Calvin’s Commentaries: Element

There are games that excite you long before they ever have the wrapping removed, and for me, Element was certainly one of those.

The game was designed by Mike Richie, with art from Grant Wilson, and comes to us from publisher Rather Dashing Games.

The game begins with a premise which really works for me.

“Fire, Water, Earth, Wind. These four elements have driven mankind’s mythology, philosophy, and science for eons. Now, master the power of these primal forces in this easy-to-learn, but a deeply strategic game of capture and area control,” details the game’s website.

“In Element, players take turns drawing and placing four element stones to encircle opposing sages. Each element has unique properties players can use to block an opponent’s movement.

“Feed walls of flame, move raging rivers, raise impenetrable mountain ranges, and even bend Wind to your command. Transform one element into another with the rule of replacement or sacrifice element stones to help your sage avoid capture.

“Understanding the subtle, diverse yet powerful nature of the four elements is key to surrounding your opponent and claiming victory.”

The simplicity of the game on the surface is the straightforward goal of surrounding a Sage to the point they can’t move makes the core of Element very easy to grasp.

You accomplish surrounding a Sage by placing stones representing the four elements onto the board one at a time.

A battle using the four elements is pretty cool in terms of mechanics, to begin with, but with each having unique powers and the ability to ‘trump’ another really gives this one depth.

The ability to use a fire stone to replace wind, or water to replace fire, and so on, gives players the ability to mount defenses, or to alter the way they are trying to achieve victory.


The mechanics of transforming one Element into another with the rule of replacement is a huge strength here.

There is an element of luck to Element though. The stones are drawn from a bag, so you must adapt your strategy to what stone (elements) you draw each turn.

There is also a neat mechanic with a drawing which adds to the decision-making in this game. A Sage may typically move only one space on a turn. But for each element stone you forgo drawing, your Sage may move an additional space. That can be huge when your Sage is close to being surrounded.

The game plays as a two-player, or three or four.

While three player games tend to suffer from the reality of two players allying to take out the weak sister, Element overcomes that.

Each player has a Sage, and you win by capturing the Sage of the player to your right, so each player is looking to win by chasing a different player down. The mechanism is one whereby you might actually want to help another player escape an impending trap to prolong the game so that you have time to affect the capture of the Sage you are after.

Element plays quickly but has many in-game decisions as the board space evolves with every placement. There is some luck here, but the strategy will usually balance that so that what is left is a completely satisfying game experience.

This is definitely a must-have in my mind. Check out this great game at

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