Full disclosure: A review copy of Impact: Battle of Elements was provided by Ravensburger.
Hey, look at that, we’re mostly finishing up with Gen Con reviews! That means we’re going to be seeing more Essen reviews, games around the world reviews, and a few holiday reviews as we get ready to wind down what has been a brutally long 2018. Let’s check out a game I picked up at BGG.CON, then: Impact: Battle of the Elements, from Ravensburger!
In Impact, you’re attempting to transform elements in a magical cauldron and become the Master of Elements. Using Air, Water, Fire, Earth, and Electricity, you’ll compete against other wizardly folk to try and get what you need while you still can. But be careful! You may end up creating a big bang or tempting the void itself to stop you. Who will become the Master of Elements?
So, setup. Use the bowlish thing (a “cauldron”, according to the rules) for the game:
Give each player some dice:
- 2 players: 8 dice
- 3 players: 7 dice
- 4 players: 6 dice
- 5 players: 5 dice
Have the starting player throw one die into the bowl. Put the other dice away, and you’re ready to start!
So there are three modes: one is identical to its predecessor, Strike; one is Power of the Elements, and the final one is Avatar. In each, your goal is the same: be the last player with dice. How do you do that? Well, let me explain.
On your turn, you will throw one die (as a variant, we generally allow one or more dice) into the bowl. Once the dice settle, check their faces; if any are the blank side (void), they are removed from the game immediately. If any dice are showing the same face, you may remove all of them and end your turn. If they are all different, you may either throw another die in or stop your turn. We also allow you to throw more dice in if there are matching faces, but that’s our preferred variant.
If you ever begin your turn with no dice in the center bowl, you must add dice of your own! Specifically, all of your dice must be thrown in simultaneously. If you ever end your turn with 0 dice, you lose. You see how these things go together.
That’s the basic game. Let’s talk variants.
Power of the Elements
In this one, you’ll use the abilities of the dice to your advantage. Roll the die into the center, like you did in Setup. Whatever die face is showing is the activated element, which adds a bonus effect to the game:
- Lightning – Lightning Storm: As soon as these faces match, all other players must throw one of their dice into the center, and then the player whose turn it is can take all matching dice. As you might guess, if there are still matching lightning faces, you just collect them; you can’t activate this ability again.
- Water – Swamp: Swamps are gross to touch, and that’s reflected here. If you ever have matching water faces, you cannot remove them from the center. It’s unclear if your turn still ends in the base game, but it doesn’t in ours.
- Wind – Hurricane: Once you take the dice out of the bowl, all players must pass all of their dice to the player on their left. It’s great if you’re out of dice; very bad if you’re winning. We don’t play with this specific element as the primary very often, as a result.
- Rock – Boulders: This one is fun and exciting. When you take any dice with matching rock faces, they are treated as one die until they are thrown again. You represent this by stacking them into a column.
- Fire – Column of Fire: Speaking of stacks, as soon as these faces match, all players must immediately stack their remaining dice in a column. The first player to do so says “DONE!” and then takes all the dice with matching faces from the bowl. It’s a good catch-up mechanism. As you might guess, you cannot have your dice already in a stack.
Beyond that, play as normal.
In this mode, all elements are in play simultaneously! It’s a huge mess, but what can you do. They have a recommended resolution order for the dice, to save you some effort:
- Remove Void dice.
- Lightning Storm.
- Column of Fire.
Good luck with this one.
Player Count Differences
There’s not much of one, here. At higher player counts you have to deal with player elimination, which is generally annoying, but there’s no real way to fix that short of having additional dice or completely overhauling the game, so I’m willing to give it a bit of a pass. Either way, there’s a bit more chaos happening with higher player counts, though you’ll still only ever have a maximum of five dice in the “cauldron” at a time (see the pigeonhole principle, below).
I’d recommend it at pretty much any player count.
- I dunno; throw dice, I guess? I mean, the strategy you need to use for this game is just sort of a fundamental understanding of probability, the pigeonhole principle, and a few other things. If you’re unlucky enough to have five different faces showing in the “cauldron”, you should throw all of your dice in (assuming you’re playing with my preferred variant) — you have the highest likelihood that they’ll come up with something that matches something else and you might be able to get more dice back (or they’ll all come up void and you’re screwed).
- Watch your angle of attack. If you throw at too high of an angle, the dice will bounce out. Don’t underestimate the bounciness of the new platform, especially if you’ve played Strike before.
- If you’re playing with Hurricane, just … waste your dice, I guess, maybe? I really don’t know. On one hand, that means you potentially screw over your opponent by giving them almost no dice, but it also means you’re in danger if the other players figure it’s best to hold out on you and make sure that you can’t get that Hurricane you crave.
- You probably shouldn’t be taking this game that seriously. I think that’s the best strategy to have fun.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I do like engraved dice. The nice thing about it is also that if you are like, prototyping some magic wizard game and you need element dice, you can also use these! That’s not super relevant to the game, though, so let me try again. The engraved dice look really nice, have clear symbology, and are easy to distinguish between (relative to Strike’s pips). I kind of wish the Void side had something on it, though, rather than just being blank.
- Portable game box. I can take this most places with me and I really appreciate that. It just kind of fits nicely into my backpack without much effort.
- Easy to learn. You’re just trying to match dice faces; there’s not much more to it than that.
- Plays very quickly. I’ve played a full game in about two or three minutes. It didn’t end particularly well for me, but it was a full game.
- It’s nice that Strike is more widely available. It’s a fun game and it was a shame that it was out of print for so long. I’m glad it’s coming back, even in a sightly different form.
- I have some questions about the box. Is the depth to make it bouncier? I’m legitimately interested.
- I kind of wish Void had a symbol rather than a blank side. It would just be nice to see. I get why it doesn’t, from a like, thematic standpoint, though I kind of wonder if that means there’s some weight / balance changes to the dice? I’m going to assert that if you’re playing this game it’s probably not worth caring about that in particular.
- Avatar Mode is a total mess. I mean, if you want to try it, you totally can, but not even the rulebook is willing to outright endorse it as a good idea, and that’s pretty hilarious.
- I mean, I don’t like player elimination in games, but there’s not much you can do about it, here. Thankfully the game is quick enough that this is rarely a problem, if ever.
- It feels a bit bouncier than Strike. I think the subtle differences are going to irritate the die-hard Strike fans, but I don’t really care. I’m just noting it if you’re a huge fan of Strike but you lost yours in a no-holds-barred tournament with the devil or something and you need a new one, this is different than Strike in one way that might irritate you, but also, whatever. I don’t mind it pretty much at all. Plus, it’s fun watching the dice bounce out.
Overall: 9 / 10
Overall, I’m a big fan of Impact. I mean, at its core, it’s a fundamentally very silly dice-chucking game that can be played basically anywhere, anytime. I imagine a few of the changes made to the initial version of Strike (its predecessor, which I have played but do not own) were made to increase portability, since now it’s a smaller, more compact box, but also add some new stuff (like the bouncier bottom, which is amusing). It’s telling that when I first got it I got a bit poo-pooed for having it by a number of Strike purists, which was kind of frustrating. Or, at least, it frustrated me enough that I had to ask one if he genuinely had a problem with Impact or if he was just upset that something he had that was Rare and Valuable was more widely available to the general population. He didn’t have a solid answer. There’s definitely a hint of that in the disdain I feel from some people for Impact, and that’s frustrating (and gatekeeping, mind you). That said, while I’m not like, over the moon for Impact’s new modes (Avatar mode being just straight up wild), I do enjoy the variety from time to time (and I can just play Strike with the set even if I don’t want to play with the elements). For me, this is the kind of game I can bring home for the holidays and play with friends and family, or the kind of game I can keep with me for a quick round while we wait for drinks, and that’s awesome. If you’re looking for a game like that, I’d highly recommend giving Impact: Battle of the Elements a whirl!