When it comes to Dragon Face, I don’t think there is much praise that can top the fact that over the past several months the nuances of this game have yet to get old. If anything, they continue to multiply. There are no sure-fire strategies. This means that there are multiple levels of play. There are subtleties that you can explore over multiple games. There are layers of choices that you will need to navigate with each new opponent.
Dragon Face is an elegant, robust strategy game, and although it is not laugh-a-nano-second fun like many of our Major Fun party games, it is deeply engaging in the way that only the best strategy games can be. This is fun for the chess set, and for those of you who have not succumbed to that particular addiction, Dragon Face may be your gateway drug.
The game is arranged on a grid that will be instantly familiar to anyone who has ever played checkers or chess. The pieces are double sided discs that resemble checker pieces but with three distinct designs. Each player has seven governors, six ambassadors, and one emperor. Governors move and attack like pawns in chess, governors move like queens, and the emperor moves like the chess king. Unlike chess, captured opponents are not removed from the board. When you capture an opponent’s piece, you jump over it (like in checkers), and that piece is flipped over to become one of your pieces. There is a ring of spaces around the playing field called the “sacrifice zone.” You may jump into this space to capture an opponent’s piece BUT your piece is stuck in the sacrifice zone. Sacrificed ambassadors can be freed if you advance a governor to the opposite end of the board.
The mechanics of flipping and sacrificing make for nerve-wracking games. A single capture can swing the momentum of a game because you can gain pieces that your opponent had not considered in a defense strategy. The sacrifice zone also makes the “edge” of the board dangerous. There are few safe zones; over-extending is a grave error.
If you are going to receive this game from me it will be as a shrink-wrapped gift, fresh from some retail establishment OR you are the one lucky person to whom I bequeathed my copy upon my death. There will be no lending of this keeper, and theft will unleash the hounds of hell.
2 players. Ages 8+
Dragon Face designed by Thierry Denoul. © 2011 by Blue Orange Games.