Welcome to the article series, Late to the Game! This is a space for us to talk about the latest games we’ve been playing, with an intention that we can write about anything. It can be something new. It can be something really old. It can be something we’ve played a million times (looks at Ben).
This edition of Late to the Game will be a look at Dorfromantik!
How do you review a game like Dorfromantik? That’s what I was thinking to myself as I played through its various modes. I was enjoying myself every time I started up a new board, which is good! It took a bit of getting used to how you play the game well, which is fine! But I did wonder to myself, what exactly is this?
On its surface, Dorfromantik is, “a peaceful building strategy and puzzle game where you create a beautiful and ever-growing village landscape by placing tiles.” That quotation is from the game’s press kit and is very accurate about what you create, but it doesn’t really capture the feeling of playing the “game” element of it all. I would say I was more puzzled as I first dove into the game, playing the tutorial a couple of times to really try and wrap my head around what I was supposed to do. I don’t think this is an unintentional feeling exactly, but I think it might have been a bit more difficult to get into than anticipated.
I get wanting your game to feel like you are discovering it as you go, but the game felt more confusingly surprising than naturally discovering how it all works. All of a sudden you will beat challenges you didn’t know you were completing, and you aren’t really sure where to find more info about these challenges. You also will start unlocking new types of tiles and biomes, but I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do with them. The ability to use them in the creative mode is the incentive there I assume, but it all feels a tad too separate from the base game itself. The discovery of hidden challenges on the game board also sort of sneaks up on you, but seeing those empty white tile spots does at least successfully nudge you forward as you discover what’s available to you in the game.
Hopping over to the other play modes of the game mixes things up a bit, but is also a tad more of the same with a slightly different flavor. Quick Mode puts a limit on the tiles you have and makes you focus on the building of your highest score possible. How do you score, might you ask? Well, I’m not entirely sure how the math of all that works, but you do so by pairing up tiles to a perspective matching side. With the hexagonal pieces potentially having 6 different options, this can be tricky, and I found Quick Mode does a fine job of getting your brain to think a tad more critically about your goals in front of you. Do you go for that forest challenge or the water one? How close can I keep these two landscapes together so I can double (triple?) up the number of ways a tile can help your build out. The game’s strategy opened up as I challenged myself in the various modes available to you.
Creative mode is what it sounds like, a chance to use the tiles available to you to make picturesque boards, with no limit to how many tiles you will receive, while discarding the ones that don’t blend into your landscape. The game’s look and simple beauty plays into this approach to the game, and I imagine this might be the most frequented and relished aspect of Dorfromantik for gamers who fall head over heels for this thing. Hard mode makes the tiles more difficult to place successfully on all sides, while making it harder to bank more tiles with more challenging quests to earn more tiles in your deck. Monthly mode also offers a fun challenge by limiting your map size and allows you to compete against others. Making the most out of the tiles you have in a limited space provides just the right amount of twist on the challenge from the other modes to get your brain to look at these similar elements of the game in new ways.
The learning curve on the game’s controls and camera is also surmounted fairly quickly, after feeling a bit wonky at the start. Before you know it, you’re zipping around your map and spinning the camera with ease. Becoming second nature without you even really realizing it. The handy redo button also makes any quick fingered button presses go away with ease.
So where does that leave me with Dorfromantik after a week or so with the game? I’m enjoying it! It feels like a game that will grow deeper in appreciation the more time you spend with it and it might take a bit of time to truly appreciate the low stakes hang this game is going for. While it might take a bit of getting used to when it comes to the mechanics and controls of Dorfromantik, it certainly comes together. I imagine I will be diving back into this game every so often for some time to come, and with that I’m pretty positive my appreciation will only grow for this delightful little world builder.
I was provided with a key to the Switch version of the game, by publisher Toukana, for review.