…Well, I can hack rocks, carve intricate detailing into stone, and create great architectural achievements with my trusty axe…but can I get the bloody thing to even remotely dig into this frozen ground? Poxy winter!
…all that effort establishing a home and now I am stuck up to my waist in snow. Admittedly it is only 50cm deep, but that is one of the many drawbacks to being a Dwarf. Nicely insulated face but short legs leave me waist deep in even the shallowest of drifts and it always result in frozen snowballs!
(Press play for a wintery ambience to accompany your read!)
You built and defended your kingdom, and now that winter is here, you need to battle the harsh elements and chillingly scary monsters.
Dwar7s Winter is a hand-building, resource management game with tower defense elements in the gameplay. Each player wants to achieve more victory points, but the only way to survive the winter is to work together.
What’s All The Fuss About?
A sequel to the older Dwar7s Fall game, set in a similar environment but this time after having successfully built our kingdoms, our groups or bands of Dwarves have to endure and survive the ravaging severity of Winter. With it, winter brings a host of unyielding monsters determined to overrun our principality…our castle (I suspect they might not be as malevolent as first appears, more intent on getting out of the biting wins and into a spot of fireside napping action…but that is just my theory)
Immersion or Subversion?
Always, always, always gives me grief, this section. No matter what the game. Now Dwar7s Winter is interesting. It has a very strong cartoonesque visual identity, carried through from previous reiterations of the game. So it has a strong Dwarven visual identity but is that enough to immerse us into this fantastical world Vesuvius Media have created? Well, the fundamental play… or game mechanics, if you will, are strongly abstract puzzle based. By that I mean Dwarf A needs to be at point B to deal with problem C using a pre-requisite number of resources D… and so on and so forth.
As such, the game is designed to challenge our logistic capabilities but skinned with the aforementioned Winter Dwar7s theme. Both skills employed by all Dwarven kind and invading Winter Monsters alike, have reference to their place within this mythical fantasy world. Resources are simplified just as character Abilities, Traits and Skills are alike, but there is more than a superficial skin deep image plastered over a basic puzzle game. Younger players may find it attractive and playable but the actions and choices that are actually needed to make some sense of this environ and situation can go way beyond that of the rudimentary puzzle solver.
All in all it is lighthearted, somewhat whimsical and a fun game that doesn’t take itself too serious. But that said, I do believe it immerses us sufficiently to believe the plight of these Frozen Dwarves, but in a way that doesn’t overload us with unnecessary details to bog down gameplay.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
There is an awful lot in the box. Gameboards and player boards are of very sturdy stock, printed well and illustrated in the same style as the character art on all cards. The art is a simple lines cartoon visual but does have a certain brand recognition. I really love the way the markers and tokens have been produced. Their cutaway outlines lend to an almost 3-D cartoon.
As for the models… miniatures if you will, there is a vast number of very large monsters, each well sculpted but definitely resembling the more simple illustrative style used on the cards. The same goes for the Dwarves who look a little gnome like to me, but I don’t mind that. This miniature idea is not aimed at millimetre precise sculpting of real historical figures and collectors of highly detailed miniatures might not be overly impressed, but I think they (the figures) do a great job at recreating a 3-D representation of all the 2-D character illustrations. I will, I am sure, paint them all in due time and see then will be able to see how well they look full rendered, but for now, undercoat will have to suffice. They were, I must add, originally cast in bright colours which can detract the eye from the actual sculpted details. Whack on a spot of grey primer and suddenly the figures reveal their true form… I like them for what they are.
Meeples and Standees:
- Game Design: Luis Brüeh
- Artist: Luis Brüeh
- Game Publisher: Vesuvius Media
- Playtime: (recess for those of the US persuasion):
- Gangs of One: 1-4
- Age of Consent: 14+ (although thematically I would say this is accessible to players younger 14)
- DOB: 2017
As a non-cooperative venture, we should rightly assume this game is not necessarily playable from a solitary player’s perspective… however this title does come with an option for solo play.
In its simplest form we play one dwarf faction that is just trying to survive the brutality winter has to punish us with, forcing us to overcome obstacles and thwart an array of beasties that relentlessly show up at the most inopportune moments. This makes sense as the competitive mode looks to be mostly four solitary players racing to a finish post. (At least that is the basic impression I get)
There are a number of minor changes to solo play that revolve around setup resources which allow the use of additional Music Actions for free. It is a way of combatting the shared actions in multiplayer games when players take advantage of their opponents use of the music area. So at least some thought has been dedicated to making solo work for us in a meaningful way, whilst still adhering to the game’s base mechanics.
It has a “beat your own score” notion, which normally really irritates me, as I see little point/reason to replay a game just to better my own score. Fortunately for us budding soloists, there is a little more to this notion than merely trying to better ourselves. There is a high chance the game will defeat our noble Dwarves anyway, with all that the game has to throw at us, so simply surviving seven weeks (rounds) in this hostile climate is a tricky ordeal in its self. If, however, we are successful at guiding our party of altitudinally challenged chaps to Winter survival. (here I have employed a unisex application of the word “chaps”, as it is rumoured Dwarves women are almost indistinguishable from the male) We have an ascending list of success ratings… or awards… or achievements, So to speak. But it doesn’t stop there. Some of the higher ranking achievements stipulate specific win objective conditions as well as a certain high score. Gain X points or more whilst having completed X events or defeated X monsters etc. There is scope for this to be a greater set of solo win objectives (perhaps even on a set of random drawn cards) but as it is, it still offers us a target or challenge beyond mere survival of the clutches of winter. This is never going to be a hardcore adventure game or deep worked placement but, in its light, accessible format it offers us an enjoyable puzzle solving, resource management, logistics game that looks great and plays simply. In summary, this game offers a quick, light, entertaining solo gaming experience. The Dwarves strategy game you can eat between heavy Euros.*
*gag/tagline roughly taken from an old U.K. chocolate advert
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: The Dwarven Gods, this is a tricky little bugger. The game is pretty simple to get into and manage during play but blimey, it is a challenge to keep on top of the ever-increasing Disasters that clutter the place up… and the ever advancing Winter monsters, all desperate to breach our homestead defences in search of a nice log fire I suspect, to take away the chill. I am confident that with serious focus, the elements, the beasties, the game its self can all be vanquished, but rushing in half-heartedly will only see us freeze to death in defeat… ha… frostbite in defeat…de feet? Oh, suit yourself!
- Rules is Rules is Rules: The game comes with a nice glossy twenty three page rule book smattered with clear instructional illustrations exemplifying various points of game play The book, a 24cm x 24cm-ish, not only has the gameplay phases nicely broken down but also has expanded details of all protagonist’s special ability icons. It is an easy read and quickly slips us seamlessly into action on the gameboard. For the soloists amongst our number, we find half a page of slight changes to the rules but to all intents and purposes we are playing the multiplayer game. The base game comes with a small built-in expansion with additional figures, cards and such… the twenty forth page of the rule book deals with rule additions and amendments to allow the expansion to be introduced to the base game and in my view makes for a much more entertaining and tactical game.
- Lucky Buggers: I think, based on my games so far, I might rename this bit to “Unlucky Buggers” as I keep loosing horribly. I plan so well ahead then miss a Disaster sneak in under the radar or miscalculate the resources I need to quash an advancing foe. The monster deck and Event deck (which I think is actually referred to as a Disaster Deck) are obviously random but other than providing variability to a game, there is little to do with luck. We are presented with a host of nasty foe, each with their own unique set of abilities… all that do no good to us at all. Oh, and there is the continual build up of Winter disasters but, as in real life, we must address them as best we can let’s we be buried beneath their numbers. This is no dice-fest, especially when it comes to defeating foe or eliminating disasters , as they are both resolved using man-power… oops, Dwarf power and resources.
- Highs and Lows: As with any game, defeat can make one feel down but Dwar7s winter is a particularly upbeat, tongue in cheek game that eaves us feeling entertained regardless of the outcome.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: The gameboard is a large one around which rows or columns of cards drawn from the various decks are placed. There is need for space to locate the player board,defeated cards and our hand. For solo players i find that a playing space of 80cm x 0cm is sufficient to comfortable accommodate the game in full stride.
- Build It Up Just To Tear It All Down Again: there are many components in the game, most of which consist of miniatures. Once our team of seven dwarves and the appropriate hand of seven starting Action cards, we need only to populate the player board with the resource tracking tokens and the winter Disaster tokens. The Monster Deck, Disaster Deck and Hero Action cards are placed in strategic locations around the board with a selection of cards revealed. All this should not take more than five or ten minutes, especially if decks and figures are bagged/stored separately. Similarly packing away is a quick affair. All in all we have ourselves a game that is quick to learn and very quick to set up and play.
Me, Myself and I:
This surprised me a little, I will admit. I bought a cheap copy of the Dwar7s Fall game a year or two ago and wasn’t overly enamoured by the solo game feeling that as nice as the game was to look at, the solo play didn’t offer the same game experience as it did as a multiplayer… it was way before I thought about reviewing games and I think I ought to dig it out and try it again… sadly I cannot find it… I do hope it has not been lost to the Aether orinadvertantly binned in one of my forced culls.
Anyway, I digress slightly, once again. I was offered this particular game, the Dwar7s Winter, for review whilst visiting Essen Spiel 2018, so I cordially accepted, wondering how the solo game would play in comparison to my previous Dwar7s solo experience. Firstly, this is set on a full gameboard rather than modular card locations, so it has a more “together feel”. There has been a lot more thought given over to the solo gameplay, and, consequently, more depth to the solo game experience. I actually enjoyed the puzzle solving aspect of this game, using the limited moves to strategically place my intrepid Dwarves, to then use the ability cards to maximise their resource collection and beasty bashing potential. I mentioned that this is no heavy euro worker placement affair and it is quite refreshing to have something light, fun and pleasant to behold that doesn’t cause the grey matter to start oozing from ears and nostrils.
I enjoyed playing and both me and myself found a good balance of strategy and resource management… it is not a simple, straight forward route to victory, as I discovered in one of my earlier plays. I felt assured of survival when approaching the final week but then faced two Goblin Kings, both bringing with them an additional event which, as the full cruelty of fate was revealed, I was in no position to complete… Death to the Dwarves in a frozen wasteland.
It is a game one can learn from one’s mistakes but the variety of monsters, potential Hero action cards for sale, and the large encounter deck means no game will play out in the same fashion.
Yay or Nay?
This will, perhaps, not necessarily suit all players, as some individuals feel that only the mighty giant boxed super taxing heavy euro games are the be-all and end-all to gaming life. They do have their place in gaming society (both that nature of game and that nature of gamer) but so does Dwarv7s Winter.
This offers a particularly enjoyable game experience for solo players, giving what I would consider to be the same feel as multiplayer games. The ever plummeting, freezing temperatures and icy creatures frost up the official BSoMT 1d8 die, forcing it into a very creditable (6.6). Ice and snow have gummed up the works, hence the more unusual score) This will definately be staying in my collection and will be visited with regularity. I think there is always room for a light, entertaining challenge of a game ,and Dwar7s Winter, for me, provides just that.
Feel free to believe that you understand the limited depth of this game, but don’t underestimate its entertainment and challenge value. I think soloists can’t go far wrong here for entertainment.
I might otherwise have foolishly overlooked this title, based on my previous Dwar7s experience, but fortunately I have experienced it. This is certainly no slacker in the solo gaming department and is worthy of any soloist’s attention.
…well there’s nothing for it but to go forth and sort out these pesky eagle-headed dog creatures… once I manage to defrost my thermal underwear, that is. I think I will pop the kettle on and have me a nice cup of tea. I am sure nothing disasterous will befall me in the mean time!
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
Winter on BGG:
Vesuvius Media on Twitter