October 27, 2014 by brennon
There are a lot of games out there where you drink while playing. Ultimate Werewolf, Munchkin, Epic Death!, Zombie Dice to name just a few. However sometimes you need a game that you’re going to play while drinking – see what I did there? Iron & Ale from Table Forged is a Dwarven Drinking Adventure card game where you take on the role of a mighty Dwarven Lord and boast about your accomplishments in the mead hall and if challenged setting yourself up for a mighty ruckus too. I finally got to play the game and here are my thoughts…
What Are Ye Rules?
The rules for Iron & Ale are pretty simple; so simple in fact the rulebook is six pages long. When you set up the game you’re going to get given a Dwarven Lord with a special power to use during the game. You’ll then set up a Mountain Deck with a Dragon slumbering on the bottom (more on him later) and a Meadhall Deck which sits beside it. On your turn you’ll draw two cards from the Mountain Deck, resolve them, then move onto the Meadhall and do the same. All pretty simple and incredibly helpful since you’re going to be slouched on the floor talking about how that goblin stole your iron after a few rounds.
The Mountain Deck contains a few different things. The main bulk of the deck is filled with Gold and Iron. These cards not only count as victory points but you can use them during the Meadhall Phase to bet on the outcome of certain challenges. The rest of the deck is filled with monsters like Skeletons, Goblins, Giants and Gnolls.
Here’s where we’ll go into the anatomy of a card. In the middle you’ll have the cards strength in red. If you roll equal to or over the number on the card with a D6 (which is a nice shiny red one) you’ll defeat the monster and claim it’s reward in victory points. If you don’t defeat the monster then you must take the drink penalty show in the bottom left corner and do whatever the text on the card says too. For example the Gnolls will attack the next player to the left and keep going until defeated, Goblins will steal your resources, and Giants will force you to discard two resources.
The exception to this rule comes with the Red Dragon. Slumbering deep beneath the mountain is a terrible wyrm and on your turn you may decide to forgo your normal Mountain Deck draw and instead challenge him (or her…she could be a lady Dragon?). The Dragon is different in that you have to fight it twice and if you fail then the penalty is HUGE and you lose resources to boot. It will certainly test your mettle as a Dwarven Lord, and your liver.
The other deck in the game is the Meadhall Deck. This is where your Dwarven Lords go and boast about what monsters they fought and what resources they gained during the mining of the mountain. You’ll draw two cards and resolve them in order. Much like with the Mountain Deck they have a drink penalty and a victory point score if you are the winner.
The challenges are where the meat of this game is and they are what drives the fun. The challenges range from something as silly as ‘Know the Stones’ where the other Dwarf Lord you challenge has to guess the number on your dice to something as brutal as ‘Hill Dwarf Handshake’ or ‘Dwarven Kiss’ where you have to arm wrestle or take a slap to the face from another Lord at the table. I’m not kidding when I say that this game can be brutal on you outside as well inside.
When a challenge is put down you pick another Lord and duke it out according to the card text. You can always refuse a challenge but then must automatically take the drink penalty and no one gets the victor points. Other Lords can also bet on the outcome of the challenges to hopefully get some more victory points. Some Dwarven Lord cards can help you in these circumstances, or indeed in the Mountain Deck mining phase, but more often than not you’ll want to take on the challenges for the hilarity of it and of course for victory points.
The game continues in this way until either the Mountain or Meadhall Deck has been depleted. At that point you tot up the victory points and what decides the winner who is decidedly the best Dwarven Lord under the mountain! You are also very, very drunk by this point.
Does It Look As Shiny As Gold?
The game does look great. Iron & Ale could very easily have been of a lot lower production quality considering what the games primary focus is but they’ve gone all out with the design. The character artwork is great looking, the monster designs are fun and interesting and the overall aesthetic of the game is right up there.
The cards themselves are pretty sturdy things and, as you might imagine, quite resistant to the spillages that will occur during your games. We had a few accidents and they ended up being fine. The game is certainly beefy and when you stack it all up and throw around the cards you’ll have a lot of components on the table at once but it all adds to the feeling of a packed Meadhall with greedy Dwarves hording their gold and iron behind their mugs.
*Hic* So What Ya Think Lad?
Iron & Ale is a drinking game and that’s the focus of it. Mechanically it’s not reinventing the wheel but it doesn’t need to. It’s simple, fun and the meat of the game comes from the interaction with other players. Much like games like Love Letter, Avalon, The Resistance and Aye, Dark Overlord the substance of the game comes in the group of people playing it and how much they are into the game.
If you’re really into having a fun night of drinking, laughing, punching (yes there is punching) and slapping then this is the game for you. You will drink yourself silly as well since the penalties for failure on challenges and monsters can stack up, especially if you roll badly a lot against monsters. This isn’t going to cause a problem where someone is more drunk than someone else however since you’ll all be rather tipsy by the end.
You can play the game without alcohol and that’s fine if the person not drinking is enjoying the spectacle of the affair. The physical challenges in the game, I think, are meant to be more hilarious as your dexterity and control of your body becomes less effective so you will get those comic moments you will remember for a while afterwards.
As an example when we played we did the ‘Dwarven Dash’ which involves running along on your knees from one end of the room to the other. Because we’d all had a bit to drink at this point we were falling all over the place and shuffling around like idiots, but it was great fun.
A tip from me would be to have a shared drinking pool in the centre of the table and everyone has their own cup (I had a lovely metal tankard). We played with bottled beer to begin with and it just didn’t work out very well as we were finishing them far too quickly. If everyone has an equal stash to drink from it will work a lot better.
So do I like the game? Yes, I do. I love the Dwarven nature of it and the challenges are really, really fun. You’ll be laughing, boasting, panting for breath and generally having a really good time but your group MUST be up for it. This game will not work if someone is a little more apathetic to the idea. If you get the right group, the right drink, and the right mood this will be a lot of fun. It certainly makes you feel like a stone-grown Dwarf.
It’s also a lot more fun than ring of fire.
The Iron & Ale: King of the Keg Expansion is currently running on Kickstarter so if you like the sound of the game head on over and pledge if you feel like it!
Oh, and be sensible. Drink responsibly.
Have you played Iron & Ale?
"...you are also very, very drunk by this point."
"...we were falling all over the place and shuffling around like idiots, but it was great fun."