Once upon a time there was a Dwarven Kingdom whose people liked nothing more than mining the gems required to eat, drink and make merry in local taverns. As Summer passed into Fall, the Dwarven King began to make the preparations needed to survive the long, harsh Winter.
However, it soon became clear that all was not well in this normally happy land. Relations with neighbouring Kingdoms were deteriorating, resources became scarce and boundary lines contested. Hearing reports that spies were found in the gem mines, the Dwarven king began to suspect that the neighbouring Kingdoms were working towards some hidden agenda.
Ogres began to frequent the taverns. Was this linked to a series of attacks on the mines? Rumours persisted that these creatures would, for a price, provide morally dubious support to a King in need. Worse still, there was talk of dragons…
Dwar7s Fall - The Game
To do this, players use a hand of ‘Kingdom’ cards and seven, dwarf shaped, meeples (Dweeples?) to first build a shared tableau and then produce resources from that tableau to complete objectives.
These objectives involve placing Dweeples on action spaces in the tableau to gather combinations of resources (‘Gem’ cards) or, in the case of hidden, personal, objectives; having certain types or number of cards in hand.
When three objectives are achieved by any one player, victory points are totalled and the player with the highest total wins. At this point, experienced gamers may be thinking this sounds like a standard ‘do stuff to get stuff that allows you to do other stuff that eventually gives you victory points’ Euro game, albeit one with a fantasy theme.
And they would be right…up to a certain point.
As a game progresses it quickly becomes very different to a typical Euro; moving away from a focus on your personal method of victory point collecting and into a far more interactive tug-of-war over the tableau created in the first few rounds.
While there is no combat, as such, in Dwar7s Fall, the game actively encourages players to hamper, deny, prevent and otherwise make achieving objectives as challenging as possible for each other.
Kingdom cards can be placed on top of each other to redraw the boundaries around each other’s ‘castle’ (the only player specific type of Kingdom card) and then redrawn again using a special action to “dig” for the buried cards.
Dweeples can be left in action spaces indefinitely to prevent other players using them, even on another players ‘castle’.
There are also “Ogre” cards whose sole use is to negate any advantage other players have – moving/removing Dweeples, stealing Gem cards and even other Ogre cards. Once collected, these Ogre cards are free to use further encouraging player versus player gameplay.
Each player's starting hand includes two ‘Monster’ cards - Dragons which stops all Gem mining in a Kingdom and Frost Giants which reduce available actions. These cards slow down the affected player's progress and require valuable time and actions to remove. However, once removed, these monsters are worth victory points to player who removes it – if other players allow that to happen.
One particularly low tactic is to leave a Dweeple on a dragon card you have just placed in another player’s kingdom. This potentially stops all Gem production in their Kingdom permanently, particularly if this is combined with a Frost Giant to reduce available actions.
Of course, the other player could do the same to you…and then it’s a race to use the Ogre cards against each other to gain and regain the advantage. This kind of back and forth is the heart of Dwarfs fall. Providing an entertaining, fun experience.
Final Thoughts on Dwar7s Fall
Although the basic three actions - play a card, place a Dweeple, move a Dweeple - are nothing that most gamers haven’t seen in a hundred other games, the way in which they can combine and be modified during the game feels interesting and fresh.
Take that worker placement! Set collection action space denial! Tile-laying area control! Dwar7s Fall has these and more. You can almost imagine the designers drawing from a hat to find the most curious combinations of game mechanics.
There is strategy here too. In-between playing Dragons and Ogres and redrawing one another’s kingdom, players still need to collect those gem cards to win. This, combined with the variable kingdom tableau, provides a longevity and replay-ability perhaps greater than the sum of its parts.
Yet this mix of mechanics is also its weak point. A player not fond of confrontation in games will find nothing here to persuade them otherwise, while fans of pure player vs player combat may well find the set collection objectives frustrating.
The rulebook is laid out well and each individual rule is relatively straightforward, however, there are a surprising number of them and, taken together, they represent a learning curve slightly too steep to be ideally suited to new gamers looking for a casual game.
The dwarf shaped meeples are a nice touch, the artwork is fun and there is a quick set-up/put away time. However, the card quality, while acceptable, is possibly a little on the thin side for the level of handling they will receive over time.
Relatively minor issues aside, gamers that don’t mind bashing each other as they collect victory points will find that Dwar7s Fall packs a tremendous amount into a small box. It’s light-hearted and engaging with a nice “throw it all in and see what happens” feel to it that, for the most part, works very well indeed.