Product– Dwarves, Inc.
Producer– Assa Games
Price– I got a prerelease copy! Here’s the general website http://www.assagames.com/default.htm
Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 minutes (2-4 players)
TL; DR– A surprisingly deep game of stock market manipulation and underground mining. 98%
Basics-Let’s get rich! Dwarves, Inc is a game of mining underground trying to strike it rich. The game is deceptively simple. Players assemble a modular board of nine squares with the only rule being that the center square is the square with all of the different types of start locations for each mining company. On a players turn, that player will select three gems and place them on the game board extending a company’s mines off of already played gems. Some spaces you cannot cross, unless you have a card that says you can, and are marked in red. If a play extends the mine into a specific space that player gets something for his/her player board. These space bonuses range from finding extra dwarves who score gold later, tunnels to teleport across the game board, lock boxes to put more gems in your player board safe, treasure chests to earn random effect cards, and gold cashes to earn gold. The player with the most gold wins, but how you earn gold is the interesting part. When a mine extends to a cash of gold, all players look to see who has the most gems of the company’s type that landed on the gold space each player in their player board safe. The person with the most gets a number of gold depending on their number of dwarves. The person who has the second most gems of that type gets less gold per dwarf they have on their board. And finally, if the person who extended the mine onto the gold space didn’t get gold because other players had more of that company’s gems on their player board, then that player gets a smaller amount of gold. Each player starts with four different types of gems (the player’s choice) and four dwarves. After extending the mines for on a player’s turn, that player can trade one gem from their player board for a different gem from the bank. Once all the different gold cashes on the map have been claimed by the various companies, the games over and the player with the most gold wins!
Mechanics– This game feels simple, but it’s nothing like that. The entirety of you turn is placing three gems, and then exchange up to one gem in your storage area. But, the manipulation of how mines/companies are extended is amazing. Do you remember that simple game where you have to complete boxes on a field of dots one line a turn, but whoever completes the box get points? This game feels like that in a good way. Having the most gems of a type is good, but having too many of a type is not great. You have to subtly manipulate the gem stock market to make other players think that they can score more points than you. Also, making sure off turn other players are earning you gems by having the second most gems is an amazing way to get ahead. It’s a surprisingly devious game that plays out in a relatively short time span. I love it! 4.8/5
Theme- The theme isn’t perfect, but for as quick as this game is, I love what I see. The game uses these little gems for everything which is amazing and a tiny bit off. The gems represent your investment in a company and work great in your safe box, but at the same time they are also used as your tunnels on the board. That’s the little bit off part. But I do like the nice tactile feel of them. Aside from my nitpicking on that, the game does feel “dwarfy” enough. The dwarf companies are competing underground at digging companies and you are alternating between directing them and speculating on their progress. More dwarves will earn your more gold as more dwarves can do more work. Overall, this does feel like an underground dwarf game even with my tiny nitpicking criticisms. 4.8/5
Instructions– The instructions are short, but really well put together. There is enough white space for the rules to be read quickly, and the explanation is done really well. I was playing this game in less than 5 minutes from cracking open the box. No fuss, no muss, just well done rules that explained things for me. 5/5
Execution– It’s time for a video! I did an unboxing video for this game, so check it out here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJDLmxWt2rI I have a preproduction copy, but this is what you can expect to get in the box. In the theme section of this review, I mentioned how I had some problems with the gems, but I’m of two minds on this one. Unless Assa game cranked up the cost of the game and made little dwarf meeples, gems do a decent-to-good job representing the mines and investment in the different companies. I do like the nice 3D shape that they are and the feel that have. The board is well done and the modularity makes for some replay even with how short this game is. I even like the cards. The event cards are not the standard cardboard that most games are, but the newer plastic cards I’ve seen more often lately. I know it’s new and feels a bit different, but honestly, I prefer the plastic over the older stuff as the cards don’t fray as quickly. All told, this is a well done game. 5/5
Summary– I have almost nothing bad to say about this game. It’s a fun game who’s strategy comes at you like a sidewinder snake. If you take this game as a simple game about mining dwarves, you will lose. If you really think about your choices and learn to manipulate your fellow players, you stand a good chance of winning. And I like that. This game does not have Twilight Struggle levels of strategy, but this game is also easily playable in 30 minutes. And it’s teachable in less than five minutes out of the box. You will spend more time opening this game then having to explain this game, and that’s the sign of a good game. It’s well worth your time and your money. I look forward to what Assa Games comes up with next. 98%