This French-designed classic went back to Kickstarter in Dec 2018 and has been a much-anticipated arrival for me. After about 3 hours (no exaggeration involved) of punching and organisation – here is a first look at the contents and an initial play through.
Here is the initial track set up and grid placements (I chose Track 31 from the official tracks because I wanted an excuse to use the sweet bridge overpass).
Mistakes: I made a few! In hindsight, I definitely ignored the overtaking rule a couple of times. Looking forward to having another go!
The best bits of this game are the use of weird and wonderful materials to craft the desired items. Fancy some birch and bronze boots? This is the game for you 😉
Also, my version (Collector’s Edition) has some very, very sweet metal coins (call me shallow, if you wish… I will not dispute it.)¹
The worst bit of Winterforge solo is that it loses a bit of the interest and tension. The materials in the market don’t rotate enough for real interest; there’s not enough conflict / competition and it lacks that compelling feeling which the multiplayer game has.
Smiths of Winterforge does a good job of delivering the feeling of working away in your dwarven forge. Each contract blueprint which you take indicates how many of each type of component you need – say, one ‘base’, one ‘binder’ and one ‘decorative’ element. At times, you’ll get a bonus for a specific component – say, +2 to forge a breastplate with bronze – but nothing forces you to use specific items. You may think that boots would make sense with horn and hide – but birch and bronze will do the trick! Now, what can I make with silk, twine and rubies….?
Forging has a planning element and also a luck element – the components contribute dice to a pool, and better (more expensive) components contribute dice with higher values. If you roll your forging target number (after skill, material, and crew adjustments) then… success! Quartz decoration will add a d6 towards forging, but (much more expensive) diamond delivers a d12 + d4. Failure on your first attempt is not unusual – but all is not lost! If you stick to the task, each effort gains +1 by adding ‘work tokens’ until the crafting is done.
Adding the right crew, and getting the cash to fund the components is part of the mix too. Successful crafting will improve your skill in jewellery, weapons or armour – whatever you successfully forge. You’ll need this skill because, throughout the game, you’re working towards your royal contract, which will require a decent level of skill, the fanciest of components, and a dash of luck.
The deck of solo cards simulate events which occur during the limited number of rounds. They do add variability and replayability to the game, together with the random draw of components and contracts.
Unfortunately, Smiths of Winterforge falls a little flat for me as a solo play experience – the solo cards are (in my opinion) actually better when added to the multiplayer game, to foil or enhance the plans of several competing dwarves at once.
I’m normally open-minded about ‘beat your own score’ solo games – A Feast for Odin and At the Gates of Loyang are two of my favourites, and retain a real challenge as solo games – but this method is not a great success in Smiths – the solo really needs an Automa or alternate solo challenge, in order to be a satisfying solo experience.
BoardGameGeek rates this game as 2.36 out of 5 in weight, (at the time of publication of this review), though that rating doesn’t distinguish between solo and multiplayer games and so is not adjusted to reflect the changes involved in solo play. I consider this rating slightly overstates the complexity of the game – Smiths is a fairly simple move-and-act, collect-and-apply-resources game. There is a modest amount of simple engine-building, and a few ways to score points (assuming you include the optional ‘laneways’ expansion which comes in the base box), but I consider it ‘lighter’ than that BGG rating.
It appears that Smiths of Winterforge has been a bit of a sales disappointment for the publisher, because it’s widely available and cheap at the moment. It is a crazy low $29 from DungeonCrawl at the moment – it’s a lot of game, for that price. However, I don’t recommend buying it if you only plan to play it solo – it’s much better with 3 to 5 players².
¹ I doubt you will get these sweet metal coins in the retail version for the current low, low price, so please check to avoid disappointment.
² Technically it plays 6, but with some special rules – I’ve tried that; stick to 5 maximum, in my opinion.
I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men…
The best bit of this game is the way in which it genuinely evokes the feeling of the book. You play as a female character from the book, building up your character’s traits to appeal to your preferred suitor.
This might sound really lame – but actually, the balance between alternate suitors and book-based events introduces genuine tension into the gameplay. Each time I have played this, grown adults (mainly men) really get into the spirit of the game and embrace the theme. Game discussions are carried on in a ladylike fashion!
The worst bit of Marrying Mr Darcy is the amount of randomness in the card draw – but this is forgiveable in a fairly short and simple game.
Your character will begin with slightly different traits and abilities from the other maidens, then develop (by your choices, through the game) to appeal to your preferred suitor. Despite the traditional setting, each character does feel slightly subversive – each has some agency and power in their choices, as they work and scheme towards enticing a proposal from their preferred husband.
The role of Cunning is also important – your character might be less perfect than another potential wife, but the most cunning get the first chance to marry – and once Mr Darcy (or another) is betrothed, he’s off the market!
Some matches are preferred, while others are impossible.
One of the things which I love about this game is that ending up as an Old Maid (without a husband) can still result in a game win – it’s a nice touch. If you love the book, this game is a must – you’ll find yourself getting in character quickly.
I enjoy the art on the cards and the game’s design choices definitely make a strong connection to the classic book.
Playing as Charlotte Lucas feels entirely different from playing as Georgiana Darcy or Elizabeth Bennet, and this means that the appeal of the game continues through a number of plays.
BoardGameGeek rates this game as 1.38 out of 5 in weight, (at the time of publication of this review). There are some valid alternate strategies to attempt – but this rating is about right in my opinion.
Marrying Mr Darcy is fairly expensive for what you get. Try Games Empire – about $50.