A to Z Gaming: Elfenland

We traversed a mystical land using unicorns, giant pigs, troll wagons, and other fantastical conveyances in Elfenland, the next game in our A to Z game-shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Elfenland
Players: 2-6
Time: 60 Minutes
Designer: Alan R. Moon
Artist: Doris Matthäus
Publisher: Rio Grande Games


In Elfenland, we are playing young elves challenged with visiting as many of the 20 elf cities as possible over the course of four game rounds. We use Unicorns, Giant Pigs, Elfcarts, Magic Clouds, Rafts, Troll Wagons, and Dragons to move from city to city.

The game board is set up with a marker in each city for each player, and each player’s “boot” in Elvenhold. Each round players are dealt cards to make a hand of eight. Then they take turns drawing four transportation tiles – the first one in secret, the rest are public knowledge drawn either from the face up tiles or the pile of face down ones.

Players take turns playing the transportation tiles on the various roads across the land – claiming which transportation mode can be used on which roads. Tiles can only be placed on terrains that support that type of travel – for example, unicorns can’t travel in the plains and the magic clouds don’t work in the desert. Once a road has a tile on it, that’s the only one that can be played on it that round.

Once players have either played all of their transportation tiles or passed, the final stage of the round begins. This is where the cards come in – players move their boots around the landscape by playing cards to use the roads. The number of cards needed changes for each style of transportation on each landscape type. For example, the troll wagon needs one card to use a plains road but two cards to use either a forest, desert, or mountain road.

When a player’s boot enters a new city, they take their token from the city. At the end of the round, the transportation tiles are taken off the board and shuffled, the first player card moves around the table, and the round card advanced. Then players get a new hand of cards and start again.

At the end of the fourth round, whoever has collected the most markers wins.

We first purchased this game in 2003 or 2004, shortly after we had taken a couple of community education classes focused on games “beyond Monopoly.” Clearly we purchased it based on playing with more than just 2 players.

We found out quickly that it’s not very interesting at 2 players because you can each just head off in a different direction and rarely have to adjust your plans based on what others are playing. With more players, you can piggy-back on the transportation tokens others have played…or have to alter your plans because someone played a transportation type on a route you were planning on playing something else.

Because most of our gaming time is just the two of us, this game does not come out much. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we played it, but suspect it was about 10 years ago when I remember pulling it out with a couple who was visiting from out of town.

How is it as a 2-player game?  This isn’t great as a two-player game…or it is great if you prefer games without much player interaction, I suppose. I don’t necessarily like games with a lot of “got that” or confrontation, but I find that this game doesn’t have enough interaction with just two players. Each of us can be on different sides of the map doing our own thing without dovetailing on what the other is doing (or getting frustrated because they played something we didn’t want). Definitely need more players for this one.

How about the art and component quality?  The art is great – I like the cards with the transportation types and the player reference is easy to read. The city names are fairly hard to read, but they’re only needed if you play a variant where players are dealt a city and they need to plan their route to end as close to that city as possible (or lose points). The terrains are clear on the board, though I did find myself confusing the plains and desert and forests a few times in our game.

Will this stay in my collection?  No, I think we’ll be passing this one along. If we had more players to the table more often, and fewer games that we liked better, we might hang on to it, but since we don’t and we do, it’s going in the trade or give-away pile.




2 Replies to “A to Z Gaming: Elfenland

  1. To me this is a very mathematical or computer-sciencey game. You have a bunch of cities that are connected by roads; in math this is called a graph, with the cities as nodes and the roads as arcs connecting them. In stage 1 of each round, you’re labelling the arcs with a method of transportation. In stage 2, you travel over the labelled graph using cards from your hand.

    It does feel a lot like Ticket to Ride in spirit and level of complexity, even if the mechanics aren’t really similar. This makes it a little too simple for us now — we don’t play vanilla Ticket to Ride much either, and most of our favorite games have a bit more complexity to them.

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