Trees arewhispering secrets, that none of us can hear. They are passing information about whoever dwells in their shadows. Somewhere in the darkest corners, where most of us never get. But then there are few people, who hear their voices and understand them. And while most of them will turn away under impact of those horrors told, some of them see this calling as a challenge.
A similar forest and despite all the warnings will be visited by all the players in board game Dragonwood. Darren Kisgen invented this game for us and introduced it to Gamewright company. They did not hesitate and released it in 2016 adorned with fairy-tale illustrations by Chris Beatrice.
Game is hiding in box, that is just the right size – not big and not small, but still bigger than usual card dimensions. On the lid, there is a red dragon at guard, winking at us and completely ignores several heroes trying to overcome it. Inside, there is just enough space for two decks of cards (adventure and forest) and a set of dice.
At the beginning of the game, players take the forest deck, find a pair of dragons in it, discard several random cards according to number of players and shuffle the rest. Five cards from top of this deck are then revealed and spread in a row on the table to create an offer. Only after that, dragons are shuffled into second half of this deck. They will become the ultimate rivals. All players will be looking with their hopes toward 64 adventure cards, which should again be shuffled well and each player gets five of them into his possession.
While players go through an adventure together, they will still fight for victory. That is, why they will alternate in the match. First is always a chances to draw one adventure card and by doing this, they have to only respect maximum limit of nine cards in hand. Much more interesting, however, is the second part of the turn, in which the player can try to capture one of cards in the forest lying in the middle of the table.
There may be cards of equipment and enemies in the woods as well as some events, that have to be activated immediately. But cards can not be simply bought. Players have to prove, they are worthy, by playing numbered sets of adventure cards from their hand. Each enemy or equipment card in the woods has three digits listed in the table, which indicate defense of the object or character towards different kinds of attacks.
Players have choice to strike, stomp and scream on their target. Each attack corresponds to a different combination of cards – a straight, same set of numbers or colors (in the same order as attack types). Depending on the number of cards used to attack, player takes dice and rolls them in an attempt to overcome sum of strength of the card he wants to acquire. This can be improved by any bonuses from equipment, which he already won in previous rounds.
If a player is able to at least match value of this type of attack on the card, he succeeds. The equipment can be immediately used and he places it ahead. On the other hand, monster card will serve only as a trophy and is placed in his scoring package, which will not play its role until the end. Game end occurs, when both dragons are defeated or when players have drawn whole adventure deck for second time, even if dragons still remain in the forest. Whoever caught most enemies now gets three-point bonus. Winner will be the one, who accumulated the most points in total.
Dragonwood is a lovely family or children game, where adventure plays a major role. Players have to deal with a lot of dangerous monsters on their heroic walk. Some of them are unique, while others come in packs inside the deck. But they do not attack them in some ambush. Do not expect any surprises here, because players can choose their own adversary to compete with.
And yet the game is pleasantly casual. And because we used a positive word, it is clear, that luck is not a bad thing in here. It makes challenges fun and pursuit of cards is tranformed into an interesting spectacle, that pushes the game a whole lot further. Instead, if this game was only about collecting cards, it would be half the fun. Thus, players choose a number to fight against themselves and they have to deal with it using cards and dice. Only a roll of the dice, together with any equipment, will determine, how eventually their whole effort have ended.
Of course, it’s all easy. Just collect cards and have luck on their drawing and then play them in sets. First preparatory phase depends on how many times a player is willing to sacrifice his whole turn for getting new cards from the deck. And it needs, of course, also good dose of luck, because the combination do not simply pop out in your hand.
Children really enjoy this forest adventure. Game is full of competition for individual cards from the moment they appear on the table. Maybe a little more tactics would have added the chance to have control over drawing card – for example in the style of Ticket to Ride. Two cards would be revealed, the player could choose between them or take his chances and draw from the deck.
To get even more luck into the game, players can draw a card with ladybug, which allows them to draw two new cards. The rules offer a number of interesting minor modifications and variations as you need to shorten or lengthen your match.
Despite even with going through package twice is pleasantly short and the whole thing flows nicely towards the end. The whole thing will play in twenty minutes. Players can enjoy it perfectly in two, three and four maximum. And regardless of the age or beliefs in mechanics. Just the chance may be an obstacle, that is not easy to overcome.
Dragonwood is beautiful, simple and great family game. It is open to children and with a little luck comes entertainment. Players battle monsters, enjoy their adventure and try to defeat the strongest monsters. Finally, it is again only about the accumulated points. Dragonwood should bring joy to many families.
+ adventure with dice and cards
+ players themselves select the enemy
+ fast match
+ dice make the fight interesting
+ accessible to children and families
- luck, but that should not be seen negatively