Thursday, April 16, 2009



It's always good to have a game that is highly transportable, and Three Sages Games has taken that idea to new heights with the games it produces.
Three Sages games generally come in a tube about the size of a can of shaving cream, with makes the game pretty much 'pick up and go' as they are. However, this company goes with the idea of taking your games on the road with you, by actually printing the board itself on a draw string bag. The bag is quite large, so you can toss the game components inside, along with a book, or two and head to the park, or coffee shop and be ready for a game if the opportunity arises. It's a pretty neat idea.
In terms of specific games, this week we'll look at Dwarf Stones, an interesting little game from the company which combines several elements.
To begin with the game is basically a fantasy war game with two-to-four players, each assigned a 'home fort' situated in one of the four corners of the board. If your home fort is taken over by enemy forces, you are out of the game.
Players may add war bands, represented by simple, but functional glass beads, to the board. As a side note using glass beads, while not as fancy as little dwarven miniatures, does mean if a piece is lost at the park, you can replace it for pennies at a variety of stores.
Of course it takes resources to keep war bands on the march, and in Dwarf Stones that means 'mining for gems' which can be used to enhance your chances for victory. Mining is a luck thing, with the results of your efforts based on the roll of a dice.
A neat little aspect of the game here is that when you roll a '6', it represents a wandering monster attacking your miners, setting up a combat phase. It's an element that has a true fantasy gaming feel, something like the role playing game Dungeons & Dragons.
When a gem is found, it must make its way back, a space a turn, along an unbroken supply line to the home fort, in order to be a resource you can use.
The game also relies on dice for combat, and when your forces and those of an opponent occupy the same space, battle takes place. The loser, means a war band is lost. If the war band was in possession of a gem, then the opponent gets to collect the body.
The game offers a player a lot of choices, mine, battle, build up forces, and yet has luck built into the system as well with the dice determining results. The designer Jeff Walker achieved a reasonable balance in a game that is fairly light, with the emphasis on simplicity with so many elements at play.
The game is best played with two, or with four. While the rules allow for three players, it suffers the usual problem in that regard, two players inevitably, either by consensus, or by game play, end up focusing on the third, and overwhelming them. With two, or four you achieve a better balance.
Now Dwarf Stones is not the next great board game, but it doesn't profess to be. This is supposed to be a fun, portable, relatively quick game, which combines resource management, with conquest combat. Taken for what it is, Dwarf Stones is a fun little game that has enough depth that it grows on you with repeated plays, as you start to see some additional strategies to explore. Just don't expect a game that is too deep. This one is light fun.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper March 18, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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