Review: My Dwarves Fly

by Frances Moritz

My Dwarves Fly is a "humorous fantasy game" just released by Pegasus Press, a German game company, with artwork by John Kovalic. It was released simultaneously in English and German.

Judging a book by its cover, the sturdy shrink-wrapped game box, with Kovalic artwork all over, presents a pretty picture. A dwarf using a mechanical contraption of some sort is flying over the game title and the hoard of other creatures on the ground. The back of the box has a quick summary of the game concept, including the number of players (2-4), recommended ages (10 and up), and game length (no more than an hour). In other words, it has all the basic details needed to sell it.

Inside the box, the game pieces are neatly organized: the two decks of cards are shrink- wrapped; treasure and battle tokens are in one re-sealable bag; the five six-sided dice are in another. Under all of these are a couple sheets of gold pieces that need punching; these are easily stored in the bag the dice arrived in.

The two decks, which are kept in separate draw and discard piles for play, have different designs on the back and a different color border on the front, making it easy to distinguish between the two decks throughout the game. One deck contains all the creature cards; each creature has their dice value (1 to 5) and any special racial effects (aversions or racial abilities) on the card. The other deck includes everything else – the abilities that can be used to enhance or detract from your creatures; battle cards to call the players to battle; and event cards to alter the outcome of the battle.

A quick read through the rules shows that this is an easy game to pick up. A couple typos grace the rules, presumably phrases that got lost in translation, since they're the type that slip past computer spellcheckers. A couple of the questions that arose during game play are almost certainly translation issues as well – the main one being whether "whoever has grabbed at least 15 pieces of gold at the end of one particular turn" meant all on that turn, or as the player's total at the end of a turn. This question resolves itself once you have a battle - average gain from a battle is around 4 pieces of gold, which is a combination of the gold from the battle card and any additional gold the victorious player rolled; in the few games I've played, the highest any player's additional gold ever got on one battle was 6 pieces, and that player didn't win the battle.

On your turn, you have the option of playing a creature card, an ability card on a creature, a battle card, or discarding a card. Creatures are needed for the battles, as each battle card calls from 1 to 5 creatures to the combat. Good ability cards, such as "are greedy", which increases your chance of finding gold, are played on your own creatures. Bad ability cards, like "are weak", are played on other people's creatures. Each set of creatures, grouped by race, can only have one ability card in play at a time, so you can play a new ability card to remove a bad one played by an opponent… if you manage to draw one for that race. Ability cards specify on them what race they may be played on.

Once a battle card is played, you decide what creatures you're taking to battle. Your choice may vary, depending on what event cards you have. For example, "Lucky You!" allows you to keep any gold you find, even if you don't win, which makes it the perfect opportunity to take a low level creature like a gnome (1 die, but finds gold on a roll of 1 or 2) to battle.

Your die rolls in battle move both your battle and treasure tokens on the game board. The game board shows rows of numbers, going from zero to one hundred. As you roll each creature's dice, you move the battle token the total number you rolled for that creature. The treasure token only moves if you roll 1s, so despite needing the high rolls to win the actual battle, you find yourself hoping for that single pip on the die.

After all players have rolled and marked their totals, you have the opportunity to play a single event card. Event cards can alter the outcome of the battle by allowing you an additional roll, alter the distribution of gold at the end of the battle, or allow you to cancel somebody else's event card. These are played face down and are revealed once every player has either placed an event card or passed on the option.

Game balance is maintained throughout by having the victorious player discard their highest level creature. It didn't specify, but we assumed that this meant the highest level creature that participated in a battle. So if you're feeling particularly evil, you bring a gnome (1 die) to a battle with a giant (5 dice), especially if you have an event card that will let you take gold without winning. The other player, barring extremely bad rolling, will lose their giant at the end of the battle.

Four cheat sheets are included with the game, showing you assorted useful information. On one side, it lists how many of each type of creature card exists, as well as their dice level, aversion and special ability is; how many of each battle card exist, with the creatures and gold pieces for each of those battles types; and the count of the various event cards and their effects. The other side shows each available ability, what creatures it effects, and what the ability does for the creature. Oddly enough, the yeti is listed on the cheat sheet as removing all gnomes on the table, but on the card (and there is only one yeti card), it lists the aversion like other creatures' aversions are listed. In most cases, playing one of that creature only affects other creatures that player has in front of them; it takes three of a creature type anywhere on the table to trigger a table-wide aversion.

My first complaint about this game, other than the typos and possible clarifications in the rules, is that it maxes out at four players, when I think I'd enjoy playing it with a few more. But I can see how it would get hectic with more, especially during Armageddon, the five creature battle. My second complaint is that there aren't enough dwarves. Seriously, it has dwarves in the title, and there are only six of them in the deck - the same number as there are elves, gnomes, goblins and orcs. I actually expected a bit more racial imbalance in favor of the dwarves. All in all, it's a fabulous game. I'm looking forward to playing it again and again.

Copyright 2004-2005 The Lady Gamer. All rights reserved.