Published by: Rather Dashing Games
# of Players: 2 to 4
This is my first game that I have played or reviewed for Rather Dashing Games and so I had no clue what to expect component wise from them. Opening the solid box, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the components overall. The bag that contains the element tokens is huge and has the symbols of the 4 elements sewn into it. Element comes with 4 unique Sages that act as the player pieces. The board has a grid overlay with the priority order of the elements underneath. The sides of the board also show the element strength and weaknesses. The tokens themselves are thick plastic and feel high quality. The rule book is very in-depth with the rules explanation. Each element has pages devoted to showing how each one functions on the map and how they interact with other elements. Each time they discuss how something moves, there is an illustration showing how it is done. It does take a minute to get used to how each element works, but after one play, you should be a pro. Sorry for the lame pun, but Element is a rather dashing game to play.
Element is an abstract strategy game that has players moving their sages around the board while also using the elements to trap their opponent. The goal in Element is to trap your opponent so that they can not move. In a 3 or 4 player game you will be trying to trap the opponent to your right to gain a victory. Players will start on designated spots on the board. During the start of your turn, you will draw up to 4 element stones (tokens). Once per turn, you can move your sage to any adjacent spot. This includes diagonal, left, right, up or down. You can move additional spaces for each element stone you decide to not draw. For example, if you draw 2 stones instead of 4, you will be able to move 3 spaces. You can even draw no stones to move 5 spaces. You can also split up the movement in between placing stones. Fire, water, earth stones and other sages block your movement. I will explain why wind does not in a few moments. Besides moving during your turn, you will also be placing the stones you drew. You may place an element stone anywhere except where your sage is or another stone that is not weak against it. The element strength and weakness is called the rule of replacement. The rule of replacement is the rule that allows you to replace a currently placed stone with a new stone. This is only allowed by a new stone that is strong against the old stone element. For example water replaces fire, fire replaces wind, wind replaces earth and earth replaces water. There is no limit to the number of times a stone may be replaced.
Each element stone type interacts on the board differently. Fire spreads for each stone that is added. What this means is that when you place a fire stone next to another fire stone, you will draw another fire stone and place it on the opposite side of the fire stone already in play. This will create or continue a line of fire. The free fire stone must be placed orthogonally and will not generate another free fire stone. Otherwise this game would be over after the second fire stone played. Water stones flow like a river. Water stones will move after another water stone is placed in a straight line. For example is 3 water stones are in a straight line on the board and you add a fourth stone, you will move each of those stones from the previously placed stone. So the stone that is on the other side of the line of water stones that you placed in will move to a space next to the one you just placed. The next water stone in that line will then be placed next to the one you just moved and so on till you have moved all the stones that were in that line including the original stone you placed. Water stones can move through fire stones and replace them. Earth stones do not have any movement options or get extra stones, rather they can be stacked on with other earth stones. When a earth stone is placed on top of another earth stone, it becomes a mountain. Mountains can no longer be replaced on the board by the rule of replacement. Also earth stones that are adjacent to a mountain are consider a range and are also immune to the rule of replacement. Ranges can be added to with other earth stones. Ranges also have the ability to block diagonal movement. The only way someone can move diagonally in a range is by a wind stone. Wind stones have the power of jumping. As a free action, a seer can jump over a wind stone. Wind stones can also be stacked to create whirlwinds. For each additional wind stone stacked (up to 4), the seer will jump an additional space. So if you jump using a stack of 4, you will move 4 spaces past the stack. This is very helpful when you need to get past mountain ranges or tight spots. You now see it will be no simple task to trap your opponent and you never know how the board will change each turn. If you can master the 4 elements to your advantage, you will overcome your foe and win Element.
I have grown to love abstract strategy games in the last few years. There have been some very good ones like Tsuro and Onitama. Element surpassed them in my opinion and this may be my favorite abstract strategy game to date. I love that it can be played at 3 and 4 player counts as well as the usual 2. The way the element stone powers work is very fluid and really represents the elements. I do have a hard time not making a Captain Planet or Avatar Last Airbender joke during the game. I thought it was very creative how the art for the game also reflects the rule of replacement. The instructions are top notch. Component quality surpasses what I expect for this type of game. If you are looking for an abstract strategy game, I do not think you could do better currently than this game. The only thing that might be held against this game is that there is an element of luck with pulling the element stones you want. Even with that little element of luck, I think the game is won by the person who out thinks their opponent. This is most definitely staying in my collection and I encourage everyone to get this a try. You will not regret it.
+Very good rule book
+ The abilities of the elements reflect the actual element
+Art compliments the rules
+Easy to learn, but hard to master
+Varied player count
-Luck of pulling element stones may put off some
-If you do not like abstract strategy games
-The lame Captain Planet jokes I make while playing.