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DRACHENHORT (Translated as DRAGON NEST via Google translate) is a game for 2-7 players aged from 8 upwards. It is published by Ravensburger and arrives in a large, visually impelling box, and can be found on Amazon for under €20.00 which is a price of excellent value.

It is designed by Reiner Knizia, which I found surprising to be honest as its game play is very much like the award winning Heimlich & Co that is also a Ravensburger game but designed by Wolfgang Kramer.

I have a German language version of the game and there was no translation available on BGG. Using Google Translate it took me about an hour to type in the German (I type slowly) and then print off the "English", spending another 10 minutes or so translating the translation into actual English. (If I find what I did with the file I will post it on BGG but atm I seem to have misfiled it).

The playing pieces, seven adventurers and a dragon, have been created in brightly coloured durable plastic that younger players can handle without fear of breaking, though obviously they shouldn't be put in the mouth (so no very young players please). The dragon comes with its wing apart from the body and they just slot firmly in place. Unfortunately the box designer never took this under consideration and so to close the lid completely after a game you have to remove the wings as the whole piece is too large for the depth of the box.

The remainder of the components are a double-sided board - both sides show a dungeon labyrinth made up of linked rooms (32 on side one and 30 on side two) - a score chart, 7 gold and 7 silver numbered counters, 7 player cards and a bag of gems in various colours.

Each player is dealt a card face which they alone should view - unused cards are set aside unseen by all - and on this card are three adventurers differentiated by their colours; every card shows 3 adventurers and all 3 are of a different colour, no card has 2 similar coloured adventurers. The adventurers shown on the card you receive are the ones you want to remain in the dungeon the longest.

The adventurers have found themselves in a dungeon labyrinth where a sleeping dragon lives. Unlike dragons of folklore this one doesn't sleep on a mountain of treasure, instead it has just a few gems and they are scattered around the rooms that lead from the entrance to the dragon's lair. The adventurers are  to find their way to the stairs leading up to the next level (the first side of the board representing the lower part of the dungeon) - then the board is flipped over and the second half of the game is setup and played with the adventurers trying to escape. This is where the logic of the game falls over. If the adventurers have found their way down into the labyrinth why have they left the gems in the rooms as they passed through them, why not collect them as they go - as they do on the way out ? One has to assume that they have somehow and for some reason been magically teleported or transported to the room before the Dragon's Lair and from there they try to escape before the dragon captures them.

Movement is by die roll - a special D6 has no number 5 but two 2s instead. All adventurers always take part in the game and move between the rooms, running through the light area of each and hiding in the shadows (the dark area) when their move ends. No two adventurers may share a room and so they pass through occupied rooms without counting them, so for example if the player rolls a 3 and wants to move the Blue adventurer who has one empty space in front of him and the next two spaces are occupied before there are free spaces, the Blue adventurer will move one space forward, then skip the next two continuing with the second and third moves beyond the occupied spaces.

If an adventurer lands in a space with a gem the player collects it - the gems are different colours for prettiness as each has the same 1VP value at the end of the game. Most spaces have a light area and a dark area. To show an adventurer has been moved you place them in the dark area at the end of their movement. Once all adventurers are in dark areas - meaning some may move more than once - then the dragon moves up to 5 spaces (after its initial movement of one space only). If it lands on a space with an adventurer it captures them and stops moving. (this is like a reverse move of the Safe in Heimlich & Co).

The adventurer is removed from the board and placed above its colour on the score card and the lowest silver valued counter is positioned just below it. In the second run - using side two of the board - the gold counters are used. When the penultimate adventurer is captured or if one adventurer reaches the exit then position the adventurers accordingly and give them score counters - remembering after the first run NOT to reveal your card as you keep it for the second run. Only reveal the card at the end of the game and score the points shown on the 2 counters for each colour plus 1 point for each gem you hold.

There are a few spaces on the board that are traps. If you move an adventurer onto a trap then it is immediately teleported to 3 spaces ahead of the dragon into the dark area as it has moved. There is a way that adventurers can be moved if they are in a dark area and that is by rolling a "2" on the die, then any adventurer can be moved.

Like Heimlich & Co you are trying to get your adventurers into the best possible positions without revealing to the other players which ones you are favouring. Generally though because you know which are your favourite 3 all other adventurers are potentially owned by the other players - in a seven player game this is absolute - though of course the colours you favour will also be favoured by other players so you will be helping others when helping yourself.

DRAGON NEST is a fun, fast, family game that should really take less than 45 minutes from setting up to the end of the second run. There is the opportunity for a little back-stabbing (moving adventurers that you don't favour onto traps) as well as the misfortune of having to move the only adventurer left in the light (which may be one you favour) with an unfavourable die roll.

If players end up on the same score then the game is tied - after all the effort to escape and maneuvered the adventurers through the dungeon a tie is a bit tame, therefore we decided on the following house rule which although not perfect did add a possible option and, to date, hasn't resulted in a tie.
1 gem of any colour is worth 1 point
2 gems of the same colour = 3 points
3 gems of the same colour = 5 points
4 gems of the same colour = 7 points
5 or 6 gems of the same colour = 10 points
As I said it isn't a perfect solution but it does make you think when you have a choice of which adventurer to move if more than one would land on a gem.


© Chris Baylis 2011-2015