In a world of ovine psychedelia, (brightly colored sheep) can you amass the biggest treasure hoard?
What is Dragon’s Hoard?
What’s in the box?
Cards. 101 of them.
- 1 Start Card.
- 5 Reference Cards.
- 5 Wild Sheep Cards.
- 40 Action Cards.
- 50 Treasure Cards.
- 1 Rulebook.
How do you play Dragon’s Hoard?
Dragon’s Hoard takes about two minutes to learn. Do check out our playthrough video above to see how it’s done.
All the cards are double-sided. All the card backs (action and treasure) have sheep on them. There are 5 different colors of sheep. Red, Blue, Yellow, Purple, and Orange. The color of the sheep doesn’t affect the cards, but it does affect when you can play them. Note: I’m not color-blind, but I did have some difficulty differentiating the blues and the purples. I’m sure the red and orange could well be tough for some people too.
The idea of the game is to collect as much treasure as you can. Games cease when somebody has laid down 10 treasure cards (in a two player game. 9 are needed in 3-player, and 8 in 4-player games). Treasure cards have different values and it’s the total treasure value scored that determines the winner. Whoever’s treasure is worth most at the end of the game wins. Higher scoring treasure cards are harder to lay than lower scoring cards.
How is the game set up?
Set up is simple. Each player gets four cards to form their hand. Another 4 cards are placed in the center of the table. These cards are placed sheep side up. This is the “field of sheep.” Players can see the color of the card but not whether it’s an action or treasure card. The remaining cards are placed next to the field to form the draw deck.
The start card is given to the person to the left of the dealer. This person will take the first turn. After that, the start card is only used at the very end of the game. This is NOT a game where the first player changes during play.
How does a round work?
Games are loosely divided into rounds, with each player taking a turn.
At the start of your turn, you draw 2 sheep cards (3 in 3-Player and 4 in 4-Player games) from the field. If you started with less than 4 cards you may draw one extra card. Players may not end a turn with more than 10 cards.
You may pick sheep cards from any of those available in the field. You may take sheep of any color. Cards that are drawn from the field are immediately replaced using the draw deck.
NOTE: Exactly how this phase is carried out isn’t spelled out in the rules. It’s not clear whether it’s OK to draw directly from the draw deck or whether you MUST take cards only from the Field of Sheep. The game difference is subtle, and I don’t think it matters which variation you use, as long as you’re consistent for all players throughout the game.
After drawing cards, you may complete two possible actions, performing each of them once. It’s OK to perform only one action or even 0 actions, but you cannot perform the same action twice in a turn.
The two action options are:
- Play an action card from your hand.
- Play a treasure (or lair) card from your hand.
A note on color:
When playing an action card, the color of the card is irrelevant.
For treasure cards color is everything. Each treasure card played has a cost associated with it. The more your treasure is worth the higher the cost to play it. This cost is paid in cards. Most treasures cost a number of specific colored cards (sheep) plus an additional cost in cards (sheep) of any color.
The type of card is irrelevant. It’s the colors of the cards that’s important. You pay for treasure with the sheep sides facing upwards. Nobody will know what type of card you have cashed in to play your treasure.
A player may wish to play a purple “wishing tree” in which case they will need to pay 3 purple sheep and 2 more sheep of any color. You can use any cards you have in your hand to pay this cost, whether they be action cards or other treasure cards. Once you have paid the cost, however, they are discarded and may never be used again. Choose wisely!
Color is also important for the lair cards. Lairs are special treasure type cards that are worthless on their own, but if you place treasure in them, become very valuable indeed. Treasure in lairs must be of the same color as the lair. e.g. Only purple treasure may be placed in a purple lair. Each treasure card in a lair scores extra points. 1 bonus point for 1 treasure, 3 for 2, 6 for 3, and a whopping 10 for 4 treasures of a matching color. It’s well worth collecting your treasure in a lair.
NOTE: Whilst players can have multiple lairs and two instances of each color lair exist in the game, and players may not duplicate lair colors. i.e. You can’t have two purple lairs.
What do action cards do?
As you merrily work your way through the deck accumulating treasures, you’ll encounter lots of action cards along the way. Many of these you’ll discard as sheep bartered for treasure, but others you’ll keep to either help your cause or hinder that of your opponents.
What are the 8 types of action card?
- The Angry Mob: Forces opposing players to discard half their cards (rounding down).
- The Dragon: Interrupt play to stop any action card being played (except a wizard (see below). Also ineffective against wild sheep.)
- The Knight: Choose a player to miss their turn this round.
- The Shephard: Pick up two extra cards.
- The Thief: Steal 2 cards from one of your opponents (viewing sheep side only).
- The Wizard: Play along with an action card to make that action unstoppable (i.e. not stopped by a dragon card.) Note: Ineffective against unicorns
- The Unicorn: Play in front of you. Until your next turn, you are unaffected by action cards. Even stops Wizards!
- The Wild Sheep: Not strictly an action. Counts as sheep of any color when discarded to pay for treasure. Cannot be stopped by a dragon. NOTE: Do not confuse Wild Sheep when paying for treasure, with Sheep of any color. There’s a subtle distinction. This card can be a specific color of the players choosing. So can be used as a purple sheep in the above Wishing Tree example.
How does Dragon’s Hoard play out?
Gameplay is very simple. On each turn, you pick up new sheep, decide if you want to play any treasure and which action cards you want to employ to further your ends. Generally, you want to focus on furthering your own cause, but sabotaging your opponents either directly, by playing negative action cards on them, or more subtly by choosing and discarding the color cards they need, is part of the game too.
At the end of the game, once one player has laid down the required number of treasures, (10 in a 2 player, 9 in a 3 player, and 8 in a 4 player game) everybody else gets one more turn until play returns to the person with the dragon start card. i.e. The person who went first. This ensures that everybody has had an equal number of turns.
Why play Dragon’s Hoard?
In short: It looks great, is easy to pick up, and is good fun.
I don’t think Dragon’s Hoard is ever going to be anybody’s “best ever” game. It doesn’t have enough to escalate it to those heady heights. Having said that, it’s an excellent group game. It’s hard to imagine anybody actively not wanting to play. It’s a fun game to play in between heavier-weight contests.
The artwork on the cards is extremely pleasing. It helps evoke a strong sense of theme, on what is otherwise quite an abstract concept (colored sheep = treasure). The game’s strongest mechanic is its double-sided, double use cards. When playing, there’s a constant trade-off between placing treasure and holding onto useful action cards.
The game is super-portable, being just a box of cards, albeit larger than average ones. It extremely easy to teach too. My 8-year-old has no problems with this game. Like many of the best games, Dragon’s Hoard is easy to play but more challenging to execute good strategies. Nevertheless, its light-weight feel and simple either/or mechanic mean that nobody, not even I, struggles with analysis paralysis.
Dragon’s Hoard is a great family game from around 7 upwards. It’s cuddly rainbow sheep definitely give it additional child appeal. With the game costing only $20, it’s a little pot of gaming gold.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.