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Review: Dragoon

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Have you ever had one of those days? You know, you wake up in your cave, on your island, and suddenly a bunch of pesky humans show up thinking they own the place? Where once there was only wilderness as far as the eye could see, villages are popping up like festering blisters from the blaze of your own breath. Then those villages become cities, and filthy humans run rampant.

Well, you don’t have to stand for this. It’s time to shine your scales and warm up your already-impressively-hot breath. You’ve got some things to burn.

How It Plays

In Dragoon, you take on the role of a dragon forced to deal with the arrival of humans. You’ll need to burn their cities to the ground, or at least subjugate them and take their gold. The first dragony player to reach 50 gold wins the game.

Our little island

On your turn you have a few dependable actions. You can move, destroy a village or city for gold, or claim a city/village for potential tribute. You can also raid the thief’s treasure or attack other dragons by moving into their space. If you’re feeling particularly bold, you can raid another dragon’s cave – but be warned, if you end your turn in someone else’s lair, you immediately lose gold and are sent back to your home.

In addition to these actions, you can also play cards from your hand. These cards give you actions worthy of dragons, from claiming multiple villages at once, to destroying everything you touch for a round, to gaining extra actions. There’s no limit to how many you can play on your turn, other than what you have in hand.

Of course my roar is menacing, I’m a dragon!

After every player has taken 3 actions, everyone rolls for tribute. On a roll of 3-5, your claimed villages and cities pay you tribute. A 6 rewards you with bonus tribute, 2 gives you nothing, and 1 actually forces you to drop one of your claims.

A new round begins by adding several new human tiles to the board. They always start as villages, but if a space with a village is rolled for placement, that village upgrades into a city instead.

The game ends as soon as someone reaches 50 points.

Face off for the gold!

By My Dragony Metal Scales

When you see the word “Dragoon” you may think of a member of the British cavalry or perhaps someone misspelled Dragon or maybe it’s some sort of play on the words Dragon and Lagoon. You’d be wrong; dragoon is also a word that means “To coerce, especially by violent or aggressive means.” So that’s where the name comes from and that’s what you’re doing here – coercing, aggressively, a whole lot of gold from humans and other players. It’s that sort of game.

‘Course the first thing you may notice about the photos of this game is just how shiny everything is. Shiny dragons, shiny caves, shiny dragon fortresses. That is because the gold dragon is made of literal gold, and the silver pieces made of silver. It’s not just a thin coat around the plastic, either. These pieces have weight.

That dragon is literally crushing the city tile with its superior mass

These photos are of the special GOLD edition of the game. A while back, that was the only version of the game produced; a hefty, weighty, expensive, shiny game filled with gold. The board is made of cloth. Every component of this game is an attention-grabber, for sure. It’s the sort of thing you could put out on a shelf, set up, if you had the display space.

But a recent kickstarter came about to produce a “standard” version of the game with more normal board-gamey pieces at a more normal board-gamey price. So you may be wondering; shiny metal aside, is the game actually fun? (Some of you might’ve been wondering that about the fancy version, too. After all, exquisite components only get you so far in a board game.)

Let’s tally up the score, shall we?

Dragoon is a take-that game, in case it wasn’t You’ll be ripping villages out from under each other’s control, interrupting each other’s turns with card plays, and rolling dice against each other in combat. Sometimes you take cash directly from another person. Sometimes you steal their cards, or send their hard-earned gold coins to the thief’s chest to be collected by someone else later. I enjoy a good free-for-all, but there are a few things I hate in these sorts of games. Fortunately, Dragoon mostly manages to avoid them.

First of all, there’s no what I’d call a “go back to zero” attack that can crush a player and put them out of the running. Sure, there’s stealing, but reasonable amounts at a time and generally recoverable. Nothing one player does will prevent another player from taking their turn, either. Some turns have more actions and some have fewer, but you never lose a turn thanks to card play.

Might lose a city, though

Mostly you just lose your cities and villages to other players, which is fine because soon there will be plenty of new villages to conquer or burn down. In fact, more often than not the thing that is taking that is the board – the villages and cities of humans that belong to no one.

There is a decent amount of luck to this game, I will admit. The tiles are randomly put on the board by dice rolls, which means its entirely possible for villages to pile up in one corner of the map and leave another corner empty. Sure, that draws all the sniffing nostrils of greedy dragons over to that area, but if your cave is the one that’s there it’s easier to stay in the action. If you get killed and sent to the opposite corner of the map? It takes a lot more actions to accrue those points or put a stop to someone else’s investment banking.

My city! Mine!

It’s also easier to maintain a continuous flow of tribute if you’ve managed to nab a few cities in your corner while other cities are towards the center, easier to get to by the others. The nature of the game makes it feel far more rewarding to spend your actions on those cities rather than running across the map for a one time hit against one player.

There’s also the  dice – combat is straight up roll against roll, with the aggressor rewarded in ties. A few cards can give you a boost, but other than that it’s luck for who wins and gets a little cash. It’s also luck when you take from the Thief or steal from a cave, as you roll for how much gold you get to steal.

But luck is luck. Overall things tend to even out, and while some die rolls can frustrate you, the fun of this game comes mostly out of playing the cards. You automatically get cards every turn, and can spend actions to collect more of them if you need to. Usually you don’t spend all of them at once, but you can have some quite excellent turns combining your card plays with your actions.

This map is so nice to look at…

You’ll end up smashing a line of cities to bits, or conquering half the villages of the other players in one go. You’ll mess with plans and be messed with, and it’s all very visual with the tiles coming on and off the board. Claiming cities gives you hope for longer-term income, but destroying them provides some pure dragony joy and instant rolls of cash. As long as you do something and don’t just sit there, you will have fun.

It’s not the sort of game to expect to have deep, long-term strategies that come to fruition in the last moments of the game. You have to be opportunistic, smashing and grabbing whatever you can reach. The shiny metal pieces are fun to use, but I do think that as the game goes on I spend more time thinking about how to best play the cards in my hand and which cities to destroy rather than how sparkly my cave looks. It’s hard to say whether or not the game would be quite as enticing without the shiny metal, but at least I can say there is a substantial game worth playing in the box.

Keeping a watchful eye

In fact, the deluxe edition isn’t perfect either. Two of the colors aren’t particularly easy to distinguish in certain lighting, especially on the scoreboard, and the dice – which are supposed to be two different colors – are very close in shade as well.

So, is it worth it? For the deluxe version, your mileage may vary. The pieces are a beauty to behold and the board is quite nice, but the depth of the game might not be worth the price tag for you. As for the standard edition, you miss out on the shininess but you’re getting a game that fills the box it comes in. At the very least, if you enjoy take-that style games, playing as a dragon, or highly interactive fast-paced games in general, Dragoon is probably worth a try.

iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Lay Waste Games for providing a review copy of Dragoon.

  • Rating 8.0
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Summary

Pros:

Fast paced
Highly interactive
You always have something you can do
Lots of fun, action-filled turns

Cons:

Not particularly deep
The luck is strong with this one
Deluxe edition is mucho expensive

8.0 Very Good

Futurewolfie loves epic games, space, and epic games set in space. You'll find him rolling fistfuls of dice, reveling in thematic goodness, and giving Farmerlenny a hard time for liking boring stuff.

Discussion1 Comment

  1. The idea of playing as a dragon fighting off people makes me smile, especially as one defending your own territory from invaders. The pieces in the deluxe box are a delight to see in photos, but you are right in pointing out that price point. Ninety dollars is a tough ask.

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