Map Drawing Games
Dwarf Mine: Barrier Mountains is a sci-fi expansion to Dwarf Mine, which is a solo map making adventure game created by James Hron of Paper Dice Games. I was given this expansion and the main game for free in exchange for an honest review.
“The Barrier Mountains are the site of a strange falling star from years ago! Your mine will strike the earth at the Barrier Mountains, and uncover the secrets of an ancient artifact buried deep below. Will you discover its secrets? Or will your mine fall to the odd creatures that inhabit these mountains? Play to find out, as your mine tells its story!”
Barrier Mountains requires Dwarf Mine to play and includes a few new rules and rooms. Just like Dwarf Mine, the rules in this expansion are easy to learn. The core game play is the same as Dwarf Mine; play happens in three phases: your turn, treasure and combat, and persistent events. The game ends when all your dwarves are dead.
There is a new mountainscape and, in the center of the mountain, is a ship which includes 4 of the new rooms. The rooms are crew quarters, med bay, security armory, and the ship’s bridge. To access the rooms on the ship, you will need to build a hallway or ladder to the rooms’ doors and you will need keys in the colors of the rooms. Once you have the key for a room, either through research or being found, you will then have access to its benefit. The benefits include rolling for more gold per turn, increasing your laser attack, rolling to regain some population during combat, or rolling an additional die when using any of the ship’s room benefits. The research lab is the last new room. It allows you to research a key once per turn.
The new mountainscape has numbers along the x and y axes. These numbers are for when you use grid dice. You roll grid dice to determine where a plantoid will grow. Plantoids are an enemy that, when you encounter them, you roll a d20 for the x-axis and a d20 for the y-axis to see where it will grow in the mountain. If it grows in a room, you will lose that room’s benefit until the plantoid is destroyed. If they grow in an area not built on yet, you will not be able to build there until you destroy it. In order to destroy the plantoid, you must have or build a room, ladder, or hallway adjacent to it.
You also get a new attack die which fits into the sci-fi theme as well; the laser attack die. If you find a laser pistol, laser rifle, or gain access to the security room, you gain the laser attack die. During combat, you can then roll both the attack die and the laser attack die, adding the results of both to get the total damage you will inflict on your enemy. The laser attack die has its own dice chain. The dice chain is as follows: 0 – d8 – d10 – d12 – d20 – 2d10 – 2d12 – 2d20 – 3d20 – 4d20. You go up the dice chain as you find laser pistols, laser rifles and orange keys. The laser attack die is very useful, since quite a few of the enemies have a lot of health.
There are also ignition codes. If you find an ignition code and all of the ship’s rooms can be used, you may use the code to fire up the ship’s engines and ignore the result of one combat roll. Ignition codes can only be used once but you can find multiple ignition codes to use.
Besides the regular enemies like dire wolves and cave bears, there are also sci-fi themed enemies like metal men, aliens, plantoids, and plantoid vines.There are four Barrier Mountain bosses which you roll a d4 to determine which one you will face. There is a Frogling Supreme Commander who has a 4d20 attack. The Ship’s A.I. which does not attack but, if not defeated, you will lose access to all of the ship’s rooms and their benefits. A Seed that doesn’t attack but all plantoids will move towards it and, if they reach the room the Seed is in or are all killed the Seed, becomes a mega-plantoid. The last boss is a Xenolien which you can choose to fight or try to hide. If you hide, you roll the Xenolien’s attack die to see how many dwarves it targets. Then for each dwarf you roll a d6. On a 4 or higher the dwarf was able to hide and, on a 3 or less, they were found and eaten.
I enjoyed this expansion. I like the sci-fi theme and the new game mechanics. Especially the laser die and the ship’s benefits. You do have to be strategic when placing buildings since the ship is part of the mountain so there is less building space. Unlike the main game, the Barrier Mountains expansion does not have achievements. I think it would be nice to include some achievements specific to this expansion, like ones for each of the bosses, maybe one for having a lot of plantoids or destroying a lot of plantoids. For all of my playthroughs, I also used the Bloodlines and More Rooms expansions found in the main game.
In one of my playthroughs, I was able to finally beat my first Dwarf Mine boss, the Frogling Supreme Commander. In my next playthrough, I lost all the ship’s benefits because the A.I. survived and then my dwarves were decimated by the Frogling Supreme Commander. I’m looking forward to playing again and hoping my dwarves can go up against the Xenolien. For the mine where I killed my first boss, I lasted 15 years with 306 prestige. For my last playthrough, I lasted 22 years with 207 prestige.
Below is the brief history of the last mine I played:
Thinher Bolhak the Glorious had heard of the stories of the falling star at Barrier Mountains. He had always been curious about it and decided to build his mine, Xulboram there in the hopes of learning more about this fallen star. As they delved further in the mountain they discovered the fallen star was a ship and he immediately had his people build a research lab to find a way into the ship. Eventually they had access to the whole ship and reveled in its benefits. As they delved deeper they encountered plantoids, a synthetic plant like organism. They were able to destroy several. They also encountered metal men and frogling aliens. But then the ship came alive. They tried to defeat the A.I. but unfortunately were unable to and lost access to all the ships benefits. Before they could get over their defeat, they were attacked by the Frogling Supreme Commander and were slaughtered.
Dwarf Mine is a solo map making adventure game created by James Hron of Paper Dice Games. I was given the game and its expansion Barrier Mountains for free in exchange for an honest review. The review for Barrier Mountains will go up sometime next week.
“Dwarf Mine is a game about drawing and designing a mine, uncovering treasure, and surviving the dangers of the mountain.
In Dwarf Mine, you will draw your mine on graph paper, roll dice to determine what gold, gems, or other treasure you’ve discovered, and (hopefully) defeat monsters in combat, keeping your mine alive and thriving!
By the end of your game, you’ll have created a rich and unique history for your mine – no two games are the same!”
Besides the main rules, Dwarf Mine also comes with four mini expansions:
- “Mountain Creation” which allows you to customize the mountain by creating inaccessible caves and adding treasure to the last level.
- “More than a Dragon” gives you different enemies to fight at the end. Besides the dragon, you could fight the First of the Stone Folk, the Mother Root or a Goblin Invasion.
- “Bloodlines” helps you create your dwarf leader and gives you a random unique ability.
- “More Rooms” can help your mine quite a bit but can also make your mine a little challenging to design.
To play the game you need the mine sheet and Mountainscape grid, which can be found on the Paper Dice Games website, writing/drawing tool and several dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20) or a dice app.
The rules are easy to learn so you can start playing within minutes. The game is played in three phases; your turn, treasure and combat, and persistent events. During your turn you add a year to the age of your mine, build halls and ladders, build as many rooms as you can afford, and use the benefits of any rooms. Some rooms have one time use benefits and others have benefits you can use each turn. Rooms must be connected to a built section of your mine by a hall or a ladder.
In the treasure and combat phase, you can roll for treasure as long as you have built at least one hall, ladder or room. To determine your treasure you roll a d8 and add your mine’s age. You then look at the table for the mine level you are in to see what treasure you receive. Once that is done you roll for combat. The combat roll is made in the same way as the treasure roll; roll a d8 and add your mine’s age and then look at the table for the mine level you are in. You will then enter into combat. Combat is simultaneous; which means your mine attacks the enemy and the enemy attacks your mine at the same time. You roll your current attack die and add any modifiers to determine the damage dealt to your enemy. Then you roll the enemy’s attack die, plus any abilities they have, to determine the damage your mine receives. For any damage received, you lose an equal amount of population. You continue with simultaneous attacks until the enemy has no health (you win) or your mine’s population is zero (your mine is lost.)
In the persistent phase, certain enemies will continue to impact your mine until they are defeated or leave your mine. Persistent enemies only attack once in normal combat. There are specific rules for each persistent enemy that you follow during the persistent phase. You can attack them as many times as you want during this phase and, if you defeat them, you earn prestige equal to their original health. Your mine level increases by one if they leave or you kill them.
The game inevitably ends when your entire population is dead. Once this happens, you add up your prestige and mine age to use as a final score. Then you can compare it to previous games or to your friends’ games.
I had a lot of fun playing the game despite my mines and dwarves not surviving for many years. During my first couple of playthroughs, I just played the game without the expansions; that way I could get a hang of the base game. All the other playthroughs included some or all of the expansions. I liked how the mine could only be so many levels, which meant as you designed it, you had to try to plan well since eventually you would run out of space. Though I wouldn’t mind an expansion that allowed for a few more levels. I also liked the dice attack chain which went from a d4 to a d20. As you build barracks your attack die moves up the chain or, if you get a specific ability in the Bloodlines expansion, you can start higher in the chain. Some enemies can also have their attack die go up the dice chain as well.
I liked all the mini expansions, especially Bloodlines for the special ability it gave my dwarf leaders, and More Rooms for the benefits the extra rooms could give. I also appreciated the dwarf leader name table included in Bloodlines. I am terrible at naming things so this made it easy. There is also a room name table on Appendix 2 if you don’t want to always name your barracks “barracks” or hovels “hovel”.
Finally, there are also achievements that you can earn during multiple plays. Achievements give all your future dwarf leaders a title they can use. I like the idea of achievements, however I wish some of them had a benefit to using them. For example, if you completed the Kill the Dragon achievement, when you use the title Dragonslayer on one of your dwarf leaders, you’d get 10 more gold at the start of your mine creation or an advantage against any future dragons fought. I don’t think all of them should have a benefit but it would be nice with the bigger achievements.
I definitely plan to play this game more. I want to last more than 17 years and really would like to finally defeat an end game enemy. Dragons are mean and the First of the Stone Folk is even worse. If you’ve played Dwarf Mine, what was your best playthrough? If you haven’t, let me know if you beat my current best of 17 years with 133 prestige!
Below is the brief history of the last mine I played:
King of the Mountain, Gimhar Bulheft, built Karak Darum in the hopes of giving his people a prosperous place to live. He did not fear battle and his bravery gave his people strength and courage. The early years went smoothly. The mine prospered and, though they fought many enemies, they easily defeated them. But then things changed; their luck seemed to run out. Several stone folk broods dwindled their population and, on the final day of Karak Darum, they encountered the First of the Stone Folk. Having no room to imprison the enemy, they decided to bravely charge the First of the Stone Folk, knowing they would not survive.
During the month of July, I played Delve: A Solo Map Drawing Game created by Anna Blackwell. In Delve you create a Dwarven Stronghold and are tasked with finding the void crystal while fighting against possible floods, bad magic, the undead, and ancient monstrosities. Not everything is bad though. You can also create useful inventions and find special artifacts.
The game is played using a deck of cards, a writing/drawing tool, paper (graph paper works great) and tokens. Each turn you explore a new square and draw a card. Depending on the suit, you may get resources which are used for creating defenses/units, trade goods which are used for creating buildings, natural formations like an underground river or a hive of creatures, or forgotten ruins like buried temples or the Halls of a Lich King. During combat, enemies will make their way towards your entrance unless your troops can stop them. If you are able to find the void crystal you win and can stop there or you can continue and see if you can find the imprisoned god, Hudrak, who will grant you a wish.
I had a lot of fun creating my stronghold even though it hurt my hand to draw so small. That is why the game took almost a month to finish as I needed breaks to rest my hand. Unfortunately, I did mess up some rules and, if I’d remembered them correctly, my stronghold may have been different. My husband also found some clarifications on some of the rules on Discord that I didn’t know about until after I had finished the game. I definitely plan on playing the game again and next time I may include an expansion or include world layers or bloodrunes. I may even play it just to create a map and ignore combat, etc. To create my stronghold I used Canson Artist Series graph paper (4sq/in), Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens and Uni Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil (0.5mm). Below is the map I created of my stronghold and a brief history of the stronghold.
The dwarves of Darkhold were brave and strong except for that one guy who wanted to spread his cowardice. But no one talks about him or those he tried to take with him. They happily explored the underground caverns in the hopes of finding the void crystal. Along their journey they fought many creatures, like a cave kraken, the undead in the forgotten crypts, a lich king and his minions, and various ancient monstrosities. They defeated them all but at the cost of many. Many inventions were created, like mining songbirds which protected them from gas effects, dragonfire which made their gunners and cannons attacks stronger, and musical golems which lured enemies to them instead of heading to the entrance. They discovered ancient libraries, abandoned mines, buried temples, golem forges, crystal caverns, portals to the lower depths and their favorite, a magical portal to a wizard's realm that was filled with cats. They even befriended a few sabretooths and brought them back to their stronghold. They also found some volcanic shafts which were worrisome but thankfully they remained dormant. When the void crystal was finally found there was much celebration! But as soon as the festivities were over, the Under-King had another task for them. He wanted them to find the imprisoned god, Hudrak, who was rumored to be somewhere in the lower depths. The journey to find Hudrak took almost as long as it took to find the void crystal and was filled with several monsters and creatures which, just like before, they defeated. Also lots of acorns. Damn squirrels! When they found Hudrak, he was very grateful and granted them one wish. After some discussion, the dwarves of Darkhold asked for their Overseer to become the Under-Queen. Mysteriously the Under-King died and shortly after a new ruler came into power. The first Under-Queen.