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DRAKERYS: Miniature Boardgame (I think they mean "A Miniatures Boardgame" as there is nothing small about this game).
For 2 Players. Aged 14+. Campaign Scenarios take 45-60 minutes each (there are 9).
Starter Set: The World is Changing.  Published via Kickstarter by Don't Panic Games. My copy from Modiphius.
Designed by: Pierre Johanne & Nicolas Raoult from an idea by Mohamed Ait-Mehdi
The art is so good that all the illustrators deserve credit: Bertrant Benoit; Remy Bostal; Sylvain Guinebaud; Sebastien Lamirand; Stephane Louis; Florent Maudoux and Loic Olivier Trockle.

  

There are several Pros and Cons, things I like and things I am not so keen on, about DRAKERYS. For instance, although I like the idea of a double-sided board, the one in this box is a large, flimsy poster style map, and because of all the folds it splits quite easily. There are 6 folds that virtually set the board into two halfs down the middle lengthwise, connected only by the shorter sides of two of the 8 panels. So in spite of the the designer saying it's a boardgame with miniatures to me it looks like a miniatures game where 3D scenery on a wargames table would be much better suited to the rules and the figures. The figures and the art are excellent, in style and detail. The two booklets are glossy, bright and colourful but with titles that are a mite misleading; for instance the Quick Start Rules book doesn't really read like rules which will allow you to play the basic game as you might expect, in fact you need to go to the Valgar Archipelago Campaign book for the quick start.

 

The Campaign is designed to be played in order, learning the Rules as you play.  There are Nine missions/scenarios in the Campaign book, each is meant to take about an hour to play but it's more likely that you should be able to play the first one in about 30 minutes as it is only meant to be an introduction to using the TimePath (the components include a double-sided Timepath board, plus there are two double-sided pages in the rules booklet that have individual Army Timepaths, these pages, along with a few other reference sheets are designed to be removed from the centre of the book - straighten the staples, remove the pages, squash the staples back down. It was this scenario that had me searching through the rules for the effects of terrain, which I couldn't find. I read through both books and searched the contents listings but I couldn't find anything about terrain effects. They must be there though because the A side of the playing sheet features what looks like a dirty river running across it and at one point there is a bridge spanning it. My thoughts are that if the units can move freely across the water why would there be a bridge? The other side of this is that in the first scenario when there are two units of 5 Humans trying to get from one side of the board to the other and their opposition comes from three unites of 2 Orcs each split across the map, one set by the bridge and another set on land surrounded by water; my puzzle is "How do they get across, and if they can't then why are they in the scenario at all?"

 

All of the miniatures have their own specific unit cards which have all the necessary information on them for the players to be able to utilise their skills, shown around the edge of the illustrated character as a series of icons containing reference numbers. Try to remember that the Star is the icon for Actions, the number in the star is how many actions the unit has; a D10 Die is the Power level, the number  being how many D10s  you roll during an Attack, and that the Lightning Flash icon is used to determine the Initiative, all the other icons are easy to understand; the basic card is clearly detailed with explanations on page 10 of the Quick Start Rules. The aforementioned Timepath tracks the use of Time Sections by the units of each player. A unit can Move (March) for one Time Section, Run (Charge) for 3 Time Sections and Attack for one Time Section. Each time a player has one of their units do one of those actions they move their token on the Timepath accordingly and the unit activated is given a Stress token. When a Token has gone all the way round the track, each track is a different length, back to the Start Space the owning player can remove one Stress Token from a unit.  Stress Tokens add one Time Section to the cost of every Action. The number of Time Sections each unit has is between one and the number of Actions the unit Leader has.

 

Within the Starter Set there are two Armies, Orcs from the Kingdom of Ashral and Humans of the Paladinate of Irosia; two other armies, the Aurium Caste and the Kingdom of Avaren appear to be available separately. The Rules book describes putting the miniatures together either by simply slotting them together or using modelling glue. This allows players to build units with the same or a variety of weapons etc., however, the miniatures in the Starter Set are already assembled, but of course not painted. There are plenty of photographic illustrations that show just how super these plastic minis are when painted by a professional.

As a game, DRAKERYS is more than just a run of the mill move and fight game, although there is naturally, by the very nature of the game, a strong element of moving and fighting throughout. Getting to know the Skills and Powers of your characters, heroes and leaders, will speed up play. Once you know who can cast magic spells, who has ranged attacks and who can hit the hardest etc your tactics will be far more realistic, or at least as realistic as a fantasy game allows. There 36 Skills to be found on the Unit cards and each of these is described in the back of the Rules booklet. Speaking of the back of the booklets, both the Rules book and the Campaign book have a player reference Aid on their outer cover which saves scooting through the pages after a few plays, when you have a fair knowledge of DRAKERYS the game. It also expands the Actions available; Combined Charge (5 TS), Shooting (1TS), Magic (1TS) and Invocation of an Elemental (1TS for a Herald, 3 TS for an Overlord); for fluent game play you need knowledge of the Skills and the Actions.

  

If, instead of playing a Campaign scenario, you wish to play a straight forward battle, then you need to set it up using the Maelstrom and Vortex (misspelled as Voxtex in the illustrated example) tokens. Each of the tokens are positioned in specifically measured out places using the measure-sticks (the components call them "Tape Measures") provided. Once the tokens are in place they get randomly moved according to a dice roll which includes using the special "Deviation" die for direction (Deviation means "Shift or Shifting" in its use here). To cast Magic the player needs a Character with the Wizard Skill; they are allowed to choose which spells they want from the types they can cast, the number of spells depends on the Wizard's level. In the Starter Set each army has Wizards that can cast two different types of Spell each: the Orcs have Shamanism and Rain spells, the Humans have Tempest (Storm on the cards) and Solar spells. The flip side of the Army cards have the same information as the Front side, but for some reason it is in French; nothing else in the box is French so I am guessing that the print run for the cards is the same for the French edition, sensibly saving the cost of another printing plate.

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The Maelstrom and Vortexes provide Mana for spellcasting. Each Vortex provides 3 Mana for specific spell types according to the element it represents, Air, Earth, Fire or Water, whereas the Maelstrom provides endless quantities of whatever type of Mana the caster requires. If the caster wishes, they can use any Mana remaining from the cost of the Spell to bolster their chances of being successful, in this case the Maelstrom provides up to 9 points of Mana (it is not endless). Players have to make a Dice roll when casting spells and they have to roll at least one success. When using a Maelstrom for for Mana any One's rolled can cause a catastrophic effect, the more 1s rolled the worse the cataclysm. This took me back to my early days of role-playing where rolling a One was always a cause for amusement to the players whose characters weren't those on the end of the "one" effect.

    

At the moment DRAKERYS is a two-player game but there is no reason why it couldn't be for three or four players as long as the other two mentioned Armies come with their own sets of cards for Spells and Units etc. The board that comes with the game is a 90cm square poster map and whether or not you use it (the map) or you play on a proper wargames table (which I suggest is better) the game's missions/scenarios are designed to be played on a 90cm squarea and you can make up a really good "board"

The way that the Rules book is laid out there are some resemblances to Games Workshop's Warhammer books, lots of photos and illustrations of well painted figures and top quality scenery, numerous charts and tables for the various Races and some absolutely amazing artwork. The headers are clear, either in bold text or highlighted, and the text on all pages is well spaced and quite large which makes it easy to read and thus take in; it's so much harder to do this when the pages are like a black wall. 

   

There are so many board wargames available, fantasy or historical, that use miniatures and so it is hard to decide which one to go with. If they have been published through the use of Kickstarter or similar the chances are that you already have a fair idea of what you are getting from the sales pitch, but if you are looking at game after game in a store they can all look alike, so deciding which is for you can be really difficult. I am not sure if having "Starter Set" on the box is a good idea because people see this and think that they are getting a "lite" version of the game and that they will be expected to buy lots more expansions and supplements before they have a fully playable game. DRAKERYS "Starter Set" is a fully playable game for 2 players and in my opinion the publishers could have expressed this more clearly on the front of the box and then inside there could have been a leaflet or note in one of the books advertising expansion sets. Instead the other armies are shown in full colour in the Valgar Campaign book but there is no mention of expansion packs. Also the two armies in the box have a different mix of figures than those shown in the photo on page 4.

 

You are advised to remove a few pages from the centre of the rules book. One double-sided twin page shows the different Races, one per page, so that there are the four types of Ashral Orc: Bloodseeker, Rockthrower, Sakhil and Warrior, the four types of Irosia Paladinate: Bowman, Celeste, Crusher and Spearman, the three type of Avaren Elves: Bloodbane, Crow and Salik, plus the Aurium Dwarves: Crossbowman, Gold Keeper, Noctis and Soldier. Each separate type for all Races has its own Character Sheet with a space for you to fill in your own specific notes.

Another of these double-sided twin pages contains a list of Missions which are ideas for you to create your own games. The final four pages of the pull-out section are the various 15 point TimePaths for each Race. Note: the double-sided Timepath board that comes separate with this game has a 15 point and a 23 point Time path.

 

Obviously combat is important and it is handled well between Unit strengths and dice rolls and use the Universal Action Table, each Army has one of their own (identical except for colour) UAT, which determines the target number required, determining failures and successes. Spell casting can be stressful but fun, and using the Vortexes to call for help from Elementals keeps the game interesting, and it works. Opponents touching bases are considered to be available for combat and all other units within the accepted range for the grouping are also available to lend support. Moving your pieces is easy but needs to have a bit of thought as well. The way movement is conducted keeps the game flowing - you measure the distance you are to move using one of the measuring sticks from the base of your Unit Leader and then move him accordingly. The remainder of the unit can just be picked up and placed down behind the Leader, they don't even have to be touching bases but they do have to be within a certain range (in cms) of the Leader.

In all honesty I cannot say this is the best miniatures boardgame on the market but by the same thought process it is far away from being the worst, in fact it's very high on my mental list of games with minis. Because the rules aren't as straightforward as I would like, the rules book is more of a supplemental reference and the Campaign book is the rules book, I wouldn't recommend it as a good purchase for anyone new to board/miniatures wargaming. For players looking for a good alternative to the mass produced figure games of the major companies then this could very well be what you are looking for. There are many things in DRAKERYS that I have either barely touched on or not mentioned at all (the various tokens for example) because I try to give short (brief) reviews rather than long ramblers which go over every aspect of play. 

Yes there is an amount of luck. Of course there is because Dice are involved. Yes some scenarios can take over an hour to complete, but the time goes so fast you hardly notice it and never have I played a game and sat there hoping the game would end quickly, not worrying whether I won or lost as long as the game ended; plus there is a timescale for each scenario based on Turns.

If you can paint miniatures to a good standard or you know someone who can do it for you then buy this and paint the minis, they are awesome. DRAKERYS Starter Set can be picked up online for anything from about £35.00 plus postage and that is really good value, even if it is a played version on eBay (as long as it's all there).

 

  

1. Above is the setup for the first scenario 2.These Orcs can cross by the bridge. 3.How do these Orcs cross the river ?

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015