Dale of Merchants, Dale of Merchants 2 and other friendly animalfolk doing friendly business. Before these harmonious times, things were different. War. Chaos. Fear. This is Dawn of Peacemakers. Or Sparta? No, it’s indeed Dawn of Peacemakers.
Before we start, few spoilers from the review:
1. Dawn of Peacemakers will receive rating that will make it the second best game ever reviewed by me (including the Finnish reviews).
2. At the end of this review, you’ll find a giveaway, where one lucky gamer will win a Kickstarter copy of Dawn of Peacemakers!
Rest you have to read yourself. So, let’s continue.
Dawn of Peacemakers is a campaign co-op board game with miniatures and it’s published by Snowdale Design. Players try to make peace in the land of Daimyria, where the war spirited macaw generals are about to bring about a conflict of massive proportions. Sounds unique? Well, that it is.
In this review we will focus on Dawn of Peacemakers campaign mode. There is also skirmish mode, where players get build their own armies and fight with them. There will be a review of the skirmish mode later this year, but it will be only in Finnish. Unless there’s a demand for English translation, in that case, don’t forget to comment below!
Dawn of Peacemakers – box filled with pure gold
Dale of Merchants games proved that the designer, Sami Laakso clearly loves quality components and Dawn of Peacemakers isn’t an exception. The box is full of quality components, including the box itself.
The graphics and art of the game are made by Sami and there’s nothing here left to desire. Cards, game board and tiles are all absolutely beautiful and follow the strong graphical policy established by Snowdale Design. Clean, stylish and functional – perfect!
Miniatures are a new area to the publisher and they are astonishingly good. They are detailed and really look the same as Sami Laakso’s illustrations, amazing work here!
Insert works pretty well, but sometimes I feel that I cannot utilize it’s potential to fullest. Which tiles fit into which compartment? Why? Or should I put the minis there… I wouldn’t mind a Scythe style box packing instructions with all the good inserts were getting these days. They are good, but I can’t always understand them.
Dawn of Peacemakers costs 79€ which at first felt a bit much. But when you look what’s inside, you know the reason: the miniatures. Games with same amount of components are in the same price range. In the end, the game experience strengthened by the components is what I pay for. So let’s dig deeper and see if there’s enough experience to be had here. Ah, dang. You read the spoiler in the start, didn’t you? Well, let’s dig deeper anyway.
How is Dawn of Peacemakers played?
In Dawn of Peacemakers cards are used for all player actions. Cards can be used for moving, building fortifications and peeking in the army decks and changing their order. Also, all cards have a special action that can be played instead of the normal actions.
After players have completed their actions, it’s time for the armies to act. Armies get their actions from two army decks. The first deck consists of basic orders, that command part of the army to move, cover or attack. The second deck’s content depends on the army’s race. The cards modify the basic orders in numerous ways.
The heart of the game lies in browsing the army decks. Manipulating these decks allows most control, but it requires a lot of cards that have the Influence action.
Should I check the top card from the macaw order deck? I will, okay, the macaw army will attack. Should I check the next card, so I could maybe change the attack card to some other action? What if the macaw animalfolk deck cancels the whole order? Or should I have moved with the ocelots to see, if they’ll escape, which would make the macaw attack redundant? Or is the situation still under control in a way that even if all the worst things happened, loss wouldn’t still happen? Basically you never have enough resources to be 100% sure of something.
The players win, if the motivation of both armies decreases enough for them to be ready to retreat. Motivation is affected negatively if for example an army suffers casualties or lose strategically important location. Players lose if an army surrender’s (motivation 0) or if a general of an army perishes. In case of a loss campaign continues to next game, but in slightly worse starting conditions than in a win.
Dawn of Peacemakers grows during the campaign
The campaign of Dawn of Peacemakers consists of 12 scenarios, which lead the story forward. In each scenario, new rules and components are added to the mix, which makes the game deeper and more interesting. In this sense, the campaign reminds me a lot of Mechs vs Minions. Things change, the story continues, but there are no permanent legacy-style changes made to the game. When the campaign ends, the game can be reset to its original state.
Dawn of Peacemakers – just waiting or real action?
In Dawn of Peacemakers players wander among the armies doing their little things. If the armies were controller by human players, would they probably ignore these little fellas as their actions feel so small. But this is how it should thematically be, few adventurers between two large armies, is there much they can really do?
This is what the game has received some critique on. Some feel that you can’t do anything on your turn and the game is full of waiting. I’ve given same kind of opinion on Dungeon Petz and Eldritch Horror: only few decisions and most of the game goes while waiting for your own turn.
This is not the feeling I got from Dawn of Peacemakers though, but I understand where the feeling comes from. There are turns in Dawn of Peacemakers where you end up doing nothing, but only after making the hard choice to proceed this way. It is also worth nothing that I have only played this with two players where there is more to do per player.
In Dawn of Peacemakers, you must control the chaos. Feeling is somewhat similar to Pandemic. When you draw cards from the army deck, you get the same feeling as when drawing from the Infection deck. Things happen and you must always decide if this is something you must react to or if you should rather wait and see what happens.
Dawn of Peacemakers does this better than Pandemic though. Where in Pandemic you sometimes just stroll around your extra actions, in Dawn of Peacemakers you are happy to save up cards for the real crisis. There are never enough cards.
Army decks bring a random element to the game that is noticeably different from the Infection deck. At worst, in Pandemic you can face an impossibly set-up deck that eats the world alive or then a true walk-in-the-park easy mode. You don’t get this feeling in Dawn of Peacemakers as you keep looking at the cards in the deck and switching up the order. Decks change from scenario to scenario but you always know what’s in the deck.
Strategy, tactics and a lot of theme
When playing this board game, the characters of the players really show. Tactician or strategist, quick or slow, doer or thinker. I always have the habit of waiting and saving up cards. ”Should we still wait and see what happens?” was a sentence often heard from me. In the first games, my wife would submit to my will, but as the campaign progressed, her answer was a simple ”no” and she swept the battleground when there was a real need for that instead of the constant waiting.
The story and the world in Dawn of Peacemakers is beautifully built, but I am yet to find a game that would suck me in with the text and story. I do read the scenario starting and ending stories and find them interesting, but I’d rather play than read! (Arkham Horror is my worst experience on this, long stories in middle of the game, arrgh!) A lot of work has clearly been put into the world and the backstory, but still the player characters felt a bit meaningless and soulless. I can’t say I had any kind of bond with my character because there were no skill points or special abilities that my character received during the game. There was no growth story or skill wise. This is something I would have really wanted from a campaign style game!
Most important thing in theme for me is the feeling created by the fluent conversation of game mechanics and theme. This is something Dawn of Peacemakers does very well and this is why I’m still slightly confused of the critic given by Tom Vasel about this very thing.
Theme carries this board game very well. The feeling of subtly influencing the outcome of the war is conveyed in a perfect way. There is enough influencing you can do, but nothing earth-shattering. You can switch the macaw attack command to happen at the same time as ocelots move out of the way and time the ocelot attack happen at the same time as macaws cover, but attack still happen.
Dawn of Peacemakers isn’t for the impatient
Even if Dawn of Peacemakers plays the tunes that are perfect for my sensitive ears, the melody isn’t surely for everyone. Let me try to list the most important parts that either make the game must have or make you think if it’s not the right game for you after all.
Player count is the first thing I’d like to bring up. I have seen Dawn of Peacemakers played with four players and I feel that with that player count the feeling of smallness becomes too big. You get half the cards you’d get with two players so your role is half as big with four players. If you play with two or solo, Dawn of Peacemakers is at its best and with three probably OK. With four players this game might be a bit boring.
Controlling the chaos by balancing your low resources is a sentence that sums up the gaming experience of Dawn of Peacemakers. It’s really fascinating. You have to do something but…maybe not yet… If you constantly want to potter around with something and play with someone who has this same trait, you might even find the game dull.
I don’t want to highlight the waiting and self-restraint in Dawn of Peacemakers too much but I think it’s surprisingly integral part of the game. If this makes you doubtful, don’t be afraid! It feels weird that something like this is extremely enjoyable and exciting, but it surely is! Only if the thought of having to wait makes you feel disgusted, you might feel in the group that won’t enjoy Dawn of Peacemakers.
Dawn of Peacemakers is a unique experience and you have to give it a few games for it to grow to it’s full potential. First game won’t give you everything there is in Dawn of Peacemakers but it’s most likely enough to tell you if you’ll like the game or not. Dawn of Peacemakers is very enjoyable experience and will stay be part of our gaming shelf for times to come.
-Balancing the situation makes for fascinating thought processes
-Beautiful and of high quality
-The price stings, but only once!
-The tempo of the games takes some time to get used to and might not be for everyone