Elder Sign

Elder Sign: A Guide to the Dice Game – Rules, Instructions and How to Win Strategy


Elder Sign is a cooperative dice game that plunges us players into the eerie world of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. In this game, players take on the roles of investigators trying to prevent the awakening of an Ancient One, a powerful creature that threatens to destroy the world. The game was designed by Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson and published by Fantasy Flight Games. Since its release in 2011, Elder Sign has gained a decent reputation and playerbase for its blend of strategy, luck, plus the thematic elements.

The game is set in the roaring ’20s, and the action takes place in a museum filled with strange and mystical artifacts. Players must gather Elder Signs, symbols of power that can seal away the Ancient One, by overcoming challenges represented by the game’s Adventure cards. The game is known for its challenging gameplay and the need for strategic thinking and cooperation among players.

As someone who loves board games and has played Elder Sign many times, I’m excited to share what I’ve learned. Whether you’re new to the game or looking to improve your skills, this article will help you understand the rules, strategies, and nuances of Elder Sign.

If you like other Lovecraftian settings, I recommend checking out Shadows of Brimstone, which I’ve also written a guide on! The game’s mechanics are quite similar to Yahtzee, which I also find much easier for new players to learn.

Quick Tip for Elder Sign

Always keep an eye on the clock! Time is a crucial resource in Elder Sign, and managing it well can be the difference between victory and defeat.

Rules for playing Elder Sign

Understanding the rules of Elder Sign is key to enjoying the game. The goal is to collect enough Elder Signs to seal away the Ancient One before it awakens or the investigators lose their sanity or health. The game is played in turns, with each player taking actions to resolve Adventure cards or other tasks.

Each turn, a player can choose an Adventure card to attempt, using dice to match the symbols shown on the card. If successful, the player earns rewards, which may include Elder Signs. If they fail, they may suffer penalties like losing health or sanity. The game’s Mythos cards add random events and challenges, making each game unique.

Players can also use items and spells to help them in their tasks, and they can trade these with other players. The game continues until the players collect enough Elder Signs to win or until one of the game’s loss conditions is met, such as the Ancient One awakening or all players being eliminated.

Equipment and Setup for Elder Sign

To play Elder Sign, you’ll need the game box, which includes:

  1. A clock to track the in-game time
  2. Cards for Adventures, Mythos, and the Ancient One
  3. Investigator cards and matching markers
  4. Dice, including green, yellow, and red ones
  5. Various tokens for health, sanity, and other resources

Setting up the game involves:

  1. Choosing an Ancient One card and placing it on the table
  2. Setting up the clock at midnight
  3. Shuffling the Adventure and Mythos decks and placing them within reach
  4. Each player choosing an investigator and taking the corresponding card, marker, and starting items
  5. Placing several Adventure cards face up to form the museum

How to Play Elder Sign

Playing Elder Sign involves several key mechanics:

  1. Rolling Dice: Players roll dice to match symbols on Adventure cards.
  2. Resolving Adventures: Successfully matching symbols completes Adventures, earning rewards.
  3. Using Items and Spells: These can modify dice rolls or provide other benefits.
  4. Dealing with Mythos: Mythos cards introduce new challenges each in-game day.

The game is played in turns, with each player taking the following actions:

  1. Choose an Adventure or Other World card to attempt.
  2. Roll dice to match the required symbols.
  3. Use items or spells if needed.
  4. Resolve the Adventure, gaining or losing resources accordingly.
  5. Draw and resolve a Mythos card if the clock strikes midnight.

The game ends when players either collect enough Elder Signs to seal away the Ancient One or one of the game’s loss conditions is met.

How to Win at Elder Sign

Winning at Elder Sign requires a mix of strategy, luck, and cooperation. Beginners should focus on learning the symbols and how to use items effectively. Intermediate players can start to plan several turns ahead and manage resources more carefully. Advanced players will need to master the timing of Mythos cards and work closely with teammates to overcome the toughest challenges.

Key strategies include:

  1. Choosing the right Adventures based on available dice and items
  2. Managing the clock to avoid unnecessary Mythos events
  3. Trading items with other players to maximize their effectiveness
  4. Knowing when to push your luck with dice rolls and when to retreat

Remember, the key to winning is to collect Elder Signs while managing the threats posed by the Ancient One and the museum’s dangers.

Best Strategies for playing Elder Sign game

To excel at Elder Sign, you’ll want to employ the best strategies:

  1. Focus on completing Adventures that grant Elder Signs as rewards.
  2. Use your investigator’s special abilities to your advantage.
  3. Keep a balance between going after easy tasks for resources and challenging ones for Elder Signs.
  4. Plan for the worst-case scenarios, like losing dice or facing tough Mythos cards.

Sneaky tactics might include hoarding useful items for critical moments or choosing Adventures that might hurt an Ancient One’s progress.


I’ve experimented with a few variations of Elder Sign, so here are the interesting ones:

  1. Changing the Ancient One for a different difficulty or experience
  2. Using expansion packs that add new investigators, Ancient Ones, and cards
  3. Adjusting the number of Elder Signs needed to win for a shorter or longer game


Common scenarios in Elder Sign include:

  1. Running low on health or sanity, which requires careful management of risks
  2. Facing a series of difficult Adventures, where teamwork becomes crucial
  3. Dealing with a powerful Mythos effect, which might require changing strategies

To turn these scenarios to your advantage, stay flexible, share resources, and be ready to change plans as the game evolves.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing Elder Sign game

Q: How many players can play Elder Sign?

A: Elder Sign can be played by 1 to 8 players.

Q: How long does a game of Elder Sign typically last?

A: A game can last from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the number of players and their experience.

Q: Can you play Elder Sign solo?

A: Yes, Elder Sign can be played solo by controlling multiple investigators.

Q: Is Elder Sign a competitive game?

A: No, Elder Sign is a cooperative game where players work together to win.

Q: What happens when an investigator loses all health or sanity?

A: They are eliminated from the game, but other players can continue to try to win.

Expansion Packs

Elder Sign has several expansions that add new content and challenges:

  1. Unseen Forces
  2. Gates of Arkham
  3. Omens of Ice
  4. Omens of the Deep
  5. Omens of the Pharaoh

Difficulty Adjustment

Players can adjust the difficulty by:

  1. Changing the number of Doom tokens on the Ancient One
  2. Choosing a different Ancient One with a higher or lower difficulty level
  3. Modifying the game setup or rules for a custom challenge

For more information on Elder Sign, check out the following links:

Fantasy Flight Games – Elder Sign

Elder Sign Review [Video]