Review – The Dwarf King

The Dwarf King - The box artwork
3 to 5 Players, Ages 10+, 30 Min Playing Time

This is a game designed by Bruno Faidutti of Citadels and Incan Gold fame (well at least in our house) and released earlier this year by the French games publisher Iello, who also kindly provided the review copy.

The game immediately caught my attention due to a combination of its game play (based on a trick taking mechanism therefore it would be a game most non-gamers would immediately be comfortable with), and the beautiful (if you like fantasy) artwork.

What follows is an overview of the game broken down into 5 sections: Game ComponentsSetting Up The GamePlaying The GameWhat Did We Think? and finally Who Do We Think Will Like It?. So if reading the whole review doesn't appeal just scan down to the headings that do.

Game Components
The Dwarf King is described as a “wild trick taking card game full of surprises” or randomness in our language and has a passing resemblance to Fluxx i.e. it’s a card game where the rules keep changing. When opening the quality magnetic box you find a deck of cards and a 20 Quest Tiles.

The deck of cards is made up of three suits, The Knights (Blue), The Goblins (Red) and The Dwarves (Green - I thought Goblin’s were always green!) plus 5 uncategorised cream coloured cards.

Sort the cards into two decks one consisting of the 5 uncategorised cream coloured cards, the three 1’s, and six 11’s (two from each suit) – Call this the Character Deck (called imaginatively the ‘Special cards’ in one place and the ‘Card Draw Pile’ in another within the rules).
The Dwarf King - The 14 Special Cards
The remaining cards form The Armies Deck; called the ‘basic cards’ in the rules.
The Dwarf King - Examples of the non picture cards for the 3 suit's and the card back
Shuffle the Quest Tiles and place them face up in the middle of the table.
The Dwarf King - 5 example Quest Tile's and the Tile back

Setting Up The Game
Shuffle The Character Deck and turn over the topmost card reading it to all the players. Once everybody is clear about its impact / use, add this to The Armies Deck.

Example Character cards include:

  • The Dwarf Druid (Green 1) – After this trick swap your hand with another player of your choice.

  • The Goblin Ninja (Red 1) – You score 1 point for each Royal (Champion - the Aces, King, Queen or Jack) in the trick to which the Ninja is played.

  • The Knight Jester (Blue 1) - +3 points if you keep this card in your hand until the end and play it in the last trick of the hand.

The Dwarf King - The Dwarf suit picture cards
Place the remaining cards in the Character Deck face down in the middle of the table.

If playing a 3 player game then remove the 2 of Dwarves (for the rest of the game) then shuffle the Armies Deck (with the Character Event Card) and deal all the cards face down to the players.
The Dwarf King - The Goblin suit picture cards
The players examine their cards and the player with the Knights Musician (the 5 of Knights) shows their card.

They then turn over the top Quest Tile read the narrative to the other players and decide, based on their own hand, which of the two scoring options will apply to the coming hand. Examples include:

Four Tricks +5 points if you take exactly four tricks
Two Tricks +5 points if you take exactly two tricks

Three Quarter +4 points for each 3 and 4
From Six to Seven +4 points for each 6 and 7

Knights and Royals +1 point for each Royal (J, Q, K, A) and for each Knight. Royal Knights score 2 points
Without Knights and Royals -1 point for each Royal (J, Q, K, A) and for each Knight. Royal Knights score -2 points

Playing The Game
The player with the 5 of Goblins leads the first trick, with the remaining tricks of the hand being led by the winner of the preceding trick.

There are no trumps

You must follow suit if you can.
The Dwarf King - The Knight suit picture cards
The highest card of the suit that led wins the trick; Aces (Champions) are high.

Points are scored and added up after each hand, although you may wish to do this after each trick

After all the tricks have been played the Character Card and the Quest Tile are discarded

The player who won the trick with the 5 of Dwarves is the dealer for the next hand and reveals a new Character Card shows it to everyone and then shuffles it into the Armies Deck.

The winner is the player with the highest points score after 7 hands.

What Did We Think?
The Dwarf King - The 5's from each suit
It is random bordering on chaotic and of the games I played at Essen 2011 this year the one that I had the most laughs with and therefore the one that I enjoyed playing the most.

On each of the subsequent times we have played The Dwarf King we have has a lot of laughs with it.

It is fast to explain and play with one serious proviso!

In each of our games there has been a debate of varying lengths about the interpretation of one or more Quest Tiles. This may have arisen when it was converted to English. The language itself is clear but in defining the scoring rules it feels ambiguous at times.

Some of the Quest Tiles / Charachter Cards will result in big point’s scores whilst others are dependent on only one card. It seemed sensible to us that if the Character Card has been played and there are no more points to be gained based on the Quest Tile for this hand then you might as well end the hand and deal a new one.

[Edit / Insert - 1st October 2012] Two possible ways to reduce the chaotic nature / big swings in points, if these are an issue for you, is to either:
A. Play the game with only one Quest Tile.
B. Remove those Quest Tiles / Charachter Cards that seem ambigious to you or that may create bigger variances in the scoring.

Who Do We Think Will Like It?
The Dwarf King - The 5 suit-less magic cards
Anybody that is up for a laugh and doesn’t mind a strong random element in a game, so long as there are no rules lawyers in the group.

Gamers, Social Gamers and Role Playing Gamers looking for a filler with a fantasy theme.

People who like trick taking card games.

Non gamers looking for something different for families at Christmas.

If you liked this review then other games I have reviewed can be seen here

1 comment:

  1. seriously very fine review, but I still think you are too generous on the rating of that game. I think it is really really too random for being even fun. It's sure for none gamer it could be interesting because they can discover new mechanisms. But I think there are a lot of others gateway game really more exciting! But good job and the review

    for more thought on boardgame follow me on twitter :!/jutrasimon