I was recently reading an article on The Art of Boardgaming that talks about board game terminology. Joseph throws out a few terms and describes them as a small part of a gamer’s lexicon, and how it can be confusing for someone new to games, or even new to a style of games. It was an interesting read, but I didn’t really think much of it, especially when it comes to Dwarves with Swords (‘cause it’s an easy game!).
Around the same time, Earle asked me what my one line pitch is for Dwarves with Swords. I told him that I typically describe it as “a group building strategic combat game”. I started to insist how this is an easy way to explain the game when I remembered the article from The Art of Boardgaming. Holy moly, I’m assuming an awful lot in that one sentence! So, I thought I’d take some time to really explain what the game is in layman’s terms.
Let’s start with the beginning of my pitch - group building. What the heck is group building? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Building the group you’ll use during the game. Group building isn’t exactly a common mechanism in board games. In fact, when I googled it, I found several links to team building games, which is definitely not this game (actually, it lead to some salty feelings towards each other by the end depending on the level of competitiveness in the players), and didn’t find anything that referred to group building. This surprised me, so I started thinking about the various games I’ve played over the years. The only example I could come up with of actual group building is building a raid (more gamer words!) in World of Warcraft. The only “building” board games I’ve played are deck building games, where you create a deck of cards you’ll use for whatever game you’re playing.
Now, I’m not saying Earle came up with a completely unique game mechanism, but my cursory search of google and my memory confirms that it’s a good thing I’m diving into the Dwarves with Swords interpretation of group building.
So, back to group building. Like I mentioned earlier, group building is when you build the group you’ll be using during each game of Dwarves with Swords. In fact, roughly half of a game of Dwarves with Swords happens before the first die is even rolled (unless you’re playing premade groups). You get to craft your perfect army and hope that it has the ability to crush your enemies. While you’re building your army, your opponents are also building their armies. I’m sure you can see the difficulty in that. You have to try to predict what your opponents are doing and counter that. Of course, they are doing the same, so it can turn into a game of multiple levels of reverse psychology. Like the best Rock, Paper, Scissors game ever.
For the record, armies have two groups, and the groups are made up of made up of 9 dwarves - Brewmasters, Broadswords, Mageswords, and Longswords - in any order you want.
Well, not exactly. Group building can be extremely nuanced, which is what makes the game different each time you thrown down. The formation dictates the various Action Cards a group can use, and that formation is entirely up to the player. I’ve seen group building done a variety of ways. My preferred method is to basically feel out which dwarf I’m in the mood to play, and then find a few Action Cards to go along with my mood. Earle generally picks out a few Action Cards he wants to try out and creates a group around the required formations. I’ve seen other people pour over every single action card and try to pick an army that gives them access to as many as possible, effectively trying to beat the game (nobody has been successful at that yet).
So, that’s group building. The first half of my pitch. I’d like to point out that it took me 5 paragraphs to explain those two little words. I hope it helped explain it a little! I definitely enjoyed breaking it down.