Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: King's Forge, by Nick Sibicky

Lately I have been growing more and more detached from Euro games. Games where two or more sets of solitary actions that occasionally brush up against each other rapidly lose the appeal when you have no way to interact with an enemy's board. King's Forge, by Clever Mojo Games, has rekindled my love of games based on resource management that have a solitaire feel by introducing just enough competition and sabotage to really give you the option to effect your fellow players. If you like rolling dice, fierce competition, and careful planning then this game is definitely worth your time.


In King's Forge each player controls a forge vying for the title of "King's Forge" after the previous head smith lost the position due to his rather unfortunate sense of humor. The king has requested a number of items be made by any smithy seeking to seize the position and the hefty payday that comes with being a part of the court. Players compete to make and present these items to the king, with the ability to "steal" items by forging better versions and usurping the approval of the king. The king, it turns out, is easily won and only 4 items are required to win his favor. The competition can rapidly grow pretty cutthroat, with each player keeping tabs on their opponents and waiting to spring for the same items on the same turns in order to make their opposing forges waste their time and resources.


A successful smithy
Explaining this game is fairly simple and straightforward. The game is played out in rounds, with each rounds consisting of 3 different phases. During the first phase each player takes turns assigning their resources (dice) onto a number of locations in order to gain various bonuses, such as dice rerolls, more resources, and the ability to add bonuses to rolled dice. These bonuses all become relevant during the second phase, in which each player rolls any dice they did not use during the first phase and attempt to craft various items in order to win the favor of the king. The third phase is a clean-up phase, with each player adding any earned resources to their stockpile, claiming any items they created, and shuffling the location deck in order to prepare for the next round.

The Gathering phase
Players can always see what items the king has requested, even though they can only make 3 of them at a time. A massive deck of possible items is chosen from at the beginning of each game, so no game should feel like it relies on the same kind of resource collection. Additionally, the location deck is made of only a few locations each game, with a large amount of locations available to choose from in order to make each game different. This predictability, both of locations and required resources, makes the game feel very strategic and rewards solid short-term planning. This contrasts with the actual crafting phase, since each item can only be constructed from the correctly colored resource dice with the correct value, determined by rolling all your resource dice at the beginning of each crafting phase. The randomness in crafting is just enough to keep things interesting and fun, without being so dependent on randomness to make the strategic gathering phase pointless.

The game components themselves are excellently crafted and would be the envy of any of the game's craftsmen. The dice roll with enough heft to feel "right", the artwork on all of the cards is beautiful but simple enough not to confuse the eye, the card layouts are straightforward (sometimes to the point of oversimplification), and the box helps keep everything organized for quick setup and breakdown. It bears mentioning that I have a Kickstarter copy with patterned dice, a few cardboard pieces for the locations that appear in every game (the docks), and a fancy plastic anvil, so the mileage you get out of your components may (but probably will not) vary.

This is easily one of my favorite board games I have played recently. As someone who is usually far more interested in RPG's than board games I have a refined board-gaming taste, sated only by excellent games am picky about my board games, but this one has absolutely found a home in my library. The feel of the game is casual enough to facilitate and allow conversation at the table, while still offering enough competitive challenge to warrant your attention and interest. Rolling fistfuls of dice is a favorite past-time of many gamers, and on that level this game absolutely delivers. It is worth noting that this game is not playable by your color-blind friends, since the cards and dice are all color coded. Short of Achromatopsia I can think of no reason that this game shouldn't warrant at least the 20 minutes of your time it takes to play if the opportunity presents itself to you. Strap on your aprons, pick up your hammers, and earn that royal paycheck!

Pros:
* Quick setup
* Easy to grasp
* Rewards careful planning
 *Just enough luck to keep things interesting

Cons:
* Early mistakes are difficult to recover from
* Rules on individual cards sometimes a bit confusing

TL:DR; This fun resource-management  game combines enough strategy and luck to feel welcoming to players of all skill levels. It is absolutely worth playing if you like resource management, stealing from your friends, or just rolling fistfuls of dice.

Other Reviews:
Dice Tower's Tom Vasel; Game Preview

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Ty Oden is a full time Business Management/Economics major who enjoys writing, playing, and generally grokking games. He currently lives in Huntsville, Texas and is studying at Sam Houston State University. He can be reached through his Facebook Page or by e-mail at Weretybe7@yahoo.com.