Players: 1-4 Ages: 12+ Game Time: 50-100 mins
Hello and welcome to another review from me, Mr Chris. Now, B.A. Games (https://bagamesco.com/) are great friends of DOALG and we previously reviewed their last crowd-funded game Cult of the Deep (visit www.doalg.co.uk/post/cult-of-the-deep) They decided to send us a copy of their new game Forges of Ravenshire, but it was LOST in the post!!! Well, thankfully, it finally arrived safe and sound (thank goodness) BUT well after the Kickstarter funded. Details are here: www.kickstarter.com/projects/bagamesco/forges-of-ravenshire), and fortunately you can still pre-order now! But should you? At the thought of losing a potential friendship, we feel that B.A. Games will always appreciate our honest reviews, so here goes!
Designed by Sam Stockton, Forges of Ravenshire is a dice placement, engine-building game, in which you compete for the title of Forgemaster in Ravenshire. The Forgemaster of Ravenshire has gone missing and the Blacksmith’s Guild is in dire need of new leadership. This is where you come in, you will compete against your fellow blacksmiths in a contest to see who can make the most money and become the new Forgemaster to win the game!
So let's grab you hammer and your steel and lets get forging...
Gameplay takes place over four rounds, and the blacksmith with the most money at the end of the rounds wins, it's that easy. To get money, you must complete building contracts, increasing your reputation, earn titles, run guilds and make lucrative market exchanges. It sounds like a lot and it is, and it is the choices behind this game that make this game so good! With engine builder games, I often find that you're locked into the choices you make to get resources in order to complete things, but with Forges of Ravenshire you have a system that revolves around your Gathering, Production and End of Round phases that all intermingle. I am dumbfounded by how this well-organised concept was drafted up in the first instance (my mind boggles, and if you are reading this designers I am in awe of your cleverness!).
I am not going to go over the game setup in this review, as you can just check out the instruction book here: https://tinyurl.com/479wsxpb. But what I will say, is that the rulebook is so clear and concise (and large). It was really easy to get to grips with, whereas lots of engine builders suffer with that ** OMG how many pieces and components** syndrome that can actually put you off getting the game to the table sometimes! This rulebook really alleviates all these woes and helps you get over that fear and helped guide the setup extremely well!
One thing I will point out is to make sure to shuffle the three contract decks really well (we didn't and had some tough contracts come out early game). The main board setup and player board setups are quick, and you start the game with four gold. One thing I also love about the setup of this game is that involves rolling the Harvester, Alchemy and Merchant dice and placing them on the board for starting resources. It is the numbers of the dice that indicate the reward level on the board, for example a die result of three on the Harvester section ( Sharprock Mountain and Darkwood Forest) would result in either three stone OR three wood!
Once you have the game set up you have four rounds (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) to win; it doesn't sound like much, BUT trust me when I say that in each round you have lots to do, so you will not be bored. Some elements of the rounds can be done simultaneously, which means players aren't sat around waiting so long, you may do so for the first few rounds just so you can keep tracking and learn, but afterwards you'll soon will be managing yourself.
The main phases of the game involve 'Gathering'. In this phase. you will take turns performing two types of actions in succession, placing dice, and taking dice. When you place a die of ANY colour onto an open space in any of the six districts (Sharprock Mountain, Blackwood Forest, Tannery District, Smoky Valley, Bramwell Foundries, or Guild Halls) on the main board. Alongside these actions, you can also utilise the guilds, these help acquire goods, mystics and money.
When it is your turn to place a die in a district, you'll notice there are only two spaces. Placing a die here means you cannot place another one here, but you can remove one from here (if already placed). In doing so, you gain the resource OR do the action it relates to. Taking a die does the same as placing one, but take heed, you CANNOT take a die you JUST placed.
It is when you take a die that the colour of the die comes into play (the clever bit) because the colours represent Alchemist (yellow) Harvester (Green) and Merchant (Purple) ,and when you take a die from the districts you then place them immediately in the appropriate Guild area on your player board, making sure you DO NOT change the number of the die, as this comes into play later!
You can now proceed to complete all the actions available to that Guild in ANY order but only once! As part of this phase, you have the option to recruit Guild Members. These are located on the main board above the Guild Halls. There are six guild tokens to choose from, and in order to recruit them you will need to pay the indicated costs. Once you have done this, you can place the guild member into your player board in the matching guild column. When recruiting, the guild hall empty space is replaced immediately. The tiles cascade down to fill any spaces and a new tile is placed at the top of the relevant column (just like Tetris). Once these are in place, you're all set.
This leads me to point out action tokens. Action tokens in Forges of Ravenshire are what I personally think are crucial to your success. They allow you to take actions BEFORE or AFTER taking actions during the gathering phase. What this means is that you can do the following:
Take a contract - take a contract from the Open Contracts area (the main board). You MUST meet the reputation requirements for that contract, which at the start of the game are one-star contracts.
Refresh row of contracts - refresh / remove contracts in place and draw new ones.
Recruit guild members - recruit from the Guild Hall (mentioned above)
Build an upgrade - Here you have the chance to upgrade your forge (player board), this will improve the ability to produce more resources for your smithing.
Overtime cards are also an option BUT be warned, these are one-hit-wonders, so use them wisely.
Anytime during the gathering phase, you may use the market exchange and each of the steps can be performed multiple times in a single turn.
1) Good exchange - convert three goods of one type or more into one good of your choice
2) Mystic exchange - convert three mystics of one type or more type into one mystic of your choice
3) Talisman - during your turn in the gathering phase or during production, you may change your dice or a die on the main board by one for each talisman spent
4) Embergems - exchange two for two foods of your choice
5) Dragon scales and charcoal - gain one gold and one good of your choice.
The ability to do these actions give your elements of mitigation/change your fate. This is a key element of the mechanics of this game.
You can't say "the Dice hate me" while you're hoarding talismans...
This is where we shift things up, as this is the time to move your dice from the Guild section of your player board over to the Production section of the player board. It is the movement of dice from main game board, to the Guild and finally to your forge/production side that is so unique and joyful in this game; you actually feel you've done the steps to complete your contracts, which is immensely satisfying!
When you're ready, you move them over WITHOUT changing the values of the dice to activate the actions associated with the placement. These can be done in any order and you may do other actions before or after these! So what can you do?
Overtime - placing a die here allows you to run one of your guilds on the guild section of your player board.
Hire help - placing a die here gains you two action tokens (these are extremely USEFUL).
Scrap pile - allows you you to gain either goods, mystics or gold.
Forge mastery - allows you to gain two action tokens, increase your reputation by one (very USEFUL) or collect four gold.
Charcoal kiln - convert wood into charcoal (1:1).
Steel foundry - convert one ore AND one Charcoal into one Steel (2:1).
Placing the dice in these areas trigger the value determined by the number of the die. (example: if I placed a die with a value of two into the Scrap Pile I would get two goods). So the planning not only includes the type of die you get, but the value has an impact later in the production phase (so clever!).
It is the resources you gather / manufacture that you use to complete contracts. When doing so, remove the resources from your board and gain the benefits noted at the bottom of the contract. Make sure that you gain reputation if it says so! Also, you can apply different finishes to your completed contracts these are:
Normal - no additional benefits gained.
Mithril finish - user one mithril and one charcoal, doing so will gain you an additional reputation.
Embergem finish : use two embergems and a charcoal, this will get you an additional four gold.
Now onto the end phase:
Check for the completion of goal titles
Prepare the board for the next round
Pass the first player board
Roll your dice
After the forth round, gain the amount of gold as shown on the bottom of the reputation track. Make sure that you utilise the market place for converting mystics to get gold etcetera. Any unused action tokens and money add to your scoring and it basically comes down to whoever scores the most WINS!
Production - Forges of Ravenshire
The game is well produced. Whilst we have been sent a pre-production copy for review, I love the elements and the board quality. I love that they have thought about the recessed player boards to minimise board knocking, so your pieces don't go flying too easily. I have even noticed that on the Kickstarter that they are offering a neoprene playmat with recessed spots for the dice and pieces of the game. I have not seen that before, and I like the idea! We all know Mr Chris likes a nice playmat! Yes... I know I have a problem... The components and dice are of a good quality too, which for B.A. Games is already becoming a common factor. The finish quality of Cult of the Deep was fantastic (see our review here: www.doalg.co.uk/post/cult-of-the-deep), so if the quality EVER drops I will be the first to call them out! This prototype isn't the final product, so I know it will be improved further and I am excited to see the finished game!
So let's break it down for you in our key areas:
Replayability - highly replayable, if it hadn't taken so long to play with Mr Sam (learning game etc) we would have played it again. We both enjoyed it LOTS!
Production value - as usual B.A.Games have pulled it out of the bag. Again the review copy is great and we love the double layer punch boards which means you can't easily lose of your components your bits (I still knocked mine pratting about LOL)
Theme - basically nonexistent. Don't get me wrong the theme that has been picked and applied to this game is cute and grabs attention, but ANY theme could be applied to this mechanic and we feel that some more theme integration could have been applied. However, because the engine builder element works SO well we can overlook this!
Complexity - fairly complex BUT once you've come to grips with the dice placement and movement on the player boards, any fans of dice engine builders will get that BUILD fix!
Rules - a little wordy in places and some bits could have been better written, but the examples help clarify a few things.
Uniqueness - unsure about uniqueness since I have not played many dice engine-builder games, BUT I love it and despite the theme applied to the game it gives me my dice game fix, and it has great mitigation options for players who have bad dice karma!
Value - the £47 ($60) backing level on the base game on the Kickstarter seems pretty reasonable and since the strecth goals have been unlocked you're getting more value for your buck!
I am giving Forges of Ravenshire a 5/6. It plays so well that I can overlook the theme integration. You could literally LIFT and SHIFT this onto any theme BUT I love it, I actually prefer this to Flamecraft (see our review here: www.doalg.co.uk/post/flamecraft), purely down to the mechanics with the dice and resources you have during the game!
Your friendly DOALG Founder
Whilst the Kickstarter has closed, you can still pre-order the game here: https://forges-of-ravenshire.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders/526890
If you enjoyed this review of Forges of Ravenshire then please check out out other board game reviews at www.doalg.co.uk/reviews. Also, if you'd like to know more about our rating system check that out too via www.doalg.co.uk/post/understand-our-reviews.