Some people have accused the Souls series of feeling a little wooden at times, but Elden Ring: The Board Game feels great as cardboard.
There is little doubt that From Software’s Elden Ring was one of the gaming phenomena of 2022, with almost 18,000,000 sales since its release. That’s a very big number — but perhaps even more impressive is the recent Kickstarter for Elden Ring: The Board Game which ran just before Christmas and attracted almost 15,000 backers. There’s a huge disparity between these numbers, but the truth is, 15,000 backers for an unproven board game that costs potentially as much as £400 is a huge number when you consider the size of the addressable market.
When I say “unproven” I do of course mean, Elden Ring: The Board Game itself, and not Steamforged Games — who have incredible pedigree in miniatures games, boasting such standout titles as Devil May Cry: The Bloody Palace and Dark Souls: The Board Game. That experience will prove invaluable in crafting the Elden Ring world into a board game, and when I spent time with the Steamforged Games team last November, it was clear that they had some grand ideas for how they would capture the juxtaposing aspects of both an open-world and tight, close range combat.
Elden Ring: The Board Game will be played in two separate phases. The first will effectively be an exploration phase where one to four players draw hexagonal tiles and place them on the table to create a map of the world. These tiles feature a number of different symbols which can include combat encounters, items, quest or plot indicators and undoubtedly a lot more in the finished product. If a player then chooses to move into one of the encounters on that tile, the “other” phase of the game will commence.
When this happens, imagine that the game “zooms in” to focus on the encounter itself. Now, the player in the encounter checks the token they have activated and then turns to a matching reference in the encounters book. This ring-bound binder features various battlegrounds and layouts, with different spaces and enemies on each, so whilst you will have some idea what you’re going to face, it’s never completely certain until the encounter starts.
Ingeniously, the game now continues in order with players taking turns whether they are in an encounter or not. Players on the world map simply take exploration turns, whilst those in combat take a combat turn. Players are fully able to join each other in existing battles, and indeed that is a key feature of the game — just like the drop in cooperative play of the Elden Ring videogame. We haven’t seen an extended playthrough of how these simultaneous phases happen, but the stated intent was so that each player could “carry on” without having to wait for anyone else to finish a battle.
Combat is handled primarily by stats on your character board (which influence what you can and can’t do, and provide bonuses to items etc) and by cards. In a similar way to how Gloomhaven works, but also building on the mechanics from Dark Souls: The Board Game, this system appears to simulate the balance of movement (fast, small weapons) and damage (larger, heavier weapons) much as the videogame does. Specifically, a smaller weapon might also give a player a chance to move freely in the combat arena, whereas a larger one might do more damage, but leave the player completely static and ergo, vulnerable.
We don’t know much more about Elden Ring: The Board Game at a detailed level yet, but there are a few more certainties. Firstly, we know that this initial Kickstarter is only the beginning of the Elden Ring experience, covering just the Weeping Peninsula, Stormveil and a number of the iconic enemies that prowl those areas. More content will almost certainly follow later and expand the world, but even this initial “modest” part of the Elden Ring world is claimed to take more than ninety hours to work through.
Of course, as this is a Steamforged Games product, the really impressive thing is the miniatures – and as you can see from the images we’ve been able to capture, Elden Ring: The Board Game is absolutely no exception. Having seen this in the flesh, I am comfortable saying that some of the larger models here are without a doubt among the most impressive cast or pre-constructed miniatures I’ve ever seen, easily rivalling and perhaps beating anything from CMON or Games Workshop.
You can visit the Elden Ring: The Board Game pre-order page here, where you can still place your late pledge/order a copy at any pledge level.