Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Sunday, 9 December 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- King's Forge

Game: King's Forge

Publisher: Starling Games

Designer: Nick Sibicky

Year: 2014


A new third edition of King's Forge was just released by Starling Games. It's a game that has received a lot of support through at least four Kickstarter campaigns for new editions and expansions, but it has only recently caught our attention. We've had the chance to play the latest edition, along with 'Gold', the newest expansion.

King's Forge is a 2-4 player game of pool building, dice allocation and set collection, in which players are blacksmiths racing to be the first to craft a number of wondrous items to please the King. Through a series of gathering and crafting actions you'll start to gain access to more precious materials to allow you to compete in making the most ornate items to suit the King's ever more demanding whims!



Gameplay

King's Forge is a race to be the first player to have crafted 5 wondrous items to the king's specification. Crafting these items is difficult enough, requiring specific sets of dice rolls, but should someone be able to create the same item better then the king will only accept the best item. At the start of the game you start with a handful of 'metal' dice. These dice can be used in only one of the 2 phases, so if you want to craft an item you have to keep the dice spare throughout the gathering phase.

During the gathering phase players will take turns picking one of the 4 available gathering cards. These cards typically reward you with new dice or giving you bonuses to your rolls in the next phase. Any new dice gained won't typically be available until the next round, so you have to plan for the future. Many of the gathering cards require you to commit dice to them in order to power them, you may be able to spend 3 'metal' dice to gain a 'wood' die for example. But there are also many more that require your dice to be lost, these include spaces printed on the board, for example there is an option to lose 4 dice of any type to gain a 'magic' die. Managing your stock of dice so you have enough to perform the gather actions you want, while still having some spare to craft with is a key part of the game.

Once the gathering phase is over players can craft. In player order you will roll your dice, perform any re-rolls or manipulations you have earned, and then assign dice to one of the 3 craft able items in the middle of the board. An early game item might require 3 metal dice with faces of 2 or more, easy to do so you place a 2, 4 and 5 on them. Unfortunately the next player has a chance to steal the card from you, they need to roll the same number or higher on each of their assigned dice, with at least 1 being higher. For example if they rolled a 3,4 and a 5 then they could take the item, however a 3,3 and 6 would fail (not all dice are equal or higher, even though the sum is higher and all dice are good enough to make the item). The game will continue like this until one player has crafted the required umber of items (5 with 2 players), at which point they are crowned the winner!


The King's Forge: Gold expansion adds a new dice: gold! Gold dice perform exactly like metal dice, except that they can only roll 4,5, or 6. They also count as any colour of dice during the gathering phase making them very precious if certain gather cards are in play. In addition there are new craft cards that require 7 or more on a die (you can manipulate dice to go above 6) along with several modular Royal Decrees. The decrees add new rules such as rewards when someone steals a crafted item from you or rewards for unused dice in the craft phase.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

King's Forge gives me exactly what I want from a dice game, I love the mechanics of spending your dice during the gathering phase and then not having those resources to actually build items. You can often decide it's worth bowing out of crafting one round in order to be set up for the future, but you can also invest too heavily and find you have lost too many of your dice. There can be a real ebb and flow to your dice during the game which I really appreciate, having a ton of metal dice lets you invest in some of the best cards, but then you lose the dice permanently, when is it worth you doing that?


The biggest flaw with the base game is the ability to steal cards, while this can create fun moments, it does give a big advantage to the last player in a round. Particularly when there are 2 items you could craft, if one of them involves stealing it there is no reason not to deny your opponent the card. Fortunately the introduction of the "Noble" decree in the Gold expansion fixes this almost entirely, with a gold die being given out to you if an item is stolen from you. This at least makes you feel less bad when you lose a card, for me removing this source of frustration was enough to take the game from good to great so I highly recommend grabbing the Gold expansion.

The art of the game is consistently impressive, with each item you craft being evocative of it's roots, be they magical or otherwise. The dice themselves are slightly on the small side, but that's understandable given that you'll sometimes being dealing with a full handful. Overall the theme really comes through which is often something that dice games lose, quickly becoming abstracted to the gameplay. If you like a dice game that has other use for dice than simply rolling, enough manipulation to prevent rampant bad luck and great gameplay even at 2 players (though I would say 3+ is slightly better) then look no further than King's Forge!


Fi’s Final Thoughts

King's Forge is ultimately a dice game - it's even possible to play it without the board (which would make it a much smaller box on the shelf!). However, for a dice game it manages to pack in a whole lot of mechanisms that I really enjoy. As a game of two phases, it's really important that you split your dice pool wisely to ensure that you have enough dice left for the crafting phase so that you can make some of the items on offer, but also perhaps a couple spare so that you can pick your highest roll - especially when there is competition around the table. At two players in particular, it's very easy to keep track of the open information around the table to see which items can be contested by your opponent.


The gather phase kind of meshes card drafting and dice worker placement. In the gather phase, it doesn't matter what the value is, only the colour, but you'll be picking specific cards or locations to assign dice in order to gain actions or more dice for the present or future turn. Since all of the treasures in the game are known from the start, it's possible to map your way through the turns to build up a  dice pool that fits with the cards that will be available. Sometimes you have to make a big sacrifice- losing lots of dice to get the rarer blue dice you need, but if you are able to draft the right card then there may be other ways to achieve the same goal.

With the addition of the Gold expansion, I feel like some of the less palatable rules, such as stealing without consequences, have been smoothed out. Plus, the expansion does one of my favourite things, which is to create a 'big money' version of the game. The gold dice are just better metal dice, and the new gather cards seemed to inject more dice into the game system, meaning that it was easier and more fun to pull off some bigger turns.

I went into King's Forge with no expectations, but it's been  a surprise hit with me, becoming one of my favourite light-to-mid weight dice games. I highly recommend giving it a try!


You Might Like...
  • King's Forge is a dice rolling game with huge options for manipulating your luck.
  • There are a huge variety of cards available in the gather phase, which adds a lot of replayability.
  • The Gold expansion makes for an even tighter game with some really logical rule additions. It's a small box that adds a lot to the game!

You Might Not Like...
  • Stealing can feel particularly brutal when you're the first player in the turn order.
  • As a race to four or five points, the game can very quickly go in one player's favour.


The Verdict
7.5/10 King's Forge is a really stand-out dice game for us. It packs a big game experience into 30-45 minutes and give you loads of replayability and reasons to want to play again. Along with the Gold expansion, it's definitely going to become a staple of our collection.


King's Forge was a review copy kindly provided to us by Starling Games.

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