Update: Rise of the Gnomes is live on Kickstarter and the campaign will run for 29 days. You may pledge for a copy of the game and the additional races, or choose the deluxe edition with metal coins and player board overlays. The Benefactor tier will add your name in the rulebook credits.
Our preview post below was published on March 25.
Rise of the Gnomes is a 1-5 player game combining area control and worker placement mechanics. The goal of the game is to establish the economic dominion of your inter-racial consortium of brewers while keeping at bay the ambitious Gnomes that want to claim monopoly of the beer market. In the meantime, a dragon is rampaging the land, interfering with the prosperity of your business. It will launch on Kickstarter on March 31.
To begin the game, you must first build the modular board with hex-shaped tiles, and pick up a race that comes with specific upgrades you can unlock throughout the game. You also place a brewery and loyal customers on a tile of your choice around the central hex. The Gnomes start on this central hex with more customers than you.
The game is played over five rounds, and each round is divided in five phases. First, you must pick one of two ally cards. These may have an instant effect or may offer an alternate action that you will be able to take during the game. The second phase is the worker placement phase. Starting with the Gnomes, each player places one of their seven workers on an available spot, either on your personal board, or on the shared board, or on one of the eight action cards on display. Workers placed on the boards trigger an immediate effect such as brewing beer according to your current production capacity, building a brewery on a tile you control, or organizing the Oktoberfest for victory points. The Gnomes place workers according to the icon of a card you draw for this purpose.
Action cards, on the other hand, are activated in the third phase. To activate a worker placed on an action card, you must pay the corresponding beer cost written on its spot –otherwise, you just take back the worker and nothing happens. These actions mostly focus on spreading your customers on the board by placing new ones and moving the existing ones. This allows you to take the majority of new tiles, and therefore to build more breweries. The Gnomes never pay for the actions they placed a worker on, and consequently never activate them.
In the fourth phase, you draw a Gnome card that contains both a Dragon action and a Gnome action. The Dragon action has the Dragon move or fly to a new tile in which it will go on a rampage, burning down breweries and eating customers. You can prevent this if you bribe the Dragon to not attack you. Then, the Gnome performs the specified action. Each card lists several actions in case one cannot be taken, and a tiles priority ranking that ensures you won’t have to choose for the Gnomes.
In the fifth phase, you and the Gnomes score victory points according to your beer production capacity, and the brewery and customers you have on the board. Furthermore, you can adjust the difficulty by providing a constant input of victory points to the Gnomes during this phase (from Easy, a minus 2 VP, to Impossible, a bonus of +4 VP, with everything in between). At the end of the scoring phase of the fifth turn, you win if you have more points than the Gnomes.
The game can be played cooperatively with more players, in which case all players must score better than the Gnomes for the group to win, or competitively. It is also worth noting that the cooperative/solo game is given a dedicated rule book so that you don’t have to skim through the competitive rules to learn the game.