This game is much more fun than it has any right to be. It’s beautifully made (laser-cut acrylic shapes in a laser-cut wooden box) but the game just involves flicking pieces with the aim of knocking the other players’ pieces off the table. Players are eliminated when their ‘lord’ piece is knocked off.
As the title suggests, each of the four sets of pieces notionally corresponds to one of the four elements of the classical world: earth (green), air (white), water (blue), and fire (red). The sets include a ‘lord’ piece, eight smaller ‘element’ pieces and a variable number of barrier pieces. The latter are very different in shape between the four elements. As an example, water barriers are shaped like large droplets and are relatively heavy; air barrier pieces are light billowing curves. To compensate for this, air gets twice as many barrier pieces as water.
Players take turns to flick their ‘lord’ or any of their ‘element’ pieces. They cannot flick the barrier pieces. That really is all there is to it, but a game doesn’t need to have complicated or sophisticated rules to be fun.
And despite the simplicity of the rules, players quickly get embroiled in their own strategies and tactics. There is open set up, so you’ll find players trying to develop their own attacking or defensive layouts. There is scope for tactics in manoeuvring your pieces to get them past an opponent’s barriers. This can set a player up to go for the kill on their next turn or it may be a feint – forcing the defending player to knock the threatening piece away and risk scattering their own barriers in the process.
Of course, this is a game that can be played on any smooth flat surface, so tactics may vary according to the size and shape of the table…
When a game is great fun and it has simple rules, you never have to wait long for the rules lawyers to get drafting. We’ve already seen several variants suggested – including a rather devious idea involving the introduction of hidden objective cards where a win can only be secured if players are eliminated in a secretly specified order. Playing with this variant can mean players leaping to each other’s defence in order to prevent them from being knocked out too soon. This makes for a seemingly more chaotic game and adds further to the fun.
This game can be hard to find outside major games shows like Essen Spiel and UK Games Expo, so if you want to track down a copy of Four Elements your best bet is to contact the designer Robert Murelli at email@example.com