Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Die Dolmengotter

The Game

Die Dolmengotter is an abstract game and an area majority game. The board is made up of squares, hexagons and octagons. There are spaces surrounding these shapes, and during the game the players move their pawns (each player has three) from one space to the next. When a pawn leaves a space, the player can leave a stone on that space. This stone is used to compete for majority in the shapes touched by the space it is on. It also blocks movement from then on.

When there are enough stones surrounding a shape, the player who has majority can place a scoring block (called dolmens) on the shape. As more stones are added to spaces around the shape, other players may match or even exceed the leading player. These players will get to place dolmens on top of or under the existing dolmens on the shape, depending on whether they are achieving sole majority or just matching the leader. If all spaces surrounding a shape are filled up with stones, the shape is scored and the dolmens are permanently removed.

The game ends when either one player uses all dolmens or all players exhaust their stones.

The octagonal pillars are the stones. The big square blocks are the dolmens. They have numbers written underneath (hidden from other players). The Carcassonne-style people (i.e. meeple) are the player pawns, or druids.

Stones block movement of the druids, but other druids don't. A druid can skip over any number of other druids to the next empty spot. Sometimes a druid can be stuck when surrounded by stones. There is one special movement that can help the druid get out of this. He can spend one turn lying down (see the natural coloured and the green coloured druids), and then on the next turn he can fly to any empty space on the board.

The board looks rather boring, but the game is more interesting than it looks. Those symbols around the edges mean that the board is wraparound. Spaces with the same symbol are connected.

The Play

When Chong Sean, Wan, Shan and I started playing, we were quite clueless. The only advice I could give was to try to stick to more central locations and to be where most people are. In this game you need to rely on others, similar to China.

As we played we started to learn what good and bad moves were. We found that we spent most of the time avoiding bad moves, i.e. those that would set up opportunities for others. I was first to score big at an octagon and had a huge lead. However once the game clicked for everyone, I was unable to make many more big scorings and actually ended up being last.

The Thoughts

My impression of the game may be quite wrong, because I later realised I made two very severe mistakes when I taught the game to Chong Sean, Wan and Shan. (Sorry folks!) First, when matching the leader, you don't need a third party present. Because of this misunderstanding we were discouraged to make many moves which should have been worthwhile. The second mistake was when a dolmen was scored, it should have been removed permanently from the game, not returned to the player. No wonder we always had so many x1 dolmens available.

Die Dolmengotter is an interesting abstract game which has a nice tension between cooperation and competition. There are many opportunities for clever plays. You can play both offensively and defensively. It feels like a more complex China. I prefer China myself because of the simplicity and speed, and the density of decisions within such a quick game. Die Dolmengotter is a perfect information game where you need to think a few steps ahead and think of the implications of each possible move. It's a bit dry, but it is quite clever too. It's probably best played with three or more. There is some bluffing in the game, because dolmens (which have values x1 to x4) are placed face-down, and other players do not know what you have played or have remaining. It is a very interactive multiplayer (i.e. >2P) abstract game.

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