Dragons are easily one of the most iconic creatures from the fantasy genre. Heck, they are even 50% of the name of the most popular RPG ever. So when a new board game debuts that puts me in charge of a dragon laying waste to the countryside, I immediately take notice.
Today, we are going to be taking a look at Dragoon. This sexy looking board game is the first offering from new publisher Lay Waste Games. However all that glitter won’t matter if the game play doesn’t hold up. So let’s open up the box and find out if the mechanics can hold up to the components.
Dragoon is an action point and area control game for 2-4 players that takes about 30 minutes to play. Dragoon plays well at all players counts.
In Dragoon, each player takes on the role of a dragon, trying to collect the most gold from the surrounding countryside. During the game, players will be moving around the landscape, claiming or destroying villages, stealing gold, and battling other dragons. Turns will go by quickly, and if lady luck is on your side, riches will flow into your coffers. Be the first dragon to acquire 50 gold and you win!
There is no doubt about it; Dragoon is guaranteed to turn some heads. Everything about this game screams that it’s a labor of love. The game board is actually a cloth map, with the scoring track uniquely being a cloth bag. While both of these choices are stark departures from traditional gaming fair, I really liked them both.
The artwork in the game, on both the action cards and game board, are wonderfully done by Nick Nazzaro in a really unique style. Seriously, he did an amazing job and stamps Dragroon with its own thematic feel that works perfectly with the game. I look forward to seeing him work on games in the future.
Other than the artwork, what’s really going to capture your attention are the metal pieces. Each player gets a bag of shiny metal components. A dragon, claim tokens, a cave and a score marker each come in one of four metallic colors.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with the production quality of Dragoon.
How To Play:
Dragoon is fairly easy to learn and setup takes almost no time. Once everyone has their starting pieces and hand of action cards, you’re ready to being. Each game of Dragoon is played out in a series of rounds, with each player taking a turn in a clockwise manner.
Each round is broken up into the following phases:
Populate Phase: New villages are added to the board. Two dice are rolled, giving players a coordinate on the game board grid to place a new tile. If the square is empty, a village tile is added. If a village is already there, it’s flipped to its more lucrative city side. If a city/cave is already there, then the thief gains 3 gold instead.
Action Phase: The player in last pace decides who goes first for the round. On a player’s turn, they draw a card and then get 3 actions. Options include:
- Move: Move your dragon orthogonally, 1 space per action.
- Claim: Claim a village/city tile you are on. This includes stealing another player’s claim.
- Destroy: Destroy a village/city tile you are on, gaining immediate gold.
- Steal: Steal gold from another dragon’s cave you are in, or from the thief is you are in a square with the chest.
- Draw Cards: For 1 action, you can draw and discard 1 card. For 2 actions you can draw a card without discarding one.
If you enter a space with another dragon, combat ensues. Each player rolls 1 six-sided die. Highest roll wins (ties going to the attacker).
After each player has taken a turn, then the action phase ends.
Tribute Phase: Roll a 6-sided die. The result of the roll determines how much the villages/cites you have claimed pay you this round. The higher the die roll, the better.
Rounds are played out in this manner until one dragon hits 50 gold. The round is then finished with the player with the most gold winning.
For as amazing as Dragoon is with its components, when it comes to the game play, it has its ups and downs. In case you can’t tell from the How to Play section, Dragoon is a fairly light game. Not that that’s a complaint, I actually enjoy that the game is so accessible.
Thanks to only having 3 actions in a round, turns in Dragoon go by pretty quickly, which definitely helps keep downtime to a minimum. Combine that with the fact that you can be up and playing with 5 minutes, and you have an excellent game to play when you are looking for something light to close out your game night.
What I liked most about Dragoon (other than the bits) is that there are a whole lot of things to do on your turn. Yet with your limited pool of 3 actions, you really have to strategize the best way to spend your actions. From deciding whether to claim a village or destroy it, to the optimal time to use your limited action cards, Dragoon can make for some engaging game play.
Yet there also is a big chain hanging around the neck of this dragon. That’s because Dragoon is a slave to that little six-sided die. While I’m not opposed to luck in my games, I think the extreme amount of dice rolling actually hold back Dragoon quite a bit. Every phase will have players rolling the dice: From populating, to actions, to even the tribute. It can get a bit tiring by the end of the game.
While I was fine with most of the die rolling, what I really didn’t like how combat was handed. The straight roll off not only felt unsatisfying, but also comes with a 6 point swing in the score. In a close game, that can be a huge difference all due to one simple roll.
I think a better way to handle combat would have been to assign numbers to all the action cards. Then have combat participants play an action card for their assigned combat value. This would have not only taken some of the luck out of the equation, but also forced a hard decision on whether to save that action card for its power, or use it to win a combat.
The rest of the rice rolling isn’t too bad. Population works fine, however sometimes a lucky dragon can have extra villages clustered around their cave. We never found this to be too big of a problem, because players would inevitably just fly over and burn those villages to the ground (which, in itself, is very satisfying).
This is also something Dragoon does really well. This game boasts a high amount of player interaction, especially at the higher player counts. From the aforementioned combat and burning villages, to stealing other dragon claims. Dragoon is not a game where you are going to be hiding in your own corner of the board doing your own thing. Expect conflict and lots of it.
Dragoon is both beautiful and stylish, and I loved the direction the publisher took when making this game. It’s nice to see them take risks with the components and try something new.
I think the game play, while it is indeed fun, is held back a bit by too much reliance on rolling the dice. This, combined with the powerful action cards, can make games of Dragoon fairly swingy. But if you can deal with the amount of luck in the game, the game play can be quite entertaining.
While not perfect, I still enjoyed playing Dragoon and will definitely be keeping it in my collection. I can definitely see some room for improvements and hopefully a future expansion can shore up some of the randomness in the game.
If you’d like to get a copy of Dragoon, its first print run is already sold out. However, an upcoming Kickstarter should help bring this game back to the market.
Final Score: 3 Stars – A highly interactive action point game that looks amazing, but is held back by its reliance on rolling a d6 quite often.
• Too much is dependent on rolling the dice
• Can be swingy at times