Published on April 18th, 2014 | by Luke Turpeinen8
Then The Fire Nation Attacked!
Brave the Elements is a brand new game from Chaos Publishing, the makers of Medieval Mastery, launching on Kickstarter soon. Brave the Elements is all about using your nation’s ability to control the elements to destroy and dominate the other city states in the area!
The very first thing I noticed about the game is its amazing art. Even though the copy we received has a lot of art that is not yet finalized, what is in the game already is absolutely beautiful. If you like Hellenistic buildings and white marble structures that you get to blow up with earthquake and fire storm spells then I’ve got good news for you.
Brave the Elements is a game that makes a niche for itself in between the complex games of conquest and classic trick-taking card games. Each non-location card in the game has one of four suits (there is also a wild suit) that corresponds to a color/element. These suits are the classic Greek elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Many location cards also reference either a specific suit, but many of them are suit agnostic.
The goal is to be the person to collect the most points at the end of the game. You do this primarily by destroying or infiltrating buildings that opponents control. Each building has a victory point value on it, and whoever manages to destroy that building gets to keep the card in their score pile. Defending is also a way to victory though, as you can score a point for keeping four of your buildings in play by the end of the turn, or three if you can keep all five out.
The way the game gets rid of constant defending is the Infiltration mechanic. As a phase in the game, each player gets a chance to roll a die, add any infiltration bonuses you might have and compare it to the defense of a location that another player controls. If you pass, you get to destroy that location. If you don’t then you get to place a follower on it, which makes it easier to both infiltrate and destroy and can also score attackers to that location more victory points.
The main way of destroying buildings is to use your cards to conjure elemental disasters. Conjuration cards have a power value that you use to supersede the defensive value of location cards. These disasters can be improved by playing additional disasters of the same suit (or the wild suit), which lets you target more valuable locations.
To defend against a disaster, the defending player has to match suits with the ones listed in the defense area of the disaster card. Sometimes you get to roll dice that help you, but mostly you’re discarding other disaster cards from your hand to do this. The result is that defending against attacks weakens your future attacks. On the other hand, letting an attack through means immediate points for your opponent as well as the loss of a location ability and a chance at the 5+ locations victory point bonus.
In addition to all of this, disasters with a lower power value are typically harder to defend against than disasters with a high power value. This means that the most powerful disasters are the ones that start out with a small power number (like a 3), but are grown to rival the defense of the largest of buildings (typically 8). Securing consistent bonuses for your disasters is key to being victorious.
Brave the Elements is a game that sits fairly solidly between complex and simple, but not in the most intuitive way. We all agreed that it could be described as “the most complex simple game” or “the simplest complex game” that we have played in a while.
What makes Brave the Elements complex is really its reliance on a bunch of different bonuses spread out among various cards in your hand, on the board and all manner of tokens. It’s not that this process is hard to comprehend as much as it’s hard to remember to check all the places every time for everything to make sure you get all your pluses.
What makes Brave the Elements simple is the fact that locations are largely disposable. You get four to start with, but the chances of you getting through your first turn with many of them left are pretty low. You get to draw back up to five locations at the start of every turn, so this really isn’t a game of slowly building your forces along a certain metric and then exploiting it. Brave the Elements is a game of set collection and trick-taking that just uses common fantasy elements as thematic pieces.
Honestly, the first time I played Brave the Elements it was a two-player game and I was fairly critical. It felt like the game didn’t know if it wanted to be more like a 4X game or more like a casual card game. After having played it again with four players, I feel that Brave the Elements is one of the better card games that I’ve played recently. Adding in the social element creates great ambiguity because you’re never quite sure who is winning. Brave the Elements draws on classic card game strategies like card-counting and making educated guesses as to what your opponent will play- a move that makes it less of a gamble but adds to its replayability.
Brave the Elements is a fantastic card game with fun, quick-paced rules and an engaging theme. Its mechanics are more complex than other card games like Locke & Key, which helps it stand out from the crowd. Brave the Elements makes a great four player game- and I can’t wait to see what the final art looks like! Brave the Elements will available be on Kickstater on May 7, 2014. We will post the link to the campaign once it is live. UPDATE: Brave the Elements is now live on Kickstarter through June 18th!