In many turn-based games turns are large processess. First you refresh resources, draw cards, pay for upkeep-based costs, move, play card-based actions, play board-based actions, resolve an event, handle enemies and perform maintenance (discard excess cards). Explaining this process to new players tends to be an annoying process, since they will have to know a lot about the different concepts. What are resources? How many cards do you draw? Where can you move? And then the player misunderstands something and resents you for not explaining it well enough. This has made me appreciate games where the actions you take are few and simple, yet have long-reaching effects. Enter Delve Deeper.
Delve Deeper is an indie game I have been playing with my friends in Steam. It is one of the few games that sport local multiplayer nowadays. Up to four players can play on the same machine. The concept is simple: You control a team of dwarves, who must gather minerals and treasure found in a mine and take them to your home base. The team that brings most wealth by X turns wins. The mines are filled with goblins, dragons, jellies and jelly riders. Yes, jelly riders. The simplicity of Delve Deeper is its strongest point. You have two actions on your turn: Choose a hex to tunnel open and move your dwarves. Everything else is automated: Mining, fighting and returning stuff.
The map of Delve Deeper consists of hexes. The hexes can have up to four sides connected to other hexes. Most of the maps have open areas inside, cut off from one another by excavatable rock. You can excavate hexes and connect them pretty much however you wish. The trick is to identify where you should dig: Some areas hold monsters that will rush you if you are not prepared. Some areas hold great wealth, but reaching them takes time. And sometimes you can cripple the leading player by helpfully opening a tunnel full of monsters to his network. The excavation is an important choice.
There are three different types of dwarves: Scouts, who are fast but can’t carry much and aren’t very durable, Miners, who can carry lots of minerals but are average in other departments, and Warriors, who are tough and deal lots of damage in fights but move slowly. You can compose your five-dwarf team however you wish. After excavating a hex you can move your dwarfs. If you move them in a hex containing gold, gems or mithril they will mine one unit of it and take it with them. If they end up in the home base, bank or an Ooogler shop, they will drop off their minerals/treasure chests for points. If you move them in a hex containing enemy dwarves or monsters, they will fight them after you end your turn. And in every case they will light up a lantern. That’s pretty much it. After each team has moved, the computer spawns monsters in an unlit hex somewhere and the monsters move towards the nearest dwarf.
Fighting is simple and automatic: The combatants hit each other in order from slowest to fastest. If a monster runs out of hit points, it dies and possibly drops some gold. If a dwarf runs out of hit points, it goes unconscious and wakes up after one turn.
The whole game is strategizing: Where to mine, where to sell the mined stuff, whether to keep the dwarves together or to separate, how to deal with monsters, where to put lanterns and so on. The actual playing is simple and easy to learn. It certainly is a break from our usual tabletop fare: Twilight Imperium, D&D or Battlestar Galactica gameplay-wise.