Episode 349: Dragonrealm
Release Date: May 12, 2020
Designer: Darren Kisgen
Art: Chris Beatrice
Gamewright, Game Factory
2-4 players | 20-30 min | ages 10+ | 5-10 min to learn | $25
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!
Dragonrealm is an engaging dice-driven set collecting card game. It provides players with a story, strategy, and plenty of risks whether you're a seasoned dungeoneer or a wizard fresh from the academy.
Read on to explore the game and discover why it has earned BOTH our awards!
Written review continues after the break.
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!
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!
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!
What Sets This Game 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.
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