Dwarves Inc. is a game by Andrei Burago, with art by Wayne O’Connor, published by Assa Games. it’s for 2-6 players, and takes less than 1 hour to complete. It comes with a huge amount of little plastic gems, 9 large game tiles, treasure chest cards and just enough dwarf and money tokens.
The concept is that you lead a party of dwarf prospectors who enjoy digging and wouldn’t mind getting rich in the process. On each turn you dig on behalf of one of the mining companies and receive rewards for everything you may find. The winner is of course the one with the most money at the end.
How it works:
The board is a modular set up of 9 tiles, with a fixed centre tile, on which one of each colour of gem is placed on it’s allocated square. This modular design allows for different orientation every time you play, so it’s very unlikely you will play the same configuration twice.
Before they start each player picks four of the eight types of coloured gems. These represent what companies they have invested in, when those companies payout each player with a share in that colour will usually get some money.
However if another player has more investment gems in a colour than the other players that player will get more money when that colour pays out. Payment is based on the number of Dwarves a player has, for example the player with a majority share in a company will get two coins for each Dwarf they have employed while second place gets one per dwarf .
While all players start with four Dwarves it is possible later in the game to have a situation where the second place investor actually makes more money by having more Dwarves the majority holder. There are of course rules for ties which are nice and neat. The game ends when the last of these squares is covered.
Players can also choose not to place the gems but instead swap out one of their investment gems for another colour, it can be the same as one they already have, so it can be a quick way to steal the majority investment share in a colour.
How does the payout get triggered?
Simply enough, on a turn players can take three gems of the same colour and places them adjacent (No Diagonals!) to the same colour gem on the board. If one of those gems covers a gold deposit square that colour pays out immediately.
Other squares may also have symbols that activate other aspects of the game, a Dwarf field recruits you an extra worker, an investment tile will get you an extra investment gem (which gives the analysis paralysis inducing decision of whether to take a majority in a colour or diversify to get a small share of another colour), secret tunnel squares which let players start digging in a different areas of the board and treasure chests which allow you to draw a card.
Treasure Chest cards can have affects that really swing the game to your favour or more importantly, against another player!
This is a really good game, there’s no guaranteed win strategy, every game has it’s own level of complexity and skulduggery, you’ll find conspiracies and alliances will rise and fall swiftly as each turn progresses. The decisions players are presented with each turn are varied and intriguing, do I go for profit or do I try to cut off another player from a pay out? Do I go for an investment gem or a Treasure Chest card? Do I go for another Dwarf or will I use that tunnel to get close to a pay out?
While the how to play mechanism is simple the actual act of playing teaches players to start thinking strategically, very quickly and as such I think it is a perfect game to introduce people the Euro style of gaming as well the vagaries of the capitalist system.
The only thing I can gripe about is that I don’t think there are enough enough low denomination money tokens and that’s just because I like to disguise how much I have accumulated.
I think this is one of the best games released this year. You can buy it here
P.S. If your looking for some music to accompany your game, here’s a suggestion: