Dokmus is published by Lautapelit.fi, and I received a free review copy from the publisher.
The game: Dokmus by Mikko Punakallio, published by Lautapelit.fi in 2016.
Elevator pitch: A tactical puzzle. Twist and move the boards in order to expand your influence all over the board.
What’s in the box? There are eight double-sided board tiles that are used to generate a random board. There’s 25 wooden tokens for each player, a scoring board and guardian tiles for generating player order and special powers.
I’m not fond of the art, but all components work for their purpose. There are some cheat sheets, but only one per language. Fortunately they are not needed after the first game or two.
What do you do in the game? The goal is to gain points, which you get by placing your tokens next to the temples on the board tiles. Wide distribution is the best: you get major points for being next to a temple on every board tile, and a big bonus for reaching all temples in a single tile.
On every turn, players first choose their guardian. This has two functions: first, it determines the player order and second, it gives everybody a special power for the round.
Guardian #1 gives no power, but you get to choose first the next round. Guardian #2 lets you move a board tile, guardian #3 lets you move one of your pieces and guardian #4 lets you rotate a board tile 90 degrees. Guardian #5 gives you one of these three powers.
On your turn, you place three tokens on the board, adjacent to your previous tokens. There are ways to spread faster, mostly by rotating and moving the board tiles, but you can also sacrifice tokens in order to pass long distances through water. It’s a nice little puzzle to optimize your three token placements every round.
The game is over after eight rounds.
Lucky or skillful? There’s no luck element as such. Some player-induced chaos, for sure, but a skilled player will beat newbies easily – mostly because newbies don’t usually understand the value of reaching every tile and don’t really know how to do that. It doesn’t take many games to figure it out, though.
Abstract or thematic? Abstract. There’s art and some theme, but there’s just few sentences of the story background in the rules (and that is printed with a hard-to-read font). There’s no sense of world-building here.
Solitaire or interactive? There’s some blocking involved and you can move the board tiles in order to hinder your opponents, but most of the time you’re optimizing your own moves.
Players: 2–4. Two-player game includes some small changes to improve the experience, and the game works well with the full range.
Who can play? Age recommendation is 10+, which seems maybe a bit high. Well, this is not a children’s game, but works quite well as a family game, except for the lack of luck.
Length: 20–40 minutes. The turns are short enough – just three tokens – to avoid massive freeze-ups.
What’s to like: Interesting tactical challenge; clear goals but not obvious moves; the game looks quite nice.
What’s not to like: Despite the variable board, the challenges are always the same.
My verdict: Dokmus immediately reminds me of Kingdom Builder. In both games, you’re trying to maximize your scoring and every turn you place three tokens on board, under similar restrictions. Both have similar feeling of a tactical puzzle.
Kingdom Builder has variable scoring, which is good and brings variability. Dokmus, on the other hand, has more opportunities for clever play, thanks to the guardian powers that let you manipulate the board.
If you hate the one card hand in Kingdom Builder, Dokmus will give you more freedom: place anywhere, as long as you’re adjacent to your previous tokens. This is a solid game, and if you enjoy tactical puzzles, Dokmus is well worth trying.
On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Dokmus gets Suggest from me.