Prior to PAX, I had never heard of the small indie developer from Nova Scotia, Vesuvius Media. Now, after having had the chance to meet and speak with a couple of their game designers, they will be one I keep my eyes on. They are some of the kindest and most spirited game developers I’ve had the honor of meeting.
They have browser-based and mobile titles in their library, such as the medieval browser-based title Nocturion, but my time with them was focused around one of their board games.Dwar7s: Fall (pronounced Dwarfs) is the first game of their Dwar7s saga that will eventually span at least four board games. They hope that each game can focus on a specific season, a comic series, and possibly even more down the line.
The premise in Fall is that you must gather resources and stockpile them for the coming winter, clashing with the other players on the way. Fans of other resource gathering, worker placement, tile-based games such as Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne will find similarities here. Between two and four players will compete to expand their kingdoms and moving their Dwarven meeples around mining gems, killing ogres, and completing their goals in order to accumulate the most points and win the game. While this is a gross simplification, this should give you a basic understanding of what sort game this is.
What I found even more interesting about Dwar7s: Fall is the thought and care that has gone into this Kickstarter game and the series it has spawned. Speaking with Konstantinos Manos, CEO of Vesuvius Media, he walked me through the mindset that they have taken to put this game together. The world of Dwar7s greets new players with a bright cartoon aesthetic, with cheery and fun looking characters and monsters. This appearance masks a rich and strategy-driven title that lies underneath, but one that is also geared to be easily scaled for whatever the skill range or experience its players have.
For new players, Manos gave me the example that you could remove the tile-placing aspect of the game and instead just place some random tiles at the start. This would change the focus to be more on the resource gathering aspect. Then, as more games are played, introduce additional features like the ogres, tile-placement, or exchange. Being a title that is welcoming to all ages is incredibly important to the team.
Manos stressed the importance of this aspect again by detailing how by cleverly using the art, the designers have managed to remove all the text from the game, save the small manual. The intended effect is for young children be able to enjoy the game, without the vocabulary barrier. Clear and creative illustrations from Luis Brueh, the artist and game designer of the Dwar7s titles, convey what each card does with not an ounce of text to be seen.
Having been a successful Kickstarter project, community and feedback have always been something that Vesuvius values and doesn’t take lightly. They listen to feedback and criticisms that fans may have and working hard to address them when possible. A great example of this that Manos told me was a story about the 1st edition release of Fall. The original Fall had a war system that allowed players to fight one another for resources and what not. Many more casual fans of the game sounded off that they didn’t enjoy the feature, finding it difficult or detrimental to the game. Of course, there were also many serious players that enjoyed this more intense strategy and risk mechanic. With feedback in hand, for the second release, Vesuvius decided to remove the war mechanic, but allow it to be purchased as a small separate pack for those that found it to be a valuable addition to the game.
Fall is only but a single cog in the wheel of what will become a year-long spanning adventure of a kingdom of dwarves. The sequel to Fall aptly titled Dwar7s: Winter, which was the top-grossing tabletop game on kickstart during the holidays of 2017, raising almost $120,000, was released in December of last year. I didn’t get a chance to look much at this entry, Manos did give me a brief overview that how after harvest and gathering in the fall, it was now time for the dwarves to hold up in the castles and keeps and defend themselves from the dangers of winter. Going for more of a tower defense style of game, it is completely different from Fall when it comes to how it is played, while still retaining the same values and fantastic art from Luis.
I don’t think it would make much sense for Vesuvius to stop just at two seasons, and they seem to agree. Manos was able to pull back the curtain, ever-so-slightly, giving me a glimpse at the impressive future they have planned for these little bearded people. Coming later this year, Dwar7s: Spring will release and continue to change the series. Having survived the harsh winter, it is now time to regroup and expand. Further out, the final game in the saga, Summer, is planned but very little was shared with me on this one.
Once each of the seasons it out, there was one particular aspect I wanted to find out. I asked Manos if there was going to be any sort of supplement or ruleset released that would allow a group of friends to be able to play a single epic game that spans from Fall into Summer with any carryover. Menos didn’t go into any detail but he did say that this would be possible and they do have ideas on things that could potentially carry over from one game, rewarding the winner of one game and granting them some sort of bonus in the subsequent game. With even talks of a sort of campaign-like idea that may come too that will weave a story between the games.
Time will tell if everything Vesuvius has planned will work out, but so far I’m sold. The passion and determination the team has for this franchise is inspiring, and listening to them talk about it wants you to just grab a few friends for a game night and play. The base Dwar7s: Fall box will let two to four people play and an average game takes between 30 and 45 minutes. Expansions to the game that add additional races and mechanics can allow more people to join you and extend the average play session. Check it out and get to harvest, dwarves!