In which I wax rhapsodic about a game that doesn't even have an end, let alone my having finished it.
I played Dwarf Fortress for a little while, some years back. I liked it. But at the time, it was purely ASCII characters moving around on a screen, like the Unix games of old. It didn’t even have the graphics capability of Commodore 64 games in the 1990s. So there was a sort of mental overhead of trying to work out what a given thing was, whether it was a monster or a dead body or just some fancy piece of dwarven kit you hadn’t seen before. But now there’s a new version. With graphics. They’re not great graphics - they’re not much past the Commodore 64 - but they take the overhead away.
So my first fortress got taken over by weretortoises, after I’d fought off a series of nasty giant birds.
The second just didn’t get off to any kind of start because of the vicious climate, where all the outdoor water froze before I could sort out a well. The third one has run pretty well, except for one incident where a necromancer reanimated a dead pangolin, and every dwarf in the place went to try to kill it, ignoring all other orders or ideas. But since an undead pangolin can roll itself up (as can hedgehogs), they couldn’t actually do it any damage.
Of course, since it was curled up, it couldn’t do them any damage either. Eventually the game crashed, I reloaded from an earlier save, and there has been no undead pangolinery this time. There have been some swallow-folk barbarians, though, a number of invading goblins, and an enormous Forgotten Beast that emerged from the caverns and ate quite a lot of dwarves. It’s that kind of game; a lot of the interest is in exactly how things are going to collapse.
(You get things like this from xiki-pupper on Tumblr, too)
But it’s also fascinating to just direct the dwarves and get them working on different projects and make sure that the fortress/town is running smoothly. You can mirco-manage, or you can take a largely hands-off approach. I mostly like to hit somewhere in the middle, so that there are specific projects I want the dwarves to work on, like the bedroom-for-every-dwarf principle (they’ll sleep anywhere, but they get grumpy if it’s not in a bed, and they don’t like dormitories much). Scattering artworks around makes them happier, too, and decorating the rooms in which they eat and sleep and work. If your fortress is successful, the Dwarven nation of which it’s a part will make it a barony (and possibly eventually a duchy, or the actual seat of royalty). Mostly this means that you now have some very demanding dwarves who want special rooms and tombs.
Oh yeah, tombs. If dwarves aren’t buried or memorialised appropriately, they’ll haunt your fortress, sometimes picking particular people to really hassle. So one of the earliest things you need to do is make sure you have a few tombs ready and waiting. If you try to provide tombs after an attack, everyone may be too busy trying to catch up on other tasks, and then you have a ghost hanging around making a nuisance of itself. Sometimes you have the ghost of some unfortunate dwarf whose body is inaccessible, and in that case, you need to have a stonecutter make up a gravestone instead, which seems to solve the haunting issue. Nobles want their tombs built, decorated and assigned to them while they’re still alive and kicking.
Dwarves always want beer - or alcohol of some kind, even the children. So it’s necessary to keep a flow of brewable stuff going into your fortress, so they can turn it into beer, wine, or rotgut of whatever sort. They’ll also produce cooked meals, if you tell them to, and don’t really seem to consume them at the same rate. So you can put the food in barrels and trade it.
And then, yeah, trade. Every year, a dwarven trade caravan comes along. They’ll let you order stuff for next year (which will run you around twice the price of the stuff they just have), and tell you what they’ll pay a premium for next year, and then you can sell them stuff and buy stuff from them. This can get you out of a jam - such as when you’ve worn out your pickaxes before you found metal to make new pickaxes from, which happened to me - or you can compensate for industries you mostly don’t have (I always seem to end up buying piles of cloth). Or you can buy new livestock. Or import goods you haven’t a local source for. And so on. Apparently there used to be an actual internal-to-your-fortress monetary economy in the game too, but all the dwarves got depressed because of it, so they’re communist now and it works way better.
It’s a fascinating game. I recommend it.