When I first started looking into the gorgeous top-down puzzle game Dorfromantik, I wasn’t sure what to expect as its unique name doesn’t give much away, at least at first glance. Digging deeper, I learned that Dorfromantik is actually German for “village romanticization” and having sunk an extensive amount of time into playing it, I can safely say this is a fantastic description of what the game is all about.
Slowly, piece by piece, a beautiful, romantic village emerges in Dorfromantik that you can’t help but sit back and admire once every tile from your stack has been placed. And when you’re done admiring your latest village creation you can quickly and easily move on to the next, with your score and skills improving each time as you learn better ways to place tiles. It’s addictive and relaxing in the best ways possible.
In Dorfromantik, you get to decide where the sprawling forests go and how far they sprawl, the way the rivers wind through open valleys, and the spots where you want colorful wheat and serene windmills to reside. Of course, there’s more to the game than tile placement alone, and it’s here where Dorfromantik shines bright thanks to how well everything is incorporated from design elements to quests and missions to the way points are tallied.
Arguably the most appealing aspect of Dorfromantik is the satisfaction you get from efficiently placing an assortment of hexagonal tiles onto the board and seeing your cozy little village emerge and expand. Unlike games with similar “village creation” ideas like Townscaper, tile placement in Dorfromantik is something that needs to be carefully and strategically planned out in order to make the most out of each round.
The game has a clear set of rules and structure in place, with the best spots to place tiles being ones where the edges of the tile appear all white with no red edges. More specifically, you’ll want to connect the tile’s edges to the edges of tiles with similar terrain types. A tile placed with all six edges matching the surrounding terrain is considered a “perfect tile” and is worth 60 points, plus a free tile.
When you’re new to the game, it’s rare you’ll be able to place multiple tiles where all six edges match as it’s easy to accidentally box yourself in terrain-wise as the game progresses, but when it happens, it’s incredibly satisfying. And, as previously mentioned, it’s also worth a lot of points, making it well worth your while to learn how to place as many tiles as perfectly as possible.
The game has an informative tutorial that you can play and replay at any time, but in my opinion, the best way to learn the game is to jump in and start playing and experimenting on your own. There’s no way to “lose” at Dorfromantik, and in terms of “winning” at it, that’s largely tied to the game’s point system.
As for the sound design, the game is a treat for the ears with serene background music, chirping birds, and fun, charming noises that compliment each move that you make whether you're placing a tile, undoing a previous move, or moving on to a brand new game. Everything meshes together seamlessly to create a living, breathing environment.
Dorfromantik isn’t solely about connecting similar terrain types together for aesthetic purposes as the game gives you missions and objectives to complete, like placing a certain number of houses down next to each other. By placing tiles and completing missions, you’ll earn points. The more points you earn during a game, the better.
Ideally, you’ll want to consider the game’s missions ahead of time — before you place your first tile — and build your map out with different areas set up. Not only in terms of houses, but forest and wheat areas, along with rivers and railroad tracks as well.
Some missions can require a lot of the same terrain type, especially forests. However, some also require a smaller number of terrain tiles which can surprise you mid-game if you aren’t prepared, thus making it worthwhile to have more than one area set up for mission completion.
For me, I like to have at least two of everything set up in different areas of the map. For example, I’ll have a large village area with houses that I expand on to meet larger goals dealt out mid to late-game, and a smaller village with fewer houses and a lot of room nearby to expand and add more.
Outside of specific missions related to terrain, there are two main objectives to focus on in Dorfromantik which include “plus quests” where you connect a set number of matching terrain tiles, but can exceed that number, and “exact quests” where you need to connect the exact number and cannot exceed it.
Completing a mission or quest will earn you 100 points, and then when you complete a mission a flag will pop up offering a secondary mission to close off that area (making it so no additional terrain of the same type can be placed); closing a flag will earn you 50 points. As previously mentioned, a perfect tile that fits the terrain on all six sides will earn you 60 points, and for other tiles placed, you can earn 10 points for each side that matches the surrounding terrain.
As an aside, as enjoyable as the missions and objectives on offer are, they don't pop up as frequently as they probably could given the structure of the game, and there could stand to be more added to the game in general to further support the point system. That, or an added mode that focuses more on these missions and objectives for those who enjoy racking up as many points as possible.
If the idea of racking up points confuses or stresses you out, there are other game modes on offer that give you more creative freedom without having to worry about things like points. On the flip side, if you find the game’s regular mode to be too easy for your liking, there’s a harder mode that’ll put your Dorfromantik skills to the ultimate test.
In terms of game modes, Dorfromantik lets you replay the tutorial at any time, and has a Classic Mode, Creative Mode, Quick Mode, Hard Mode, Monthly Mode, and Custom Mode. Primarily, you’ll spend the most time in the game’s Classic Mode where you are given a set number of tiles to work with and are tasked with placing them in ways that’ll earn you points.
In Quick Mode, you’re given even fewer tiles, letting you breeze through a round at a quicker pace. While Quick Mode gives you fewer tiles, it’s not as challenging as Hard Mode where you’re given even fewer tiles, and tiles that are more complex in nature and therefore harder to place.
To keep things feeling fresh, Dorfromantik also offers a Monthly Mode that offers a “new configuration of custom rules and a fixed seed each month,” where you can compete with others, as noted by the in-game description. If tile limitations, point scoring, and competing in the Monthly Mode aren’t your thing, Dorfromantik offers a Creative Mode where you’re given an infinite number of tiles to work with along with the ability to discard unwanted tiles.
Creative Mode is undoubtedly the most relaxing mode in the game, especially given the fact you can discard unwanted tiles. In fact, Creative Mode in Dorfromantik has become my go-to activity (with Tetris) when I’m feeling stressed, depressed, or anxious.
Fortunately, Dorfromantik is set up in such a perfect way it’s effortlessly offered me a much-needed reprieve from all of the things that have been weighing heavily on me, and for that alone, I can't recommend the game enough. Also with that in mind, I strongly recommend the game to anyone who might be going through something, or who struggles with anxiety like I do.
Essentially, no matter what you’re looking to get out of Dorfromantik, you should be able to find it thanks to the assorted game modes on offer. The approachability of its tile placement and point system mixed with relaxing visuals pull you in and invite you to kick up your feet and rest for a while.
This review is based on a digital PC copy of the game supplied by the publisher. Dorfromantik is available now on PC (Steam, GOG) and Nintendo Switch.