Baeloria is a whimsical fantasy realm filled with adventure as well as danger. This is the perfect place for those seeking riches and fame. Merchants lead their caravans from the outpost to the Dragon City. However, there are many routes to their destination and the stops along the way provide opportunities to gain and sell resources, fill contracts, and build up caravans. However, be sure to bring along some protection since the roads connecting the various locations present encounters that could cost the unprepared merchant. Only one merchant can achieve the greatest fame at the Dragon City. Will it be you?
What Is Almanac: The Dragon Road?
Almanac: The Dragon Road is a game for 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, and takes about 60-90 minutes to play. It had a successful campaign on Kickstarter and is now available from retailers including Amazon for a suggested price of $49.99. Almanac: Dragon Road was designed by Scott Almes and published by Kolossal Games, with illustrations by Jacqui Davis.
Almanac: The Dragon Road Components
Here is what you get in the box:
- 120 Goods tokens (30 each of 4 types)
- 75 Gold tokens (4 different values)
- 30 Caravan cards
- 24 Contract cards
- 24 workers (6 per player color
- 20 Encounter Cards
- 12 Guard tokens
- 1 Guide token
- 49 Location tokens
- 4 player screens
- 4 Starting caravan cards
- 1 Almanac gamebook
- 1 6-sided die
- 1 Fight die
- 1 Rule book
The Almanac gamebook is the heart of Almanac: The Dragon Road. It acts as the gameboard during play. However, this gameboard changes, with 17 different pages each with its own play area. During a game, players will visit and play on only six different pages. The play area is located on the right side of the spread when the book is open with a storyline and specific rules for that location on the left side.
Each player begins with a starting caravan card. During the course of the game, players can purchase caravan cards to increase the carrying capacity of their caravan as well as to gain strength, workers, and/or fame. Caravan cards have squares printed on them to show where goods can be placed. Caravans cannot carry more goods than they have spaces.
Contracts are ways in which players can earn a lot of fame. Each player begins with two contracts and as they complete them, can gain more contracts. In order to complete a contract, players spend the turn in the required resources and perform a contract action. Contacts also have abilities they provide once completed. If you have uncompleted contract cards at the end of the game, you lose the fame points instead of gaining them.
As players move from one location to the next, they must play an encounter card. While there are 20 encounter cards, players only use five of them per game. Encounters can involve a fight with either a reward or a penalty depending on the outcome, or they can be an encounter where players make a choice of two outcomes.
Almanac: The Dragon Road includes lots of tokens. Many of these tokens represent the goods players trade and include the green Dewleaf, red Emberspice, blue Everice, and golden Skyfish. Gold tokens are used to purchase things as well as for bidding. They come in four different denominations: 1, 5, 20, and 50. Guard tokens can be purchased to increase the strength of your caravan during encounters and the Guide token is used to represent the first player. Several other tokens are specific to different locations your caravan will visit on the way to the Dragon City. Rules for their use are included in the Almanac gamebook.
Each player begins with three meeple workers which they use to take actions during gameplay. Players can gain up to 3 additional workers which provides them with additional actions. These worker meeples come in the four different player colors.
How to Play Almanac: The Dragon Road
The goal of the game is to gain fame by completing contracts, selling goods, and building up your caravan.
Start off by placing the Almanac in the center of the play area and open to the first location called the Outpost. All games start here. Shuffle the caravan deck and then the contract deck and place the decks facedown near the Almanac. Place the gold tokens in a supply and then separate the goods tokens by type and place them near the Almanac along with the Key to the Dragon City and guard tokens. Leave all the location tokens in the box but close by so you can access them as needed. Next,xtco create the encounter deck by randomly selecting an encounter card from each letter, A-E. Stack these cards face down in alphabetical order so that the A card is on top. Return the remaining cards to the box.
Each player should take a player screen and six workers matching the player’s color. Players each take one starting caravan card and two contract cards from the deck. Place 3 workers on the caravan card in front of the player screen and keep the other three workers behind the screen. The youngest player is given the Guide token which designates the first player. The first player then is given 10 gold and going around in a clockwise direction, the other players receive 12, 14, and 16 gold respectively. You are now ready to begin to play.
A game of Almanac: The Dragon Road lasts 6 rounds with each round played at a different location within the Almanac. Players always start at the Outpost and then progress through 5 other locations, each with their own challenges and special rules that apply only there. Many locations have special tokens that are used for that location or can be carried to other locations. Each game round is divided into three phases: the Arrival Phase, the Action Phase, and the End Phase.
When the players enter a new location, each player in turn order resolves all of their Arrival Phase abilities they have in their play area. Next, deal out a number of caravan cards from the deck equal to the number of players and place them face up near the Almanac. Now read the story text for the location as well as the setup and placement rules for the location and retrieve any components from the box as called for in the instructions.
Starting with the first player and continuing clockwise, each player places one worker from their caravan onto an available action space and resolve that action. Players continue this until all workers have been placed. Players can’t place workers from behind their screens. There are two types of action spaces: standard and location. Location actions are specific to each location while standard actions are available at all locations. There are six standard actions. Once a player has the required goods for a contract card, they can complete a contract by placing a worker on that space. Another action allows a player to gain a contract if they have less than 2 uncompleted contracts. For this, they draw three contract cards, pick one, and discard the other two. The extend your caravan action lets you purchase one of the caravan cards by paying the price listed on it. Gain goods actions let players take the goods shown on the space and place them onto their caravan as long as they have available space. By choosing a sell goods action, a player may sell as many of that specific type of good shown and receive the shown amount of gold per good. Finally, the visit the shop action lets a player choose one of three options: gain 1 good of their choice, discard goods of a single type for 3 gold each, or gain 1 guard token. Guard tokens provide two strength to a caravan and one fame point for the end of the game.
Once all the players have placed all their workers and resolved their actions, players retrieve all their workers and return them to their caravan. Now players bid to be the guide which is the first player for the next round. Each player secretly takes gold from behind their screen and holds it in their hand. They can bid as much or as little as they want, even zero gold. When all players are ready, they simultaneously reveal their bid. The player with the highest amount of gold wins, but only pays the amount of the lowest bid. If someone bids zero gold, the winner still pays one gold. In case of a tie, the current Guide wins. If the current Guide was not involved in the tie, the player closest to the guide in turn order wins. The winner is given the Guide token.
The new Guide then selects the next location from the two choices at the bottom of the left page of the Almanac. Then the Guide reveals the top card of the encounter deck, reads the text, and tries to resolve it. If the Guide is unable to resolve it, then the next player in order attempts and so forth until the encounter is resolved. Finally, discard the encounter card, clean up any tokens from the location, discard any unpurchased caravan cards, and then turn the page of the Almanac to the chosen location. Start over with the arrival phase.
The game ends when players have used all of their available workers on the final location at the Dragon City. Players have one last chance to complete any incomplete contracts still in their possession. They discard the required goods as usual but also have to pay 5 gold for each contract completed in this manner. Final scoring is determined by players calculating their fame. They receive one fame for each gold, the fame value of each caravan card, fame on location tokens, guards, and encounter cards they have acquired, and the fame value of completed contracts. The fame value of incomplete contracts is then subtracted from the total value. Goods on caravan cards provide no fame. The player with the most fame wins. In case of a tie, the player with the most gold wins. If still a tie, the player with the most goods in crates on their caravan cards wins.
Almanac: The Dragon Road is GeekDad Approved!
Why You Should Play Almanac: The Dragon Road
Scott Almes, the designer of Almanac: The Dragon Road, has created a lot of different games including the Tiny Epic series. I am a fan of many of his games and was not at all disappointed with this title. It provides a lot more variability than most worker placement games through the use of the Almanac. This essentially provides 17 different variations. Since you only use 6 locations during a game, rarely will two games be exactly alike as choices the players make during the game determine which locations you will use. The locations at the start of the game are fairly straight-forward. Place your worker and resolve the action. However, as you get closer to the Dragon City, more strategy is involved in placing your workers. Sometimes you can’t place your workers in adjacent spaces or other limitations affect your choices. Some even depend on yours opponents’ placement of workers. Since players start with only 3 workers and can build up to only 6, the game moves quickly, spending only about 10 minutes on each location.
A key to winning the game is buying caravan cards to increase the size of your caravan as well as your workforce. The more workers you have, the more actions you can take during a round. While building up your caravan, you also need to be working to complete contracts, gaining goods, and trying to make gold which you need for caravan cards as well as bidding. I found this need to balance your actions a fun challenge since you want to get lots of good, but need space in your caravan to carry them. Then do you sell the goods for gold or use them for contracts? Whether you win or lose a game, you want to play again to try new strategies.
I did not realize the importance of bidding until I got into my first game. Being the Guide, which is the first player, has many advantages. First, you get to pick the next location. Next to your choices on the page of the Almanac is information that shows which goods are more available at each location as well as which sells for the most. Therefore, the Guide can pick a location with goods they need for their contracts or if they want to sell goods, the choice that provides the most likely profit. The Guide also gets the first chance at the encounter, which if they can resolve it, they get the reward. Finally, getting to choose actions first at the new location provides a great advantage. Even the bidding mechanic requires some strategy. You may want to bid a lot to win, hoping that others choose not to bid much since you only pay the lowest bid with a minimum cost of 1 gold. Therefore, even if you don’t have enough gold to win, you can make the winner pay more by not bidding low. While I love the worker placement part of the game, the bidding is just as fun and a great change to the gameplay in-between each location.
Almanac: The Dragon Road is a wonderful game. My family had a great time playing it, and each time we play it, we have a different experience. The gameplay, the art and look of the game, the replayability, and the great blend of mechanics make this an incredible game that you will want to add to your collection. This game is great for playing with children as well as for adult game groups. For these reasons, I highly recommend Almanac: The Dragon Road and GeekDad gives this game its seal of approval. This is also the first in a series of Almanac games with the second installment due to launch its Kickstarter campaign later this year. I can’t wait!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.