Each month, the Indie Spotlight highlights a new game that exemplifies the creativity, cleverness, and beauty of today’s independent games market.
This month’s Indie Spotlight is:
Some concepts are so perfectly complimentary to one another that it can be hard to deviate from the standard expectation just because of how darn well the imagery and concepts work together. Summer and the beach. Ghosts and Halloween. Peanut butter and jelly. And, as it happens here, dwarves and mining.
This isn’t a coincidence. There has been a direct correlation between dwarves and smithing since they first appeared in Norse mythology over 800 years ago. Since their very inception they have been imbued with many traits and mannerisms. Yet one of the few that has remained consistent about this race – besides being somewhat height-challenged – and survived into the modern era is that of their crafting acumen. Namely due to a combination of folklore and fantasy media that has, shall we say, hammered it home over the years. From the tale of Snow White, to the worlds of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth and Lewis’ Narnia, to the advent of Dungeons & Dragons, dwarves have become a heavy staple of high fantasy realms, complete with the stereotypical visage of a bearded male, grizzled and gruff, who only seems to care about being in the mines, at the anvil, or in a pub. We have crafted a solid identity for these mythical folk, and much in the same way that we have swashbuckling pirates, pillaging vikings, and shambling hordes of zombies, while we may get deviation from time to time, it’s unlikely that image is going to radically change anytime soon.
Nor does it necessarily need to. As Dwarven Smithy by Flatworks Gaming clearly illustrates. This is a game whose theme is steeped in everything you’d expect a game about dwarven mining, and if based on theme alone it could easily get lost among the myriad games with a similar premise. However, it is an excellent example of a game that works in familiar thematic territory but still provides a worthwhile experience due to its quality and mechanical ingenuity. Done right, as Dwarven Smithy is, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to have a decent product.
Which is probably good news because dwarves don’t use a ton of wheels to begin with.
In this flavorful game of hand and tableau management, players are (naturally) dwarven crafters competing to see who can be the most profitable. Each turn requires you be mindful of multiple aspects of your workshop. For one, you only have so much workshop space to work at any given time, which includes the refinement of raw resources, using resources to assemble specific items, and training new staff. Excess cards must either be held in your hand or sent to the market for some extra cash. Holding on to cards in your hand can be useful if space on your table is an issue, but in this game, turns end by mining for new randomized resources via a central deck. With a fixed hand cap of cards, the more cards you keep, the fewer cards you can go mining for. And since many of the gems and runes necessary for the more expensive item patterns are rather rare, the more you want to maximize your mining efforts. No use going digging with a half full bucket after all. Therefore, the more efficient you can be in your workshop operations, the better your odds of becoming the most profitable dwarf at the table at the end of the game.
Many games like to abstract the whole ‘dwarven mining’ trope down to something simplistic, but Dwarven Smithy goes the other direction by putting all those elements on full display. The result is an enjoyable exercise in workshop management, where you get to plan ahead, maximize tableau efficient, assemble profitable items, and above all, actually makes you go digging for desperately desired precious gems – something we all know dwarves do in the stories but whose act is oddly absent from most games.
Well, until now. Happy crafting!
Do you have a game that we should spotlight? Let us know at: firstname.lastname@example.org!
Previous Indie Game Spotlights:
March 2018: The City of Kings | Review | Developer’s Site
January 2018: Triplock | Review | Developer’s Site