Dwar7s winter is a board game for 1 to 4 players designed by Luis Brüeh and published by Vesuvius Media. In this game you take on the role of a leader who has to make sure that the dwarfs defend the castle and survive the winter. All leaders will have to work together to accomplish such a task but the most helpful will be victorious in the end.
During setup you place the board depicting the castle and its surroundings in the center of the table. Each player receives its own player board which has tracks for gold, wood, stone, food, action track and hand limit. Each player also receives the tokens for the tracks, seven dwarfs in the players color, one music token and seven cards in its action deck. The monster, disaster and hero deck are shuffled and placed in its corresponding spot on the side of the game board. For the heroes 4 cards are made available to purchase. According to the number of players a certain amount of monster and disaster cards are revealed. Place the winter track and round one and gives the first player token to the youngest player. The other players can already place some dwarfs on the game board depending on their seating after the first player and you are ready to start playing.
The game is played over seven weeks (rounds) and each week is comprised of four phases: Enemy Invasion, Preparation, Actions and finally Resolution.
The first things all players do during the Enemy Invasion phase is refresh their hand-size and action track back to maximum and reclaim your music token. After that the monsters attack. Each monster in an order determined by the first player moves one step closer to castle and uses its ability when applicable. These abilities vary from moving one other monster an extra time to losing a resource, action or even a dwarf… When all monsters have moved they call in reinforcements. You add monsters until a certain limit depending on the number of players. These monsters show in which spawning zone they appear, how many dwarfs and which resources you need to kill it, its ability and the number of victory points it rewards. At the end of the Enemy Invasion phase you add one Disaster which shows its spawning zone, the amount of dwarfs it needs to solve the disaster, the resources that are needed and the spoils (victory points and gold) for overcoming this disaster. You cannot gather resources in the zones containing monsters and disasters.
The next phase is Preparation in which all players search their action deck for cards to put in their hand equal to their hand limit.
The third phase is the action phase. Starting with the start payer and going clockwise each player takes a number of actions as depicted on their player board. As an action you can choose to play a dwarf from your player board on the game board. You can perform this action multiple times but you can never place more than one dwarf in the same zone during a turn. The other action is moving a dwarf from one zone to an adjacent zone. Again this is an action you can perform multiple times. Once during your turn you acquire a hero for an action by paying its cost in gold and adding it to your action deck. Each Hero has action that it can perform when a certain music instrument is played. This brings us to the next action which is playing an instrument by placing a music token on it. You can never choose an instrument which already has one on it and since you only have one music token you can only perform this action once during your turn. When you play a music instrument you can play all your action cards in your hand that correspond to that music instrument. This will trigger the actions depicted on the cards like gathering resources, moving dwarfs for free or acquiring extra heroes. After the current player has played their actions cards, each other player in clockwise order can also play all their action cards corresponding to that instrument. Also as a free action you can defeat a monster or overcome a disaster by paying the necessary resources and removing the required number of dwarfs at its location to gain its points (and bonus in case of a disaster).
When everybody has taken its turn it is time for the Resolution phase. If at the end of the week you have four disasters or there is monster inside the castle, all players lose the game. Otherwise when you are not at the seventh week you move the token to the next week and start the next week. At the end of the seventh week you check who did the best job at defending the castle. Each player gets points for their defeated monsters, disasters they overcome and acquired heroes. Also for each resource track that has reached the seventh spot you get the corresponding number of victory points. If you succeeded in getting all you dwarfs back on your player board you get an extra three victory points. The player with the most victory points wins the game. I9n the case of a tie the victory is given to the player with the most dwarfs on their player board, then to the player with the most victory points from heroes, most gold, most food, most stone, most wood, most disasters and finally most monsters. In the rare occasion that it is still a tie, the players share the victory.
The game is definitely a head turner. When you are playing this people will stop and ask what you are playing and look at the board and miniatures. The artwork is great and really pops. Everything is really clear and easy to grasp thanks to the symbols used. The miniatures are looking great and I really love that they made a different sculpt for all of your seven dwarfs. The rulebook itself is written well and has lots of examples for each phase of the gameplay. It even includes some variants for changing difficulty, scoring and even a solo-variant (which I have not tried out). I love the combination of the tower-defense style gameplay with the gathering of resources. It feels like you are constantly with your back against the wall and we simply love that. To make sure you are to survive the winter you definitely need to cooperate to achieve this. This means that during the preparation you need to figure out who is going to do what. The monsters need to be killed, the disasters overcome and in the mean time we need to get some resources to use now or on a later turn. Also it is very important to know which music instruments are going to be played so you can get the full advantage of your action cards that you are going to pick. It is this puzzle that is great to figure out. In the meantime you are trying to get more victory points than your opponents and is where it stings a bit for me personally. This is a game that falls in the category of everybody needs to work together to defend the castle yet there can be only one victor. This resulted in our games being very cooperative until about the last two weeks when we knew that the castle would be safe and everybody started to go full blown for points. Do not get me wrong, I love this game, its gameplay and its production and we have a lot of fun when playing this but it is just something that does not feel right by me. But, oh wait, there is more. The Legendary expansion is also included in this game with even more monsters, more disasters and three Legendary dwarfs to which you can upgrade you regular dwarfs. You have the Ice Warrior which counts as two dwarfs when defeating monster, the Earth Guardian makes the resource cost for disasters one cheaper to overcome or the Thunder King which can be placed on the game board for free. After our first play we introduced this expansion in the game and now we never play without it because it adds a lot more content without adding to the complexity. All in all we can only recommend that you try out this game because we have a blast playing it.
Play with honor