This week on Geekdad we have an unusual treat, a chance to review a game that is still available to be backed on Kickstarter (for the next 24 hours or so). Dragoon is an action strategy game where each player is a different colored dragon, attempting to gather gold from nearby human settlements and sometimes one another. The game is marketed for 2-4 players, and I got a chance to try it out and report back to all of you.
In this case, the term unboxing is a little bit misleading. The demo version of the game came in a fabric pouch that doubled as the score board. Inside I was shocked by the quality of what I found. The game board is also fabric and feels really nice to play on, like something that will last for years, no matter how much you play it. The dragons and the dice are both made of a painted metal while “tokens” (the green and orange things in the above picture) and the “thieves” (the yellow things in the picture) are made out of wood. The tiles (visible in the picture below) and the cards are high quality cardboard and card stock respectively. I was suitably impressed by the quality of everything I received, and have been assured that the production models will be the same or higher quality.
This is where the rubber hits the road for a game, and this is where Dragoon shines brightest. Given that the game was rated for 2-4 players, I decided to put it to the ultimate test. Any board game player knows how rare it is to find a game that performs well with only two players, so that’s what I did first. We started out cold, as someone buying the game would, learning to play by reading the rules as we went along, and we were pleasantly surprised. There are relatively few game mechanics (only a two-page rules sheet), allowing us to learn the basics quickly and become fully immersed in the strategy of the game, but we kept finding that the game kept allowing us to surprise ourselves and one another with the complexity of moves we could make. To fully understand, you need to know how the game is played.
The game has three phases: populate, action, and tribute. In the populate phase two dice are rolled, a number of times equal to the number of players plus one, and villages are placed at the coordinates the dice decree. If a village is placed where one already is, that village becomes a city (which is worth more gold). The Dragons want to either capture or destroy these cities to collect gold and get closer to the goal of 50GP. During the action phase, each player draws one card–these cards give actions that allow much of the surprising complexity we found–and is given 3 actions. During the tribute phase the claimed towns have a chance of giving their dragons gold. Simple, really. But we found that the simplicity just allowed us to focus on the strategy, which is what the game is really about.
The game was relatively short, as far as board games go. I didn’t time it (I was too engrossed), but certainly less than an hour. Larger games would take longer, but we’re still talking a reasonable one-sitting game and not a Risk-esque marathon. The game never felt repetitive or too short, however. At the end of the game, we both wanted to play again but neither of us felt that the previous game needed to have been longer.
I’m usually someone who is cheap when it comes to buying games. I’m not the guy with a closet full of different games or 16 versions of Monopoly. This game, however, is one that I’m excited to add to my collection. The fact that the game comes in a small pouch makes it portable, and the shorter length and easier base rules make it a game that’s easy to convince people to play. In short, unlike a lot of games I end up excited about, this is a game that would actually get quite a bit of use.
Likewise, there’s something attractive about the high quality of the parts. Nothing about this game felt cheap, and that only added to the experience. It felt like we were using something that was intended to last, and reflected the amount of passion the creators put into the development of the game.
At $45 on Kickstarter right now (it ends on Tuesday, March 31st), the game is available to be ordered. The campaign has already met and exceeded its funding goals, and the designers are hard at work making sure the production models are ready for Kickstarter backers as soon as possible. If you’re a fan of strategy games, or dragons, or strategy games that are fun enough that they won’t ruin friendships, give some thought to ordering a copy of Dragoon.