Dragons are sacred animals. Their majestic wingspan, scales and fiery breath leave everyone in fear and awe at the same time. Kneels will shiver even to the strongest of the dwarf warriors of clan Gnarl, when some of them is flying above their small village. The bigger horror was aroused with the news, that one of these scaly creatures has settled in the nearby mountains. Animals began to disappear without a trace, and village supplies got alarmingly thinner with the approaching winter.
Elders of the tribe had no choice but to act. They ordered the three bravest warriors to try to banish the dragon from its nest. Dwarf books describe precisely, how to getr id of such creature. You will need one shooter, one fighter and a warrior carrying the net. You immobilize the dragon with it for a while and take advantage of this little moment to cast it out. Three brave dwarves looked back at the village for the last time and turned themselves towards danger.
None of us would be glad, if he should accompany them. Although to see such creature is a thing, many of today people would be willing to take the risk. Fortunately, we have board games that allow us to experience such an adventure in warmth of our homes.
This time, we can thank the Polish company REBEL.pl, which published a new game from Adam Kaluza, named Drako. This polish author became famous with his last year game named K2 (we are preparing a review). But he has done also other games, especially for children’s publisher Granna – such as Hooop!.
Drako captured visitors to the board games fair Spiel 2011 in Essen with its plastic game board and beautiful pieces. Many brought it home and now one of these dragons landed also in our newsroom.
When you look at the lid of the box, a dragon will mischievously peek at you. He is the main character throughout the game and the entire game is called by his name. But if you were afraid for the life of such delicate creature, we can assure you, that it is not its life, that is at stake here. Dwarves can not hurt it so badly, it is only an attempt to push it away from their village and their people, so they can sleep well. We cannot say however the sam about lives of three dwarf characters, who enraged dragon. Their lives hang on a shred and you can save them only with the right tactic.
After opening the box, you will of course discover a game board. This one is relatively small scale, but it is suited just for the duel you need. Only a small glade in the grip of stone walls will be audience of the battle. There are also some additional components beside the board – mainly two player plans, one for dwarfs and one for the dragon. You will also find a pile of chips on the breakout sheet, which will represent injuries. There are also several other tokens for special skills for the puny characters of dwarfs.
Drako is the so-called card-driven game, the whole game system is based on playing some cards. You will discover these two decks at the bottom of the box. One of them will get the player representing the dragon and the other one will go to the dwarf warrior. Now the only thing standing between you and your experience, is some visual representation of both the parties on the board. And it is great to announce, that those will be in a form of four beautiful plastic miniatures: three gray dward and one red much bigger dragon. Figures are beautifully made in detail.
Unlike last week reviewed Ninja (review), this time the author did not try to force a multiplayer option. Although there would be the chance to divide the party of dwarves, fortunately nothing like that happened. So the Draco remained board game only for two players. Each one of them will have to choose a different side of conflict.
First, it is but necessary to prepare an environment in which the fight can happen. In the middle of the table, you will most certailny put game board. The dragon miniature dominates the center of the board, dwarves can then have their starting place anywhere else on the ground. Each player gets his player board corresponding to hisside (ie with picture of three dwarfs or a dragon), which have marked spots for injuries on them. Tokens will share a common supply next to the board, at the start of the match.
The two rivals will get their special deck of cards, shuffle them and draw four cards in their hand. This is the starting options, with which they enter the game. The player representing the dwarfs will also get tokens with network and rage, that can be used during a game.
The dwarf board contains damage course for each of characters. You must therefore be careful, because each of the fighters gets injured for himself, and if his last box fills up, he is removed from the game = killed by the dragon. On the other hand, dragon board is divided into four dragon abilities – armor, flying, spewing fire and ground movements. If the dwarves are succesfull in attacking one of these areas and fill them up with tokens, the dragon loses this ability and may not use it for the remain of the duel.
Players take turns. They have a certain number of cards on their hand and two action points at their disposal. They can divide it between playing action cards or drawing new cards from the supply. Play can use action points as they like – one point is equal to playing one card from hand or drawing two. Individual decks are completely different. Each card has several icons on it, that represent movement, assault, shooting and network for dwarfs, possibly flight, spewing fire and attack for the dragon.
Each of opponents may therefore play a two cards from his hand and take full advantage of their opportunities. While the dragon lord has no choice but to move only his one miniature, dwarf leader can always use one card to a single dwarf (with the exception of multiple movement card). It is thus more difficult for the dwarfs to reach strategic positions, but on the contrary, they have significant advantage in numbers.
The movements and attacks icons can have a number next to them meaning number of spaces or damage. In all other cases the characters can move only one space. Only the dragon has the advantage of flying. At least initially, until dwarfs with their properly-aimed shots will not take it away from him.
In case of a incoming attack, both dragons and dwarves can cover with the help of defensive help cards (shields). It is therefore important to try to always keep a card with the shield in your hand, but from a strategic point of view it is very difficult, because these cards usually also serve as movement.
If the player under attack does not have a shield, he then receives injuries corresponding to the number on the offensive card played. The distribution of damage makes sense only with dragon, because dwarfs always face the dragon themselves. The dragon, however, is in different situation as the attacker can choose exactly where the blow was struck. With the exception of the first few damage points, that are blocked out by the natural dragon scale armor.
The game can end in several ways. The most straightforward is that the dragon will destroy all dwarfs. Once the last one falls on the ground, dragon player is the winner. However the dragon wins also when he runs out of cards, because he was able to resist the dwarves long enough. Dwarves have the advantage of superior force, but have only one chance to win – deal the dragon so much damage to defeat it.
Drako brings a very interesting strategic battle to our table. It almost seems, as it escaped from some adventure film. The greatest weapon of the game is its atmosphere and excellent balance for the two involved players. They both get a shot at winning during the match.
At first glance, it might seem, that this is essentially a purely logical game. But decks of cards change everything, because the players have only limited resources and options available. Because the game has no upper limit for card hand, the decisions are left only on rivals themselves and their strategy. It is important to always have at least two defensive cards in hand, but it is also very difficult to hold it like that.
Both fighting sides are constantly in motion, circling around themselves. One of the dwarf warriors has the advantage of shooting from a distance. In the rules, there is no referenct, if he can also fight melee as the other two.
Drako is really a game of strategy, despite the possibility that players are strongly influenced with incoming cards from the deck. The fundamental types of cards are well distributed and you will get them regularly. If you play the game well, both parties always have chance to win in the end.
Tactics are very important. Dwarves are trying to support each other, to make dragon lose his dangerous abilities and weaken him. It can be done from a distance with shooting and hurting him. The dragon on the other hand is trying to avoid getting surrounded by dwarves. He runs before them continuously, while maximizing damage dealt to dwarfs. When he manages to get several dwarfs in line, he can use dragon breath and hurt all of them at once.
The experience of the game is completely different depending on which side you fight for. The author himself refers to the game as asymmetric. Other reasons for these different impression are of course different conditions for victory.
The price may be a little high, but it is the price, you will pay for wonderful miniatures. These four add some charisma to the whole game are are worth a little pennies more, than a usual card games.
Manufacturing of the whole board game is very good. Both game boards and cards include nice artwork, everything is clear and obvious at first glance. The experience of the game is definitely enriched by the presence of miniatures. These will delight the eye of every board games lover.
Drako is simply elegant and at the same time simple game, meant just for needs of two players. Excellent balance of winning chances for both sides gives you a guarantee of great entertainment for many games to come. The only drawback remains in the fact, that if you play Drako too often, you may find it a lot of fights similar. However, if you approach the game as a leisure game for two (for example for dad and his boy), you will be happy to play it every time you reach for it.
+ each side is played differently
+ simple game system
+ balanced chances for both players
+ several game end conditions
+ cards do not limit strategy
- little bit of chance