GAMEWRIGHT: A GAME of GoblinS and GOLD
A Fun Family game for 2-4 Players ages 10+ Played in about 30 minutes once you know the rules
Designed by Darren Kisgen with Super Illustrations by Chris Beatrice
Published by Coiledspring Games / Gamewright
The DRAGONREALM designer has taken a standard gamer's game mechanic - capturing locations for VPs - and taken out much of the preamble play that usually plays out beforehand, thus making this a much shorter game. Therefore, with the simplified, but still interesting and fun, rules, a medium difficulty core board game becomes a 'happy' family game - which this most definitely is.
The theme adds an amount of fun to this game. There are dice that are just above average rollers, having 1 x 1, 2 x 2, 2 x 3 and 1 x 4 on their sides, and cards that are in 5 suits (colours) numbered 1 through 12 that make up the Adventurer deck along with 2 Rockslides and 6 Goblins cards. The dice are rolled to equal or beat the number/s on the Location cards and the cards are played in 'any number' sets from 1 - 6 cards, with either a consecutive Run, all the same number, or all the same colour making the sets; the more cards in your set the more dice you get to roll.
The 21 locations are in four sets of five, depicted by different coloured backs and (0), I, II and III. The Location deck is set up at the beginning of each game using a number of cards from each deck, the exception being only one of the Green (0) cards is used and that is always the bottom card of the deck.
One of each location is face up throughout the game, replacing one as it is defeated with one from the top of the deck, meaning that after the first card has been removed there will not always be one of each in the display.
The Adventurer deck is shuffles thoroughly, players are dealt a hand of cards, and two cards are put face up on display next to the remaining deck, thus making a draw deck and 2 visible draw cards. Goblins and Rockslides are dealt with immediately they are drawn or turned up.
If a player rests during their turn it means they can draw 2 cards, from the display and/or also the deck. Keeping the game family friendly the cards in the display are replaced immediately from the top of the deck as they are taken, thus allowing players to take one and see what the top card is (would have been if drawn blind) before deciding from where to select their second card. Rockslides cause players to pass one or two cards to their neighbours, the cards given complete directions. Goblin card introduce a Goblin (green) meeple to one of the locations on display, again the card decides for you which location card the Goblin is placed on. Unlike some gasmes with a similar mechanic it matters not which of the blank circles meeples are placed - ties aren't broken by the player whose meeple is nearer the left for example.
Every location has a title (I will run through these in a moment) along with a number of blank circles (representing the number of Meeples required before it is full/defeated), a twin score value (1st & 2nd places), one or more Dragonstones that may count towards your VP (cash) total, and three Ability/Exploration numbers for Sneak (a rogue icon), Search (spyglass) and Storm (cross swords); there may also be a special condition, the example given in the rules book showing the Cave of Bats that only allows 2 players to place meeples on it. Goblins will count as one of those players if they are present.
One of the locations, the odd one of the 21, is double-sided with Adventurer's Alley on one side and Adventurer's Academy on the other. It is advised to begin with the Academy side as it is slightly less detailed (not in illustration as both sides are beautiful pieces of art) but by the action available. Players who lose battles against locations place a meeple on this location, whichever side is up. You can end up with any number of meeples on the Adventurer's location but at the end of the game only three of them are of any actual use to you when scoring.
At the beginning of the game each player is dealt three Enhancement cards. These will have a value of either 2 or 1 on each of them and you are allowed to keep 2 points of enhancement, thus two cards valued 1 or one card valued 2. If you are dealt three cards valued 2 then you have to select one of them. Enhancements are kept face down until used and then they are either discarded or kept face up in front of the player. Cards to be discarded say 'one use only' on them and their use has to be declared prior to rolling the dice. Cards that are not one use only and one or more can be used anytime, you don't have to declare their use until you are ready. We use a 'spirit of the game' house rule with enhancements; for example an enhancement that has the 1=2 ability means you can turn any ONE die showing a 1 result to show a 2. By saying "you may use one or more at any time" there is an inference in the rules that you can use each card more than once, so that in my previous example 1=2 could be read as every 1 rolled can be changed to a 2. As this is a 'stay in play constantly' enhancement allowing it to change every 1 to a 2 makes it a little too powerful.
A player has only two possible actions on their turn, they can Rest and take two cards into their hand - immediately discarding down to nine cards if the draw takes them over the 9 card maximum - or they can Explore, which means trying to place a meeple on one of the locations. If you choose to explore there are things you have to do before rolling the dice. First off you have to decide whether you are going to Sneak, Search or Storm (in this game 'storm' is not a weather thing, it's more like storming the castle).
You need the correct set of cards for your explorations. A Run, of cards in any colours, allows you to Sneak, A set of cards with the same number, in any colour, allows you to Search, and a set of cards in the same colour, the numbers have no meaning when you Storm. Remember the number of cards in your set (up to 6) equal the number of dice you get to roll. The resulting sum of the dice pips has to equal or better the number of the exploration you are trying. On the Cave of Bats you need 8 points or more in Sneak, 6 points or more in Search or 13 points in Storm. It doesn't matter which exploration you succeed at you still only get to place one meeple on the chosen location and each meeple placed is no better than any other.
There is an exception to placing only one meeple on a location per exploration. Some of the locations have an explore option surrounded by a gold circle. If you succeed at that then you place two meeples even if that would bust the maximum limit required to complete the location, and the extra meeple does count towards having the majority of pieces on the location. After each successful exploration you gain one Adventure card from the top of the deck. If you fail at your exploration you don't get to place a meeple, you don't get to draw a card, but you do get to keep the cards in your set, thus you can try again next turn if you want.
I like the way that cards on display are replaced immediately, ensuring that players always have the top number of options, which means that the game flows along at a good pace, the end coming when all locations have been defeated.
As I said, the split numbers on the locations are for 1st and 2nd player controlling the card. If there is a tie, all players tied share the prize rounded down. If it's a 1st place tie both place's values are added together and split between the players. If it's a second place tie, 1st place takes the larger number and tied players share the second value etc. All players who still have meeples on the location receive a one value coin; this is another neat piece of play as no-one ends up without anything. the player who outright controls the location wins the location card. Tied locations or those controlled by Goblins are discarded - Goblins do not get paid for their efforts.
Dragonstones can be found on locations and on some Adventure cards. At the end of the game the player who has the most Dragonstones gains 5 value in coins, note that there is no prize for having secondmost or least Dragonstones. The winner is the player with the most money.
Everything about DRAGONREALM is designed to ensure the players have a good time, in fact the only thing I can think of that may be a downer is a lousy dice roll, but that is going to balance itself out throughout play. The rules are short, sweet and simple, as well as being extremely well laid out and full of text and illustrated examples. If you read them thoroughly, don't skip any text and don't try to outguess the author, you will be up and playing quickly and with little, if any, necessity to return to the rules book while playing.
DRAGONREALM is a family game with a core-game mentality. It can be used to introduce players who only know 'round the board' games to what we like to call 'euro games', and it can also be played as a break game in-between longer game sessions. Because of the random use of the Locations each game has different options, possibilities, abilities and actions. All this goes towards making this a really good game.
You can find it in your local game store for around £20.00, which is very, very good value.
The Location cards (as promised):
I: Troll Tavern, Slimy Tunnels, Bear Basin, Witch's Cabin, Enchanted Forest.
II: Cursed Fountain, Crystal Mountain, Fire Swamp, Ogre's Treehouse, Sorceress's Castle.
III: Den of Wolves, Cave of Bats, Dungeon of Despair, Snake Pit, Halfling Hideout.
End of Game Dragon (always a Dragon as the last location): Dragon Ruins, Dragon Rock, Dragon's Gate, Dragon's Lair, Isle of Dragons.