The dwarves have wide massive axes. These are their main and most popular weapons. We are absolutely clear about that. But all the axes of the world disappeared, leaving only legends. And without their weapons, the dwarves are utterly defenseless and toothless. And so there is nothing but to hope for a miracle and to steal the magical Keenfire ax and evade the coming evil.
The fact that the world of dwarves is an interesting and dangerous place can be read in Markus Heitz’s series of books named Dwarves. And on the story of the first one is based cooperative board game The Dwarves, which Michael Palm and Lukas Zach prepared for us. The illustration was provided by Jacek Nocoń and whole game was released in production of Pegasus Spiele in 2016.
On the lid of the dark big box, the players find only the big magical ax. Inside the box, there is a large game board that offers the map of Girdlegard divided into seven color-coded kingdoms. By giving it a more detailed look, you find these individual hexagram boxes with different arrows pointing to adjacent locations. It is this board that is placed in the center of the table. Tokens of orcs and älfar are placed on the designated places on it, while on the dwarfs‘ scale gets its pointer in the middle. And while this scale is down on the board, top shows track of destruction – the heroes begin on the left, the destruction token on the opposite side.
Players place piles of tokens for devastated land, modifications, scenarios cards, tunnel divisions, but also dice near the board. Then players can choose each their own dwarf miniature. It is also inseparable that each piece comes with a card and figure is placed by the player at the designated place of the map (some dwarves start elsewhere). Hero card indicates highest value of life (heart). Preparation is completed by dividing scenario cards into three piles according to the letters, setting several cards aside (thus determining the difficulty). The top card is revealed and setup focuses attention on the other packages: adventure cards, which create offer of three pieces and the same applies to pile of threats. Shuffled supply will also offer a set of equipment cards, but no revealing this time.
In the game, players will alternate on the turn, but in the first place they will be given the opportunity to take several preparatory actions. First in order is the chance to move hero token on the scale, that is on axis of destruction one field towards destruction. This will allow the token to enter space with threats, hints or enemies. No pleasure is awaiting players in this doing as it either moving council token on the board (and need to follow text in new space) or addition of two new threat cards to the adventure deck. But most striking at first glance is adding new enemy cubes to the map.
Once five or more enemy cubes find themselves in one of these positions, land becomes devastated. And this carries a chain reaction with it – there is nothing interesting left at this site, so monsters move along the arrows to neighboring locations. And so chain reactions can emerge gradually, and turn kingdom into desolation. But creatures can also leave the map, if they enter a special box when they migrate from devastated territory. Subsequently, new scenario, adventure and threats cards can be unveiled and their instructions met.
Only at the end of their turn, players will finally be able to make two free actions. The character of the hero can be moved around the map, but player first rolls dice. Their amount is determined by speed of the hero and highest number of all the cubes rolled.
On their way, they will not only battle the enemies (we will return to that), but also go across devastated landscapes. However, players should avoid these places if possible, because they lose one life point here and, in addition, they move token on the scale of destruction. When moving, it is possible to use special tunnel systém. It would not be a dwarf world, if there were no holes dug in the ground.
But when hero comes to the place, where one of the enemies is sitting, his movement immediately ends and it is time to fight. To do this, players again use dice and their number is determined by level of their strength. Each dice with result of four, five or six lets player remove one enemy cube from the map – the higher the value, the stronger monster is defeated. However, if a player does not defeat any enemy, when sharing space with them, then one point of his life is lost.
As a result, players can also influence scale of the board, that they can move with their skills. This again assumes a successful roll of dice. But heroes also interfere with adventures and scenarios, that challenge players and require more dice to be rolled. While the adventure at the end brings the reward printed on the card, scenarios moves the story forward. Once card showing the third level (marked with letter C) is completed, players immediately win. Losses are also common and occurs in the event of the death of one of the dwarves or when they hero token meets destruction on common scale.
The Dwarves is an interesting cooperative game, that approaches its task in a bit of Solomon’s way. The enemy spreads across the board, using method of very popular Pandemic game. It lets the cubes expand and sow destruction. Any such land, that is overwhelmed by an army of enemies is destroyed and, in addition, limit the hero’s movement for the rest of the game.
First of all, it’s all very simple to play. The rules do not carry any tricks and after one reading you will know exactly what is wanted from you. In doing so, they also maintain the challenge, which is mainly based on dice. With a good deal of coincidence, players are fighting the unfavorable fate of their world, and are constantly doing some tasks or battles. There is simply always something going on here.
So, if you do not have a negative relationship to cooperative games, then you might be interested in this game. Players each have one of their own miniatures and must spread to fight units of darkness so their numbers does not grow too much. Here again, the game reminds the already mentioned Pandemic. But the unsuccessful end here works a little differently and takes into account the scale of destruction. The move is influenced by player action (shift from left) and enemy action (shift from the right), providing some timely frame. Two-element scale is an interesting idea.
Players will also get help from equipment cards on their way to possible victory. But all the time they need luck and some of you may see it as a significant shortage. The biggest problem of the whole game is the constant involvement of cards with text. Players have to keep up and read them, which slows down otherwise good pace. But the whole game is not generally extremely fast, so you theoretically do not have to worry.
Players can arbitrarily consult with their teammates about all their choices and decisions, but the final say remains purely on them. This is classically the same as in other cooperative games and the game works well in all counts. But for the battle with darkness, you must definitely reserve more than one hour, and for the first part, maybe even more than two.
Processing is very solid. You will enjoy miniatures and nice graphics. This all very well supports the theme. It can be seen at first sight, that there is more behind the story to be learned. The book and world will surely enhance your experience further.
The Dwarves is an interesting cooperative game, that is not without errors, but will surely test everyone, who likes cooperative battles. On a big map with lots of dynamic and unexpected events, that’s enough and still not easy at all. Players can choose the difficulty themselves. The Dwarves have prepared unexpected joy for us.
The Dwarves are quite a pleasant surprise. This game produced under a license has been a solid fun for all lovers of cooperation. Players are battling together on the map with cubes, that represent a growing enemy army. It gets new reinforcements and leaves only burned and unusable ground behind. Players can choose their own difficulty and it does not matter how much of them will be enjoying this experience together. They will always have a good time, though it may become longer and is often disturbed by reading. Luck is both enemy and friend here, because it also makes the game interesting. The Dwarves is a game you can easily enjoy, even if you do not know the original books (although it is definitely a bonus) .