Dawn arrives in a bite sized box, designed to take up a small amount of space in your collection. Some games take several different mechanics and mash them together, while Dawn takes one, serves it up to you in packaging that slides open like a draw from one of those expensive jewellery purchases and then asks you to join in as a team in building a village or sabotaging efforts in becoming a scoundrel and taking the wealth for yourself.
Dawn is a hidden resource hand management game with a traitor mechanic with the main aim of the game being to play cards to overcome challenges or construct buildings. You’ll play a maximum of six rounds in the game.
Dawn reminds me of a stripped down Dead of Winter but set the in lovely country scene. Every turn you’ll be adding a card to your own little treasure trove that secretly decides your affiliation. Then you’ll be playing resource cards in order to help pay towards buildings, handle threats or contribute towards the end game ‘Great Buildings’. That is where the bigger points will come into play and ultimately decide if you win or lose in the game. If you chose to, you can also play cards as actions that will allow you to interact with cards that have already been played on the playing area or heal wounds that you have received during the game. Failure to take care of a threat will damage the chances of winning the game through the destruction of buildings you’ve created, or give players additional wounds that decrease the number of useful cards that you can have in your hand. Played information is hidden and even when the rounds end, cards are shuffled to keep any potential scoundrel players secret. This all culminates in a final face off in round six where the roles are revealed and great buildings are constructed and the allies succeed in constructing their lovely village or the scoundrels skulk off to less greener pastures.
At the end of the sixth round the main phase of the game ends. Player will then reveal their affiliation, and then the great buildings are constructed. If the total prosperity pints are more than 30 points per player, then the villagers win but if they work out less then the scoundrels win. If the scoundrels do win, then the player who has amassed the most treasure is declared the winner of the game overall.
Rustic. Dawn looks rustic, with illustrations that suggest they come from another age. With iconography that is clear and easy to understand and overall the game will cover your table in a range of colours that float between primary and autumnal. It gives Dawn it’s own unique identity that reminds me slightly of Feudum in terms of its artistic approach. It is a slight shame that the resource cards spend most of their time hidden instead of given a chance to add to the display.
I’m convinced that the rulebook for Dawn started off as a fold away sheet before it became a miniature booklet. There’s a few inconsistencies in the layout and wording. To be honest, the booklet doesn’t exactly make it easy to quickly reference rules that you aren’t sure about. Some of the card terminology isn’t explained well or in some cases completely missed out. You’re told to shuffle the town tiles, but not told that the town tiles include the threat tiles. So there’s a chance you’ll set up the game wondering how you even add the threat tiles into the game. You’re told that selecting a resource card will help you decide if you are a scoundrel or an ally but doesn’t go further to explain why that should be the case. I get the impression that Dawn is yet another game that was never really blind play tested from complete scratch, which ultimately leads to a confusing set up and first playthrough. Its very frustrating to see.
While they say that Rome wasn’t built in a day, you’ll probably have Dawn played within an hour and because of the random nature of the card set up, the set up and take down time is pretty quick so you can treat it as an early night starter or lighter come down after a more hearty main event.
I’m not not liking this game. It’s interesting to have what is essential a part resource, part threat management kind of game that gives the impression you’re about to play something more akin to Hamlet or Tiny Towns, but the card version. Dawn is a lot trickier than that, almost to the point where you’ll sometimes feel it can be a bit more unforgiving than you would like it to be. As the player count rises so do the number of town tiles as well, which increase the challenge. Combine that with the potential threat of sabotage from other players, then Dawn can sometimes feel like a bit of an uphill struggle, especially if you draw a number of threats in a round, and end up taking wounds only because your cards aren’t going to give you the clout to remove them from the row of potential harm. I couldn’t see anything that governs the number of scoundrels you are allowed per game, so it is possible that everyone is working to make life tricky and make the town fail. However, it also seems possible for that to flip flop during the game and you can decide to change affiliation if it suits you. It’s not explained fully in the rules, as with a few key terms for set up. As I have alluded too in other parts of this review, I think the rule book is a bit of a formatted mess, which could do with simply being bigger to allow it to flow more easily. There are reminder cards which are useful but I must admit, but I’m getting tired of having to decipher a set of instructions that just seem to do 70% of the job they were intended to and haven’t been near a blind playtest group before they were released in the wild. I do like the challenge that Dawn presents the player, and the presentation of the main components are delightful. I like the additional cards that you unlock as you play which are there to give you set goals to achieve for gameplay rewards. I like the building up of resources for the great buildings at the end of the game and that last round tension as you find out who is an ally and who is a scoundrel. I’m not sure if it’s maybe just a bit too unforgiving in how in throws its challenges at the players. For those looking for a game that will try to kick your arse from the off then its maybe what you are looking for. Personally, I’m not sure whether to open the curtains for such an early morning challenge.
Remove your wounds as soon as you can as they effect the number of cards that you can have in your hand each round.
This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid monetary compensation for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
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