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Subject: Lets Talk About... Dwarves (A Strategy Discussion Series) rss

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Steve Haas
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In this eighth installment of the series, we're discussing Dwarves. Some questions to shape the discussion:

* Under what game circumstances are Dwarves good/bad? When do you look to play them? When should you avoid them?
* What sorts of strategies/approaches do you find effective when playing Dwarves? What problems have you had that you haven't figured out how to solve?
* What things should one be aware of when playing *against* Dwarves? How does their presence/absence affect what other decisions you might make?
* What other questions do you have about Dwarves? Is there anything you'd like to see more experienced players discuss about them?

Linking to (completed!) games where Dwarves did notably well (or poorly) for purposes of discussion is encouraged, as is referring to any existing threads/posts/other strategy resources you may have found useful or interesting with regards to playing Dwarves.

Previous Installments:
* Acolytes
* Alchemists
* Auren
* Chaos Magicians
* Cultists
* Darklings
* Dragonlords
 
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Per Olander
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I like r1 to be spades - and most often without getting act5/6/bon1.
p earth+fav7/11, with fav7 you can get to 8 with bon2 in r2 for double spades if r1+2 is earth bonus.

Dont be afraid to jump before the SH - actually consider if the SH will pay off.

Your first TP pays 50% more coins than any other faction - try to end most rounds with 1TP

Going all in with SH and adv dig can pay off - but requires commitment

Dont be afraid to go for 0 or 1 town

Connection is fragile - secure critical hexes early, especially those at the shores, since you likely dont have a backup hex

I really like dwarves on Fjords!

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Robert
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Per Olander wrote:
I really like dwarves on Fjords!
Yes he does!
 
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Per Olander
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DocCool wrote:
Per Olander wrote:
I really like dwarves on Fjords!
Yes he does!


you could at least have linked the two wins as well

https://terra.snellman.net/game/FjordsRedemption12
https://terra.snellman.net/game/PlayerShuffle38a
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Tom Eccles
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I'm going to talk about one piece of dwarves match-up strategy; others will address what setups the dwarves like and how they should play far better than I can.

The dwarves are a decent faction, who don't get picked much because they are consistently worse than the engineers. They like approximately the same situations, and approximately the same match-ups, but tend to do worse in them. However, the dwarves have one notable advantage over the engineers; the witches hate the dwarves being in the game even more than they hate the engineers. For example, with the other factions being cultists/darklings:
- Without witches, engineers average 4.1 points and dwarves 3.3 - both favourites, with engineers better.
- With witches, engineers average 1.22, dwarves 0.88 - both awful, with engineers better.
- However - with engineers, witches are the best of a bad bunch of picks, with a firm margin over the mermaids (1.46 to 1.01). With dwarves, witches are the fourth best pick, with clear margins to the nomads and both blue factions (1.08 vs 1.74/1.54/1.46).

This suggests picking dwarves over engineers when:
- You expect the first three picks to be cultists/darklings/grey (or other matchups with these properties - some but not all). You could be in any of those seats.
- You think it's an OK board for witches - so that they are likely to be picked into engineers, but not into dwarves. In particular, you need to be reducing the chance of witches by around 20%.
- You think the fourth player thinks about matchups in excruciating details when selecting factions

That may sound pretty situational, until you consider that the first three picks being cultists/darklings/engineers happened 5/7 times in D1 last season. For me, the least clear factor is whether substantially fewer people select witches into dwarves than engineers. Still, I certainly wouldn't be surprised if dwarves had a bit of a surge in the meta at some point.

As for why the dwarves are comparitively better than engineers with witches, I can't do better than quote OzymandiasDK from a game chat:
Quote:
Note that dwarves vastly underrated as counter-picks to witches. To me, dwarves don't mind placing themselves at F6, irrespective of a witches placement on E9, since they can dominate & connect on that continent regardless, whereas witches E9 will quickly be isolated, so picking dwarves means that you and darklings may very well end up with the whole eastern continent to yourself. Also, a placement on E7 immediately threatens G3 and C3, and therefore means that witches will have to rush to defend these tiles instead of trying for e.g. fav11.


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Steve Haas
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It bears mentioning that assessments of Dwarven viability are somewhat map-dependent; the above characterization as "good if not quite engineers-level" may be true under tourney settings, but for example, F+I Side 1 is considerably less favorable to them.
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Tom Eccles
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Ah yes. The reasons for the witches/engineers and witches/dwarves interactions are also rather board specific, so everything in my post very much applies to the original map.
 
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Chris Harris
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Interesting point. If only everyone was so predictable - on bga the other day (all strong players) I picked engineers into mermaids + cultists expecting a pretty favourable matchup, and p4 picked witches!

As for dwarf friendly setups, I fancy they’re one of the least picky factions out there, i can’t think of many setups I wouldn’t give them a go in given a favourable matchup. I guess I’m looking out for bons 7,6,5 in that order (and ideally no 4 or 10), early tp scoring, mid sh scoring and late d scoring, and some earth cults. But yeah, give me bon7 amd no green in the game and I’m happy, basically.
 
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Manpanzee
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On the subject of maps, there is actually one map that relatively advantages Dwarves versus Engineers. On snellman it's called "Original [2017 VP]". #snark

Jokes aside, I've chosen Engineers 11 times and Dwarves once, and that one time was in fact in a map-balanced VP game. The Engineers are just so OP under standard settings that it's hard to justify passing them up. For me to pick Dwarves, it would take something close to an ideal setup, which has two main conditions:

1) Both BON4 and BON10 absent.
2) Weak lategame scoring, ideally with SA/SH, SA/SH, TE as the last three rounds.

TE scoring last so that both worker cult bonuses pay out. Advance dig twice, cash in workers for tunnel VPs. I'm not convinced that late D scoring is actually any good -- others will benefit from that too, and I want my dwellings on the board, producing workers. The ideal is a setup with a low point ceiling, where others are running out of productive activities and I'm the only one converting resources to points with any kind of efficiency.
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Ryan Feathers
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Manpanzee wrote:

TE scoring last so that both worker cult bonuses pay out. Advance dig twice, cash in workers for tunnel VPs. I'm not convinced that late D scoring is actually any good -- others will benefit from that too, and I want my dwellings on the board, producing workers. The ideal is a setup with a low point ceiling, where others are running out of productive activities and I'm the only one converting resources to points with any kind of efficiency.


Completely agreed with this. For Dwarves in particular you want to already have a lot of workers entering R6, which means you want most of your D's already down on the board. Late D scoring typically enables several opponents who have Fav11 and have been planning for this to put down 4+ D's for relatively efficient points.

Much better is if the end game scoring is just miserable for everyone else so that the round scoring is really limiting their ability to earn points while I happily have built up my economy and am just tunneling a bunch at the end for points while my opponents have nothing good to do.

As such the seemingly commonly accepted wisdom that late game D scoring is good for the Dwarves seems wrong to me. Sure you probably will be tunneling a bit in R6 and building some D's, but it's not at all clear to me that you benefit more from the D scoring than your opponents.
 
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Hubert
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Manpanzee wrote:
On the subject of maps, there is actually one map that relatively advantages Dwarves versus Engineers. On snellman it's called "Original [2017 VP]". #snark

Jokes aside, I've chosen Engineers 11 times and Dwarves once, and that one time was in fact in a map-balanced VP game. The Engineers are just so OP under standard settings that it's hard to justify passing them up. For me to pick Dwarves, it would take something close to an ideal setup, which has two main conditions:

1) Both BON4 and BON10 absent.
2) Weak lategame scoring, ideally with SA/SH, SA/SH, TE as the last three rounds.

TE scoring last so that both worker cult bonuses pay out. Advance dig twice, cash in workers for tunnel VPs. I'm not convinced that late D scoring is actually any good -- others will benefit from that too, and I want my dwellings on the board, producing workers. The ideal is a setup with a low point ceiling, where others are running out of productive activities and I'm the only one converting resources to points with any kind of efficiency.


R1> Town & R2> Spades is also great for them, lowering the point ceiling & giving them 2 earth bonuses they can capitalize well on. They also don't need to rush for FAV11 as much, as FAV7 is almost as good for them.
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I sometimes feel like Dwarves are sad pandas of Terra Mystica. On lower and mid levels, they are one of the most underpicked and, when picked, misplayed factions in the game. On top level, they are usually overshadowed by Engineers. And even with that in mind, there are few setups they they'll have a hard time no matter what they do.

Both BON4 and BON10 on the board, for example, means struggle for Dwarves. Next, on the original map, they have basically one pair of good starting tiles and two ways of connecting - by north or by south. And certain factions can exploit that by denying them these key squares with little impunity: Witches, for example, may try to claim G3 quickly; east-starting Nomads often sandstorm H5 early as well. And on F&I 1 map, Dwarves are statistically the worst faction, in fact they're worst faction out of all worst factions on all maps.

Still, occasionally just the right setup arises, and then playing them can be a lot of fun.
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James Ataei
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BON4 and BON10 for Dwarves... whistle
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Greg W
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Yeah I know this is about strategy rather than variants...but I REALLY wish the game designers would consider changing the rules to officially give dwarves (and fakirs) some utility from both bon4 and bon10 - it could be as simple as temporary range increases for bon4, and vps per range (3 max for dwarves, up to 12 for fakirs) for bon10. It's not like either of those factions are overpowered...just look at how often they are used.

But anyway. Dwarves are a faction I would love to love, but never manage to find times where it makes sense to play them. I've had my best results with them when the late-round scoring is terrible (lots of SA/SH/TE scoring, as others have mentioned), and they basically seem best at topping out low-scoring games. Like engineers (this is a theme), they do pretty well with a round 1 tp bonus - but they do also want spade scoring early for those earth coins. On bonus tiles, I tend to think they do better in low-coin games, so no bon2/3, and they definitely want at least one of the worker bonuses (bon6 in particular is amazing, both because it rewards an earlier SH and because of the 2 workers - but bon7 can actually be reasonable in the early game because it works well with that extra coin from the first tp).

The key with them is timing the transition from income to vp-engine...I won't claim to be any dwarven expert, but I actually try to avoid doing the tunneling in the first half of the game, instead going for digs to connect grey hexes (or get all those red-green squares). But I'd love to hear others' thoughts on when they take that transition.

Oh - and side note: I haven't tried this, but I actually think the one time dwarves might be preferable to engineers is a round 4 spades game with no bon1, ideally with bon5/6/7 (for the worker bonuses) - dwarves could forgo the SH, and go for advancing digging for major round 4 points, which would then also set up major round 5/6 points once digging is done.
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James Ataei
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greenraingw wrote:
Yeah I know this is about strategy rather than variants...but I REALLY wish the game designers would consider changing the rules to officially give dwarves (and fakirs) some utility from both bon4 and bon10 - it could be as simple as temporary range increases for bon4, and vps per range (3 max for dwarves, up to 12 for fakirs) for bon10. It's not like either of those factions are overpowered...just look at how often they are used.


I didn't say anything about variants for BON4 and BON10. whistle
 
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V Vendetta
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JamesWolfpacker wrote:
I didn't say anything about variants for BON4 and BON10. whistle


I think I catch your drift. If it is what I think it is, than it was a nice thing to do.

I'm so specific!
 
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Tom Eccles
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fruityharris wrote:
Interesting point. If only everyone was so predictable - on bga the other day (all strong players) I picked engineers into mermaids + cultists expecting a pretty favourable matchup, and p4 picked witches!

Indeed. The stats suggest (albeit with small samples) that witches do in fact get picked somewhat less into dwarves, but not enough to make the dwarves actually better.

With cultists/darklings/engineers: witches 89/260 (34%)
With cultists/darklings/dwarves: witches 10/43 (23%)

But when the matchup-based selection revolution comes, I fully expect the dwarves to play a big part in it :-)
 
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Steve Haas
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Be the change you want to see in the world!

"The metagame" seems to actually follow pretty closely from "things the top tourney players like to do" - which naturally evolves as the upper echelons of the tournament do. For instance, the rise of Cultists started around S20, when some notable cultists enthusiasts (such as myself) got to D1 and won some games with them.

So: all you need to do to shift the metagame towards Dwarves is get to D1 and win some games as Dwarves. Easy, right?

(No, I'm not going to try this myself. I'm terrible with Dwarves).
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Tom Eccles
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I'm also terrible with dwarves (sample size=1). I wonder how much better they'd be if they got as much play as engineers?

I like your plan - I'd better start sharpening my dwarves skills. I've played enough engineers to last me a lifetime anyway.
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