TTRPG Review: Dwarven Smithy
By: Chad Christian (TapRackBang)
Another Dayton Stack member and I had the pleasure of attending Origins 2021. While it was sad to see how scaled back everything was due to COVID, the lower volume allowed us to take more time for demos. One of which was a full demo of Flatworks Gaming’s Dwarven Smithy, run by Mike Warth, the game's creator and mastermind. To skip ahead a bit, I ended up walking away with my own copy of the game, plus some flashy add-ons to boot.
Dwarven Smithy’s premise is simple: 2-4 players take on the role of the realm’s finest dwarven smithies, all gathering resources, refining materials, and fulfilling contracts both for king and country. The goal is to be the player with the most gold at the end of the game, which is triggered when one of three conditions is met - either the mining or guild deck are depleted, or one player manages to craft their 4th “king’s item.” The mining deck consists of different types of metal ore, gemstones, and runestones. The guild deck consists of a variety of orders. You can collect these contracts for weapons, shields, armor, mundane items such as simple iron nails and smithing tools, and apprentices to aid in your efforts or bring in additional gold. (For those who may be piecing things together here, the developer made it very clear that we buy and sell goods but hire and fire apprentices.) The driving forces behind these efforts are the workshop and market. Each player has an area designated for both, with a specific card limit. Resources drawn from the mine deck must be refined in the workshop for a turn before they are available for crafting, yet players may place any resource or guild card in their market, refined or not. Cards placed in the market are at risk of being bought by other players but can be sold to the warehouse at a lower sum if you’re looking to make some space or extra gold. Due to restrictions on capacity, swapping cards between these two areas is a common occurrence to optimize available space and productivity.
I think it’s fair to say that the ratio of strategy to luck in Dwarven Smithy is almost perfectly split 50/50. Optimizing space in your workshop and market, balancing your hand between materials and contracts, and choosing whether to keep tools and apprentices for future benefits or selling/firing to obtain that instant influx of gold is all half the battle when it comes down to the luck of the draw between the two decks. I’ve played some games where I can only seem to draw silver from the mine no matter how well we shuffled, or I can’t seem to find any contracts for the king to boost my end-game income. However, playing smartly can still make up for drawing the short straw; luck isn’t everything, but those who place a higher value on strategy than the thrill of random chance may find themselves frustrated from time to time.
Let’s talk about components and packaging. The base game is well contained in a relatively small box. With no supplemental items such as playmats (sold separately), Dwarven Smithy is an easily portable game, with only the previously mentioned two decks of cards, a bag of coins, and a small game board for those communal components. Each player’s area is defined by their player card, which depicts a dwarf of their choosing at the center, and each of the four sides of the card denote areas for the warehouse, market, apprentices, and tools. Once you’re familiar with the game, it’s not difficult to keep track of what’s what in these areas. However, they provided the option at Origins to purchase premium neoprene playmats, which not only provide designated spaces for each of the aforementioned areas but do so in a gorgeously themed exposition. The game also comes with cardboard punchies for the coins; at the convention, they also offered actual metal coins for purchase to further enhance the experience. With our demo being toward the end of the convention, I was faced with the financial dilemma of taking home either the premium mats or the coins, and I opted for the playmats. Having actual visual representation for your workshop and market truly stepped up the game’s appearance and ease of play.
Flatworks also dropped the Masterforge expansion in 2020, and we were given a brief rundown of its mechanics, though I haven’t had the pleasure of playing it yet. If you decide you love the game and want to extend the experience, it sounds like it’d be worth the extra cash. You can find the base game on their website for $40 - Masterforge expansion for an additional $15. The premium components come with premium prices: four playmats offered at $110 (or $100 if you bundle it with the game) and metal coins for $60. Again, the playmats truly enhance the aesthetic, but at over twice the cost of the game, you won’t be missing out on the core experience without them. The game plays quite smoothly - Board Game Geek assigns a complexity rating of 2.58/5; however, I’d argue its core gameplay is more relaxed than that (again, I can’t offer an opinion on the expansion). Games can drag on a little depending on how familiar the players are, but I never found myself getting bored. Overall, it’s a solid addition to any game shelf and is already a frequent flyer in my household. I give Dwarven Smithy 7 Moongems out of 10.