It’s American Thanksgiving (or as we call it in Canada, Thursday) and that means the start of our holiday reviews here in The Rat Hole. This year we’re starting off with a bang, with Elves Under Hoof by Dan Verssen Games.
Created over a decade earlier, it was released as a free holiday print-and-play game on the DVG website a few years ago and I’m quite certain when I first found it that it was not available year round.
I very rarely deal with print-and-play games. VERY rarely. But Elves Under Hoof is not a huge investment in printing or assembly time, and is a fairly unique game that intrigued me.
The rules, including four scenarios, is a whopping seven pages. There’s a very expensive-looking player sheet, that has the sequence of play, the anatomy of an elf, a reindeer combat table, and a space to place weapon/item tokens for each reindeer. The battle map is also only one page, with the hex-spaces being slightly smaller than the standard one-inch. The nice thing about the size of the hexes, besides fitting on a single piece of paper, is that the terrain hexes are just the right size to cut out, and place on a regularly scaled map with a comfortable amount of space to spare. This makes it easier to create your own scenarios or make the various tokens slightly larger.
The tokens come on a single page with the back and front of all the tokens grouped together. They are easily printed onto a blank sticker page and stuck to whatever core you like. The instructions recommend printing or sticking them, single-sided, on heavy cardboard, and then gluing the two sides together to get some additional thickness. This is the most time consuming part of the assembly, and to be honest I shopped it out to a ten-year-old who likes to craft.
The game is intended as a solo game, but it would be easy enough for a person to take over the elves from the AI and play it with two players. First, the reindeer can move up to two hexes, trampling any elves in those hexes, then they can attack with whatever weapon they may have. Once all the reindeer have acted, the elves move towards and/or attack the nearest reindeer to them.
Generally speaking, the last side standing wins, with a reindeer victory judged on how many reindeer survived the fray. This becomes important on two of the scenarios, as they form a two-part campaign. The reindeer require a “prancing” victory to continue from one to the other.
For as simple as the game is, it is far from easy. I only ran around 50/50 on wins. As far as solo wargames go, this is a solid game. For a free game, I’d call it exceptional. The only disappointing thing for me, is that Dan Verssen Games’ other products have been successful enough that nothing more has come from this. I would love to see some more scenarios, maybe even new components, added to the game during future holiday seasons. But for now, go grab this for an elf-crushing good time.
I like to end my holiday reviews with a bit of extra cheer. So relax and enjoy this Bossa Nova & Lounge playlist track from Brazil Bossa Studio. -dc