Dawn* is a 2-5 player village building game designed by Taylor Hayward with artwork by Angela Rizza and published by Green Meadow Games. At first, the game plays as a fairly straight-forward cooperative experience where players are trying to remove threats and build buildings while doing some hand management things. However the game can quickly change. In fact, it will almost certainly change if you are playing with anyone who is competitive at all. This is what makes the game interesting.
Not all hidden role games are created equal. And not all hidden role games are for everyone. For those who may be upset by the idea that someone lied to them throughout the entire game, you will probably never like this game. For the people who want a chance to build something and ferret out the traitor, this game is fabulous. It's also fabulous for those who love ruining the best laid plans of those who like to build and cooperate.
There are two types of players in the game - Allies and Scoundrels. Players will play over 6 rounds. Every round, they will have 9 cards in hand. Every player starts with two Wounds in hand which clog up their card draw. Wounds may be removed later to improve hands. Three healing cards can remove a Wound from any players hand; Wounds are the same on both sides to help players quickly asses game state.
Next, players simultaneously place a non-Wound card from their hand under their Storehouse card. This does several things, it begins to establish your identity as an Ally or Scoundrel. Second, it allows you to store cards for future rounds.
The players may also choose to switch out the cards in their Storehouse with any card in hand, at any point in the game. In other words, your allegiance may change. Treasure chests on cards may be positive or negative. Any player with 7 or more positive treasure in their Storehouse at the end of the game is a Scoundrel.
During each round, players will take turns playing cards to either defeat Threats or build buildings. They must constantly balance out doing things which help build the town and removing threats. Spies allow players to look at the building tiles placed out in the town. There are 4 Great Buildings which must be built by the end of the game to help Allies achieve a victory. An individual player may choose, on their turn, to play some or all of their cards.
The Ally Victory requires different amounts of points in order to win, dependent upon player count. This helps balance out the experience but I found gameplay most interesting and dynamic at 4-5 players. Two players works but I didn't find it as interesting in what becomes a bluffing and second-guessing game.
How well do you really know those you are playing against? Do you know their tells when they are lying? This game is all about group dynamics, and can be great for getting to know people better too. What if someone is able to switch allegiance on you and you don't notice that they start sabotaging all of your efforts?
I like that every play of the game will change based on cards received and group dynamics. Both the card play and the over the table play is important.
The artwork is attractive and works really well. The entire presentation of the game invites rather than distracts from the way you play. Additionally, the Player Aids are helpful and guide player interaction and action without providing strategy.
This game will be for people who like a friendly competition that can get wrecked. There will almost certainly be a Scoundrel in your game, and trying to convince others to switch back to being an Ally because they aren't going to a Scoundrel is one way to play the game. Of course, it's most likely that every one ends up being a Scoundrel except for one poor sap. It's me. I'm the poor sap who tries use those green healing cards to help others instead of storing up treasure for myself. Then I get stuck with not enough treasure to do much selfishly at the end of the game.
It's a game that highlights the power of greed. Get greedy or get left behind. Unless of course someone was more greedy than you, then you better help everyone. What a trade off.
This game won't appeal to people who have to change their strategy mid game, don't like lying as part of the game, or just want everything to be friendly. There is some strategy and card play, but the randomness factor will leave your fate largely in your choices rather than in efficiency.
I did try the two player variant, but it took away much of what was interesting to me in the player interaction. I think this game works best at 3-5 players.
There are also some campaign type card that you unlock as you play the game more. A very nice touch on an already very good game.
Designed by Taylor Hayward
Artwork by Angela Rizza
Time 45-60 Minutes
*My copy of Dawn- for this board game review was provided as a review copy by the publisher. No other compensation was provided. My opinions are my own.