Let me start out by saying, I honestly really enjoy this game. There are some things that I can look over because I like the game as a whole. Now that that is out of the way, let's check out this Dwarven Mine...watch your head.
I was coming off my most recent Minecraft kick and the first new board game that was coming out was, Dwarven Miner. Soo...yeah, that was an easy attention grabber. The initial premise sounded great. Mine material via rolling dice. Use that material to make items to pay/hire other dwarves to work for you and earn you points. Win, win, win. Ehh, mostlyish.
Just starting a 2 player game of Dwarven Miner.
Let's start out with the box and the internal components, the bad part. As I am taking the wrap off the box, I notice the "Made in the US" on the side and got an "F YEAH!" in my head but quickly I think, "Oh no, these components are going to suck." FYI, it was the latter. 2 words harshly sum it up: Sticker. Dice. I cannot tell you how much this bothers me. Stickers are going to fall off and just look and feel bad. The game board creeks open with cheap glue and paper crackling from being thin and brittle. Think that chess board we all had growing up, circa 1985. Lastly on the "bad" components, the box itself is very thin and the lid is not tight. It feels like I am going to crush the box every time I pick it up.
There are a few different types of cards in the game. And oddly, they are not made with the same materials or the same quality. The small resource cards and square item cards are all the same standard "cheap" card quality you can find in most games cheaper games. They hold up enough but have sheen on them that make stacking them on the board...tricky. You spend a bit of time during the game just maintaining the "neatness" of each pile of cards...all 26 of them. That is another design feature I am not too keen on. I would much rather have had cardboard token punches for the resources or in a perfect world, plastic tokens, which I plan on putting in my set of Dwarven Miner. Lastly, the Patron cards, which are a good sized tarot card. The quality of these cards is MUCH higher, Magic card quality. I find that odd...the bigger card, better quality. I find the mixed quality odd as it is but the more expensive cut to be better...oh well. These are the cards you hold in your hand, so I guess it was a cost saving choice to be made on the cards you do NOT hold.
Finally, from here on out it's good stuff. The last pieces of the game are cardboard player boards you start out with and you can buy: Backpacks and your vault player boards. Good art and great quality. They make sense and feel right for their purpose in the game. Your player tokens are also decent quality. Being little people, not meeple, but plastic people. They are a general purpose game token, it would have been nice to see chunky little dwarf tokens but these are just fine. Again, I am going to "pimp" out this set with Dwarf miniatures I will paint up. Time to dig into my old WHFB Dwarves for some miners.
To start the game, every player draws 3 "Patron" cards; you have an almost-mulligan option at this point. These cards are basically lists of items you need to make to “hire” these Patrons. If you do, they will give you points as well, some have abilities to help you dig up more resources or fight off opponents. Like the Warrior Patron, he allows you to re-roll a single Orc dice a turn and +1 more for every other Warrior you have in play. (VERY helpful in game.) Others like the Bar Maiden, I think that’s what she is called, and get bonus points for having MORE bar maidens in play. Then the higher point cards, like the Berserker, allow every OTHER opponent to roll the dice and get a victory point for every Orc rolled. I guess because you get 13 points for him, he kind of rampages and kills Orcs for everyone. I don’t exactly agree with the much more difficult Patrons to higher. Offering anything to the opponents and at the same time not offering the option to YOU, only every OTHER player. I guess in play testing they saw some balancing issue. I would rather have had the card be worth a couple fewer points and NOT given the opponents bonus but instead made them more powerful for you only. Though I have some design choice questioning of the Patrons, overall they are fun and add a lot to the game and really when you start getting them out in play, offer that personal experience you are going to have with each playing session.
As I said above, you acquire the resources in Dwarven Miner by rolling "custom" dice and take the corresponding resource card to dice symbol. Then place it in your resource slot in your packs, which has limited space, as well for the Item cards. Because space is limited, you can buy more Vaults and give you more slots. To hire some of the more “important” Patrons, you need to buy at least 2 Vaults. I like and don’t like this feature. On one hand I feel like it is a time/resource sink just for the sake of it but on the other hand, it feels right thematically.
There are 2 other symbols, one being the Burglar that allows you steal from your opponents. The more Burglars you roll the greater of item you can take or even that player’s entire Vault game board! The other is an Orc, which "locks" that dice from being re-rolled. Unlike most dice rolling games, you have unlimited amount of re-rolls and you can keep rolling to your heart’s content or until you roll all Orcs.
At first, yeah, that cringe feeling you have thinking about rolling with no restraint, I got that too. However, that single Orc side controls that mechanic and keeps it in check. Also, the temptation to steal from your opponents is quite strong. I do implement a house rule though, once a dice is chosen, it cannot be re-rolled AND you HAVE to choose at least 1 dice with every re-roll, you may drop resources from your bag to make room for the newly rolled dice if you so desire. Other than that, I like the dice rolling mechanics in Dwarven Miner, though they are not very deep. These 2 changes force you to have some pressure and force critical thinking, not just pushing your luck.
While I would not say the artwork is "bad"...there is nothing to write home about. The Patron cards all have awkward posing and sizing issues. Sometimes the text is too themed to read clearly. The images for resource card art looks like it was taken off of a "no rights" clip art website. I do like the use of color. There are a lot of good bright colors that detract from the bleh. Also, some of the item cards are interesting to look at. Like the "Thieves" tools, they have a lot of bits and bobs on the image that show there was SOME thought put into the artwork. But overall, the art is pretty mediocre to bad in this box.
The game comes to an end when one player reaches 30 points. The end does kind of sneak up on you. The first half the game, can be kind of slow as you build up your resources and purchase vaults. But once you have those out of the way and you start dropping Patrons every turn, Dwarven Miner almost turns into a racing game. As all players are dashing to the end, only one Patron card away from passing those in the lead. Every game I have played so far has ended in an upset or almost upset, both of which you can see coming.
Mostly I have played two-player games and it plays just as well. But like with most board games, “the more the better”. It is one-four players and I would suggest four. At four players the game becomes more aggressive as all players have the chance to steal from you or cut others off from items needed for Patrons. The game goes from being quite a passive non-aggressive game to, mildly aggressive, thus upping the challenge and weight of the game. At its core being a light game, Dwarven Miner still retains a friendly and light game play to not dissuade new gamers from playing again or trying heavier board games.
As I have said a couple times, overall, I like this game. I may be a little biased because of the theme but it is a solid light game. A good game; for groups who are more of a social gathering than a deep gaming session. I can also see Dwarven Miner as a good game for an introductory title into deeper board games. If you can get past some of the minor (pun intended, again) quality issues, Dwarven Miner is a great addition to anyone’s collection looking for a new and interesting light hearted game.
Scoring, out of a possible 5 s.
Artwork - The artwork is clean but leaves a lot to be desired and can come off as clipart at times.
Components - There is more miss than hit in this box. Sticker. Dice.
Player QTY Scaling - Two players or Four, the game is just as good.
Replay Value - A light game that you can play through quickly and play again.
Fun - Starting out can be slow but Dwarven Miner finishes very strong and has some great mid-game fun.
AVG Score -
Light (1) or Heavy (5) - A very light game that can be mildly aggressive.
Kid (1) or Adult (5) - Right there in the middle. Teenagers, no problem. “Smart” kids, no problem. Mud pie-eaters will have trouble.