Dragonrealm

Dragonrealm

  Gamewright  |  Game Factory | BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Darren Kisgen Art: Chris Beatrice
Publisher: Gamewright, Game Factory 
2-4 players 20-30 minutes ages 10+
MSRP $25

Time to teach & learn: 5-10 minutes

text-the concept

Pack your lucky socks and get ready for an adventure exploring Dragonrealm! Sneak into the witch’s cabin, search the ogre’s treehouse, or storm the dragon’s lair. Explore the wilds and add adventurers to different locations in the hope of getting the most treasure. But watch out for goblins who might get there first and grab the treasure before you!

text-the components

Dragonrealm comes with lushly illustrated cards, plus custom wooden pawns and dice.

There are 68 adventurer cards, most of which you’ll use to assail the locations in the game. Adventurer cards come in 5 different colors, and are numbered from 1-12.   In addition, a few adventure cards will trigger the arrival of goblins or an untimely rockslide.

There are 16 enhancement cards to aid you in your journey.

There are 21 large format location cards. Locations come in four colors, representing the different obstacles and trials you will face on your quest. There are spaces for adventurers and goblins, plus icons detailing the type and difficulty of challenges at that location.  Each adventure will culminate at a dragon location card, where great challenge and great treasure awaits!

The game is packed with chunky wooden pawns. Each player gets 8 adventurers to represent your team . There are also 6 custom wooden goblins that are sure to be annoying and get in your way as you play.

The 6 custom dice will see constant action as you play. Each die is numbered from 1-4, with two 2s and 3s, and a single 1 and 4.

Last but not least, the one thing both you and the goblins want most, a pile of 50 treasure coins!

To begin, deal 5 Adventurer cards to each player. Each player also gets to choose some enhancements to take along. A Fireball Spell could get you out of a jam.  A Potion of Invisibility might get us past some guards. Or perhaps your Pet Chipmunk could overwhelm a monster with its cuteness! Then, create a deck of 7 location cards, including 2 cards from each color, ending with a dragon location. The road to adventure begins here. You’re ready to explore Dragonrealm!

text-the mechanics

In Dragonrealm, players will collect sets of cards. Playing different sets of cards allows your adventurers to roll dice to explore and take over locations.

The goal of the game is to accumulate more treasure than your fellow adventurers.

On your turn you have two choices: Explore or Rest.

When you Explore, you play from 1-6 cards from your hand to deal with a location in one of three ways: Sneak, Search, or Storm. The method you select will depend on the strength and weakness of your party of adventurers, that is, the cards in your hand.

Sneak lets you play cards in a row, regardless of color ( a 4-5-6, for example).

A thorough Search requires cards all of the same number (three 8s, for example).

Feeling bold? Storm a location with a hand of cards of the same color.

Once you select a method, call out the action and the location.

“I am going to Sneak into the Cave of Bats,” for example.

For each card you play that fits the action you declared, you’ll roll one of the custom dice. Add all the dice together to see how you did.

Each location shows different target numbers required to successfully place an adventurer.

If you Sneak into the Cave of Bats, the action here will require a total of 8 from the dice to reach the target number, a Search needs a total of 6, and a Storm action needs a whopping total of 13. But notice the yellow ring around the 13. That indicates you’ll place two of your adventurers, should you succeed. Risky, but taking a chance may pay off in big ways!

If your Explore works out, you’ll place an adventurer (or two!) and discard the cards you used. Now draw one card, and your turn is over.

Of course, not every die roll will go your way, so failure is an option. Should you fail, you’ll place one of your adventurers on the Adventurers Academy for further training. From there, they may assist your team in future Explore actions. During future Explore turns, each member of your team on the Academy card can add +1 to your die total.

The bulk of your game will be spent exploring, hoping to place adventurers on location cards in order to score points when the card fills. But to do this well, you must have cards to power your team.

Rest allows you to add 2 cards to your hand, either from those face up, or face down from the deck. You’ll be building up your hand to power future exploits. Which cards will propel your team towards victory? If you’re looking to Search, you’ll want to gather cards of the same number. If you want to Sneak, pick up numbered cards that are in sequence. If you’re planning on Storming, look for cards of the same color.

Of course, drawing cards may also allow goblins to seize a spot in a location, or trigger a rockslide.

If a goblin card is revealed, you’ll place a goblin on the indicated location. They will compete with the players to claim their share of treasure. Any gold goblins win is hauled away, never to be seen again.

If you trigger a rockslide you’ll be forced to pass a number of cards from your hand to an opponent. Rest assured, your opponents won’t be passing you anything they think you can use.

As your adventure advances, locations will begin to fill up with player’s pawns and pesky goblins. As soon as a card is filled, its treasures have been completely explored. Now some players will be rewarded with treasure.

If you have the most adventurers on the card, you get the first place award shown on the card. Players with the second most markers on a location collect the lower amount of coins. The top player  also collects the card for its value in dragonstones. At the end of the game, the player with the most dragonstones gets a five coin bonus.

A new card from the location deck is revealed to replace the explored one.. The quest continues, culminating in a final conflict with a dragon, the last card in the location deck. Once the dragon is defeated, the game ends and  any remaining locations are scored as if they were complete. Now everyone adds up the treasure they have collected and includes the value of any enhancements worth coins. The player with the most dragonstones collects five extra coins. The player with the most treasure wins!

text-apart

Dragonrealm drills down to extract the essence of any role playing game—the brave party, tackling dangers together, but each with an eye for individual glory and gain. Sure, we are all working together to defeat the dragon–but still, I’m Looking Out for Number One! I don’t mind if you get some, as long as I get more.

Every turn feels important in Dragonrealm. The clock is ticking as other players send their pieces to a location. Should you dive in too or wait for the right combination of cards? Even watching a player Rest is important. Did they just pull the cards they need to Explore next turn? Should I strike now?

Not that Resting is without its share of perils. Goblins might pop up, spoiling the odds of capturing a location. And an ill-timed rockslide tests your desire to build the perfect hand.

In a more serious game these chaotic elements would feel tiresome. Here, they actually add to the storytelling. “I was this close to having it all my way. And then you triggered a rockslide, spoiling everything! Clumsy oaf.”

Additionally, the game includes an alternate to Adventurer’s Academy: Adventurer’s Alley. Your pawns sent here can’t help directly with your die rolls. Instead, they can be used to purchase more Enhancement cards. Need to power through a difficult Storm? Take the Dwarf Hammer with you. Tied for control of a location? The Wizard’s Hat can put you in charge!

Another bit of brilliance comes out in the way failure is handled. Not only is an adventurer sent to where he can help you later, but unlike in a successful attempt, you keep the cards you used. This little detail serves to encourage players to plunge ahead and take a risk, moving the game along nicely.

text-final

The allure of any quest is in the stories that emerge after: the twists of Fate, the what-might-have-beens, and the triumphs. Dragonrealm presents an easily approachable, compact game which encourages the players to craft their own story with each decision they make.

Dragonrealm creates a space in which older players can plan a strategy while younger players might crash ahead in pursuit of treasure. There’s room for both approaches. In fact, you might find everyone watching and learning from each other.

Hybrid games which combine board and role playing elements have become wildly popular in the past several years. Mostly, these are longer affairs, which delve into great detail over multiple sessions and clearly speak to an older, more experienced group of players. Dragonrealm makes room for all ages, inviting everyone to play together. 

Dragonrealm is a wonderful introduction to hybrid adventure games and we’re glad to see it earn both our awards. In less than an hour, you can walk away with a fun story based on strategic decisions and challenges for players young and old to enjoy.

Just don’t get in my way, because that treasure is mine!

***

Written by: Doug Richardson

Troika

Troika

Oink Games|  BGG  |  Buy

Designer: Jun Sasaki
Publisher: Oink Games
2-5 20 minutes ages 7+
MSRP $20

text-the concept

In Troika, You are a fortune seeker, hoping to cash in on a recent discovery. On a distant planet, scientists have found a type of stone, which when combined properly, can yield great riches.

You’ve traveled to the planet, but now you’ve been told that getting these gems won’t be enough. You must also gather the right kind of stones to provide enough fuel to get you back to Earth. Gems and fuel. Anything less and your mission will be judged a failure.

text-the components

As with all Oink Games, the fun in Troika is packed into a small, portable box.

Troika comes with 49 Stone tiles. The tiles are numbered from 1 to 15. Each number is represented three times(three ‘5’ tiles, three ‘6’ tiles, etc.) except for the ‘7’ tile, which has exactly seven copies. The tiles show their number on one side only, with a dark blue reverse.

The game also comes with 20 scoring chips in denominations of 2, 1, and -1.

text-the mechanics

In Troika, each adventurer must gather sets of exactly 3 stones to combine as either gems or fuel. Gems will give you the riches you desire. But without fuel, you aren’t leaving the planet to enjoy life back on Earth.

A set of three consecutively numbered stones (4,5,6, for example) become a gem. To make fuel, you must collect three of the same number.  You put your sets together at the end of a round, so plan carefully what you keep.

To begin a round, turn all the Stone tiles face down in the center of the table. Give them a good shuffle, and each player takes one tile at random. This tile goes face down in front of the player in their Hand.  

Now, from the remaining tiles, turn one tile face up for all to see. Choose a starting player, and begin your adventure.

Each player’s turn starts exactly the same: Turn face up one of the Stone tiles in the center of the table. Now the player has two choices: Take a tile from the center of the table(face up or face down) or return a tile they’ve previously collected back to the center area.

If you take a face up tile, it goes in front of you, and is visible for all to see. This area is your Container.  

If you take a face down tile, it goes into your Hand, and is kept secret from the other players. But you can hold no more than three tiles in your hand. If your hand is full, you can’t choose this option.

The other choice is to return a tile back to the middle. If you do this, a face up tile goes back face up. A tile from your Hand goes back face down. To understand why you’d choose this option, you need to know how a hand scores.

Remember, you are collecting sets of three.  Three ‘7’s, for example, will complete a fuel set. A fuel set counts 0 value toward your overall score for the round. But fail to collect a fuel set, and you will lose the round.

A gem set is made of exactly three tiles in consecutive order. A set with a 3, 4, 5 or an 11, 12, 13, for example. A gem set is worth whatever is the last digit in the set. Three points for a 3, or eight points for an 8. Five points for a 15. Zero points for a 10.

But each tile which doesn’t fit into either a fuel set or a gem set is considered Trash, and will cost you one point from your score. This means sometimes the correct decision on your turn is to take out the trash by returning a tile to the middle of the table.

Play continues around the table, with each player on their turn first turning up a tile in the center, and then either taking, or putting back a tile.

Or, maybe, at the start of your turn, you might shout out, “Troika” to escape the planet.

You may only declare Troika if:

  • you have at least 5 face up tiles in front of you (your container),
  • you already have a fuel set (a set of 3 matching numbered tiles)
  • you have no Trash tiles (extra tiles that don’t make gems or fuel) in your hand or container.

If you declare “Troika,” you will stop playing for the round. Your turn is skipped, and you hide their tiles from others until round end.

The first player to declare “Troika” will have five points added to the value of their hand at round end. Be careful, though! If you shout “Troika” without meeting the requirements, you automatically lose the round.

The round ends when all tiles in the center of the table have been turned face up, or when all players except one have declared Troika. Now, players assemble their sets for scoring.

Add the values of the last digits of any gem sets you’ve collected (you might have more than one!).Subtract one point for each junk tile. Add five points if you were the first to declare Troika. A fuel set scores 0.

Players now compare their totals.  Highest total gets a 2 point score chip. Second highest receives a 1 point chip. Nothing for anyone else. EXCEPT… if you failed to get both a fuel set and a gem set, you get a minus 1 chip.

Set up for another round and play 3 total. Highest total score on your chips is the boldest and best adventurer!

text-apart

Troika offers a twist on the classic genre of set collection. Here, you must collect two sets of opposing natures. You will find the interests of amassing three consecutive numbers and three alike numbers bumping heads regularly. Especially when you figure in the intent of others at the table.

Trying to use 3 tens as a fuel set?  Just wait until Aunt Sylvia grabs one of them to go with the eleven and twelve she has as a gem set. Now, your tens are trash. You’d better make other plans.

Of course, you can see to a degree what others are collecting. But some tiles are in the player’s hands and not open knowledge. You’ve got to watch carefully what others take, and try to infer what else they might hold in their hands.

The fact that the game has  of all the numbers, but seven 7s is clever.  Sevens seem like an easy source of fuel. Just get three of them. BUT… of course, everyone wants sevens for that reason. AND… the the most valuable gem set you can make is the 7-8-9 (nine points!). Don’t expect the sevens to just build up on the table, waiting for you to grab them.

text-final

Troika packs a delicious tension into every game. You must turn up one tile on your turn. Since the round ends when all the tiles are face up, the clock is always ticking. The only thing you can do to hold off time is return a face down tile from your hand to the pool.

And adding to the tension is the allure of “Troika” itself. By shouting it out first, you are staking claim to a perfect hand and its reward of a five point bonus. But will that be enough? Maybe another player will complete two gem sets and surpass your total, even with the bonus points. It’s a gamble, but it may be just enough to put you first.

With Troika, Oink Games enters the arena of other games in the Rummy family. The appeal is the same as any other classic Rummy game: collect sets to outscore your opponent. But here the clock is ticking from the very start, and the fun is compacted into a quick, but challenging experience.

Troika stands as a classic with a whimsical Oink twist. A twist that carries over to the tiles themselves. They are septagons.

Written by: Doug Richardson

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