The “Dream” Team, Elder Sign: Omens

Nearly five years later, I’m still playing this app, trying out new themed combinations of investigators.

Currently I’m working a two-person team related by their “Other Worlds” abilities: Luke Robinson, Lucid Dreamer; and Gloria Goldberg, Psychic Sensitivity. Which probably explains my calling this themed pairing the “Dream” Team.

Gloria’s ability gives her an automatic red die and yellow die whenever she’s in an Other World. That’s a huge benefit, especially given that most Other Worlds pay out one or two Elder Signs needed to win the game.

A hidden benefit of visiting an Other World just before the clock strikes each turn is that when solved, it avoids any possibility of getting saddled with a new Midnight-penalty location before you can react.

Luke’s ability to spend 4 trophies to open an Other World means that he keeps Gloria well supplied with Other Worlds to visit.

Against the first four Great Old Ones they’re a killer combination, with Gloria not only quickly racking  up Elder Signs, but also scoring enough trophies to buy an extra one or two from the Souvenir Shop. And it’s easy to score high by gaining Elder Signs beyond what you actually need. Just save back a two- or three-sign Other World to finish when you’re one point away from winning.

The team is not without its weaknesses, however:

1. Gloria’s ability is crippled at sea in the Cthulhu mission, since Other Worlds can’t appear there. (On the other hand, she regains it in the climactic R’lyeh battle, which means you can concentrate on adventures without Common and Unique items.)

2. In some missions you maybe don’t want to rack up Elder Signs so quickly, preferring more time to gather equipment.

3. Both characters have low Stamina, which makes some encounters too deadly to choose. That hurts in the desert of the Dark Pharoah mission. And I’m sure it’s going to make the Arctic a challenge in the Ithaqua mission I’m currently tackling. Then again, I once won that mission with Wendy Adams solo. So here’s hoping!

If you haven’t read my about my earlier themed teams over the years, just do an Elder Signs search with the text box upper right on this page. And please let me know what team-ups or strategies you like best!

 

Elder Sign: Omens – Team “Changelings”

Yes, this is yet another post about the Elder Sign: Omens app, a game I’ve been playing for about four and a half years now, mainly because so many character combinations are possible.

Immunity Deal
My previous post described four themed teams I’ve used in 2018, and one new theme idea. I’m happy to report that the fourth team, “Immunity Deal,” finally managed to beat Ithaqua, the mission rated as Insane difficulty. One character died early on, but the other three amassed enough supplies to survive Alaska long enough to collect enough equipment to face the ancient one and overcome him, with gear to spare.

Of course, it helped that the Elder Signs all fell my way, with a couple gifted as unusual bonuses (instead of sending the team’s horses over a cliff near the end and leaving the team to starve, as usual).

Changelings
Last night I assembled the new team, with one difference in the previously imagined roster, under a new name: Team Changelings.

Included are Harvey Walters, who changes terror glyphs to lore; Michael McGlen, who changes terror to peril; Wilson Richards, who changes the yellow glyph to whatever he wants; and Wendy Adams, who changes terror to whatever she wants.

Of the four, Wendy is the most versatile, but she’s a fragile little thing and she starts with only one token—a clue—compared to everyone else’s two tokens and more robust sanity and/or stamina.

On their first foray, the team spanked Yig so fast the ancient one barely had a chance to accumulate any doom at all. (The secret is, of course, to send the best team member for the specific mini adventure—Harvey to lore-heavy ones, for example.) I suspect this team will give team “I’ve Got Your Back” (see my previous post) a run for their money. After the repeated disappointments of team “Immunity Deal” this is a welcome change—very enjoyable!

Elder Sign: Omens – Teams 2018

Elder Sign: Omens - Android screen shot

It’s been four-and-a-half years now that I’ve been playing the Elder Sign: Omens app. That’s fairly astounding. I’m not apt to play anything over and over and over—this and the Vampire: Bloodlines PC game are notable exceptions.

What gives Elder Sign: Omens its longevity on my phone and tablet is partly its portability: I can play a turn or three while riding in the car, for example. But the main reason is undoubtedly the tens of thousands of permutations for building a four-person team from a pool of 32 characters.

In previous posts I’ve discussed strategies for using different teams against the seven different “ancient ones.” And even a few instances of playing a single character instead of a team. This year I’ve taken a slightly different tack, assembling teams by theme. Allow me to introduce you to the four so far—and one in the wings.

“Charlie’s Angels”

This team was assembled on a whim, based on the fact that there’s a Charlie among the 32 characters, and that the game has so many female characters with kick-ass special abilities. For this team I chose Jenny Barnes, Amanda Sharpe, Diana Stanley, and Charlie Kane—in that line-up order.

Jenny and Amanda have long been two of my favorites: Jenny almost always has the bonus red and yellow dice at hand, and Amanda isn’t limited to one task per roll—if she’s got the results to solve several, she can. I added Diana because she’s a monster hunter, sort of a combat specialist, which seemed legit for the theme. As for Charlie, I’ve always thought lame his special ability to gain extra trophies by helping an investigator who failed a task; I plan for characters to succeed. But his name’s Charlie, so there you go.

It’s a very good group against pretty much any of the ancient ones. But I’ve played those three ladies in so many other teams that “Charlie’s Angels” didn’t hold many surprises. What did surprise me was Charlie’s effectiveness—which brings me to team two …

“I Got Your Back”

In this case I chose four investigators I’ve never really liked. But it occurred to me that they each have a “help someone out” ability, so why not band them together? Dr. Carolyn Fern restores sanity and Dr. Vincent Lee restores stamina; Charlie Kane and Rex Murphy chip in similarly on a failed task, but while Charlie gets extra trophies, Rex gets an extra clue.

This team-up proved surprisingly effective! Carolyn and Vincent prevent team members from wasting turns and trophies in the first-aid station. Charlie and Rex proved helpful in making failed tasks yield the team at least some repayment. The only trouble was that while Charlie and Rex were always well-equipped, Carolyn and Vincent were often left with empty backpacks. At times I even let them spend a turn in the lost-and-found department to reequip while Charlie and Rex faced down the toughest tasks.

Of the many teams I’ve assembled, “I Got Your Back” is distinctly the most effective. (I suspect there’s a life lesson in that.)

“Greed Is Good”

This team was built of investigators who got a little something extra each time they completed a chosen task. Monterey Jack gets a bonus unique item (red die) when landing a unique item. With Bob Jenkins it’s common items (yellow die), and with Dexter Drake it’s an extra spell. Joe Diamond gets to use each clue twice, which is more stinginess than actual greed, but he’s closer to the greed theme than the remaining 27 investigators.

The results from this team swung between extremes. On the one hand it meant that the investigators each quickly built a stockpile of items. The trouble was that it meant an overabundance of one particular type for each and a paucity of others. For example Joe often had more common items than he could ever actually use, but other items suffered. Even Joe tended to load up on clues more than anything else.

In situations where the game locked out one type of item, that investigator was screwed. (Especially painful in the Dark Pharaoh adventure, where nearly every day blocks out one thing or another.) I began to send the affected investigator to first aid, lost and found, or souvenir shop that turn. It proved to be a fairly effective strategy.

Joe’s clue ability proved to be the most effective of the four, followed closely by Dexter’s spells (a surprise), then Jack’s unique items. Bob’s common items definitely lagged behind the others, though the food and drink common items kept him in relatively good shape.

I’ve since replaced Joe with Tony Morgan, who gains an extra trophy when he kills a monster—which feels more suited to the theme. That extra trophy comes in handy for buying elder signs and equipment against the lower-powered ancient ones, and ally aid against the Dark Pharaoh.

Although not as effective as the “I Got Your Back” team, “Greed Is Good” turned out to be exciting. The team either scored wild success or crashed and burned. Mainly crash and burn against Ithaqua. That final ancient one was felled eventually, but it took more than half a dozen attempts.

“Immunity Deal”

The theme with this team—which I’m currently playing—is immunity from one game effect or another. Sister Mary is immune to locked glyphs. Amanda Sharpe (mentioned earlier) is not limited to one task per roll. Kate Winthrop is immune to terror effects, and monsters cannot appear on her turn. Rita Young is immune to Sanity and Stamina losses from hazardous attacks.

This one has been tougher to succeed with, except (surprisingly) against the Dark Pharaoh! After losing several times to His Lordship, it occurred to me to try different allies. Instead of the Mender of Flesh (spend two trophies to heal two Sanity and Stamina) and the Guiding Spirit (spend two trophies to ignore daily restrictions on one type of equipment or another), I used the ally who adds a red die and the one who adds a yellow die (can’t recall their names). With that change I defeated Nyarlathotep prettily handily.

Ithaqua I’m still battling, having already failed a half-dozen times, many without even leaving the museum for Alaska!

“Ch-ch-ch-changes”

Next up will be a team of characters who can modify dice icons and midnight doom effects: Michael McGlen (changes a Terror to a Peril), Wilson Richards (changes the yellow die face to whatever he wants), Jacqueline Fine (changes the nightly mythos effect), and Wendy Adams (changes a terror to whatever she likes).

Other Possibilities?

I’d love to try a monster-hunter team, but there are only two investigators with related abilities, and it’s a minor aspect of the game, meaning they’ll almost certainly fail again and again. But maybe with a couple of investigators whose illustrations include guns?

Any ideas you can think of?

4AD ARR

Given my rural retirement, I have a renewed interest in solo games. So I’ve arranged those already in my collection (including the amazingly good Aliens board game from Leading Edge) together on one shelf. And I’ve joined a couple of “solo gamer” Facebook pages.

One title often recommended on those pages is Four Against Darkness. Having played it now for myself, I agree: It’s a hoot!

How to describe it. To me it feels like a boiled down version of the original D&D character rules, married to a sleeker version of “Appendix A: Random Dungeon Generation” from the AD&D 2nd Ed. Game Master’s Guide, but all using just six-sided dice. Character stats are nowhere near as personalized as in those old D&D rules, nor are the random dungeon rules as broad as that AD&D appendix, but its streamlined approach is part of why it works so well. Four Against Darkness feels like a souped-up board game. A well-designed souped-up fantasy adventure board game that allows for old-school GM improvisation.

Let me put it this way: I just a moment ago finished telling my daughter Kate the story of how, having barely entered a dungeon, my wizard, elf, and thief fell prey to a medusa. But their dwarf friend heroically slew the medusa single-handedly, then battled his way back to the entrance, fighting monster after monster, and twice incurring curses from dark altars, in search of enough gold to hire a priest to break his friends’ spell. And how after stealthily returning to the chamber of stone victims, he and the hireling priest were surprised by a chaos lord. Facing the chaos lord alone, against all odds, the dwarf bought the priest enough time to unfreeze his friends. And even then, the group barely managed to survive.

I have not told “war stories” like that for the past 40 years. Today I couldn’t help myself.

Oh, and in the end the group stumbled out of the dungeon with only three gold pieces apiece. The hirling priest got four.