Sami Laakso was kind enough to loan me a preview copy of Dawn of Peacemakers to try out. I had the game for a week or so, and was able to play it for a while. The game had near-final art, prototype components, and lots of flavour text missing.
The game is coming to Kickstarter in November 2017.
The game: Dawn of Peacemakers by Sami Laakso, published by Snowdale Design in 2018 after what is hopefully a successful Kickstarter campaign in November 2017.
Elevator pitch: A co-op campaign game, where players are peacemakers trying to stop a war between two nations.
What’s in the box? Dawn of Peacemakers is a big box with a double-sided board, terrain tiles to generate the scenario maps on the board, miniatures for player pieces and the warring factions, and lots of cards. Everything is illustrated by Sami Laakso and full of cute animals. If you like the art style in Dale of Merchants, you’ll love this.
The campaign game borrows a leaf from Mechs vs Minions: it introduces new content and rules in every scenario. Things start simple, but get more complicated as the game goes on. There’s no legacy elements here, but if you want to and are able to keep yourself from reading the campaign book, there will be interesting surprises in store for your first run-through of the campaign.
What do you do in the game? There are 12 scenarios in the campaign. In each scenario, your goal is to get the opposing forces to withdraw. That depends on their motivation: in the first scenario, the attacking macaws start with seven motivation and the defending ocelots start with three. Both need to end up at one or two at the same time, so that both want to stop fighting. Dropping to zero motivation causes a side to immediately surrender, which is not good.
The most common way to lose motivation is to lose a unit. So, in the first scenario, players want the macaws to lose most of their units – but not their leader, because that’s an immediate surrender condition – while the ocelots should lose just one, or perhaps just have their archers desert their defensive towers which grant one motivation when held.
The players move between the armies, doing actions by playing cards. Each card can have movement, influence and fortify symbols, and a card effect. You can pick one of those for each card you play, so you can play one card to move around, another to fortify a hex and third one to get a card effect – but your cards are severely limited, so you can’t do many turns like that.
Influence is a basic action in changing the course of the battle. It lets you peek at the army order cards and to reorder them. That way you can affect what the armies do.
When players are done with their turns, the armies act. Each army has two decks of cards: one is for tasks and another is for ploys. The ploy deck used depends on the animalfolk the army represents. These give flavour to the different armies: ocelots are shifty and surprising, just like in Dale of Merchants, while the macaws are quick to move. The task decks are built for each scenario and represents the tactics. For example in the first scenario, ocelots have archers who will not move from their towers, but will shoot at enemies, and warriors that will move around and fight.
For each army, draw one card from each deck and do what it says. Fast actions happen before regular or slow actions, move happens before cover and cover before strike. There are no decisions to be made in this phase: it’s fully automatic.
In the campaign mode, you move on to the next scenario whether you win or lose. Winning will give you small rewards. Losing will give you a small penalty. The leaders of the armies can be defeated, in which case they will be permanently removed from the campaign. If a macaw leader dies, macaws will be slightly disadvantaged in the future scenarios. There’s thus some permanence to the campaign.
There’s also a two-player skirmish mode, where players command their armies using the same order cards, but instead of a blind draw, players get to choose their orders.
Lucky or skillful? Seems like a good mix of luck and skill. Players need to have a strategy, but sometimes the armies can do surprising things.
Abstract or thematic? The theme is strong. The different animalfolk behave in different ways, and the players must influence the armies in a subtle way. The illustrations are really charming.
Solitaire or interactive? Fairly usual co-op in this regard: players must co-operate to do well, but there’s nothing to stop one player from dominating the game. The game also works as a solitaire game, there’s no hidden information between players.
Players: 1–4. There’s a good balance: players get a total of four cards per turn. In solo game, you get four cards and can do more, but have to spend more cards moving around. With more players, you can split the responsibilities, but have less means per player to actually achieve something.
Who can play? Age recommendation is 14+. There’s no particular reason why younger players couldn’t participate, but for smooth gameplay, having an experienced adult controlling the armies is a good idea.
What’s to like: The peaceful premise is something I haven’t seen before; the campaign mode keeps the game interesting; the art is lovely.
What’s not to like: It’s a co-op campaign, so if you don’t like that, this may not change your mind.
My verdict: I generally don’t like co-op games or campaign games. Pandemic Legacy was really thrilling at first, but we never finished the campaign. Mechs vs Minions was more successful: I played the whole campaign. Dawn of Peacemakers is more Mechs vs Minions than Pandemic Legacy to me.
Having players put in between two opposing forces, trying to keep them in check, is a brilliant idea. The peacemakers can be quite cynical and even violent, but the goal is interesting and unique in my collection. As the gameplay goes, it’s an interesting puzzle to figure out the way to reduce the motivation for the armies enough, but not too much.
On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Dawn of Peacemakers gets Suggest from me right now, with potential for Enthusiastic. I will definitely back this game.