Your Price: $57.00
(Worth 5,700 Funagain Points!)
from 6 customer reviews
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Deep in the heart of the mountains, down in the mines, valuable gems can be found. Each player has a team of eight digging dwarves and two head dwarves. Head dwarves may act as Silver Dwarf or Shadow Dwarf. The Silver Dwarf can buy at the stock market, fill orders or sell gems. The Shadow Dwarf can initiate unrest, devalue orders of other players, steal gems or exchange at the stock market. Each round the team is redistributed and the price of gems is adjusted according to the number of dwarves digging for each color. Player with most money wins.
I finally decided to get this game after reading everything I could about it on the net. We played with the full four players, all gamers in the group. Everyone in the group was engrossed and trying to make the right placements of their elves. This game has continuous participation for all the players. The components are excellent. I read the rules prior to getting together and taught the others within 3 minutes. I have read the other reviews and the distribution of contracts makes the randomness interesting. The player who had the high contract always got hit by the others. It balanced out to be a very close game. I was in second place on the last turn of the game and decided to sell gems. This gave me the 84-dollar boost to blow past the leader of the entire game. All players wanted to play again and were impressed with the experience. This is not a light gaming experience. This one will probably be our group favorite. Up there with Tim/Jims Outpost.
My review is based on a game which we didn't quite finish (we got kicked out of the store). Anyways, For me this game has just the right amount of player interaction. It was hard to tell who was winning, though one player looked like he was ahead. Little tips I think I can pass on after one play: smack those 120 contracts with a shadow dwarf. One player got two of them, and completed both. He was the one ahead at the end of the game... though I was a close second. I think the balance issues the previous review talked about will not be a problem with players who have played before. I assume if someone is ahead, the other three can reduce that player's job three times (once for each player). That would be a significant slowdown factor. Also I noticed playing the commidities market isn't all that unprofitable. the price of the various stones can range from 1 to 10 and vary significantly from turn to turn (the price is determined by the amount of that type of stone mined). In one turn I spent 6 points on 6 yellow stones, to go with the four I mined. The next turn I recieved 100 points by selling those stones. I am looking forward to playing this one again really soon.
Again, here we have an economics-based game dealing primarily with maximizing your limited resources. So, what sets this one apart from the other multitudes? First, the theme of dwarves mining for gems is carried throughout beautifully. A dark and stark mineshaft-like game board sprinkled with glistening glass gem stones provides plenty of atmosphere. But, the major attraction is the decisions and player interaction that takes place in each turn. Do you invest in your private mine or compete for a public one? (I cannot disagree more where some reviewers have stated that the public mines are not worthy of investment. Here is where you can help yourself and hurt others simultaneously.) Do you invest your dwarves toward your gain, or an opponent's demise? And, man, can you totally screw up a player's turn (hee, hee)! Also, not readily apparent are the major gains you can make by the indirect manipulation of the gem market prices. This process can change your stash of "worthless" gems into great gains. The endgame can be fairly intense when all mines become public, and final scores are usually tight.
The only reason I cannot give Silberzwerg highest marks is that there could have been even more headaches for players to ponder. Each turn your choices are somewhat dictated by your existing collection of gems, and the composition of your single private mine and the two public mines. Having more private mines or public mines would diversify the decision making and intensify the game. (It would be interesting to try playing with two boards!)
Regardless, a very fine effort, and highly recommended.
Silberzwerg is a good game for 2-4 players. It is competetive, strategic, and underhanded. It has a mechanism of concealed placement of one's workers that is revealed simultaneously. Then each unit type resolves in turn: each player's shadow dwarves, then Silver Dwarves, then Miners. It's fun to see how the much the Shadow Dwarves can thwart the rest of the turn.
This game is well balanced and looks great set up. It has one of the fastest learning curves I've seen in a game. The text is no problem with the translation sheets Funagain provides. Our group didn't even need them after the third turn. The only knock against it is game length, but they provide excellent rules for a short version.
The overall feeling is that we wanted to play this game again and try new strategies. Its excellent German construction means it will last a long time, and unlike Ohne Furcht und Adel we wont have to worry about replacement cards. ;)
This is one of the latest releases from Queen and is designed by Gerd Deininger and Andreas Michaelis, a team of which I am not at all familiar. The game is one of the two 'bright' spots in what has otherwise been a mediocre year for Queen. The only other 'new' release by Queen which I give high marks to is Metro, the re-release of Derk Henn's previously titled Iron Horse.
The game is certainly a descendent of Sid Sackson's classic Bazaar. Players each lead a team of dwarves feverishly mining gems in an effort to fulfill contracts. Like Bazaar, these contracts require that certain combinations of gems be collected in order to be met (example: 2 red gems, 2 blue gems and 4 yellow gems). Once a player collects the correct combination of gems, he may then 'sell' the contract and collect income (or victory points) based on the contract's value. The game is completed once one player accumulates a wealth of $600 (in whatever currency dwarves use) or there are no more contracts to be fulfilled.
One thing I will say for Queen... they can usually be counted on to produce games with great artwork and quality components. Silberzwerg is no exception. The artwork is done by the now famous Franz Vohwinkel, my personal favorite games artist. While the board graphics aren't stunning, they are very functional and easy to understand, with places for the contracts, gems and tracks for victory points and gem values. Each player also gets a privacy screen and player mat upon which to allocate their dwarves each round. Unfortunately, the game is not being released in English and there is quite a bit of German text on the screens and mats, so a paste-up or lay-over in English is almost essential. For those interested, I have designed these and they are located on The Games Dumpster.
At the beginning of the game, six contracts are placed on the board. Each player has one 'private' contract which only he can fill, while the remaining two are 'public' contracts for which everyone can compete. Each turn that a contract is not fulfilled, the value of the contract decreases, which is indicated by rotating the contract tile 90 degrees so that the arrow now points to the current value. Once a contract has rotated four times, it is removed from the game and replaced with a new contract. If the removed contract was a 'private' contract, the owner of the contract is assessed a penalty, which is taken from his victory points (money). Thus, there is a bit of pressure on the players to fulfill their own contracts, even if their value is less than the public contracts. Choosing which gems to collect and which contracts to fill is the important decision making dilemma in the game.
A turn begins with each player secretly allocating their dwarves to various tasks. Each player has four 'mine' dwarves whose job is to mine the various gems. Players must allocate these dwarves into the appropriate mines: green, blue, yellow and/or red. If they survive to the mining phase, the players will receive the appropriate colored gems in a quantity equal to the number of dwarves allocated to those mines.
In addition, each player has two 'over-seer' dwarves. The 'Silver Dwarf' (or the 'good' dwarf, as Kris Gould likes to call him) will allow a player to buy or sell gems, or sell one completed contract, depending upon the space he is allocated. So, if a player is in need of a multitude of blue gems, he can not only place his mining dwarves into the blue mine, but may also place his Silver Dwarf on the 'Buy Blue Gems' space. This will allow that player to secure as many blue gems as he desires to purchase. The price at which a player may purchase, or sell, gems fluctuates each turn based on the number of dwarves every player has allocated to each mine. The more dwarves who are mining a particular gem, the less expensive that gem will be to purchase. The fewer dwarves there are mining a particular gem, the more expensive that gem will be. A player has some control over the price, but is also at the mercy of his opponents, depending upon their dwarf assignments.
The other dwarf which a player has is the 'Shadow Dwarf' (or 'evil' dwarf, according to Kris). This dwarf can be nasty as he has the power to remove two dwarfs from an opponent from the same mine that he is allocated to. This can certainly be used to foil an opponent's plans and force him to delay the filling of a contract, which in this game is VERY costly. The Shadow Dwarf can also be used to steal two gems from an opponent or decrease / increase the value of a contract one level, depending upon the space to which he was assigned. If a player is not in an evil mood, or if he feels a positive action will benefit him greater, the Shadow Dwarf can also be used to take a gem from the stockpile or trade two gems. Thus, a player has quite a few options with the Shadow Dwarf, and he can be used to great effect.
To add even more options, a player can decide to allocate two Silver Dwarves and no Shadow Dwarves, or two Shadow Dwarves and no Silver Dwarves!
Deciding on where to allocate all of these dwarves is vital and a key element of efficient game play. It also causes some stomach butterflies as you usually want to perform more tasks than what you are capable of doing. Plus, what you ultimately are able to perform will also rely on which tasks your opponents have opted for. This is a fun part of the game and, in my opinion, offers quite a bit of player interaction.
Once all players have allocated their dwarves, everyone reveals their placements and gem prices are adjusted accordingly. Then, in turn order (which rotates each turn), each player performs the actions of his Shadow Dwarves. As mentioned, this may involve the removal of opponents' dwarves and/or the stealing of their gems. This, of course, will likely affect the plans of the affected opponents, usually in a less than beneficial manner! Quite nasty when used properly!
Gems are then collected by the players based on the surviving dwarves in the mines, after which the Silver Dwarves perform their actions in player order. If a player allocated their Silver Dwarf to the 'Sell Contracts' space and they have collected the proper combination of gems, they may sell the contract and receive its value in victory points. Remaining contracts are then devalued and removed if necessary, with any penalties being assessed. The board is then re-filled to six contracts, replacing only those which were sold or removed. Finally, each player must return any gems they possess in excess of twelve.
Once a contract is filled, the actual tile is kept. Why? Many contracts depict a symbol which grants its owner a special power. These powers include the ability to cancel the action of a Shadow Dwarf, increase the value of a gem by three, or steal five victory points from an opponent and add them to your total. In addition, many tiles depict a symbol, be it a hammer, ax or pickax. If a player collects three tiles depicting the same symbol, he may trade them in for 40 victory points. These tile symbols force players to consider their powers in addition to the value of the contracts. So, it is not always the wisest choice to seek the most valuable contracts as the powers these symbols grant can be vital. I especially like to acquire at least one tile containing the Shadow Dwarf symbol, allowing me to foil the plans of an opponent when they try to use their Shadow Dwarf powers against me.
As mentioned, the game ends once a player accumulates 600 victory points (or a lower total if players agree in advance) or there are no further contracts to be filled. If there are not enough tiles to fill the two public contracts spaces, then all contracts, including the 'private' contracts, become public, so one must plan carefully for this possibility.
I find Silberzwerg to be a delightful journey requiring careful planning, with just the right amount of devious possibilities with which to hinder your opponents' progress and generally annoy them. At the recent Gathering of Friends, several folks complained that the game lacked interaction and that using the Shadow Dwarf to harm your opponents wasn't beneficial. I couldn't disagree more. I have used the Shadow Dwarf to steal gems from opponents and to remove their mining dwarfs, each time with devastating effect. In one of my recent games, fellow Westbank Gamer Elizabeth Gonzales was clearly in the lead and looked impossible to catch. However, on several occasions I stole gems from her and removed dwarves from her mines. Each of these instances caused her to fail to fulfill a contract, while allowing me to complete mine. I was able to catch her and ultimately tie for the victory. Only a last turn oversight wherein I failed to adjust a gem price prevented me from capturing the victory. If you carefully monitor what your opponents have been collecting, you can get a good idea of which contract they are attempting to complete. Timing the theft of gems or removal of dwarves can thwart these plans and greatly benefit you. That is what the game is all about.
Another knock against the game, one which I will agree does exist, is the possibility that one player, by sheer luck of the draw, may get more valuable 'private' contracts than his opponents. This certainly would give that player an edge. This is easily fixable, however, in one of several manners. Bruno Faidutti has suggested that the contracts valued at 120 be reduced to 100, and that a 15 victory point bonus be granted for the filling of public contracts. Another idea is to make ALL contracts public, which would certainly add even more tension and urgency to the game. Finally, you could simply remove the contracts with 120 value from the game, which would also shorten the game's length, which generally takes about 90 minutes to play. We used Bruno's method, but failed to remember the 15 point bonus for public contracts. It seemed to work quite well.
Silberzwerg will never be recongnized as an outstanding game or enter into the realm of classics. However, it does utilize the mechanisms pioneered in Bazaar quite well, adding some interesting and often nasty elements to the mix. It is a game which I enjoy playing and should manage to squeeze in table-time on an on-going basis. My rating is a '7'.
Silberzwerge may seem familiar to players of Sid Sackson's Bazaar, as they collect colored stones to match the exact pattern on a card. And a lot of the game does seem similar. But there are no trading tables; all the stones are either mined or purchased, most of the contracts are private, and there are ways to interfere with the plans of your opponents nastily.
Each player has one private contract (a particular set of eight stones to collect), and there are a few open contracts. The contracts become less valuable every turn, until finally you have to pay a penalty for not fulfilling a private contract before it expired. Each player also has money for buying stones, four dwarves to work in the mines (to get free stones) and two more powerful dwarves, which may be either good or bad dwarves, and which let you either purchase stones, fulfill a contract, steal stones from another player, or even disable some of his dwarves for this turn.
Each turn you start by secretly allocating your six dwarves for this turn, then the choices are revealed simultaneously and carried out. Prices (for buying or selling stones) are set by a supply-and-demand method, depending on which mines the worker dwarves are in. Stones may be sold for the current price, but the biggest payoffs come from fulfilling contracts. At the end of the game, the richest player wins.
There is a lot of good planning, as you optimize your resources for the turn, and I like the variety of choices of what to do with your dwarves. On the other hand, if you don't get any high-paying private contracts, you're not very likely to win. This, along with the fact that players rarely go for the open contracts (it's not worth it because then you end up having to pay penalties on your private contracts) keeps Silberzwerg from being an excellent game. Still, there are some good choices to make each turn, as well as trying to outthink your opponents, and that's enough to make this a game I would play again and recommend to others.
Snow White had her seven dwarfs, but you must make do with six. Everyone gets a contract card, which specifies a color combination of jewels to be gathered and the points to be earned for them. The more rounds it takes to fill a contract, the less it's worth. On each turn, players secretly plan their dwarfs' actions. They can mine, buy, or sell jewels, exchange two jewels, or get one free. They may hinder their opponents' dwarfs or steal two gems outright. Plans are simultaneously revealed, after which the prices of the four colors of jewels are calculated based on demand, and the dwarfs' actions resolved. Additional contract cards are distributed when necessary. What's mine is mined and what's yours is mined, too.
Silberzwerg is won by scoring points, which you earn by mining gems and handing in combinations that match the components on a job card. Each card shows 8 coloured gems: some will have all 8 in one colour, while the more common ones have two or three colours. Each job card also states the points scored for satisfying this demand and the penalty if you fail to do so.
The job cards are laid out in 6 areas of the board--one in each corner and two in the middle. The ones in the corner are only available to be satisfied by one player, while any player can fulfil the central ones. In addition, each job card has four numbers for the points received when a card is completed. These start at the highest levels and fall by one level each round. The next reduction results in the card being withdrawn from the board and a penalty is received for the job cards that are associated with a player.
The maximum number of points to be earned from one card is 120 and all cards show a 25% reduction when they are reduced each round. The distribution is slightly unusual--4 cards with 120 top score, 12 cards with 80, only 6 with 60 points and 12 worth 40 points as the top score. It's always useful to know this so you know the relative importance of each card.
Players earn gems by mining for them, and at the beginning of each round the players secretly (behind screens) select which of the four coloured mines the miners will be sent to. Each miner collects one gem from that mine and they are stored out of view in a bag. This can contain no more than 12 at the end of a turn. In addition, the players place two leader tokens in one of six areas. When placed with the Shadow Dwarf face-up the leader tokens can play more against the other players; when placed with the Silver Dwarf face-up the player can play more beneficially for himself. All of these actions take place quickly and then the screens are removed. The total proposed mining of each colour indicates the value of purchases or sales of those colours. Low mining causes prices to rise; high levels of mining cause prices to fall. This will help buying or selling depending on the prices set.
Having determined the market prices for this round, the Shadow Dwarves are played in game order. If they were placed on a tunnel where mining takes place, such as the yellow tunnel, then a player can either remove miners (and dwarves) from another player who is mining yellow. All other colours are safe from this dwarf. Alternatively, they could take a gem of that colour, so they are not wasted on a poor guess. Perhaps a more interesting role of the Shadow Dwarf is to increase or decrease the value of a job card. This can be useful if you have one of the more valuable cards and are about to satisfy its requirements. Or you could decrease someone else's card of course, which might result in that person getting a loss of points for failing to meet the demand.
Finally, the Shadow Dwarf can trade 2 gems from his own collection for two of his choice or take 2 from bags of his opponents. That latter can be particularly annoying if a player loses some of the gems that were key to making a job card.
The Silver Dwarf's most important role is to allow a job card to be scored. This has to be used and is not intuitive. Regular games players might think that once demand is met, it can be automatically scored, but this is not so in Silberzwerg--you have to place a Silver Dwarf in the right place to allow you to score. In one of the other columns the Silver Dwarf may sell or buy additional gems, but because the actions of the Shadow Dwarf are first, it is possible that the purchasing may be cancelled by a hostile Shadow Dwarf.
There are additional bonuses for collecting sets of job cards that feature the same symbol. By and large these are marginal gains, except for the set that allows that cancellation of the action of a Shadow Dwarf. This acts as a deterrent to a player who may play a Shadow Dwarf and allows that player the knowledge that their plans are more likely to succeed.
The game plays well and there is a clear sense of direction. The components are good and the objectives are clear. There is some degree of interaction, but not much, so you do tend to feel you are following a solitaire strategy with occasional checks to see how the other players are doing. This is the weakest point and the game can feel monotonous as players go through the motions. For players who are not dedicated to business-type games, there will inevitably be some comments about "have we got to put up with this?" and "what's the number of points we are aiming for?". While I do not fall into that camp, I can see how such feelings arise. The game misses the mark: it has a good theme and a reasonable set of rules, but it is not very inspiring. It needs some sort of twist to improve it. I would play it again (so that shows how discerning my taste must be), but I would like to introduce more excitement into the game, possibly by allowing the players to compete for all the job cards.