Monday , April 22 2024

Board Game Review: Pathfinder: Elemental Stones

Pathfinder: Elemental Stones is a game from within a game, bringing a touch of fantasy gaming to life from the classic Pathfinder universe. Players take on the roles of elemental sovereigns manipulating matter in the maelstrom of elemental energy. Though all elements are part of the world, one will become dominant and guide the formation of reality. Only the cleverest and luckiest will come out on top.

Setting up the Maelstrom

Gameplay in Pathfinder: Elemental Stones begins with a randomized ring of the fundamental elements, a blend of the classical Chinese and Greek systems. Fire, metal, earth, wood, and water serve as the basic pieces, and there is also a handful of elusive air tiles.

Random pairs of tiles are drawn to create piles for immediate choices as well as Elemental tiles in each type. Each player receives a Sovereign card secretly showing their preferred element, Pattern cards that show immediate goals, and Objective cards that score at the end of the game based on their own element. Players will need to choose which cards to keep and which to discard, balancing which they think are achievable and which have the most points.

Playing with the Elements

Pathfinder: Elemental Stones is all about forming patterns on the board. On each player’s turn, they first have their choice of any of the pairs of drawn tiles. Then they may perform three actions, such as drawing a new card, discarding a card they feel they will not be able to achieve by the end of the game, placing Elemental Stone tiles on the board, transmuting a tile for an adjacent element, or scoring a Pattern card. Players will need to not only plan out their moves based on the tiles but watch other players to see what they might be building toward in hopes of blocking them.

Becoming the Master

A game of Pathfinder: Elemental Stones ends after one player meets the required number of scored Pattern cards. Everyone left in the round gets a final play, but those who have already had a turn are stuck. This can build endgame tension, as savvy players will know when to press their luck with a new card draw and when to discard in hopes of not losing points with unmet goals.

At the end of play, everyone scores their cards with different points for the complexity of Patterns, the difficulty of Objectives, the cards matching their Sovereign type, and having the most tiles of a type. With so many ways to score points, players will need to strategize from their options to maximize their points, even discarding a high-value card if it might feed into someone else’s points.

Pathfinder: Elemental Stones is a tile-laying game for two to four players aged 13 and up. Games usually last only half an hour or so, depending on how quickly players lay their tiles. For those who love to linger in their pondering, players might institute a house rule with a timer. As the game scales up to more players, fewer Pattern cards are needed to trigger the end, keeping the time short. With more players, there is more chaos with the board looking very different from a player’s last go, meaning plans could be foiled—or new opportunities may arise from the ether.

About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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