2 - 7
Engaging game play
Almost no down time between turns
Easy to learn
Game board could use some polish (graphically).
Other negatives that I found were addressed and updated, such as making the dice easier to read and clarifying when the Dragon Cards could be used.
The Dragon Games is a unique trick taking game featuring an expanded set of seven suits of cards, a game board, pawns, custom dice, and a deck of special ability cards. All of this combines into a really fun experience that I found appeals to a very wide audience.
At its heart, The Dragon Games is a trick taking game, but the expanded number of suits adds depth and variety not found in most other trick taking games. The game board adds another element to the mix that other trick taking games lack and the dice mechanic adds yet another unique feature to the game as well as just a touch of randomness. In case you didn’t catch it, that’s a lot of uniqueness.
If you’ve played other trick taking games you’ll be able to jump right in to The Dragon Games as the core strategy is: get the most tricks. But, that’s about the only thing The Dragon Games has in common with other trick taking games. The game board features different amounts of the seven colors (suits) and so some suits have a longer path to victory than others. On each of your turns, you’ll get to pick the color/suit you want as the trump. If you take the set number of tricks on your turn (based on the number of players) you’ll move ahead a certain number of spaces of that color. If your opponents managed to get the set number of tricks instead, they move ahead.
The custom dice allow the active player to reinforce the trump suit/color by adding cards of that suit to their hand while discarding an equal number of other cards. I better back up because I can hear some of you saying, “Whoa, what?” The deck that you play with isn’t the same every game. This is also pretty unique for a trick taking game. Instead, you’ll shuffle the seven suits and deal out a specific number of each suit to form the deck. The leftovers go into a special box where they can be easily drawn by the active player after rolling the custom dice. This means the deck composition changes between every game and possibly after each player’s turn. I really like games that are physically different each play through, so this game definitely gets points in that category.
As players move around the board they might land on a special space containing the image of a dragon. When this happens, that player draws a Dragon Card, which are essentially a onetime use special ability. The abilities include things like sending any player back to the last X color, moving any player forward to the next X color, making the next card you play the highest trump card, rolling additional dice, etc.
Game play is fun and turns are fast. There is almost no down time between turns so players are never bored waiting for something to do. Because the composition of the deck changes every game, players are kept on their toes regarding which cards are actively in play. The first time a player throws down a seven (highest normal card value) of the trump suit only to have a different player play a seven of the trump suit a hand later is cause for some loud “Whoa” type noises from around the table. And that is another great thing about this game is that the players really get into it, verbally and physically. This is not the type of game where the players can complete the entire game while sitting in silence (I’m looking at you, Splendor). I mean I suppose they could, but I’ve never seen that happen. In my experience, players talk during games about as much as is typical for a bluffing party game even though there isn’t any real bluffing going on.
For me, this game hits a lot of high points. It is fun enough to keep players engaged during the entire game but easy enough to learn that it is a great choice for casual gamers, like in-laws. Since it is built on a trick taking engine, the core mechanics are solid. Supporting up to seven players is a nice bonus since I’m constantly looking for games that support 6+ players.
Since recording the podcast with Rob and Rebecca Smith, the creators of The Dragon Games, I’ve played the game an additional two times, introducing five new people to the game. That means I’ve played this game with just over a dozen different people and only one person didn’t care for the game (which he lost so that may slant his opinion). In fact, most people wanted to immediately play the game a second time after the first game was finished. A few people even made a request for me to bring the game back to the next gaming night so they’d have another chance to play. The short version of the story is that this game is fun. Almost everyone enjoys it. This is especially true of players that like trick taking games, as this game is a unique and exciting twist to the traditional trick taking card game.
Overall, if you like trick taking card games I can’t recommend The Dragon Games enough. I had fun each time I played The Dragon Games and I keep introducing it to people. It is a great game for non-gamers since they might be familiar with the trick taking aspect of the game, but even if they aren’t, the game is still easy to pick up and just start playing.
Go back the Kickstarter campaign already!
(Note: All images are of a prototype and final game components, design, art, etc are subject to change
Also Note: I didn’t rate the rule book, storage option, and other such items since this is a prototype copy and those items are subject to change.)