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Designer Diary: Fist of Dragonstones, The Tavern Edition, or Revamping Old Games

Board Game: Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition
My blog at is not as visited as it was these last years. I have only an average of three hundred daily visitors in 2018, half of what I had three years ago. As a result, I've decided to post the English versions of my new game design diaries on BGG as well. From what I've seen with the first diary, about Greedy Kingdoms, it seems to attract more readers, or at least more comments.

This designer diary first appeared on my blog on July 24, 2018. It has a few more pictures, and it's also in French — for those who care!

There are more and more new games — and mostly good new games — published in recent times. This is why I've been a bit surprised to get, for two or three years now, several offers for republishing older games of mine, including a few whose first version I thought had been forgotten. Queen’s Necklace, Mission: Red Planet, Diamant, Dragon's Gold, Smiley Face (now King's Life) and Vabanque have all had a new version, with updated rules and art. Success has been extremely variable. Mission: Red Planet and Diamant have been great success, selling better than the original versions, while King's Life and the remake of Queen's Necklace went almost unnoticed.

Anyway, if publishers are reading this post, I have a few more which I think could deserve a new edition, such as Boomtown, Draco & Co, Castle and Ad Astra. Serge Laget and I have even already developed new and improved versions of the latter two games.

For now, though, it's Fist of Dragonstones that's come back in a re-developed and revamped edition, courtesy of Stronghold Games. Fist of Dragonstones was one of the three games that Michael Schacht and I designed together in the early 2000s, the other two being The Hollywood Card Game and the aforementioned Draco & Co.

Board Game: The Hollywood! Card Game
Board Game: Fist of Dragonstones
Board Game: Draco & Co

After Citadels

Citadels is still by far my best-selling game. Since it was first published, almost twenty years ago, publishers have regularly asked me for a new Citadels, though I never really know what they mean by this. Not wanting to repeat myself, I've usually asked fellow game designers to help me revisit this classic.

The first way to do this has been to more or less recycle the character selection system of Citadels, adapting it to different settings and other game systems. The results have been Mission: Red Planet with Bruno Cathala, an area majority game on Mars, and then Lost Temple, a light racing game in the jungle of Indochina.

The second way has been to keep the medieval fantasy setting and to try to generate similar emotions and feelings as the ones in Citadels with different game systems. The results have been Fist of Dragonstones with Michael Schacht, and more recently a collaboration with Hayato Kisaragi to revisit one of his older games, Greedy Kingdoms.

From gallery of faidutti
From gallery of faidutti

The Lore of the Dragonstones

The setting of Fist of Dragonstones is inspired by old European legends about fairy gold, or fools gold, with this enchanted gold being paid during the day by fairies to humans for goods and services, then disappearing at night from the humans' purses and returning to the fairy land.

In the game, players are adventurers who buy the services of the various inhabitants of the magic forest: dragons, trolls, fairies and wizards of all kinds, each one of them working for the highest bidder. The goal is to find magic gems, the dragonstones, which then will be used to craft even more magical amulets, etc… Nothing new, I know. In the first versions of the game, players were collecting dragon eggs and using them to make magical omelettes, but this was not politically correct enough.

From gallery of faidutti
From gallery of faidutti

The Game

The cards in Fist of Dragonstones look a bit like those in Citadels. There's a witch, a thief, dragons of course, and a bunch of fantasy characters. These characters, however, are not drafted by the players as in Citadels, but recruited one after the other in a special kind of closed-fist auction. In their fist, players can have common gold, fairy gold, sometimes silver, and various enchanted or cursed coins. Even when it's technically an auction game, Fist of Dragonstones plays and feels more like a bluffing game. The real point is not to reckon the exact value of every card, but to outguess the other players.

The rules for this new edition — Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition — have been reworked a bit to make the game faster, to make the gameplay more dynamic, and to add variety. Fifty new characters, with very different abilities, make every game of Fist of Dragonstones a fresh experience.

From gallery of faidutti

That Hat!

Board Game: The Dragon & Flagon
When looking at the cover art of this new edition, the only thing I see is the main character's black leather hat, which doesn't seem to belong in the same universe as dragons and wizards.

In 2016, Stronghold Games published a tavern brawl game designed by the Engelstein family, The Dragon & Flagon. When developing this game, the publisher and designer obviously couldn't chose between two settings which both made sense: pirates and medieval fantasy. They finally decided to do both, and even added some oriental characters to round it out. Since I'm becoming every day more wary of authenticity, I can only rejoice in this fun and colorful mix and in this hat which looks a bit out of place in a vaguely medieval tavern.

Fist of Dragonstones is the card game that adventurers play, before or after the brawl, at The Dragon & Flagon tavern. It recalls old legends of forgotten realms, enchanted forests, elves and goblins, witches and wizards, and of course dragons. Whatever the bartender says, the gems it is played with are probably just glass beads, but one can dream they are the precious dragonstones of yore.
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