Relax, mostly, with this lovely and peaceful landscape strategy game

(Image credit: Toukana Interactive)

Here's an idea. Let's chill out to some soothing music, look at some beautiful artwork, and place the most adorable little landscape tiles on a map to slowly grow a world filled with green trees, golden wheat fields, cozy-looking cottages, chugging trains, and lazily floating boats. Sound good?

It is good. Dorfromantik is a peaceful, relaxing, pressure-free strategy game entering Early Access next week. There's no ticking clock. There's no guns or monsters. There's just tile after tile, each with detailed scenery so lovely they makes me want to shrink myself down and live on them.

The rules are simple. Just take the top tile from your stack and connect it to a tile on the map, and complete little tiny quests to increase your limited stack. If a quest wants five houses grouped together, you place tiles with houses on them and rotate them to make sure they're connected until you've got all five. 

Join river segments and watch little boats begin floating around. Link up train tracks and a wee locomotive will appear. As your map grows and sprawls it only gets more enjoyable to look at. Dorfromantik is a bit Carcassonne, with shades of Islanders and some truly lovely music. The artwork is amazing, and it's a joy to rotate the tiles before you place them just to see how they change and adjust with whatever you're connecting them to.

While it's extremely relaxing most of the time, it's not always easy to complete quests. The tiles are random, and it can take a while to dig yourself down to the one you need. You can plan ahead a bit, by leaving yourself empty spaces where you need to connect, say, 55 trees, or by grouping up houses together in anticipation of being asked to connect a bunch of them. But there's no real pressure to do much but slowly put together a charming little world.

Okay, it does, very occasionally, get a teensy bit frustrating, when you're being saddled with tile after tile of scrambled train lines that you don't want to place everywhere because you like your train lines nice and neat instead of looking like they've been laid by a madman. Or when you can only complete a quest with a tile that contains a bit of water and a bit of wheatfield and a bit of houses but that tile just won't come up. Or when you draw so many river tiles and water tiles that you mess up your nice string of houses. I did, at one point, whisper "dammit."

But honestly, a moment after running out of tiles and ending my game, I'm starting over with zero memory of whatever briefly annoyed me and a fresh stack of tiles in front of me, happy to have a new world to build.

Dorfromanik will arrive on Steam Early Access on March 25, with plans to add more biomes and more unlockable tiles, plus a creative mode where players can build to their hearts' content, while it's in development. It'll cost $ 9.99/£7.99, and 15% off when it launches.

As for the name Dorfromantik? The developer has this to say:

"The German language has many beautiful words of its own to describe moods or an ambience that often cannot be translated because these words simply do not exist in other languages. The most literal translation would most likely be "village romanticization."

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.