Welcome to world of Faeries and Goblins. Welcome to the world of Elf Dance, a card game for two or three players where you are the head of your own Faery clan. The clans are looking for new recruits. Can you help them?
What do you get for your money?
You get 53 cards and the rules.
How do you play the game?
In Elf Dance you try to recruit as much Faeries and Goblins as possible. The cards you recruit go in your own discard pile and the player with the most cards, plus some extra point for being the cardinal clan and points from enchantments, wins the game.
In the game you will encounter four types of cards. There are Faery cards with a value and a clan icon in the upper-left corner and a special ability at the bottom. There are three faery clans, the stick, the leaf and the acorn clan.
The Goblins are a separate clan, played by the game itself, and their cards look the same as the Faery cards, value at the top, ability at the bottom. You also find Enchantment cards in the deck. These give you a special ability throughout the game or points at the end of the game. Then there are Instigator cards, these cards will trigger Goblin abilities. More on that later.
OK, how does it all work. First the players choose one of the three Faery clans as their native clan and place their blue clan card in front of them. Then you, randomly, create a row of red clan cards. This is the clan hierarchy, which is important for settling ties for instance. Then you deal four cards to every player and place the rest in the middle of the table. To the left of the draw pile you place the Faery Ring card and to the right you, later on, place Goblin cards.
Every turn consist of six phases. During the first phase you will play, if you can, a Faery card from your hand onto the Faery Ring. The card you play must beat the card that’s on top of the Ring. This means that it must have a higher value or the same value as the card on top, but then from a clan higher in the clan hierarchy. When you can’t beat or don’t want to beat the card, the ability of the card on top will trigger. However, you after that you still must place a new Faery card from your hand on the Ring.
During the second phase you have the opportunity to attack the rightmost goblin in the Goblin Chain by playing a Faery card that beats that goblin, similar as it works with the Faery Ring. You then take the goblin card and add it to you recruited cards.
Phase three, the Enchantment phase. During this phase you have to place Enchantment cards, if you have them in your hand, in front of you. The Enchantment immediately takes effect.
Then, during phase four, All Instigators Attack, which means that the player must play Instigator cards if she has them. This triggers the abilities of all Goblin Cards still left in the Goblin Chain.
Going on to phase five. This is the phase where the player has to add Goblin cards from her hand to the Goblin Chain.
During the last phase of a turn you draw back up to four cards. Except if your clan is the cardinal clan, then you can draw up to five cards.
The game ends when the draw pile is empty and one player has one card in his hand. He plays it on top of the Faery Ring. If he cannot beat the one already on top that ability will trigger one last time. The player who’s clan is cardinal receives an extra five points, and the player who’s clan is second receives three extra points. They add the cards they have recruited, one point per card, to that amount and also add the points some Enchantment card have given them.
The Goblin clan will also ‘recruit’ cards throughout the game. This means that there’s a chance that the Goblin clan will win the game if you are not careful.
Elf Dance is a light card game, very light. It feels pretty random at times, but you do have some impact on the outcome of the game.
You need to manipulate the clan hierarchy and the cards in Faery Ring in such way that they work in your favour. You can win ties if the card from the clan you’ve played is higher in hierarchy than the card below it. Plus, at the end of the game, if your clan is cardinal you get extra five points, which is quite a lot.
Sometimes you have to intentionally, although you might be able to beat a card, trigger a Faery Ring card’s ability by not playing a card on it. That ability may be better for you than the abilities of cards you have.
At times players have to play a card that is not favourable to them, because the ability that’s going to be triggered if they don’t play something is even worse and they don’t have better cards in their hand.
That’s one of the things I do not enjoy about Elf Dance. It is the fact that you only choose to play or not to play the Faery cards. The rest of the cards, Enchantments, Instigators and Goblins, have to be played. It’s just a case of being lucky or unlucky when you draw cards at the end of your turn. The same is the case with the Faery cards of course, you also draw them from the same deck, so here luck is very important too, but at least it’s your own choice to play them or not. Or if you use them in the Faery Ring or maybe to fight the Goblins.
It is interesting that the game itself can win too. It forces the players to attack the goblins, or otherwise the chain will grow and the goblins will hit hard once an Instigator card pops up.
For me the game has too many random elements to enjoy myself, but I also played it with a younger kid and he did enjoy himself playing the game and he also liked the fantasy theme, with the goblins and the faeries. So maybe it’s better with kids? I don’t know. It’s just not for me.
Many thanks to Games Within Worlds for providing me a review copy. Visit them at their website to order the game.