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Subject: Dokmus - abstract area control with role selection rss

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Timo Kandolin
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Dokmus is a role-selection, area control abstact board game for 2-4 players published by Lautapelit.fi and designed by Mikko Punakallio. A game takes between 30-60 minutes depending on the players and their familiarity with the game, but I would think 45 minutes is at the higher end with experienced players even with 4 players. A review copy was provided by Lautapelit.fi for this review.

The box cover
(Image by user toniemn)

Theme

Dokmus is actually the name of the ancient god of your tribe and also the name of the island which was just found. The players are leading warriors of different tribes that are sent to the island to chart and claim it for themselves by cunning moves and utilizing the help of the protectors of the island called the Guardians. Basically the theme is pasted on to an abstract game, but it doesn’t really matter either way to me. It’s kind of funny that even the rules call the player pieces “tokens”, not villages or warriors for example.

The goal of the game is to gather the most points by manipulating the board and setting your tokens in the best positions on the map.

Components

The game comes in a typical euro-sized game box with beautiful artwork on the cover. The box has 104 wooden pieces, 25 tokens for each player color and 4 scoring markers for the players. There are also 8 thick double-sided map tiles, a first player marker and thick tiles for each of the five guardians in the game. In addition there are overview and rules reference-tiles in multiple languages (my copy has them in Finnish, German, Spanish, English, French and Swedish). Also one scoring board is in the box which also has a space for sacrificed tokens. All the boards and tiles are of high quality and the map tiles have clear colorful art on them, although I think the volcanoes are a bit too similar to the mountains.

One map tile
(Image by user Zetorix)

Setup

Setup is extremely simple. You just lay the map tiles on the table in a random order on a 3x3 grid and leave the center-space empty. Also set the scoring board on the side and choose a first player. Give the first player the set of guardian tiles. Then, starting with the last player and going counterclockwise each player selects a starting position on the map. This space has to be either a forest or a meadow on the edges of the map. After everyone has placed their first token the first player starts the actual game.

In a 2-player game the map is smaller with 5 tiles in a U-shaped 2x3 grid and only guardians numbered 2-4 are used and the first player changes every turn.

Gameplay

A new round starts with the first player picking one of the guardians (numbered 1-5) in secret and passes the rest clockwise until everyone has picked one. After this, the numbers are called in order from lowest to highest and when a player has picked a called number, it is revealed and it’s now that players turn.

During a turn a player has basically two options and they can be split however they like. They place a total of 3 tokens on the map and they can use their guardian’s ability. Players can, for example first place a token, then use a guardian and then place the rest of the tokens.

There are restrictions on placing the tokens. First of all, you have to place orthogonally adjacent to an existing token of your own (unless crossing water) and you can only place on a forest, meadow, ruin or volcano. The map tiles also have temple, (small and big ones) water and mountain spaces on them. If you cross water or enter a new forest you have to sacrifice one token. Also if you place on a volcano, that token is sacrificed at the end of the round.

The guardians allow players to break the rules of the game in various ways and I’ll quickly summarize them here:

Guardian 1 : Makes you the first player
Guardian 2 : Allows you to move a map tile (to the empty space on the 3x3 grid)
Guardian 3 : Allows you to move one of your already placed tokens (basically normal rules, except you can’t cross water and you don’t have to sacrifice to enter a forest)
Guardian 4 : Allows you to rotate a map tile 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise
Guardian 5 : You can use any of the guardians numbered 2-4 (This is basically the god Dokmus)

The fifth guardian (Dokmus) is arguably the best, but it also means you will be last to move, so things might change a lot before you get to act.

There is one ruin in each map tile, and the player that places a token there gets an immediate one time special ability which is basically any of the guardian abilities 2-4 used on the same tile that ruin is on.
The game lasts for 8 rounds and then the points are scored as summarized below:

1. Each ruin gives you 1 vp
2. Each small temple you have found (you are orthogonally adjacent to) is worth 2 vp
3. Each big temple you have found is worth 3vp
4. Each map tile on which you have found all temples is worth 8vp (5vp in 2-player)
5. There is a chart and you get points depending on how many map tiles you have found at least one temple on up to a maximum of 27 points for all 8 tiles.
6. In addition the players get points according to which sacrificed the most tokens depending on the player count. (for example most sacrificed gets 5vp, second most 3vp and third most gets 1 vp in a 4-player game

The player with the most points is the winner. There are a few nuances on token placement and other rules, but that is basically all of the rules in the game.

I think there are two basic strategies you can go for. One is trying to find temples on as many tiles as possible, which is fun and you can really use the guardian abilities to pull off some cool moves by manipulating the map tiles. The other is basically focusing on two or three tiles and trying to find all the temples on all of those for some nice extra points. This strategy is actually pretty easy to block by the other players, although having such a limited pool of tokens it’s rarely worth it. There is no luck in the game, so a better player can really dominate the game, which can be good or bad, depending on your situation and players. I personally enjoy the fact that the game is a test of wits in a sense.

A game in progress
(Image by user msaari)

Final thoughts

Dokmus comes with great quality components in an inviting box and it is basically an abstract puzzle to solve that reminds me of Kingdom builder with some Citadels thrown in. I disliked Kingdom builder and while I think I enjoy Dokmus more, it isn’t really my type of game either.

I think the role selection is a nice twist and not having to cope with that one card limit that Kingdom builder has really makes the puzzle more interesting. Sadly, at least in my games the role selection had little to no impact on the game. Sure, I didn’t get to try a 4-player game, but still. In my games no-one ever picked the first player token except maybe at the last round, since the benefit was marginal in comparison to losing one of the powerful abilities. Also, the guardian number 5 was taken every single round, since even though you go last, you can also do whatever you want, so the downside isn’t really that big. Especially when you can pretty much see if the other players are going to want to change the map or not for the most part. This is escalated by the map feeling too big in both 2-player and 3-player games. As I said, sadly I haven’t had the chance to try with 4 players, which I think would be best for this game, but even still I don’t believe the change would be that dramatic.

I do really enjoy the fact that the rules are clear and you always know what you can do. Also again comparing to Kingdom builder I really disliked the fiddly aspect of the special powers in that game if you managed to get many of them. In Dokmus you can really focus on your moves rather than interpreting the rules or forgetting to use abilities.

The game is sadly totally static. There is very little that changes from game to game. Sure, the tiles are double sided and their place on the grid is different, but they are so similar that you don’t really notice any difference and since there are no other goals than the finding of temples and ruins, each game runs very similarly. Not sure if the game should’ve maybe had multiple versions of each guardian and you just randomized one of each to bring more replay value? Sure, I can imagine that if some group really enjoyed the game they could hone their skills in this game to bring replay value out of certain types of moves and blocking each other or something, but Dokmus didn’t grab me enough to see if that’s possible or not.

In the end I can’t really recommend Dokmus, but I think it will find its fans. First of all I recommend everyone who enjoyed Kingdom builder to take a look on it. Especially those that liked the idea but hated the one card limit. Also, players who like abstracts in general might enjoy it. There is definite possibility for cool moves and to better your game here, but not in the realm of Hive for example.

Production values are great and the price in comparison is valid. Although if you can’t get 4 players to the table, I wouldn’t buy it for only 2 or 3 players.

Hope you got the idea of how the game is played to understand if it is something you might enjoy!
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Joonas Kekoni
Finland
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One does not need to like KB to like Dokmus.

The difference is Dokmus works and therefore is a good game.

4 players game is more crowded than 3 player one.

You just cannot min-max yourself in (non 2player) Dokmus, since something will just happen that you are not expecting.

Protector 5 is most usefull, but you are last in line. When someone has moved a tile and rotated another, then your orginal plan is likely not valid anymore ... except in early game.
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