Wer wird gewinnen, das Lich oder die Zwerge?
Who will win, the light or the dwarves?
This beautiful German board game by Kraul, wandered into our lives at Christmas. It’s a simple but magical game best played in complete darkness. The board is a forest – lit by a single luminary tea-light that travels the forest pathways on each roll of a die. The tea-light illuminates wooden 3D trees which cast a shadow on to the board, providing hiding places.
Within the shadows cast by the trees, tiny Zwerge – dwarves/gnomes – must keep to the shadows. Any who stray from the shadows are frozen in the light until rescued by another dwarf.
The objective of the game is for all the dwarves to gather together in the shadow of one tree, before the light freezes them all.
Tip: First time play – unpack in daytime
This is handy to know if you’re excited to play this for the first time one night – unpack it in daytime. Before playing, you have the opportunity to transform the wooden dwarf playing pieces into dwarfish characters. There is felt supplied for their crafting their hats.
I also took up the additional suggestion to add some beards, and some felted wool from my stash added a beardyness any king from under the mountain would be proud of. I did have a few visions of them catching alight, so tamed my initial extravagant very curly beards to this:
What I particularly love in a world of plastic Monopoly and Game of Life empire building, is that this feels like a fresh breeze in games, because it hearkens back to old story-telling, to simple themes of light and dark, yet, where the shadows are the safer place. It is a very calming game, and dwarf players play cooperatively against the light player. Usually an adult plays the light as the naked flame is pushed around the board through the forest, while the children work cooperatively as hiding dwarves, but responsible children could be given the role of the light.
It’s such a soothing game that it can played right before bedtime.
Complete darkness works best, and in this shadowy world, the trees even cast their shadows on the walls too, so if you can preserve a childlike wonder, you too are in the shadowy forest. Part of the realisation for the children is that they can hide their dwarves in sight right in front of you (the light-bearer) in what feels like it should be visible to you – yet if the candle is beyond the tree the adult won’t be able to see them – they are hidden right in front of you, in complete darkness. The light-bearer can’t move from their seat and you rely utterly on the tiny light to catch a glimpse of a hat or beard. It’s actually very difficult to find the dwarves, much to the amusement of the children.
As the adult playing the game with younger children, because you need to look away while the children hide their dwaves each time, you may need to ask older children to take responsibility for helping the younger childen avoid reaching directly over the candle flame. The game is recommended for 5 years and above.
The only other grown-up person in our family of 4, found the game painfully boring, and I’m not sure we’ll convince him to play again. Both kids 9 and 5 absolutely love it, and keep asking to play it, as I do, so it wins with 3 out of 4 of us. It’s more than a game, it’s got something enchanting about it.
There is an additional game board on the reverse of the board which we haven’t played yet.
I can’t quite explain how much I absolutely love this game , unique in its gentleness and with the feel of a fairy tale. It feels older than it is. It relies on your willingness to take on a role and be part of the world of the shadowy forest, to fall into a story of your own making. In simple terms, imagination beyond the board. The kids have invented names for the dwarves and I love their secret whispering strategies as they negotiate tactics for keeping hidden and guessing where the shadows will fall.
A game that will be remembered and loved beyond childhood, and if you find it hard to track down, you can also try making your own version.
“When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.”
— Ursula K. Le Guin.