Overview: Seven Dragons, the latest card game from Looney Labs, is a quick dominoes-style card game that has you matching up colored dragons in a race to get seven cards connected before the other players. As you might expect from Looney Labs, though, goals can change mid-game and you never know what might happen before your next turn.
Players: 2 to 5
Ages: 6 and up (though see below for more details)
Playing Time: 10 to 30 minutes
Rating: A fun, light game with a healthy helping of chaos.
Who Will Like It? If you liked Aquarius but really felt it needed more, you know, dragons, then this is definitely the game for you. It’s a fun game for folks who like dominoes with a bit of wackiness thrown in.
The theme of the game is dragons, though aside from that the game is an abstract strategy game that is more about matching colors than anything really dragon-related. That’s not to say it’s not a fun game, but if you’re looking for something that incorporates dragons in a more substantial way than the artwork, you may be disappointed.
Seven Dragons comes with 72 cards: 5 goals, 1 silver dragon, 51 dragon cards, and 15 action cards. The cards are about standard size and quality.
The dragons on the cards were illustrated by fantasy artist Larry Elmore, known for his Dungeons & Dragons artwork and Dragonlance, among other things. His artwork also appears on the cover of last year’s Defenders of the Realm board game. The dragons are great, appearing in the five goal colors plus silver and rainbow (for the wild card), but I should mention that the green dragon has a rather bosomy elf-girl on it, and the black dragon appears to be examining a skeleton wearing tattered clothing. (At first I thought it was entrails or bits of flesh, but my wife corrected me.)
The five goal cards are mixed up and each player gets one. You get to see your own goal but not anyone else’s. Also, if there are fewer than five players, the unused goals are placed face-down on the table, as if held by invisible players, because sometimes goals can be switched or rotated. The silver dragon card is placed in the center of the play area and serves as the starting card. The rest of the cards (dragon cards and action cards) are shuffled and each player is dealt three cards.
The goal of the game is to make seven connected panels of your goal dragon.
On each turn, you draw a card and play a card. Action cards let you perform a particular action such as moving cards around or changing goals with other players. Dragon cards are played on the table in a way that forms a match: the card must remain in the same orientation and grid as the silver dragon, and at least one of the dragons must be placed alongside a matching dragon on another card. If you match more than one dragon at a time, you get to draw bonus cards.
The rainbow dragon is a wild card, matching all colors simultaneously. The silver dragon, the start card, is like a rainbow dragon at first and matches all colors. However, once an action card is played, the silver dragon matches the color of the action card at the top of the discard pile. (You’ll notice in the photo above that each action card has a corresponding dragon color.) You can also choose to play an action card to change the color of the silver dragon without taking the action, or you can take an action and then put the discarded card at the bottom of the discard pile so the silver dragon doesn’t change color.
Once a player has managed to make seven connected panels of their goal dragon, the game ends.
As with Aquarius, there are additional rules for playing Seven Dragons with your preschooler. They make a few tweaks that gradually introduce the more complex rules. The basic version just uses the dragon cards (no actions, and no silver or rainbow dragons) and is just like a dominoes game with matching the colors. For slightly older kids, you can introduce the goals, but since there are no action cards your goal will never change throughout the game and cards won’t be moved around. Finally, a third variation introduces one type of action card at a time, and then adds in the silver dragon last.
As I mentioned before, Seven Dragons is really a variation on Aquarius, which I reviewed here. I really enjoy Aquarius and had a lot of fun with it, so strictly speaking Seven Dragons wasn’t really necessary for me. The one major change that it introduces is the silver dragon which changes color based on the most recent action card, but you could even simulate that with Aquarius. You also don’t get the diagonal cards, which I missed. However, the dragon illustrations certainly make the game look more adult-friendly than the clouds-and-rainbows of Aquarius — but I liked the cutesy aspect of that, too.
Although the preschooler rules don’t use all the action cards, that’s where the real, uh, action happens. If you’re too obvious about which color you’re going for, chances are somebody will play a “Trade Goals” card and then you’ve done all the hard work for them. On the other hand, if you match up a color other than your own, there’s a possibility you’re assisting somebody else in getting toward their goal. The bluffing and uncertainty is what makes this more than just a matching-tile game.
If you like dragon art and you think Aquarius is a bit too childish looking then Seven Dragons is worth a try. It’s a light strategy game that has heavy doses of luck, but it plays quickly and is good for a few plays in between heavier stuff. If you’ve already got Aquarius, I don’t think it’s entirely necessary to have both — depends on whether you want your preschooler playing a game that features skeletons and buxom elves.
Wired: Gorgeous artwork by Larry Elmore, quick game that’s a bit of strategy and a bit of luck.
Tired: Most the same game as Aquarius with a few variations.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.