All images shown are from a prototype copy of the game.
Dawn of Peacemakers is a big game. It’s big without being messy, it’s involved but not convoluted, and whilst complex it’s extremely straightforward to play. Having dipped into wargames and miniatures games this past year (see my posts from March & August for more on that) and campaign games with evolving story (such as Arkham Horror: The Card Game) Dawn of Peacemakers seemed to fit quite nicely into my exploration.
I was familiar with the work of Sami Laakso, the one-man team behind Snowdale Design. Although I won’t talk too much about his previous work I will say that I loved Dale of Merchants 1 & 2. They are fast paced thinky deck builders with adorable cards that interacted in a wonderful way.
Set in the same fictional universe of Dale, I wondered if Dawn would be able to capture the essence of Sami’s previous games. Well let me begin by saying it’s such a completely different game that it removes itself from Dale of Merchants a fair bit- but the wonderful animal folk and clever multi-use cards remain. What we get instead of deckbuilding is a tactical wargame, with an ever-changing modular board and clever narrative running throughout.
You can play cooperatively (each with their own set of cards) solo, or as a skirmish, which will pit players against one another. You draw cards each turn from the resource deck, and either use for either their ability or icons. You draw and execute order cards for each side and resolve them using the companion’s attributes. Ultimately you want to lower the motivation on both sides to reach a peaceful conclusion. When the end of scenario is triggered you delve into the manual to find out what happens next.
I tried all three modes, and co-op was especially fun. I forget how good co-op games can be when you play with the right people. Dawn was great for group strategy and to feel a sense of solidarity, and most importantly it made us want to play on to discover what happens next.
What I really liked was how Dawn turns wargaming on its head- instead of making war we want to keep the peace. Despite the package and premise being fairly soft there’s plenty of battling to be done on the terrain, because sometimes keeping the peace means ‘retreating’ characters (and when I say that I mean permanently) which are standees in the prototype, and will hopefully be fully fledged minis in the final game. You can lower motivation by retreating companions with attacks and striking at the right time, therefore not allowing one side to be victorious over the other. We are also fortifying companions, leading them to safety and managing the order deck to work in our favour. As simple as the gameplay is there’s also a lot to be considered. I think there is enough balancing and strategy in Dawn to satisfy wargame & mini enthusiasts, but enough hand management to appeal to regular tabletop gamers.
The story aspect works very well, and whilst you can choose to ‘get into it’ or play without reading the narrative it definitely lends to the gaming experience to try the former. Whilst it works as a solo game, it can be slightly lonely with a longer duration, but that really depends on the individual player. It’s a good idea to play the co-op game before attempting the skirmish, as this will teach you the game before going head-to-head with an opponent. Then you can go it alone with for some strategy laden conflict related fun.
What struck me most about the game was just how much has gone into the development. There are many scenarios (all of which have different outcomes), further pieces to unlock and characters with brilliantly thematic abilities, with lovingly drawn illustrations to match. It really is a very well crafted design.
The only drawback for me personally is the time factor. With a slightly fiddly set up and fairly lengthy duration it’s not ideal for the time poor. I feel like I only scratched the surface of the game after several plays. But– as with many other games of this nature- it’s worth persisting with if the payoff is worth it. And I believe Dawn of Peacemakers is.