Teaching Time: 5 mins
Playing Time: 60 mins
Setup Time: 10 mins
Value For Money: Mid
Certainly as a winner of the Spiel De Jahre, Elfenland arguably needs little enough support from someone as minor as myself. That said its win was a while ago and not every SDJ deserves ongoing attention so I would like to argue if you don't have Elfenland in you collection it's worth a look because while its not on most people's radar anymore it really should be.
I'd like to say firstly why I think Elfenland has been relatively forgotten, and I suspect that its quite simply that the game is effectively impossible to expand or re-skin, a lesson that Alan Moon learnt in impressive fashion with Ticket to Ride. I love Ticket and I'd never do it down but its ongoing success is not significantly related to its being better than Elfenland but rather because of its ongoing series of replacement maps and expansions. Elfenland is as close to as good as it can be and differing layouts do not significantly extend its game play. However it costs about the same as a new Ticket to Ride map, especially second hand, so give it consideration next time you intend to pick up a Ticket expansion.
So, I talked a little about Elfenland in my SDJ blog, what it makes it worth talking about in my reviews too? In Elfenland players pull cards and counters representing methods of travel, then place the various counters on routes drawn on a map. Players take turns playing cards matching the travel method placed on routes to move down them and mark off a city on their tour. The whole thing has a lighthearted fantasy skin which really doesn't matter, its not a deeply immersive world but doesn't lose anything by it.
The reason I would recommend Elfenland over your second Ticket map is two fold. Firstly and most simply, you get to both build and travel down your routes while Ticket only lets you build them. Secondly and most importantly, it allows for a more interesting semi-co-operative and semi-passive-aggressive version of competition as opposed to Ticket's purely passive-aggressive version. In Ticket you claim a route and only you can use it from then on meaning competition comes from guessing which routes opponents need and claiming them to block them. On a large map or with particular route draws players can operate entirely in their own corners never much interacting. However in Elfenland you get more cards, which let you travel, than counters, which claim routes. This means that to maximise your score you need to use your opponent's tokens as well as your own, such that success is dependent on some degree of interaction and cross play.
In short, Elfenland is an excellent game that anyone considering their next Ticket to Ride map should pick up, as should anyone who avoids Ticket to Ride as lacking variety or anyone with a gap in their collection for a solid entry to mid level game.