The Elder Scrolls series is one of the best in the gaming sector that developers have brought to the market in the field of role-playing games. In the meantime, all those who cannot do anything with a gamepad or keyboard and mouse are allowed to put their hands on the franchise. The British publisher has released a miniature game under the title The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms. In addition to a basic box, there are several faction packages with figures. In the following review of The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms we reveal whether and for whom the game is worthwhile.


Throughout the world of Elder Scrolls, bards sing in taverns of monsters, adventures, times gone by, and brave heroes who face the threats. From now on, fans can experience all the big and small stories on the gaming table at home - in the long term or just to bridge the gap until one new series part for The Elder Scrolls appears. Bethesda had already announced a sequel, but a short trailer was all the developers have shown so far. That would mean the sixth part of the series, which started in 1994 and in an arena.

The Elder Scrolls: Achieving greatness early on 

Elder Scrolls showed its true greatness two years later with its successor Daggerfall, which offered an amazingly large game world for the time. The Elder Scrolls is a superlative franchise anyway: the games have gotten bigger, bigger, better and more adventurous over the years. The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is steadily supported with mods that lift the role play to an optical and content level that is second to none. Since 2014 fans have even been able to experience The Elder Scrolls in a purely online world - in an entertaining way all by themselves, for a game that is essentially an MMORPG, this is a novelty.

The basic box contains what players need to get started - with the exception of the miniatures. Photo: André Volkmann

With Elder Scrolls: Legends, the brand made it into the border area between video game and card game for the first time, but the competition, especially Hearthstone, seemed to be overwhelming. Now it was Modiphius' turn to implement The Elder Scrolls as a "real analog game". The British have already proven that this can work with Fallout. The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms builds on the post-apocalyptic game, but pursues a completely different basic theme with classic fantasy.

Fans can fall back on two different game modes: Either they earn their time with quick skirmishes or in Delve mode, in which one player competes alone, optionally cooperatively with friends. The cardboard AI always follows the commands of the cube, which, together with an order card, shows what actions the opponent must take. It works excellently, but it does not lack a certain unpredictability - although one can definitely see the advantage of the system in this. While the skirmish mode is more in the "nice to have" category, the quest mode is. A total of twelve scenarios are open to players in Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms - six each in Battle mode and six in Delve mode.

"Requires some assembly": In view of the small parts, that sounds like a threat. Photo: André Volkmann

“Requires some assembly”: In view of the small parts, that sounds like a threat. Photo: André Volkmann

The rulebook more than lives up to its name. The work comprises 100 pages and contains all the basic and detailed rules in small parts. There are also further adjustments made by the quest book. Helpful: The basic box includes a tutorial with the booklet “Escape from Helgren”, which conveys the most basic of all rules. The accessories are aimed primarily at all those who are completely new to the tabletop segment. Those who have first looked through the extensive set of rules can immerse themselves in the stories and take care of the craft of tactical warfare. In the end, this miniatures game is all about strategically clever actions. If you have already played Fallout: Wasteland Warefare, you will find your way around better, because The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms uses mechanisms from the concept of James Sheahan.

The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms has gone on sale with the core box and three miniature packs. The basic set contains the mandatory rules, the campaign book as well as cards and tokens. However, the miniature monsters, which serve as opponents and currently do not represent a playable faction, are also necessary for playing. Going into battle as a skeletal archer or draugr is therefore currently not possible. So the figures serve as an extended arm of the cardboard AI. It also includes a Dragonborn.  

Archmage Savos Aren says: Because you have to read 100 pages first, you are happy about his quotes, among other things. Overall, the rulebook is clearly laid out and appealing. Photo: André Volkmann

The basic combat system is understandable but quite demanding. Each character has five values: agility, strength, endurance, wisdom and intelligence. In the classic way, the different game actions are rolled for the different values. A d20 die determines the success or failure of an action. When attacking, six-sided dice are also used to determine the damage.

How Much Elder Scrolls is in Call to Arms?

In addition to an exciting, playful basic feeling, fans in particular should find out how much the new tabletop can capture the spirit of the Elder Scrolls series. Even die-hard fans of Oblivion, Skyrim and Co can breathe a sigh of relief: The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms has a lot of “The Elder Scrolls”. Modiphius did an excellent job in implementing this. It starts with the rulebook, in which quotations or sketches can be found again and again. 

If you are very lucky, you will find treats in the treasure chests. Photo: André Volkmann

If you are very lucky, you will find treats in the treasure chests. Photo: André Volkmann

This continues in a playful way, especially through the dominant role-play part of the miniature adventure. Starting with the character cards as a basis, players equip their warriors. So they put on weapons and armor and supply their heroes with spells and other helpful items that are available via the quick slots: this adheres closely to the video game template and ensures a harmonious elder scrolls feeling in the “analog table version” . There are always smaller story moments that capture the atmosphere of the template, for example when quest cards are used, because they contain a lot that is already familiar from the video game.

As in video games, the players' urge to explore is encouraged. You can find treasure chests scattered everywhere, which simply reveal their contents or have to be broken open - a lock-picking sends greetings. 

What is not quite conducive to the mood is the complexity of the game itself. Yes, if you are familiar with the rules at some point, you will benefit from the countless possibilities for action and the playful freedom that you have already come to know and appreciate in video games.

The atmosphere fits: the Elder Scrolls feeling arises mainly because the characters are equipped with familiar Elder Scrolls equipment. Photo: André Volkmann

The atmosphere fits: the Elder Scrolls feeling arises mainly because the characters are equipped with familiar Elder Scrolls equipment. Photo: André Volkmann

For beginners, however, it is an enormous hurdle to find their way around The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms. Again and again it is important to switch between the individual text works, rules have to be looked up again and again, that challenges players - and requires patience. It takes time to internalize the gameplay, to be able to rewind the sequence of moves and to be familiar with the most important basic terms. This is the time when the tabletop for The Elder Scrolls can develop its true potential: You sprint towards your opponent, attack, withdraw and use your tactical actions cleverly to eliminate opponents.

What could be a deterrent is the building of miniatures - appreciated by die-hard fans. The figure packs contain all sorts of small parts with the subtle reference “Requires some assemly”, so you have to assemble and not too tightly. Countless body parts need to be joined together, and this is a hurdle that should not be underestimated, especially with the thin bony arms of the skeletons. Just unpack and go isn't how The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms works. It is a genre-typical tabletop with all the advantages and disadvantages that such games bring with them. In any case, the effort will be rewarded. Anyone who takes the time to assemble and paint the detailed figures with a coat of paint can delve deep into the world of the video game series “The Elder Scrolls”.

Three miniature packs are currently available - but it won't stop there. Photo: André Volkmann

Three miniature packs are currently available - but it won't stop there. Photo: André Volkmann

What is currently available through Modiphius is by no means everything the British publisher wants to publish about the new brand. Currently available are only the undead including the dragon-born as well as the two faction packages for the storm coats and the Imperial Legion. This is currently only scratching the surface of what the franchise has in store. A look at the rulebook of the basic set reveals that more can be expected in the future. It speaks of the different races of Tamriel - because this currently has no effect on the current gaming experience, it can be assumed that new races - such as the Orsimer or Khajit - will find their way into the tabletop. This can be recognized, among other things, by the fact that the races are not only mentioned and briefly presented, but that skill rules have already been established. 

The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms is therefore to be seen as the prelude to a long-term cooperation between Bethesda and Modiphius. It is unlikely that the time for “The Elder Scrolls” is running out. It is already clear that, for example, the online offshoot will also appear for the next-gen consoles - this not only extends the life cycle of the game and shortens the waiting time for Elders Scrolls 6, but also keeps the franchise alive as a whole. This should also be good news for tabletop gamers who are just starting out on their adventure.

Infobox

Player: Solo and cooperative
Age: from 14 years
Playing time: around 60 to 120 minutes
Difficulty: high
Long-term motivation: medium

Publisher: Modiphius Entertainment 
Author: Mark Latham
Year of publication: 2020
Language: English
Costs: Corebox 31 euros, miniature packs around 22 euros each

Summary

The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms is the same as with other tabletops. You have to get into the matter first to discover the potential that lies dormant in such games. Tabletop fans in general, and especially Elder Scrolls fans, are offered one of the rare opportunities with Modiphius' work to experience the brand offline or away from the screen. What you have to bring up for this are patience and a will to initially have to put together your party from characters, for example, with a lot of effort. 

In the end, The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms is more of a miniature game for experienced tabletop strategists, even if it might be worthwhile for beginners to invest the time in the title. Once the basic requirements have been met, the fun starts early: the planning begins with putting together a powerful troop, goes through the movement to tracking down treasures - all embedded in the special world of The Elder Scrolls. The fact is: As a pure euro gamer or with an aversion to tabletop games, it will be difficult to warm up to “Call to Arms”. Getting started is made easier when an experienced player sits at the table. The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms is only available in English, which is generally not an obstacle, for some players it may be an obstacle due to the heavy text. 

Even the greatest heroes start small: beginners will find a tutorial helpful. Photo: André Volkmann

Even the greatest heroes start small: beginners will find a tutorial helpful. Photo: André Volkmann

Otherwise there is a lot of role play including cool elder scrolls details, such as the hodgepodge of well-known magic spells that can be assigned to the “hands of the character”. The ESO-oriented vocabulary of the tabletop unfolds an additional pull effect and contributes to the atmosphere. The Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms is definitely not a game that you take off the shelf and put on the table in between. The preparation time is enormous, the demands on the players are high - but the tabletop offers the opportunity to delve deeply into the world of The Elder Scrolls. Even more: you can create your own personal Elder Scrolls world if you have the right ambitions. Those who are not afraid of the complexity of warming tabletops will get a currently unrivaled “analog Elder Scrolls game” with Modiphius' development. This tabletop is an adventure, but one that you get involved in, that you have to work for.


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