Delton P.(msoul01)United States
Quick Look: The Damsel's Tale
Designer: Josh Sommerfeld, Paul Nicholas, & Alex Wynnter
Artist: Senitra Thompson
Publisher: Red Genie Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2
Playing Time: 10-15 min.
From the publisher:
The Damsel's Tale is an asymmetrical strategy game for 2 players.
One player will use their hand of cards to control Ivan the Knight as he tries to sneak up through the lair to the treasure pile without the mother Dragon seeing him.
The other player controls the dragon pup Sinder and will use their cards to try and make sure Ivan is in the open when the mother dragon reaches the lair.Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com
WARNING: This is a preview of The Damsel's Tale. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.
I was given the use of a prototype copy to learn the game and prepare my review before sending it on to another reviewer; I want to clarify that my article is a pre-review prior to the game going on Kickstarter, but is not paid advertising for the game, as the term "Kickstarter Preview" has come to imply in the gaming community. All opinions here are mine (or those of my friends and family) and not influenced by the publisher.
Overview and Theme:
The Damsel's Tale is a game of Knight vs. Dragons, housed in a book-shaped box, complete with rich fantasy illustrations and a clever story that fills up the majority of the rulebook. This asymmetrical micro card game is easy to teach and quick to play, with the trappings of legend and lore bringing a strong theme in a short time.
Opening the box of The Damsel's Tale takes you on the first step into its fantastic realm: the box itself is shaped like a book, with a magnetic closure for the front cover. Inside, you'll find a small board, three slim decks of 6 cards each, 3 tokens, and a 32-page rulebook.
The rulebook does a good job of teaching the mechanics of the game in just 8 pages, and leaves the rest of the space to the short story of "The Damsel's Tale" by Ivan Nevill. I definitely recommend reading the story together before you play, as it puts you in the right mindset to think about the old stories of knights and dragons and damsels from a new perspective!
Game Play and Mechanics:
The Damsel's Tale is a game designed for two players: one will take on the role of the Knight trying to get to the treasure without being spotted, and the other player takes on the roles of both Baby and Mumma Dragon who are hoping to catch the interloper.
The Damsel's Tale is really a microgame: for all of its lovely extras, like the magnetic-closure book-box and the included short story, the game itself comes down to just 18 cards, and actually focuses on just 12. The Knight and the Baby Dragon each have a deck of 6 action cards to choose from, and some of the actions will result in the Mumma Dragon moving 1-3 steps based on the top card from her 6-card deck.
The structure of gameplay is easy to explain. Both the Knight and the Baby Dragon shuffle their deck and pull a hand of 4 cards. Both players choose one card and hold it out face down, and when both are ready, the cards are flipped over and resolved with the lowest numbered card going first. They'll do this three more times until their hands are empty, then reshuffle their decks and play out another round.
The Knight's goal is to move along his path on the gameboard all the way to the treasure at the end. Along the way, he may end his turn on Hidden spaces (keeping him safe from the Mumma Dragon but increasing the Baby Dragon's Panic Level) or Noisy spaces (prompting the Mumma Dragon to move ever closer to spotting him).
When the Knight plays cards that let him move, he'll move a number of spaces equal to the Baby Dragon's Panic Level, indicated on the board as a chart from 1 to 4. Both players have ways to increase or decrease that Panic Level, which in turn changes how far the Knight can move. Depending on whose card resolves first, this can have unhappy results!
Many of the cards also offer separate actions depending on whether the Knight is currently Hidden or Open (any non-Hidden space on the board). Just like with the Panic Level, if the other player's card resolves first, it could change the Hidden/Open condition and leave you with a less-than-desirable action to take. The Damsel's Tale balances strategy with risk-taking in an interesting way with these mechanics.
The Dragon player's goal is to get the Mumma Dragon to the end of her track on the board when the Knight is in the Open. If she does this, then she spots him and wins the game. If the Mumma Dragon gets to the end of her track and the Knight is Hidden, she is confused and goes all the way back to the beginning of her track.
The Damsel's Tale is dripping with theme, from the book-box to the story to the art and actions on the board and cards. It is easy to teach and quick to play, making it an engaging filler that draws people in to want to play again, usually swapping roles to see if they can best each other from a new angle.
Red Genie Games has indicated that they have some great plans up their sleeve for a Kickstarter campaign, including the introduction of new character decks and screen-printed minis, with a quad-fold board with clearer icons. I love to see a company develop a game and always enjoy seeing what is added, enhanced, and tweaked along the way based on their playtesting and other feedback.
As a gameschooling mom, I appreciated the included short story, which not only gives reading practice but also encourages families to write their own stories based around the game. The Damsel's Tale is a great way to encourage a deep-dive into a unit on fantasy and legend, and, like all good games, helps with logic and strategic thinking as well.
In the present prototype iteration of the game, it feels to many of us that the actual strategy-based gameplay doesn't rise to the level of detailed theme and atmosphere. We wanted more cards, more options, more actions. The fact that the packaging, board, tokens, storybook, etc. go beyond what you usually see with a microgame (often 18-card games come in a slim vinyl wallet!) led many people to expect a little more than a microgame from the play.
Players Who Like:
The Damsel's Tale is a great option for families and gamers who love that fantasy, dragons-and-knights theme like you'd find in Dungeon! or Dungeon Mayhem, or who like microgames like Ahead in the Clouds or Circle the Wagons.
The Damsel's Tale packs a ton of theme and story in a little game with a small footprint and quick gameplay. The projected changes or stretch goals are likely to make the game even stronger and richer, too. I am sorry that we had to send this prototype on, as it's a game that I would have enjoyed continuing to play! I wish the crew at Red Genie Games the best of luck with their upcoming Kickstarter.
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