In Elder Sign, 1 to 8 players take on the role of investigators struggling to combat one of the Ancient Ones-vast, powerful creatures that dwell in the space between dimensions.
The investigators face adventures in and around the museum where the Ancient One's imminent return has been causing a number of bizarre events.
Through these adventures, the investigators acquire rewards. The most prized resource that can be gained is an Elder Sign, which is used to seal away the Ancient One and win the game.
But the clock is always ticking and each night at midnight, the Ancient One gets closer to waking up in our world and laying waste to all of humanity.
- Cardboard Clock Hand
- 1 Plastic Connector (for the clock hand)
- 6 Green Dice
- 1 Yellow Die
- 1 Red Die
- 1 Entrance Reference Sheet
- 80 Oversized Cards
- 76 Small Cards
- 104 Cardboard Tokens and
- 43 Cardboard Markers
- This Rulebook
Object of the Game
The object of Elder Sign is to seal the Ancient One away before it awakens or, failing that, send the creature back where it came from in a last ditch, nearly hopeless final battle.
To seal away the Ancient One, the investigators must accumulate the number of Elder Signs shown on the Ancient One's card before its Doom track fills up and it awakens.
If the Ancient One awakens, the investigators have one last chance to drive the creature away. Players should be warned, however, that combat against the Ancient One almost always ends in failure and death.
Follow these steps to prepare to play Elder Sign.
Set Up Clock and Entrance: Place the Clock in the center of the table, setting the clock hand to XII (midnight). Then place the Entrance reference sheet next to it. Place the six green dice, the red die, and the yellow die near the clock.
Choose Ancient One: Select an Ancient One card (at random, or you may select if all players agree) and place it next to the clock.
Prepare Monster Cup: Place the Monster markers in the box lid or another opaque container that they may be drawn from at random. This container is known as the monster cup.
If Nyarlathotep is the Ancient One, add the Mask Monster markers (the Monster markers with a mask symbol on them) to the monster cup. Otherwise, set the Mask Monster markers aside and do not use them during the game.
Set Up Adventures: Shuffle the Adventure deck (not including the Other World Adventure cards) and deal six cards faceup below the Clock and Entrance reference sheet in two rows of three. Then shuffle the Other World Adventure deck. Place both decks near the rows of faceup adventures.
If an Adventure card with a locked die icon appears during set up, place the appropriate die on that card.
Set Up Items and Clues: Place all the Clue tokens together to the side of the Adventure cards. Then shuffle the Common Item, Unique Item, Spell, and Ally cards into their individual decks and place them next to the Clue tokens.
Distribute Investigators: Players may choose to either have each player select an Investigator card or to have each player receive one at random.
Each player then takes the corresponding Investigator marker, the number of Stamina and Sanity tokens shown on his Investigator card, as well as any item cards and Clue tokens shown on his Investigator card.
Place all Investigator markers being used by players on the Entrance reference sheet. This is where the investigators begin the game (but do not have to remain there for their first turn).
Choose First Player: Select one player (either at random or by any method that all players agree upon) to be the first player.
Resolve Initial Mythos Card: The first player shuffles the Mythos deck and places it next to the Ancient One card. He then draws one Mythos card and resolves it.
If a Mythos card with a locked die icon appears during set up, place the appropriate die on that card.
Elder Sign is played over a number of turns, starting with the first player and continuing clockwise around the table. The player who is currently taking his turn is referred to as the active player. During each player's turn he performs the following steps:
Move: The active player moves his Investigator marker to either an Adventure card or the Entrance reference sheet.
Either Resolve an Adventure or Wait at the Entrance: The active player either rolls dice to complete the tasks on the Adventure card he is on or, if he is instead on the Entrance reference sheet, performs one of the activities listed on the sheet.
Advance the Clock: The active player moves the clock hand on the Clock and each time the Clock returns to midnight, he draws and resolves a Mythos card.
The following sections describe each step in more detail:
The active player takes his Investigator marker and places it on either one of the faceup Adventure cards in play or on the Entrance reference sheet. If he places his marker on an Adventure card, the player proceeds to Attempt to Resolve an Adventure below.
If the player places his marker on the Entrance reference sheet, he proceeds to Wait at the Entrance instead.
II.a Attempt to Resolve an Adventure
If the active player's Investigator marker is on an Adventure card, he rolls the 6 green dice in an attempt to complete one of the tasks on that Adventure card.
Note that investigators may also add a yellow die, a red die, or both to their roll if instructed to do so by a game effect, for example as a result of spending a Common Item or a Unique Item.
If a die is locked, that die cannot be used to attempt to resolve an Adventure card. This may result in less than 6 green dice being rolled.
Each Adventure card features one or more horizontal rows of symbols. Each of these rows is a task that must be completed in order resolve the Adventure card.
An example of a task.
Each symbol represents a requirement necessary to complete the task:
A number of investigation die results equal to or greater than the number indicated on the symbol.
A lore die result.
A peril die result
A terror die result.
A split die result. Either of the results shown will meet this requirement.
When all die result requirements for this task have been met, the active player must advance the Clock to complete the task.
When all die result requirements for this task have been met, the active player modifies his Sanity by the number indicated on the symbol to complete the task.
When all die result requirements for this task have been met, the active player modifies his Stamina by the number indicated on the symbol to complete the task.
As soon as this requirement appears in play on a Monster marker, an Adventure card, or a Mythos card, a die of the corresponding color is locked.
Rolling The Dice
Unless specified by another game effect, the active player rolls 6 green dice at the start of the Resolve an Adventure step. The different sides on the green dice are:
The yellow die is typically rolled after a player spends a Common Item. It is identical to a green die except that it has a 4 investigation side instead of a terror side.
The red die is typically rolled after a player spends a Unique Item. It is identical to the yellow die except that it has a wildcard side instead of a 1 investigation side. A wildcard result may be used as a 1 investigation, a lore, a peril, or a terror result.
After rolling the dice, the player compares the results to the requirements listed for each task on the Adventure card his Investigator marker is on. If the player is able and willing to meet all of the requirements for a single task, he completes that task.
If the player cannot or does not wish to meet the requirements of at least one of the tasks on the Adventure card, he fails to complete a task.
Completing a Task
When an investigator completes a task, for each of its requirements that corresponds to a specific die result, the player places a die with that result on top of the corresponding requirement.
A die placed on a requirement may not be rolled again during this Resolve an Adventure Card step. If the task requires the player to advance the Clock, lose Sanity, or lose Stamina, he does so at this time.
In the case of investigation results, a player may need to place more than one die on the card to meet the task's requirements. Place extra dice next to the others that were used to complete the task.
Note that a player may only complete a single task with each roll of the dice, even if the results allow him to meet the requirements of 2 or more tasks combined. A player may not complete a task if the requirements will reduce his Sanity or Stamina to 0 or less.
After a player completes a task, if there are more tasks on the Adventure card to complete, he takes all of the remaining dice- that is, all of the dice he just rolled that have not been placed on the completed task-and re-rolls them. He then uses the result to attempt to complete another task.
Once all tasks on the Adventure card have been completed, the investigator has successfully resolved the Adventure card and performs each of the following steps in order:
Receive the rewards listed on the bottom of the card.
Move all Investigator markers on the card to the Entrance reference sheet.
Remove all the dice from the resolved Adventure card and take the card. The player may spend the card later as a Trophy.
Draw a new Adventure card to replace the one just resolved. The player then moves to the Advance the Clock step of his turn.
Failing to Complete a Task
When a player fails to complete a task and at least one of the rolled dice produced a terror result, he resolves all Terror effects on the Adventure card as well as any on the Mythos card currently in play.
Regardless of whether or not the active player resolved any
Terror effects, he must then do one of the following:
- Attempt again to complete a task.
- Fail to resolve the Adventure card.
If the active player attempts again to complete a task, he chooses 1 of the dice from his previous attempt and sets it aside. It may not be rolled again during this Resolve an Adventure Card step.
If he wishes, he may then choose 1 other die from the previous attempt to use for focusing by placing it on his own Investigator marker or for assisting by placing it on the Investigator marker of another player on the same Adventure card.
Finally, he takes all of the remaining dice from the previous attempt and re-rolls them to again attempt to complete a task.
If a player cannot possibly complete any of the remaining tasks on the Adventure card with the dice he can roll, he automatically fails to resolve the Adventure card.
When a player fails an Adventure card, he suffers the card's penalties (see "Rewards and Penalties" on the next page for more details) and removes all dice from the card except those that are on a locked die icon. The player then proceeds to the Advance the Clock step of his turn.
Rewards And Penalties
When a player successfully resolves an Adventure card, he receives the rewards shown in the lower right green area of the card. When he fails an Adventure card, he suffers the penalties shown in the lower left red area of the card.
Note that sometimes a reward may not be to a player's benefit or a penalty may sometimes help him. Rewards and penalties may include:
Common Item: For each of these icons, draw 1 Common Item from the Common Item deck.
Unique Item: For each of these icons, draw 1 Unique Item from the Unique Item deck.
Spell: For each of these icons, draw 1 Spell from the Spell deck.
Clue: For each of these icons, gain 1 Clue token.
Ally: For each of these icons, draw 1 Ally from the Ally deck.
Elder Sign: For each of these icons, place 1 Elder Sign token next to the Ancient One card. If the total number of Elder Sign tokens next to the card is equal to or greater than the Ancient One's Elder Sign Limit, the investigators win the game.
Gate: For each of these icons, draw 1 Other World Adventure card and place it below the six normal Adventure cards.
Sanity: For each of these icons, lose 1 Sanity.
Stamina: For each of these icons, lose 1 Stamina.
Monster: For each of these icons, a monster appears.
Doom: For each of these icons, add a Doom token to the Doom track.
Other World Adventure cards are difficult but rewarding adventures that only enter play as a result of gaining a gate reward.
When an Other World Adventure enters play, it is placed below the six normal Adventure cards. Any number of Other World Adventure cards may be in play at once, but they are not replaced when they are resolved.
Order of Tasks
Typically players can complete tasks on Adventure cards in any order. The only exception is when an Adventure card has an arrow on its left side.
This arrow indicates that the player must complete the tasks in order, starting at the top and working down. Players may not complete a task for this adventure unless they have completed the previous task.
An example of an arrow on an Adventure card.
II.b Wait at the Entrance
If the active player's investigator marker is on the Entrance after the Move step, he chooses 1 of the 3 activities listed on the Entrance reference sheet-receive first aid, search the lost & found, or buy a souvenir-and executes that ability.
Receive First Aid: The player chooses to do one (and only one) of the following: regain 1 Stamina and 1 Sanity for free, pay 2 trophies to regain all of his Stamina or Sanity, or pay 4 trophies to regain all of both his Stamina and Sanity.
Search the Lost & Found: The player rolls a green die, consults the chart on the Entrance, and then resolves the effect of the die's result according to the chart.
Buy a Souvenir: The player purchases 1 (and only 1) of the listed objects, spending trophies to pay for it. (See "Spending and Losing Trophies" below).
Spending and Losing Trophies
When a player successfully resolves Adventure cards or completes the tasks on Monster markers, he typically receives these cards or markers and may later spend them as trophies (for example when executing the buy a souvenir ability on the Entrance reference sheet). The amount of trophies an Adventure card or Monster marker is worth is printed on the individual card or marker.
Note a situation may arise in which an investigator either wishes to spend or must lose only 1 trophy but does not have an Adventure card or Monster marker worth less than 2 trophies.
Similarly he either may wish to spend or must lose only 2 trophies but not have an Adventure card or Monster marker worth less than 3 trophies. In such cases, he may overspend to make his purchase or meet the requirement, but does not receive any benefit for any extra trophies he spent or lost.
III. Advance the Clock
Then the active player advances the Clock. To do this, he turns the clock hand clockwise 3 hours. So, if the hand was on the XII, the active player would turn it until it reached the III. Note that the clock hand will only ever be on III, VI, K, or XII.
If the active player advances the Clock to XII (midnight) (or if he advanced the Clock to midnight at any point during his turn), he now resolves all game effects in play that say "At Midnight".
He then draws a new Mythos card and resolves it, placing it next to the Mythos deck on top of any previous Mythos cards that were in play. Mythos cards are only drawn and resolved on turns in which the Clock has advanced to midnight.
Resolving Mythos Cards
Each Mythos card is comprised of two parts, the immediate effect and the lingering effect. The immediate effect, which is on the upper half of the card, is an effect that takes place as soon as the card is drawn, typically requiring the active player to add a Doom token to the Doom track or draw a Monster marker.
The lingering effect, which is on the lower half of the card, provides special rules which either apply to the game until the next Mythos card is drawn or take effect the next time a player advances the clock to midnight and other At Midnight effects are resolved.
Example: After advancing the Clock to midnight, the active player resolves all At Midnight effects and then draws the Mythos card shown at left.
He first resolves the immediate effect on the top half of the card, drawing and placing a Monster marker.
The lingering effect, in this case, will take effect the next time that At Midnight effects are resolved, at which point all investigators will lose 2 Stamina.
After completing the Advancing the Clock step, the active player's turn is concluded and the player to his left begins his turn.
The following sections describe additional rules that apply to games of Elder Sign.
Using Items Spells
A player may spend 1 or more Common Items, Unique Items, or Spells before any roll while his Investigator marker is on an Adventure card. Whenever an item is spent or discarded it is placed facedown on the bottom of its corresponding deck.
Although most Common Items, Unique Items and Spells are similar to other cards of the same type, some have special abilities which are described on their individual cards.
Most Common Items allow a player to spend the item in order to add the yellow die to his dice pool, indicated by the following icon:
Most Unique Items allow a player to spend the item in order to add the red die to his dice pool, indicated by the following icon:
Each die added by either a Common or Unique Item remains in the pool until it is set aside after failing to complete a task or it is used to complete a task. In any event, the die is removed from the dice pool at the end of the active player's turn.
Most Spells allow a player to place the spell card next to the play area immediately before any roll of the dice. Then, after the player rolls, he chooses one of the dice and, without changing the die's result, places it on the Spell card on the following icon:
While a die is on the Spell card, it is not re-rolled when the active player tries to complete a task, but the die's result may be used to meet a task's requirement. Only one die may be placed on a Spell card (unless otherwise indicated on the card) and a die on this card remains on it until it is used to complete a task.
A die may remain on a Spell card for any number of turns before being used. The active player may always use a die on a Spell card to complete a task regardless of who played the Spell.
Once all dice on the card have been used to complete a task, the Spell card is then returned face down to the bottom of the Spell deck.
Allies each have a different ability, described on their card. See the individual Ally cards for further information.
After any roll to complete a task, a player may spend one of his Clue tokens to re-roll any or all of the dice in his dice pool before determining if he has completed any tasks on the Adventure card.
A player may spend clues to re-roll a given roll any number of times. Spent Clue tokens are returned to the pool of tokens.
Focusing and Assisting
After making a die roll that fails to complete a task, a player may choose to either focus or use another investigator on the same Adventure card to assist him.
In either case, the active player chooses one die from his roll and, without changing the die's result, places it on an Investigator marker.
In the case of focusing, the active player places the die on his own Investigator marker. In the case of assisting, the active player places the die on an Investigator marker that is on the same Adventure card. (Note that the active player still must set aside a different die due to failing to complete a task.
In either case, this die is not re-rolled when the player tries again to complete a task, but the die's result may be used to meet a task's requirement. An investigator marker may only have 1 die placed on it and the die remains there until it is used to complete a task or until the end of the active player's turn. A player may not use focusing or assisting to place a die on an Investigator marker that already has a die on it.
A player may never place more than one die per roll on an Investigator marker using any combination of focusing and assisting. If the active player is unable or unwilling to complete the tasks on his Adventure card, any investigators who were assisting (that is, investigators who were not the active player but who had a die on their Investigator marker) must choose to either lose 1 Sanity or lose 1 Stamina.
Whenever a game effect states "a monster appears", the active player draws a Monster marker at random from the monster cup, and places the marker on top of a monster task, which is a task on an Adventure card surrounded completely or in part by a white border.
An empty monster task is one that has no requirements within the white border. When a Monster marker is placed on an empty monster task, it replaces the task completely on the Adventure card and is treated as another task that must be completed in order to resolve the Adventure card.
Note: an empty monster task that does not have a Monster marker on it is disregarded when resolving the adventure card.
A total monster task is one that has all of its requirements surrounded by the white border. When a Monster marker is placed on a total monster task, it replaces the task completely on the Adventure card and is treated as another task that must be completed in order to resolve the Adventure card.
A partial monster task is one that has some requirements that are not surrounded by the white border, the monster marker is placed on top of only those requirements that are within the border, and the requirements on the monster marker are added to those requirements that are not covered by the marker in order to complete the task.
If there are multiple monster tasks in play, the active player decides which one to place the Monster marker on. If there are no monster tasks in play not already covered by a Monster marker, the active player chooses any 1 Adventure card and places the Monster marker under the bottom task of the card, adding an additional task to the Adventure card.
Once an investigator resolves an Adventure card with a Monster marker on it, he removes all dice from the marker and takes it as well as the Adventure card and gains any reward mentioned on the back of the marker.
If a player successfully completed one or more tasks on a Monster marker (or a task which includes a Monster marker, as in the case of a partial monster task) before failing to resolve the Adventure card it is on, he still gains the Monster marker, removing all dice from the marker, taking it, and gaining any reward mentioned on the back of the marker. He does this before suffering the penalties for failing to resolve the Adventure card.
Cards and Markers with a Locked Die Icon
Some Adventure cards, Mythos cards, and Monster markers feature a locked die icon. When one of these icons appears, the active player must immediately place 1 die of the corresponding color on top of that icon.
In the case of green dice, the active player chooses which die is placed on the locked die icon. He must place the die on that icon even if the die was on a Spell card or Investigator marker, but he cannot move a die that is already locked on another card or marker.
Until that Adventure card is resolved, the Mythos card is no longer in effect, or the task on that Monster marker is complete, that die may not be added to die rolls and its result may not be used to complete tasks.
If an investigator's Sanity, Stamina, or both are reduced to 0 or less, he is devoured. When an investigator is devoured, add 1 Doom token to the Doom track and return the Investigator card and marker to the box.
Then take all of his items, Allies, and any Adventure cards he claimed as trophies and return them facedown to the bottoms of their corresponding decks. Return any Monster markers he claimed as trophies back to monster cup and return his Clue tokens back to the pool of Clue tokens.
The player then receives a new investigator (one that has not been previously devoured during this game) as described in step 6 of setup on page 4, including starting items, etc.
The new investigator starts at full Sanity and Stamina, and the player may start using the new investigator on his next turn. If the active player's investigator is devoured, the player must still perform the Advance the Clock step of his turn (but no other steps).
If there are no investigators left to choose from, the player is out of the game, but may still win if the remaining investigator collect enough elder signs to win or defeat the ancient one after it has awakened.
The Doom Track
When players are instructed to add a Doom token to the Doom track, the active player places a Doom token on the first space on the Doom track that does not already have a token on it. Tokens are placed starting in the top left corner of the Doom track, filling each row to the right.
When a Doom token is placed on a space with a monster icon, a monster appears. When the last space on the Doom track has a token placed on it, the
Ancient One awakens and the investigators 4 monster icon must confront the horrible creature in combat. on the doom track.
Battling an Ancient One
Once a Doom token is placed on the last space on the Doom track, the Ancient One immediately awakens. (If the final Doom token is placed as result of an investigator receiving rewards or penalties, he receives all of the rewards or penalties before the Ancient One awakens).
If a game effect awakens the Ancient One before the Doom track is full, Doom tokens are placed on all the remaining empty spaces on the Doom track.
Immediately after the Ancient One awakes (and his Doom track has been filled), all Investigator markers are moved to the Ancient One card. Players cannot move their Investigator markers from this card for the rest of the game unless their investigator is devoured. (Note that once the Ancient One awakens, disregard the lingering effect of the most recent Mythos card).
If the Ancient One awoke at any point during the active player's turn other than the Advance the Clock step, the active player proceeds immediately to the Advance the Clock step.
As soon as the Ancient One is awake, player's turns no longer consist of the same steps as previously in the game. Instead, each player does the following in order on his turn:
Attack the Ancient One: The active player rolls dice to complete the Ancient One's combat task to remove a Doom token from the Doom track.
Advance the Clock: The active player moves the clock hand on the Clock and each time the Clock returns to midnight, the players resolve the Ancient One's attack.
During the Attack the Ancient One step, players roll dice as they did during the Resolve an Adventure Card step. Each Ancient One has a Combat Task printed on its card. Each time the active investigator completes this task, remove a Doom token from the Doom track.
Investigators may complete the task any number of times during the Attack the Ancient One step (but only once for each time they roll the dice).
If an investigator cannot complete the task, he must either set one die aside and attempt again to complete the combat task or fail to remove a Doom token.
Investigators may not focus or assist while battling an Ancient One but may spend Common Items, Unique Items, and Spells. When a player fails to remove a Doom token, he does not suffer any penalties, but simply moves on to the Advance the Clock step of his turn.
The Clock advances as normal while battling the Ancient One. However, instead of drawing a Mythos card when the Clock strikes midnight, players must resolve the Ancient One's attack listed on its card.
Any player whose investigator is devoured during the battle is out of the game, but may still win if other investigators defeat the Ancient One. If all investigators have been devoured, the players lose the game.
Example: During the Advance the Clock step after the Ancient One has awoken, the active player advances the Clock to midnight.
In this case, each investigator must then reduce either his maximum Sanity or his maximum
Stamina by 1. The active player then adds a Doom token to the Doom track. If the Doom track is already full, he does not add any additional Doom tokens.
End of the Game
All investigators, including any who have been devoured the final battle, win the game if:
they have collected a number of Elder Signs equal to or greater than the Elder Sign Limit printed on the Ancient One card or
if they have removed the final Doom token from the Doom track while battling the Ancient One.
The investigators lose if all investigators are devoured while Battling the Ancient One.