Designer: Lee G. Broderick
Publisher: Dragon Dawn Productions
Players: 1-3 (1-5 with a second set)
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes
You often hear about Dwarves being miners and that mining is really what Dwarves do best. But how often do you actually see Dwarves doing what they’re meant to do? Instead, you see them roaming around the wilderness with rangers, elves, humans and short, furry footed people returning jewelry to their rightful owners, or going on a mission to steal back jewelry from a large thief that stole theirs in the first place. Occasionally you might see some Dwarves heading off to work they go while singing, but you don’t necessarily get to see them doing a whole lot of actual mining.
Enter Dwarf: a Forging, Mining and Fighting for Glory game by Lee Broderick. Dwarf takes you into the mine as Dwarven players mine, forge and defend their mine against enemies all for the sake of seeking glory.
A turn is broken up into 3 phases:
- The Mining Phase. Players draw 2 mine cards from the mountain deck and place them in the mine, which keeps the mine ever changing round to round and introduces new seams/ elements to mine, enemies to defend against or abilities to take advantage of (like calling for friendly reinforcements or smelting steel from the iron you have gathered.
- The Action/ Selection Phase. Each player places workers on one of 9 mine cards or both workers (or 1 worker and 4 medals which are obtained by bravely defending the mine) on a Special Action card. If a Special Action card is chosen, once players have placed their Dwarven Meeples for that round, that Special Action is immediately carried out (multiple players can use the Special Action card) and that Special Action card then placed in the mine in its corresponding place. If a Dwarven Meeple is on the mine card the Special Action card will be placed, that player will carry out that action before placing the Special Action card into the mine.
- The Action Resolution Phase. Once all Dwarven Meeples have been placed in the mine, actions are carried out in the following order:
- Get Help A player will grab their additional 2 Dwarven Meeples (with the pick axes) and place them in the mine. If that player is holding the 1st player marker, the marker is passed clockwise to the next player.
- Defend Any player on a space with an enemy monster in their location will defend the mine earning them a medal. 4 medals can be used in place of one worker when using the Special Action cards. If a card with a monster is not defended against, players will suffer the penalty. Cards are dealt with from upper left to bottom right in order as if reading a book.
- Mining! Yay! Dwarves finally get to do what they do best! Mine in their mine! Cards in the mine, like defending are resolved upper left to bottom right. Players gather the resources from the cards that allow them to gather. (Iron and Gold or players can Smelt Steel by turning in Iron).
- Forge What does a Dwarf make with all the gold, iron or steel they are getting from their mine? They forge cool stuff! If a player is taking the forge action, they can turn in the necessary resources and make cool weapons or objects. If the current first player takes a forge action, the first player token moves to the next player to the left.
So how do you win? The game ends once all the Mountain Cards run out, or one player forges their 4th item. The player that has a majority of most of 3 goods (items, gold or steel) wins the game. So Cranky Dwarf might end the game by forging his fourth item, but if Snotty has more gold and steel. Snotty wins!
At its seam, Dwarf is a fairly standard worker placement game. It includes some “take that” elements that can mix things up and there is variation in how the mine is explored during the Mining Phase as cards come out randomly, but players are racing for getting to either Forge the most items which ends the game while simultaneously having more gold or alloy steel then their opponents.
Is it fun? Yes. In a couple of the games I was able to get to the table, an opponent was getting ready to do some major Forge moves and I was able to turn in some of my medals to use special actions. One such action, “Run Amok” sends all the dwarves running around the mine (kind of…technically you shuffle each stack of cards at each location) and (hopefully) each dwarf ends up in a different place then where they started, thwarting your opponent’s well laid plans of mine domination. There’s a number of action cards that can upset the stability of the mine by changing locations in the mine, but that helps give players some good strategic decisions in when to go for the gold (literally) or mess up an opponent’s plan.
COMPONENTS: The components are decent quality and the Dwarf meeples with their hammer or pickaxe are striking. The 3 different sized cubes for resources are small, well…tiny,slightly bigger and bigger than a standard cube.. but are a decent quality and represent 1x, 3x or 9x?? of each resource (iron, steel or gold). The 9x seems a bit bizarre as opposed to a 1x, 3x and 5x and I never really felt like I gained enough resources over the course of a game that a 9x was warranted. Plus the 1x, 3x and 9x is a weird combo. My final nitpick on the components is the packaging. The bits came in separate plastic bags that ripped open (not meant to be resealed) and the game came with one large resealable bag. Would it have been that much more expensive to just put the pieces in resealable bags instead of the throw away ones?
MECHANICS: As previously mentioned, the game is pretty standard worker placement, but the “take that” element (which comes in with using the Special Action cards) really brings Dwarf to life. Throw in a little set/ resource collection and you’ve got a fun game with some light strategic decisions. This isn’t a brain burner or heavy game by any means. It’s a fun, quick worker placement with a couple other mechanics to keep it interesting.
TIME, AGES & PLAYER COUNT: 30-60 minutes with ages 9+ seem just about right. I’ve only played 2-player so far (thanks, COVID) but a 3rd player would definitely add a nice twist by making the action spaces and places you can go a lot tighter. This works out for a great filler when waiting on the rest of your group, or something when you don’t have a ton of time to play but want something with a little bit of meat on it.
ARTWORK: The artwork gives the look of a dark mine where one might find dwarves doing what dwarves are meant to do, but digging a little deeper, you might find artwork of something a bit darker, like Orc Raiders, Sidhe’s or Dragons that will go after any Dwarven loot. A nitpick I have on the artwork is there are Mountain Cards with lanterns on them (including your starting cards. The lanterns are so dark on the cards, they often blend into the background. So far, I’ve only needed them for the initial set up cards, but I think it’d been nice if they produced it with the lantern art being a little more visible. This was really only an issue for initially setting up the game, but once you know where they are, it’s less of a problem. They are there for a reason (kind of) to help make the game a “less random” game, but they really don’t change the game if you’re giving the cards a good shuffle.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I enjoy playing this and bonus, so does my wife, who is much more of an opinionated gamer than I am. (I”ll play almost anything. She will try things out with me, but won’t go back for a second round if the game doesn’t suit her tastes.) So I’m always happy to find something that both her and I enjoy playing. I think the 4-5 player game would make the mine really tight and each decision much more important than playing with 2 or 3 players. I have not had the option to play more than 3 (yet).
OPINIONATED GAMER RATINGS:
I Love it!
I Like It. RJG
Not for me.