This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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# of players: 2
Time: 5-15 mins
Gamer Type: Casual
Game Type: Casual
Back to the Roots of a Two-Player Game
Two-player games have changed over the last 50 years. A two-player game used to be the heart of the gaming world, where you pitted your intelligence, skill, and strategy against another person. This is still the core of the two-player world, but the games have become very complex. Now you almost need a degree in the game to be able to play many two-player games. Gnomes at Midnight goes back to the roots of the two-player games. Like chess and checkers, Analog Games has created a simple game anyone can learn and anyone can play.
The story of the game is cute. Each player is a team of Gnomes playing in a garden during the witching hour. Each team has a goal of either dancing atop the three toadstools or completing the intricate pattern of the dance. Either is a valid path to victory, either is a challenge. As with old Legends of the Fey, gnomes are frozen when they fall into the moonlight because they cannot allow themselves to be seen. This is a great little story that explains the game, mechanics, and goals. This earns the game an 8 out of 10 for the story.
The artwork of the game is simple, descriptive, and well done. The board is a garden with flowers, paths, and grass. The cards represent which tiles are affected by the moonlight. The wooden meeple gnomes and dance cards each bring elements to the game making it a special little game. Analog Games earn a 7 for this offering.
The mechanics of Gnomes at Midnight are so simple anyone can learn them quickly. While some gamers may turn their nose up at this, remember Chess and Checkers were also very simple. Each player has the ability to move a gnome or a team of gnomes each turn. The movements are restricted by the moon cards. There is player interaction because one player can “bump” the gnomes of another player. The mechanics mesh well and this game is great for all ages, earning it an 8.5 out of 10 for mechanics.
Simple games live or die on strategy. This game lives. Players can go on offense or defense, there is not engine building nor rush play. This means that you and your opponent must balance your play styles not just to reach your goals but to thwart the goals of your opponents. This earns Gnomes a 5.5 out of 10 for strategy.
Most gnome games are “Orc v. Elves” type games. This tends to flood the market where gnomes are the technologically savvy little brothers of the mighty dwarves. If this would have been the case with Gnomes at Midnight, the game would have suffered here. Analog took a different approach with this game and build the game around the Fey version of the gnomes, not the technological version. This is, as far as I can tell, unique in the field. This earns an 8 out of 10 for novelty.
Gnomes at Midnight: A Great Game With a Wide Age Range
While not a heavy thinker or wargame, Gnomes is a fun game to play. I especially like the game because anyone can play it: children, adults, even people who like pineapple on their pizza! Gnomes at Midnight pulls in a solid score of 37 out of 50 points, which is an excellent score. I do not believe we have seen a game with this age range that can compete at that level. This is a game that takes a moment to learn and, it appears, a lifetime to master. It is definitely one of the better offerings I have seen in the category of less complex games in years.