The first caveat on this review is simple; if you don't like rolling dice to determine the outcome of a game, then move on right now.
Elementalis is pure and simple a dice fest.
The game has players rolling dice, and if they succeed in achieving certain results, they can choose to roll again. The second roll can gain a player more 'mana' towards victory, although certain poor rolls can have the player losing that which he earned with roll one.
On the second roll certain results can again lead a player to a point where he can roll a third time.
In that regard Elementalis holds much in common with other dice push games, where you can risk what you have to gainer better results; Cosmic Wimpout and Can't Stop being two games of that type.
At least in terms of dice the set comes with neat looking dice with emblems for the four elements, water, air, earth and fire rather than simply the numbers you usually see on dice.
If that was it, this game would be rather uninteresting, but designer Robert C. Kalajian Jr., has done a nice job of incorporating some other features which at least add to this game for two to four players.
Players take on the role of wizards; in the basic game either elementalist, harmonists or purist. Each mage type had an effect on what certain dice roles mean to that player. This feature at least creates a situation where players are not all rolling dice to achieve the same results.
Players also chose what elements their wizard is looking for.
The ultimate goal of the game is to accumulate the mana by the end of six rounds, the mana accumulating by good dice rolls.
There is however, some ability to combat the pure luck of rolling dice. As a wizard you can cast spells, using mana you have already gained. The spells, each of the four elements have a short spell list to draw from, generally improve your chances as you roll dice, or work to thwart an opponent's roll.
As you might expect to cast a fire spell, you must have the required fire mana.
While the spells are useful, they have to be managed wisely, since they deplete your mana reserve, which is the key to ultimate victory.
The game has some nice features with the mage selections and spell casting which allow this game to step a bit above the average dice fest which is so luck driven as to be rather boring.
It helps too that the creator, who released the original game in 2006, has stayed interested in the game by releasing three expansions, one in 2007, and two in 2008. The expansions allow for additional mage type selections, and one of the three expands the game to allow for five players.
The mage types are not all balanced, and that is all right, since it allows new players to be handed the more powerful types as a way of balancing the game against experienced players.
It will be interesting to see if Kalajian has more ideas to come. Perhaps one day new dice with an added mana type or two? Eight-sided dice would make that possible.
However, as is, Elementalis is a nice filler-style game. It is not overly deep, but has enough options, and fun to make it worthwhile.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 2, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada