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The Dragon & Flagon» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Like Cheers, But Everyone Wants to Punch You In the Face rss

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Charlie Theel
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St. Louis
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Everyone loves a good bar. Bottom-shelf shots, double-fisting beers, and countless hours of brawling while calculating THAC0.

This concept began as a re-working and modernization of the classic 1980 Yaquinto title Swashbuckler. Geoff Engelstein and family eventually came to the realization that the result was a different animal altogether. The Dragon & Flagon was born and gamers worldwide-well, at least those who attend my game nights-rejoiced.

This is a mechanically solid programming game with a very light and inviting theme. Don’t let the cheery artwork and cutesy 3D scenery (seriously, have you seen those mugs and chairs?) hoodwink you into thinking this is a light gateway game though. The engine behind the body has a stable full of horsepower and the entire package is quite clever.


The Dragon & Flagon - where the only thing that's spilled more than beer is blood.


The goal is to amass the most fame by bashing each other over the head with scenery. Every blow you land steals fame from the target and the hostess with the mostest at the final bell is the lord of the barroom brawl. It’s a simple concept executed with a relatively straightforward action programming structure.

Players have a large hand of cards with mostly common actions and a few unique ones only their character can perform. In between each time segment, effectively a round, you program a card face down into your first and second action spaces. When your turn pops up you flip your first card and execute it.

Afterwards you slide your second card down to the first slot and program a new card in position two. Your character marker jumps forward a number of spaces on the time track depending on the maneuver you executed, and then you await your next action. The time track itself has a slight Red October vibe, but thankfully the execution is much more interesting here.


A cast that actually represents the variety of everyday life.


I will say that for a silly and over the top theme the mechanical weight is heavier than you’d expect. Filling empty action slots, maneuvering a large hand of cards, fiddling with the time track, and managing lingering status affects-all of these can come across as occasionally cumbersome and take you out of the action. It gives the game a procedural feel at times where the action is segmented out in small dollops.

Fortunately the action is worth the wait. You pick up chairs or mugs, hop atop tables, literally yank rugs out from under drunk bystanders, and swing from chandeliers. Any game where I can climb a table, get pelted by a thrown stein, and then leap off to kick the Paladin in the head has my vote.

The trick is that the conclusion of each action can be extremely satisfying and dramatic. You can pull off interesting combos like boasting your superiority and then landing a risky flying kick. The points pour in and your enemies lay in a pool of tears and ale.

Adding to the flair is the very powerful unique special card each character possesses. You can only unlock this card if you grab the magical dragon flagon located at the center of the room. You’ll have to dive across tables, duck a few blows, and produce some fancy footwork to grab the thing, but it will certainly be worth it.

When you trigger those special action cards you feel like a super hero. You’ll blast up a part of the bar with a cannon shot, react with blazing speed and avoid programming, or bring the power of god down upon the patrons. The rest of your crew will wish they slipped out before last call.

Beyond those awesome dramatic moments the design ultimately triumphs because it knows how to pull off action programming, at least in a 2016 sense. The key to this genre is producing moments of chaos without feeling punishing. You need to maintain the balance between effectiveness and incompetence which produces humorous outcomes. Serving both in even doses is as difficult as balancing on one foot while half the bar is pelting you with mugs.

The Dragon & Flagon succeeds in this aspect because it’s undeniably smart. It keeps the programming to only two action cards so that you can continually adjust. When dazed from an attack, or when profusely chugging beer if you’re the pirate, you have to fill a third action slot. That amount of severity is perfect as it’s a penalty to have to think and plan ahead amid a scene full of chaos. Yet you never are excluded from participating or affecting the playing field.

Even when you script an action that is not allowed, such as a throw when you don’t have anything in your hands, the game never slaps you down. You merely discard the card and progress one space on the time track, ready to act immediately again in the next round. It’s clever and refined and just feels right.


Everything is a little fuzzy because a chair connected with my dome right after I downed a full pitcher.


When you combine slick modern action programming with a natural incentive to charge the middle of the battlefield you have a winner. Chaos begets chaos and narrative pours forth. This is the type of game that reaffirms the essence of Ameritrash: drama. While there are a number of mechanical doo-dads and widgets to yank, the end result is always something that sticks in your noggin.

I want games to provide a compelling story that I’m eager to share. The Dragon & Flagon is one large story of a druid walking into a bar and smacking a barbarian with a club before eating the rug. Meanwhile a monk stands off to the side doubled over in laughter not realizing he’s about to be shot in the head by a pirate. You don’t even have to worry about THAC0.


Charlie Theel writes for Geek & Sundry, Miniature Market's The Review Corner, and Ding & Dent. Most of his reviews don't appear on BGG but can be found in this Geeklist.
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David Luchetti
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This is a really great review!
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Charlie Theel
United States
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Thanks David!
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George
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You can take my game… when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the board!
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Subject line/Review Title made me laugh.
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Dan Conley
United States
Milwaukie
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Life is too short not to live it up a little!
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Oh, my goodness. My two grown sons would have a blast with this: not to mention me. Once again, many thanks, Charlie. This looks like a must-have.
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Charlie Theel
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soosy wrote:
Subject line/Review Title made me laugh.


thumbsup


yosemite wrote:
Oh, my goodness. My two grown sons would have a blast with this: not to mention me. Once again, many thanks, Charlie. This looks like a must-have.


Thank you Dan, this is definitely one you should check out. Very unique and enjoyable.
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Stephen Buonocore
United States
Somerset
NJ
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Great work, Charlie!

Thanks,
Stephen M. Buonocore
Stronghold Games

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Christoph Weber
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Great review, Charlie!

This reaffirms my plan to take the game to game night tonight and hope for some gullible willing participants in a little bar room action.
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