Dwarven Smithy is game for 2-4 players, from Flatworks Gaming, in which the players try to earn the most gold by selling minerals, runes, and gems, as well as powerful items they crafted from those resources. Players must make the most efficient use of the limited space in their Workshop, Market, Apprentices, and Tool areas while also managing their hands and staying aware of the warehouse inventory. The game continues until one player crafts their fourth King’s Item or either the Guild or Resource deck is depleted. Following end game scoring, players compare their gold with the player possessing the most being declared the winner!
Rather than go through an in-depth rules explanation here, I will give more of a gameplay overview and explain what it is that I like about Dwarven Smithy and why I think it is a project worth backing! For a complete look at the rules Flatworks Gaming has put together some excellent tutorial videos on YouTube. Just follow these links for those interested in watching the videos: https://youtu.be/e_tcZvDtS10 for part one and https://youtu.be/WYjSh2Mwxqg for part two.
Game Play Overview
By far the most important key to understanding how to play Dwarven Smithy is to familiarize oneself with the player card that each player will have in front of them. All players receive an identical player card and place it in the center of what will be their personal game space. Each area comes with its own rules and spatial limitations and how each player manages these conditions will play a large part in whether they are successful or not.
During the course of the game each of these areas will only be allowed to contain a certain number of cards at any given time. The Workshop may have up to seven cards in it at anytime, the Market four, two Apprentices and two Tools. Managing the spatial restrictions of these areas is one of the main challenges and an interesting feature of Dwarven Smithy. The game would be easy with unlimited space, but as it is quite limited, and careful planning is required to be as efficient as possible while pursuing your goals.
Once everyone has a player card, they also receive 15 gold coins and draw their starting 6 cards. The cards in the game are divided into two decks: Resource and Guild, and players draw four resource cards and two Guild Cards. Play begins with the shortest person going first, although I assume that a randomly determined starting player would be ok as well.
A player’s turn consists of the following phases:
Refine: Any unrefined resources in the player’s Workshop are turned to their refined orientation.
Complete: Any Guild in a player’s workshop that have been placed atop the needed resources are now completed.
Action: Players may take and repeat a number of actions during this phase:
- Play a Card – Place a card from hand either in the Market or Workshop.
- Discard a Card From the Market – Place a Guild Card in the discard pile from the player’s Market.
- Move/Swap a Card – The player can use this action to move cards within their play area.
- Sell a Resource Card to the Warehouse – Place a card from your market on top of the Warehouse and take its sell price in gold coins from the bank.
- Buy a Resource card from the Warehouse – Pay the desired card’s buy price plus one coin for every card on top of and place the card in the player’s Market or Workshop.
- Buy a Card from a Market – Pay the buy price of the desired card to the player in whose Market it resides and then place the card into your Market or Workshop.
- Craft or Hire a Guild Card- Place the Guild Card on top of the required resources in the Workshop (remembering it counts towards the limit of seven cards) with the intention of completing it next turn.
Draw: The player draws up to four cards in any combination from the two decks without exceeding the hand limit of six cards
Play continues until one player completes their fourth King’s Item or either deck is depleted. Players then sell everything left in their Markets and gain bonuses for having the most valuable King’s Item in each category. The player with most gold coins wins!
I really enjoyed Dwarven Smithy as did all those with whom I played. It was a little tricky at first to pick up some of the intricacies involved in manipulating one’s tableau, but once we grasp it play accelerated dramatically. I would also say that it is a game that players will get significantly better at with more plays. As players become more familiar with the contents of both the decks it will become much easier to create strategies with a proper understanding of each card’s value. I am fine with this. To be honest prefer games that cannot be mastered in a single play. As such, I am happy to report that Dwarven Smithy has sufficient depth to allow players to grow into the game.
While I liked Dwarven Smithy overall, there were two mechanical standouts that I thought really made it special. The first being function of the Market in player areas. Not only can a player sell resources from it for cash or discard Guild Cards to free up space, but cards placed there may be purchased by other players. This is interesting for a couple of reasons. Given that space is so limited, players will occasionally find themselves forced to move things into their markets to make room. This offers an observant opponent the opportunity to sabotage that player’s future plans by purchasing the resources and placing in their Workshop. Even if a player does not buy the item for vindictive reasons it is still a tough decision what to expose to purchase by other players just to make temporary space in one’s Workshop. In addition to this, players store each of their completed King’s Items facedown in one of their four Market space permanently. This slows down any run away leader syndrome as the closer a player gets to winning the less space they have available to work with. These two factors cause the Market in Dwarven Smithy to create a great deal of tension and difficult decisions that add greatly to the overall experience!
Secondly, the Warehouse aspect of the game is great! This could have easily just been another discard pile from which players could pick the top or any card and pay the cost to do so. However, the fact that every Resource card in the game that is sold off by players is stacked there and the increase to their cost creates some very interesting decisions as well as a thematic feel. Adding one to the buy cost of a card for each one on top of it can make one think very carefully about the order in which they place cards in the Warehouse after selling them. Perhaps, you only sold them for short-term cash flow or to free up space on your tableau with the full intention of using it later. Do you want to bury it under other cards you maybe selling in the current turn to discourage other players from buying it, but in doing so increase the future cost for yourself should you want it back? Do you buy something sold by another player that you don’t even need right now in anticipation of using it later before the cost increases from it being buried under more cards? Tough decisions and really good stuff! On a side note, I found the massive spread of cards in the Warehouse to thematically simulate mining as players dug through it looking for the resource they needed. This is obviously thematic in a way that anyone considering a game called Dwarven Smithy can understand!
In conclusion, I found Dwarven Smithy to be an enjoyable and reasonably strategic card game accessible to mid weight gamers. It takes a little while to play, but that accelerates as player become more familiar with the system and I am sure it moves even faster as players gain a better understanding of the strategies. Given the skill level the game seems able to support, players should have plenty of room to explore and grow with multiple plays, which certainly adds value to buying a copy. If you are in the market for a fun game that will test your ability to manage both a tightly constricted tableau as well as the cards in your hand Dwarven Smithy will likely be a hit for you!