Oh! I have tried and I have tried to grow a quality beard worthy of Dwarven appreciation but have failed admirably…having been adopted by Dwarves at a very early age there is, perhaps a twisted irony in that.
For years I have toiled in the Dwarven mines as a lowly trolley pusher’s understudy…working my way up to pick-washer and then all the way up to six feet three unches…not bad for a Dwarf miner…except for the tragically low ceilings. Now I have finally achieved the great accolade of gem sizer and precious stone polisher.
What’s All The Fuss About?
My long-beard mining colleagues excavate the precious stones, I polish the stones then the short-beards sell the stones on the open market.
…and that is what Dwarven Traders is all about. A new game coming to Kickstarter at the end of April gives us the opportunity to see what it really is like to mine gems and sell them for profit
Submersion or Immersion?
This is an interesting one to try and comment on. The art and prototype components I have played with certainly plunge a player into a Dwarven mining world and the rather clever double use double sided action cards help further immerse us in to the ming and selling of precious stones.
The game is fun and, especially with three or more players, is a competitive affair with an often ‘take-that’ feel when a player changes the market prices…but more on that in a jiffy. This is a departure from the usual solo variant for BSoMT in that this is a two-four player game and No.1 & No.2 daughter had to be press-ganged in to helping with a test play or two.
Two features stand out in this title as key to the game’s success.
Firstly the ‘Gem Stock Exchange’, for want of a better phrase…which is in constant flux, being manipulated by players throughout the round allowing stones to be sold for (personal high returns/opponents low returns). this is a great feature but has a tendency to be somewhat see-saw-ish in a two player game. We felt that three was much better as, although the market fluctuated frequently, its effects were less to-and-fro. The system is a little tricky to predict so number crunching statestition tactical players will find this element frustrating…I quite like it and, after all, this is not designed as a serious heavyweight game.
Secondly are the action cards. Four of these said double-sided cards are randomly chosen for players to access during a round. They offer he ability to mine specific gems and/or sell spacific gems. This in its self is nothing to sing home about but what has been cleverly woven into the action cards is the consequences of an action. Yes, one could sell a ruby at the current exchange price of, let’s say 2 gold coins, bringing in a goodly revenue, but as a result the action card also displays how the market is affected by the mining and selling. This sale may cause a reduction (or double reduction) of certain stones which could affect other players subsequent turns. So here lies the tactical element of the game. Choosing the order we wish to mine and sell…and which card to activate, means we can influence the market during a mining action so that we can then sell at a good price…or, in a more sinister fashion, we could simply mine or sell to influence the market in such a way that the next player is unable to bring in the ever needed readies. Once used a card is flipped and in doing so, the variability of actions in a turn is achieved…this in itself can be used in a players strategy as each card very cunningly shows us a small sumery of what is available on the reverse side…very useful information, I feel.
The mining and selling of the precious gems also has an effect at the round end and it is at this point that victory points are awarded dependant on the end price of gemstones on the Dwarven Exchange and what collateral a player is holding. There is also a Dummy player that can accrue wealth and victory points…which is a nice additional feature as all the backstabbing we do to each other may, in the end, result in the dummy player (The Smuggler) winning…wiping the self satisfied smug smile from all of our faces!
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
Obviously I have only a prototype set of components but the artwork already has a distinct uniform style working well with the theme. The gems in my set were astounding…and hopefully will see their way to the finished product. The placeholders are currently just coloured pawns but I can see scope for the introduction of custom Meeples or full art standees as replacements..again only conjecture on my part as I don’t know 2d6EE’s plans for the Kickstarter campaign. The coins, again are plastic discs but card tokens with art on or (if like Jamie Stegmaier, custom metal coins could be the call of the day…who knows?)
Meeples and Standees:
Game Publisher: 2d6EE Games
There is no solo mode at present but as there is already a dummy player, The Smuggler, I wonder if it would not be a gigantic effort to adapt this mechanic to operate a couple of AI’s to give us, the budding soloist, the opportunity to experience the same antics the multi-player variant has to offer. We shall see what happens.
(*Look to the foot notes at the end of the article for some exciting Solo updates)
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: This is a rather unpredictable element of the game. As the gem market can be manipulated (and in fact changes so many times during a game) it is not easy to predict who will win. wo player games are very see-saw-ish, as I mentioned before but with three or more, it can become quite competitive and if there becomes an obvious leader, well, everyone else will inevitably work on their demise so runaway winners are not that frequent an occurrence.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: At present the rule set I have is only four pages long (including some illustrations). For the most part they are simple, succinct and allow players to get into the game quickly. There were a couple of ambiguities which I mentioned to the team so I am sure by the time this goes live, there will be a good, comprehensive rule set ready to go with the project launch. * since my initial review…A new set of solo rules, a single page, has been sent to me to test. They are a development of the Smuggler rules from multiplayer but have a decision hierarchy to take the choices out of the player’s hands. Simple to understand and simple to impliment.
- Lucky Buggers: There is no die rolling but the fluctuating gem market can have a significant effect on a player’s strategy. That said, this element of the game is what makes the game. What is unlucky for you one turn but benifiting another player, can quite simply be turned round to your favour next turn. So there is a random luck element but not down to chance, it is down to player manipulation of the gem market. Long term plans will be thwarted with high frequency so t is best not to plan too far ahead…thinking on your feet is what I recommend.
- Ups and Downs: This is not a heavy Euro game by any stretch of the imagination. It is a very simple, very light game with a pleasant theme. Don’t be fooled by the ‘lightness’ though. It can become very competitive and (in a fun way) extremely ‘take-that’ one can plan a strategy but as there is no hidden information in the game, it can be quite clear to others what is planned and they may act in a devilishly cruel way to scupper those plans. I think it is very much a family game, entertaining enough for adults but accessible for younger players to develop that competative edge. It is a lot of fun without being rediculously competetive…but has enough elements/mechanics built in for some strategy to not make it a dull experience.
Me, Myself and I:
Me, myself and I were joined by two other ‘real’ people this time and for the most part had fun playing. I mentioned earlier that some form of unique ability for each character (be it a one of use or a way of influencing the market prices, or a special affinity for certain gems-getting bonuses for mining or selling certain stones) would add just a simple but needed extra layer of complexity/strategy to pacify the more needy gamer..oh and a look into creating a Bot/AI would be ridiculously cool for my personal interest in solo gaming. So, in escence we enjoyed the game (neither girl is an avid, hardcore gamer) but I do think some people might want to see more depth to strategy…which I feel this isn’t that sort of game. I would like to see these character abilities, if for nothing more than to differentiate the clans…a more asymetric set up, if you like…that would add more depth to the experience. ‘Ah but where is the deep strategy?’ I hear the number cruncher call out in unison…well, the mild mannered nature of the game would be lost for ever I am sure, if it were turned into a heavy, brain crunching euro so I am happy with how it stands.
Disclaimer: This is not a paid review/pre-view…just my opinions after myplaythroughs of the game. Those lovely folks at 2d6EE Games sent me a prototype copy of their game and asked if I would like to try it out. This is the resultant findings.
Yay or Nay?
I would say if you are looking for a fun, light competitive game with an interesting Dwarven Gem stock exchange theme, definately check out the campaign. The team are looking at improving the rules and I have also passed on my thoughts about character abilities so, with any luck that might be considered to bring that extra layer to the game.
…so long as you are happy with a light game that can get competitive and will have a significant manipulation of the gem prices to foil opponent strategies, you will like this game. One can strategise but ultimately, as the market fluctuates with such frequency, plans can only be short-term so thinking on ones feet are a must.
In its current form, Dwarven traders digs up and flogs on the open market a BSoMT 1d8 die roll of (6) but if character abilities appear this will be higher and if, I can only hope, a solo variant materialises, well…top score, maybe?
Foot note-a note written by foot:
Well a very rapid response from the 2d6EE team since I wrote the review. Solo rules, in fairly early stages of testing, were made available most recently and they were promptly added to the Dwarven Traders set up on BSoMT. The rules work basically like a Smuggler from the multiplayer game but now there is a hierarchy of decisions when it comes to the mining and selling of gems…yes, the smuggler now gets to delve deeply into the caverns and also flogs his findings. A nice touch in that the Smuggler’s Mine action causes the chosen card to be replaced from the bottom of the draw deck, which helps vary Smuggler options as the subsequent Sell action can be from any of the four available action cards. It does make for an interesting opponent/game experience for the soloist with the same feel as the two player game.
For me, myself and I decided to add two AI Smuggler characters (I am filled with Dwaven whimsy, like that) just to have a more shake-up feel to the gem stock-exchange. There is not much more book keeping and the fun, unpredictability element is enhanced by doing so. Be warned playing with two Smugglers in solo is a wild ride of change and unpradictability. Perhaps not what the game was designed for but then again, motor homes & RV’s were not designed for racing but it’s entertaining to see it when they do!
This will never be a ‘big thinky, decision making machine’ and I don’t think it needs to be. It is light, entertaining with a small element of tactical thought but, as the price and availability of gems change so frequently, it is a game we, the soloist, need to think on our feet….what with all the Smugglers knocking about in our mines! For those lighter, less brain melting solo moments in life, suddenly Dwarven Traders steps up to the mark and makes itself available. I am still holding out for some form of unique special action/ability to add that asymmetric start to a game, but already I think we have the makings of an entertaining and potentially successful Kickstarter game.
well enough aimless chatter. These gems are not going to wash or polish themselves. It is a highly skilled craft, I’ll have you know, rinsing them under the tap…who am I trying to kid? It’s a pants job…and the bumps and bruises I have all over my forehead is rediculous..I want to be a farmer…a man outstanding in his field…daylight, no low ceilings!
Something for the Weekend, Sir?
2d6EE website: http://2d6.ee/portaal/en/
Dwarven Trader on BGG: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/212829/dwarven-traders
2d6EE on twitter: https://twitter.com/2d6ee_games
Video review by Logan Chops Reviews:
Video review by Board Game Vault: