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What am I doing wrong?

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 Hi all,

after I was near throwing my iPad in a corner of the room, I decided to ask a simple question here in the forums for Elder Sign. What the **** am I doing wrong?

I played the game several times over the last few days and I was never even near "winning" anything. At all. No chance. 

The typical game runs like this: I pick my investigators, enter the museum and try to "win" one of the easy challenges first. Nothing guarded by monsters, just an easy task. I am presented by three subtasks, where each one has two or even three requirements to match with my dice. But I don't have enough dice, even if I have to reroll ONE SINGLE TIME, I have no chance of winning this one. 

Ok. So I pick the next investigator and try again. And fail. Again. All the time, every single time. Which is simply infuriating, as I have not a single chance to change the purely luck-based dice throw. Oh, sure. I can use some items. So I try this...

... and I spend nearly all my stuff on ONE measly single "mission". Which - of course - means I get my butt handed to me when I try one of the harder missions. Maybe face a monster, or other foe.

And all the while I try to even get ONE simple Elder Sign, the doom track advances and soon I have no chance but to restart.

So, again, one single, simple question: WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?!


I have no problems with hard games, but I simply do not understand what I could have done differently. I do not understand how I can, in any way, influence the outcome of the game. The tutorial videos are pretty, but I never played the original game before and I don't have the feeling that I have even the slightest grasp of the higher play mechanics and the game fails to explain them to me. There isn't any kind of manual, there isn't any kind of strategy guide. And is it really expected of me, to have any chance of playing the game without getting furious, to wade into online gaming forums and try to make sense out of discussions about the dice game to extrapolate any useful information for the iPad game?

I came to expect a kind of working, usable tutorial to explain the basics of the game to me. To teach me a level of understanding the game mechanics to be able to "win" a game a few times. Maybe some suggestions of what I could have done differently. But with this game I feel completely left alone and again, succeeding or failing feels completely disconnected from my actions in the game.

Any suggestions?

[ADMIN: Please remember to keep your language clean, even while frustrated. These forums are for members of all ages, with varying tastes and tolerance for foul language.]

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There are some other threads here that discuss strategy at greater length, but real quickly... Are you using the items that you start with?  Don't skimp on using items and spells and such, even right off the bat.  For the most part, try to use investigators on adventures where they're best suited (e.g., Monterey where there are Unique Items to gain, Michael where a skull result is needed, etc.).  Use Clues earlier in the sequence when there are more dice available (and thus more of a chance that the Clue will be effective).  Sometimes you'll need to kill a monster, knowing you'll fail the adventure, just to get rid of the monster.  Keep an eye on the adventures and midnight effects where doom tokens are added, and give those special attention.  My record is about 23-7 (though I did have a weird streak lately where I lost 4 out of 5), so stick with it... you'll start winning.

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 I finally won my first game. I had the same frustrations, but I eventually learned how to leverage my items in the game. Definitely start using them right from the get-go. I hope to get a few more wins under my belt soon. 

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 The in game help guide is quite useful. It's a tad wordy, but it gets the job done. I think what helped me understand how to win were a few things that I'll try to be as thorough as I can with listing off:



Team Composition - I like to have a good balance of high sanity and high stamina characters. If i have two that are 7/3 (sanity/stamina), then I'll most likely not get another character with high sanity. I also wouldn't pick too many characters that fill the same role. Here's a list I threw together. Safe characters help keep you from losing, but may not necessarily help you win the game. Leaders are strong characters whose abilities can clear tasks for you to help you win. Wealthy characters have a knack for acquiring more items. Fixers let you cheat the dice in your favor.

  • Sister Mary (Safe) - Locked glyphs can hurt you on the whole board. She can take out those rare but troublesome locks with an easier time.
  • Harvey Walters (Safe, Leader, Fixer) - He can often ignore Terror effects with his ability, and helps secure the rare Lore icon. This means on one die, he has a 33% chance to get Lore instead of a 16% chance. Contender for top 3 in the game.
  • Gloria Goldberg (Safe, Leader) - Other world locations aren't always open but it's a safe bet you'll see them appear every day or two (and if you're lucky, can open a gate or finish tasks that open them up). She makes other world locations look easy with her free dice, making those "high risk/high reward" tasks into just "high reward" most of the time.
  • Jenny Barnes (Safe, Leader) - She went from 'pretty good" to one of my favorite characters. In this game, she basically turns any item or clue into one of the best items in the game. She's a recycling machine that turns trash to treasure.
  • Joe Diamond (Leader) - He is a great character. Able to take on some of the tougher (or longer) tasks and make it look a lot easier. The problem is that clues are not a sure bet, and not quite as plentiful. In AH, you could find two or three at a time, and use a few at a time to finish tasks. In this, one clue token is a lot. It's a real powerful ability, but I am always sad when I get 3 out of 4 correct, and use a clue token to roll 1 die.
  • Dexter Drake (Wealthy, Safe) - He's got more spells, and spells are good. They let you lock and banish creatures, both things that are good to have access to. He can go into tasks that have one or more enemies and make it a lot easier more often than other characters.
  • Monterey Jack (Wealthy, Leader) - While spells can help you secure easier, unique items can help you conquer. Drawing more unique items to give you more dice and other bonuses (like clue tokens) can help him snowball into a task conquering machine.
  • Mandy Thompson (Safe, Leader) - She's got free mini clue tokens, and that is **** good. Most of the time, I only want to reroll a few dice anyways. She can take the riskier tasks and won't stumble quite as easily on the easier ones.
  • Kate Winthrop (Safe) - Monsters can't appear at her location. That's cool I guess, it doesn't come into play that much (best case scenario, you finish tasks and go back to start). Her second ability is where she's really good. Immunity to Terror effects can save you from dreadful mishaps. One task has you losing all dice that has the Terror result. I've lost 4 dice to that before, and she would have shrugged it off.
  • Darrel Simmons (Safe) - He is amazing at what he does. Bumping up any Investigate result up one value is phenomenal. I will warn you that I think his ability was based on the board game, so you can't give the die a result higher than what it is able to (3 is max on green, for instance). He's definitely useful on tasks that has you needing 12 or more points in Investigate to finish (I've seen a 2 for a monster, 3 for the task, and another 7 for the task).
  • Michael McGlen (Safe, Leader, Fixer) - He's also a contender for top 3. Being able to cheat out of Terror effects and having a higher % chance to get Peril to finish those tasks is phenominal. He's almost a walking shotgun. 
  • Amanda Sharpe - (Safe, Leader) - She has great potential for carrying your team to victory. Her ability is kind of like being able to lock all your dice between tasks, with none of the drawbacks. She's especially good on complicated and long tasks, with three or even four parts.
  • Ashcan Pete - (Safe, Leader) - He can trade in any of the 3 item types for anything else of those types. This lets him get common when he's low on yellow dice, unique when he's low on red, and spells when he needs to lock. Being extremely flexible and very powerful, he is a powerful investigator to bring with you.
  • Bob Jenkins (Safe, Wealthy) - As common items are not as powerful as unique, Bob is not as good as Monterey Jack. However, he's definitely a safer characters, able to get items to heal more easily. He can play a support character when he needs to, and do quite well taking care of himself.
  • Carolyn Fern (Healer, Safe) - She'll save your sanity each turn. She's a very good character to have, as I find sanity hits more than wounds.
  • Vincent Lee (Healer, Safe) - He'll patch you up each turn. Vincent can help recover wounds, very useful if your party is 'top heavy' with Sanity, but I will say that I find Sanity restoration to be used more for me.

I would say 2-3 leaders, and the rest being Safe/Healers is a good bet. (2 Leaders, 1 Support, 1 Healer is my standard composition, usually trying to get in a Fixer). For me, it's a tie between Harvey (Lore) and Michael (Peril). Having at least one of these guys to lean on when things gets tough is pretty nice. At least one of these guys are in my party when I'm playing to win (rather than trying odd builds). A healer is usually a safe bet too, either Carolyn (Sanity) or Vincent (Stamina). If you get one of each from these, you'll have a Leader and a Healer already. From there, I'd get anything else I want (leaning towards Leaders). 


Game Mechanics - There's definitely a few tricky mechanics that you should understand, as well as knowing the odds of succeeding on any given task.

  • Dice: Do you know what is on each face of the 3 dice? If you need a Terror icon, would you add in a yellow die? When should you add a yellow or red die, and when should you spend a clue token? It's important to know. (Green dice have Investigate 1, 2, and 3, tentacles, scroll, skull. Yellow dice has Investigate 1, 2, 3, 4, scroll, Skull. Red has Investigate 2, 3, 4, Scroll, Skull, and a Wild [Any result you can get from green dice except for Investigate, that can only be 4]
  • Green Die7TAKi.jpg0E7xX.jpg
  • Minus my poor photoshop recoloring attempts, these are the faces on the die. It's important to note that Yellow have NO Terror symbol. This is important to note for many reasons. If Terror helps you: You need to have 1 extra face for Harvey Walters or Michael McGlen to get Lore/Peril or you need it for the task, you won't add yellow. If Terror hurts you: If you have a penalty for rolling terrors, and don't want to increase the risk, add a red instead of yellow. For red die, remember that the Wild is (4 Investigate, Lore, Peril, or Terror). In the original game, Wild gave a 1 investigate I believe.
  • Sometimes I need Terror, and I'll throw in a Yellow because that's all I have. I do it because I'll need another die to throw away so I can get another chance. Don't be afraid to 'waste' yellow or red die like that. You aren't wasting them. Many times I'm down to 2 die, and need 2 Peril, and I toss in a Yellow just to cheat out a 'clue' token by discarding the yellow if my greens aren't coming up Peril.


  • Locks: Know that they stop you using the specified color die on the whole board. Ever wonder why you use an item that adds Yellow/Red and all you got was a Red? That's why. Take these out pretty fast before it screws you.
  • Terror Effect: For each task, they will tell you if it has a Terror effect. If any Terror icons are shown, and you can't complete a task, you will suffer the effects listed. It could range from taking damage, or losing dice showing Terror. None of them are any fun. Be sure to take that risk into effect, and find ways to cheat (Voice of Ra, Harvey Walters, Michael McGlen, Mandy Thompson, Clue Tokens)
  • Clue Tokens: These are great and are life savers, as I said above. They help you from near impossible tasks and can save you from terrible fumbles. Remember that it's any or all dice (and sometimes, it's easier to click 'add all' and take off the 1 or 2 that I want to keep).
  • Counting Symbols: For any given task, you should do some math before you go into it. What does the task require? (Peril, Peril, Lore) + (Investigate 7) + (Lore, Terror, Terror) + (Peril)?  Well, that's 7 dice without counting Investigate, and best case scenario (investigate 4 and 3) you need 9 dice, so it's impossible. If you can use Dust to auto-kill some monsters, do it. They're add-ons and even if you fail the tasks, the monster stays dead. 
  • Midnight Effects: Unless time fast forwarded from an enemy or an event, every 4 turns (each person goes once) ends the day at midnight. This means you know you have 4 turns to clear out any tasks that have abilities that strike at midnight. Take care of them if they are a problem (and they usually are), don't wait for your last character to finish it if possible, because dice can hate you and make you fail.
  • Plan The Day: First thing I do at the start of each day (and the game) is see what items people have, what tasks they'd be good at doing, and what my options are. I might have a character 1 with tons of items and does well at mission X, and then see that character 2 is terrible for mission Y. Or I could switch it and make 1 go to Y, and 2 go to X, having each with a 'good' chance being better than one with 'great' and one with 'terrible'. Play to people's strengths AND weaknesses. 
  • Use Items: They are disposable. Use them, that's what it's for. Don't discard them whenever you get a chance, but use then when necessary. Maybe try a die roll with just greens, and toss a yellow or red to help out later.
  • Failing Tasks on Purpose: This is something that is kind of advance, and I've toyed with it a bit. Let's say a task has 3 parts, and they are (Lore, Peril) + (Investigate 3, Lore) + (Lore + Terror). You toss your greens and a yellow, and get [Lore, Lore, Peril, Peril, Investigate 2, Investigate 2, Peril]. If you have spells to lock die, what you COULD do is toss one of the Investigate 2 results, so that you can start locking dice (You can't do this if you finish any portion of the task). Toss the die, then lock a Lore to your character, then cast a spell or two and lock another Lore and Peril if you need to. Then, take your chances. True, you roll fewer die to get what you need, but it can save you from needing 2 Peril on 2 dice, to making it 1 peril on 1 die.
  • Spend your Trophies: Buy Elder Signs if possible, but it's helpful at difficult times to purchase items to help you if you're in need. 
  • Chill Out: You can take a break and rest up. Spending trophies if you have them to spare, but even a +1 to a stat you are low on can be very helpful. Don't be afraid to 'pass a turn'.


  • Saturn (Other World Location)
  • Monster (Summons a monster)
  • Cultist (Adds a doom token)
  • Book (Spells, more likely to let you Lock dice and defeat monsters)
  • Sword (Unique Item, more likely to add Red die)
  • Gun (Common Item, more likely to add Yellow die)
  • Clock (Advances the game clock by one)
  • Brain (Sanity)
  • Heart (Stamina)
  • Shoe Print (Clue Token)
  • Star (Elder Sign)

There is an in game tutorial that uses pictures and text rather than Video (because it doesn't work for a lot of people). Please use it if you have any other questions. Also, the rule book for the main game can be found here (PDF Warning). The game is mostly the same, so if you need to see icons or a more thorough explanation, feel free to look it up. The video tutorials are also online and can be found here (quicktime) or


Man, I wrote a lot and spent way too much time on this, I feel it's not even as thorough as I'd like it to be. I kind of lost sight to what I was planning to do, this just kind of exploded.


EDIT: OH YEAH. This game is definitely a luck based game, but there is skill involved. having said that, you may lose. A lot. That's how it's built. Arkham Horror is the same way. Cthulhu is unforgiving and won't lend a tentacle to assist you. It's an uphill battle and though it may feel trivial, keep on striving to beat the game. It can be done.

EDIT 2: Added more stuff.

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One hint you forgot to give: try to use the last turn before midnight to seal an Outer World or buy from the shop.  If you clear an ordinary adventure, you can find it being replaced by one with a Midnight effect and you'll be hit by the Midnight effect before you have a chance to clear it.  This is especially important if you haven't yet cleared Horrible Visions and Transported By Magic, as they both add Doom tokens.

On a side note: Kate's ability doesn't stop monsters appearing at Midnight either from effects or the normal course of play.

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I think it's sloppy design when you can make the best decisions possible with your rolls and be doing quite well (13-10 before midnight and going to win with the next investigator through buying an elder sign) then just randomly lose from 2 doom tokens at midnight. I thought the # of doom tokens was based on what areas had doom tokens as a penalty (which would be a better system IMO). Randomness makes sense thematically for the individual locations as an investigator going against a monster or whatever could fail. I don't get the thematic reason for making the # of doom tokens random.

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As counter-intuitive as it sounds, my general feeling is that it is a much easier game if you use only one investigator. It keeps all your items in one place rather than spread out, helps to keep the health up since you can fully heal in only one turn, and builds the treasure count up fast so you can buy the items you need. As an example I recently beat Cthulhu (and quite handily too) using only Jenny Barnes.

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Anifanatic, many thanks for your detailed strategy tips! You filled many much needed gaps in the rules. Thanks for taking the time! Andyschnider, hope this helped you; it helped clarify many things for me. Really enjoying this version of the game…!

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i hated this game too. I beat the easy old one once. I tried using strategies, but it only made me live longer, before being screwed. Why did i just loose 5 health just because i conjured glyphs? WHO KNOWS! You can't slow their progress, so whats the point? I deleted it. I really really wanted to love this game, but i really really hated it. So much so I'm second guessing buying the board game, which people rave abut. 


That said, great tip article, i might consider trying the game again if im really bored, and use your tips.

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