First, I loath D&D fourth edition. I will not go into my reasons for disliking fourth edition as that is not the point of this review. Just know that I chose the word for my feelings for the new edition with great care.
Second, I don't buy retail. As a family man, there are usually a number of better reasons for spending my money. I am not only a more persnickety purveyor of pasttime products (don't ask, it just came out), but I have other obligations I must consider.
Third, this was a supplement book. I have so much gaming material, it is difficult to justify another 'source book'. I have many that I have never used, and probably never will, but I'm always on the look out for something good; that is also reasonably priced.
The goal of my quest was to support my local hobby shop as per my New Year's Resolution. There I was trying to find what I should spend my hard earned cash on, and there was a lot of selection. I actually came to the item 3 times before deciding to go with it. Since the item was shrink wrapped, I could only judge the book by its cover. The cover art didn't really inspire me, so I based the whole purchase on one thing; "a full-color, double-sided battle map".
Once I got home, I opened up the supplement and read through the entire supplement almost in one sitting. I was pleasantly surprised by the supplement and the map. The map consists of one side being the main tavern in the town, suitable for a nice bar room throw down, and the other side consisting of the entire town of Hammerfast. The map is a little small to use with miniatures, but it works well to give players a feeling of the entire town.
So the history of Hammerfast is... different. Hammerfast was once a dwarf graveyard that was overrun by orcs that were slain by the ghosts of the dwarves 'resting' there. This turned the whole area into huge hallowed area for both dwarves and orcs alike. Instead of constant fighting over the land, Moradin and Gruumsh came to an agreement that it is neutral land and no orc or dwarf will take action against the other race. Who keeps these two mortal enemies in check? Why the ghosts of the fallen dwarves and orcs who live beside them (groan)
The town of Hammerfast is sorrounded by walls and there is a river that cuts through the a quarter of the town. The town is divided into four quarters called the gate ward, trade ward, lore ward, and craft ward. The layout of the town is well down and the supplement provides a lot of color for the town.
There are a number of personalities that you can pull from as well as a nice story arc that players can come back to and various levels. This helps make the town feel 'alive' as there are things constantly happening while the players are out adventuring. The only problems I have with this supplement are the orcs and the ghosts. I do not particularly like my towns to have such a strong supernatural aspect to them so I just take the ghost portion out. I also do not have 'gods' hover around any location making sure their followers obey their every command. I prefer to have my gods work in the background and hard to prove they exist. So without the ghost and godly intervention, I think the orcs and dwarves would degenerate into fighting.
For the most part, I think this is a good supplement, there is a lot of good information if you are trying to flesh out a town for your players to base out of. I found it easy to modify for my campaign. I think the map of the town and the dwarven personalities in the supplement are its strongest features and I would rate this supplement as a solid spit to my left. For those unfamiliar with ork customs, a spit to the left is a sign of respect, while a spit to the right is a sign of disrespect. If you would like a rating between one and ten, I would probably give it a seven.