investigator on one of the cards laid out before you, and roll the green dice, aiming to match the symbols on the card one line at a time. If you succeed, you’ll be rewarded with Items, Allies, or even an all-important Elder Sign. If you fail, your stamina may be drained or your sanity may slip away, or you may even cause Doom to advance, hastening the end of the world. 

Of course, there may come a time when you feel that you have seen every exhibit, visited every office, and searched every dusty storage shelf in the Miskatonic Museum. A time when you think you know all the men and women in Arkham willing to undertake the terrifying task of combating the Ancient Ones. It is at this moment that you have only begun to comprehend the darkness that surrounds you.

Blessings and Curses

The Unseen Forces expansion unlocks rooms in the museum you have never encountered before, introducing over forty more Adventure cards, along with Ancient Ones who are only now threatening to awaken and investigators who have just joined the cause. You may learn that within the museum lie the stone idols and tomes of Celtic lore necessary to prevent Glaaki from rising. Or you may open the door of the museum lobby and find singer Marie Lambeau standing there, just come from an evening cabaret performance and ready to spend the night practicing witchcraft. 

Unseen Forces introduces to the game two very dangerous dice: one black and cursed, the other white and blessed. If you become Blessed, through an Item or through succeeding in an Adventure, you gain the white die. But if somehow you become Cursed, you must add the Black die to your pool for every roll. It cancels one die result that it matches, causing that die to be removed. Putting the Blessed and Cursed dice into play doesn’t necessarily make Elder Sign easier or harder to win, but it does add another terrifying dimension of risk.

Behind Closed Doors

Despite your best efforts, the world’s festering evils are too great to be contained in the museum. In the Gates of Arkham expansion, they burst out and spread across this New England town, shambling through the streets, swimming up the Miskatonic River, nesting in basements, and even lurking beneath diner counters. In your struggle against the horrors, you’ll have to scour every corner of the city and open quite a few doors that you might prefer to keep closed for the sake of your own health and sanity. 

Gates of Arkham does not allow you to glimpse the tasks ahead before embarking on an Adventure. Only when you have arrived at a location can you turn over the Adventure card and discover what awaits you there. 

Tentacled monsters, wrathful cultists, and vicious rat horrors aren’t the only monsters you’ll encounter out in Arkham. Many of the city’s streets and some of its officials belong to the Sheldon Gang,  a prosperous and well-armed bootlegging network. With luck, you can work your way into gaining a membership in the gang, and all the benefits that go along with it. The other major force in the city is the clandestine Order of the Silver Twilight,  a mysterious and ancient organization whose members include men and women from all echelons of society. 

With so many arcane forces simultaneously at work, it is no wonder that the fabric of time and space in Arkham is coming apart. Gates aren’t more than part of the expansion’s name, they are an important part of how it transforms the gameplay of Elder Sign, opening unpredictably in seemingly mundane locations like the university administration building and transporting whoever wanders there to frightful Other Worlds.

The Last American Frontier 

One of the newest expansions for Elder Sign takes you even farther from the Miskatonic Museum, all the way to the last American frontier. In Omens of Ice, three ravenous Ancient Ones threaten the world from their Arctic lairs: Rhan-Tegoth, Rlim-Shaikorth, and Ithaqua. The only way to defeat them is to brave the cold and travel to the territory of Alaska. Your endeavors there take place in two stages. In the first, easier stage, you gather supplies in Anchorage and Fairbanks and perhaps visit an Inuit Village to gain knowledge from the tribal elders. In the more challenging second stage, you leave civilization behind and climb up into the wilderness, where abandoned gold mines fill the taiga and frozen corpses still litter the icy mountain paths. Only in the very heart of darkness will you find what you need to win the game. 

Omens of Ice brings to life the harsh environmental and physiological challenges of an Alaskan expedition. You begin the game with a fixed number of supplies, and if you run out in the course of your journey, you and your fellow investigators begin losing stamina very rapidly. Storms can unpredictably arise in the middle of an Adventure, robbing you of supplies or bringing in monsters on their frozen winds. You can choose to undertake your expedition in Summer, when wildflowers bloom and sun shines far into the night, or if you feel that you are hardy and experienced enough, you can undertake it in Winter, when snow and ice cover the vastness, and the darkness barely relents. 

Walk Among the Graves

The newest addition to your games of Elder Signs comes in the form of Grave Consequences, our print-on-demand mini-expansion. You won't find any new Ancient Ones threatening to destroy the world or alien landscapes to explore here, no, Grave Consequences challenges you to explore yourself and confront the darkness that lurks there. Fully compatible with just the base game and any of the expansions, Grave Consequences adds three modular decks to your games of Elder Sign, that you can add in any combination you like. The Epic Battle cards will increase the difficulty or grant a bonus when battling the Ancient One, and offer a unique challenge to our Elder Sign veterans. The Phobia cards give investigators lasting negative effects, increasing your investment in your character, as you see what horrors they are forced to face when navigating the great evils found in Elder Sign. Lastly are the Epitaph cards, which are drawn whenever an invesigator is devoured. These headstone-backed cards add extra effects when the unthinkable occurs, and could either be a boon or a bane to the remaining investogators in their efforts to stop the Ancient One.

October Nights

Elder Sign may be a dice game, but it is not for the faint of heart. You'll learn to dread the stroke of midnight and the terrible changes that Mythos cards bring. You'll learn that monsters often appear just when you think you are safe, and that those precious Elder Signs are almost always found in the places you fear most. You may even come to know the grief of losing an Investigator's life. Yet nothing beats the thrill of being able to defeat the Ancient Ones who spell doom for us all. There is no reason why you should not be the person to do it. 

The Elder Sign Core Set is available in stores; its expansions are available both at retailers and on our webstore. You can also experience Elder Sign on your phone or computer with Elder Sign: Omens, available for iOS, Android, Mac, and PC. And if you are attending Arkham Nights, there will be plenty of opportunities to savor this game’s dice-rolling terrors. 

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