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Small and mighty, or just a little disappointing? We review Micro Dojo

Updated: Oct 3, 2023



The Micro Dojo game box and card components

Players: 1-2

Ages: 14+

Game Time: 30 minutes

Followers of DOALG will know that we attended the UK Games Expo this year. What you won’t know is that we met up with the team from Prometheus Game Labs, as our streaming schedule was already jam packed (and we were unable to bring them from the Expo to your screens).However:


Ben Downton, who by day is a security consultant and acro yogi, found a way to make the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 productive – he designed games. This became the foundation for Prometheus Game Labs who launched their first game Micro Dojo via Kickstarter in May 2021. The campaign was a success and has been promptly followed by a second Kickstarter which introduced an expansion (Micro Dojo: Loyalty and Deceit) in March this year. Though a very busy few days for the DOALG crew, we managed to have a demo game of Micro Dojo and a nice chat with the team from Prometheus Games Lab. We also brought home a copy of the game to put it through its paces. Here is our take on this game.


The game is set in the Edo period of Feudal Japan. Players take on the role of Daimyo (lords) hoping to win the favour of the shogun (the agents of the Emporor). To do this they must take control of the inhabitants of the town to make it prosperous and further the shoguns plans. The winner will be presented with the deeds to the town.

The first thing that is worth noting is that there are two editions of Micro Dojo the envelope edition and the boxed edition. This review is based on the envelope edition. The main difference between the two versions other than the packaging are the standard punchboard character tokens vs. deluxe wooden meeples. Having seen the meeples (and some oversized versions) in use at the UK Games Expo these are quite a desirable upgrade but definitely not necessary to play the game.


Setting up the game is pretty straightforward, simply place the tiny game board in the middle, separate the different tokens, then randomly select and place objectives, buildings and characters in the starting positions and you are ready to start; not ‘Kung Fu fighting’ as that would be Chinese, but still tactically duking it out to be seen as the best Daimyo. The rules are also very simple to learn and you can start playing quickly.


To play the game (basic rules), both players take turns to move one of the four character tokens one space orthogonally (no diagonals allowed) on a 3x3 grid. Each space allows for different game options. Most provide players with food and/or money but there are spaces for building and performing actions. These allow players to claim an objective, use building abilities, trade and donate resources.


Every move players make is carefully planned and calculated to ensure that at the game's end they are the lord with the most victory points. However, there are limitations. For example, players cannot move the character they or their opponent moved previously, and they may not move into an occupied space. This means that game play becomes as tactical as the ability of the players. Blocking moves, claiming/not claiming objectives at specific times and other tactics are perfectly valid strategies.


There are also advanced rule options that allow for special movement abilities for each of the four characters and a solo game mode.


In solo mode, there are six difficulty levels but initial set up remains the same. After that a living opponent is replaced by a set of eight cards (plus two additional cards with solo rules). The eight cards comprise of four character cards and four movement cards. The combination of one of each tells you which meeple the AI will select and how to move it. These are divided by type shuffled and placed next to the game area as two draw decks, which are reshuffled after every fourth round. As this simple version of an automated player cannot assess the ongoing game and it scores points slightly differently but perhaps a little more easily, this appears fair given its disadvantage.


While the game is not expensive to buy, the components are still of a sufficient quality. In the enveloped edition you receive one sheet of punchboard, one sheet of plastic finish card and a little zip lock bag. That’s all there is to it. The punchboard is only about 1mm stock. However, due to the small size of the components this is plenty durable. Just one A5 size sheet provides one board and 39 tokens. The cards too fit ten on a single A5 sheet, they are fairly thin but the small size and plastic finish ensure that they last well.


Prometheus Game Labs state on their Kickstarter profile that they ‘aim to produce tight, cerebral, one to two player experiences in a small package’. Personally I think that the team have absolutely hit the bullseye first time. I love the idea of the envelope edition for many reasons, particularly since it's cheaper and who wouldn’t like a letter through the door with a fully functional micro game inside? Although had this been the only option, I may have been disappointed. However this is not the case, the boxed edition with its printed meeples is also available and it looks so good. But it’s not all about meeples and packaging (although the idea of a mint tin edition, like those of Atikin Games - https://atikingames.com - would be cool), the game play experience is great.


For such a small game it is surprisingly tactical but very easy to learn and play. It has a similar cerebral feel to chess though not as heavy, as there is less to keep track of. However, you need to think ahead and consider sacrifices for later gain. With quick set up and only 30 minutes average game time it's ideal for breaks between big games, or as we have found whilst dinner is in the oven or over a meal since its table presence is so small. Some may argue that the pieces are very small but that is the whole point of a micro game, and whilst a larger version could make it accessible to younger audiences the tactical nature may be too heavy for them. The inclusion of a solo mode on a micro game like this is great, most games I’ve tried solo have been good but not worth the set up and pack up time, definitely not the case here. I think it is clear that this is a practically perfect micro game and can do the only honourable thing by awarding a 6/6 on our DOALG dice rating.


I am eager to now try the expansion and excited for future projects from Prometheus Games Labs. In fact they are already advertising two more titles on their website (https://prometheusgamelabs.wordpress.com) Micro Bots and 99 Ninja.


Sam-Wise

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