Elemental: A Worked Example

This is a worked example of a strategically-played game of Elemental. By reading this page carefully and understanding the reasons for each move, you will learn a lot about how to be a successful player. So far as I can tell, the moves made in this example are the best possible moves, and I'm the most experienced player in the world. (For the record, I seem to win between 75% and 80% of all games.)

This page is cross-referenced with the game's instructions.


(1) We begin by eliminating four cards (as on page three of the instructions):


(2) We eliminate four more cards in the same manner:


(3) We place a spare diamond on top of one of the piles (as on page four of the instructions):


(4) We turn a heart into a new spare (as on page four of the instructions):

Strategy tip: If we were hasty, we would probably miss this opportunity and just eliminate another four cards as in move #5. Try not to miss an opportunity to replenish your spares.


(5) We eliminate another four cards (as on page four of the instructions):


(6) We place a spare heart on one of the piles.

Strategy tip: This move gives us two things at once: a cross we could use to create a new spare, and a block we could use to eliminate four more cards. Moves that kill two birds with one stone are very useful and worth looking for.


(7) We convert a spade into a new spare.

Strategy tip: As noted in the previous tip, we could either create a new spare or eliminate four more cards. It is better to create the spare, because if the card under the spade happens to be another spade then we'll still have a block we can eliminate cards from (and an extra spare, too), and if it isn't then we can always put the spare back again (it costs one manipulation but we can easily afford it). Creating the spare is therefore worth a try and carries absolutely no risk.


(8) We eliminate another four cards.

Strategy tip: See what I mean? The card under the spade was another spade, which proves that optimism pays.


(9) We place a spare spade on one of the piles.

Strategy tip: Referring to the strategies explained above, you should be able to see why we make this move and predict what the next one will be.


(10) We turn a club into a new spare.


(11) We eliminate another four cards.


(12) We eliminate another four cards.


(13) We shift a pile north (as on page five of the instructions):


(14) We eliminate another four cards:


(15) We place a spare club on one of the piles:


(16) We turn a spade into a new spare:


(17) We eliminate another four cards:


(18) We shift a pile south


(19) We eliminate another four cards:


(20) We place a spare heart on an empty pile:


(21) We move a pile east:


(22) We transfer a card within the east extremity (as on page five of the instructions):

Strategy tip: Transferring within an extremity is often a good idea even when there is no obvious advantage. That's because lots of piles with few cards each is usually better than lots of cards in just a few piles (a fact you will find useful to bear in mind generally), and this is one way to distribute cards more evenly. If you could perform a progressive move (as in move #23) but still have some unused manipulations, this is often a useful way to use them up instead of wasting them.

Here's another tip (not relevant in this case). Sometimes when you transfer the top card within an extremity, you'll be hoping to find a particular suit underneath. This can be a good idea, but first make sure you have a contingency plan in case you don't get the suit you want.


(23) We eliminate four more cards.


(24) We shift a pile south.


(25) We eliminate four more cards.


(26+) Here is what the tableau looks like now. I will not show the rest of the game, because it should be obvious how to win from here. In fact, there are several ways.

Strategy tip: Winning is not always so easy. It's worth planning the last few moves carefully, and sometimes a little lateral thinking is called for. Suppose, for example, that you can't form your second-to-last block using only three manipulations. But perhaps you can find a way to create a new spare, and use the extra manipulations you earn from that as a stepping-stone to eliminating the penultimate four cards. And if you've thought it through carefully, you will then eliminate the final four and win the game.