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Lee Valentine
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I just played part of a game of Dragon Slayer tonight with my wife and my three-and-a-half-year-old. This is a first impressions review.

Dragon Slayer
Indie Boards & Cards (2014)
Designed by David Mortimer
2-5 players (components for 6 players)
$12.99

Goal: Accumulate 40 points by defeating dragons with your knight using a press-your-luck dicing mechanic.

Game Play: Dragon Slayer is a press-your-luck dice mechanic that reminded me of Zombie Dice (that won't be the last Zombie Dice comment). At the start of your turn you have a well-rested, dragon-slaying knight. He has three life points represented by three silver dice. Most of the faces on these dice are axes or shields, but one side of each die is a fire blast. You'll be rolling as many of these dice as you have left on every roll.

The three dragons in the game are blue/easy, green/medium, and red/difficult. Each dragon is represented by three dice representing its head, wings, and tail respectively. Each body part die has four sides featuring that body part. The other two sides vary by the dragon. Blue has two "roll agains" (represented by a mountain symbol). Green has one roll again and one fire blast. Red has two fire blasts on each die; it will roast you.

At the start of your turn you'll pick a dragon to fight. This is the last decision anyone makes until you beat the dragon or the dragon defeats you. Each fight is a fight to the finish; either the dragon dies or your knight is defeated.

You pick up your knight's silver dice plus the three colored dice associated with your chosen draconic quarry. Now roll dem bones.

Every dragon's body part that is rolled is locked and placed on the battle board. The goal is to assemble a head+wing+tail and roll at least one axe. If you do, you slay the dragon.

The problem is that the dragon fights back. Every die you rolled with a fire blast symbol on it damages you unless you roll an equal or greater number of shields. Each point of damage that goes unblocked costs you one of your knight's dice for the remainder of the turn. When all three of your knight's dice are gone, you are defeated, and you lose all your points accumulated that turn.

If you slay the dragon, a potential decision point for the table arises. If everybody decides that you can quit, then you can bank all the points you got for slaying dragons (2 for blue, 4 for green, and 6 for red). Once per game, each player can challenge an opponent to fight another dragon. If you run, then you can bank your points, but they are halved. To add insult to injury, when you run the challenger scores 5 points. If you accept the challenge, then you risk your points accumulated that turn, but any other dragon defeated is worth double. If nobody challenges you, then you can risk your points on your own and fight another dragon, or bank the points you've accumulated that turn. You play until you reach 40+ points.

Again, the only decisions here are whether to fight, which dragon to fight, and whether to challenge once per game. The tension and silence are mixed in a very staccato fashion. There is literally nothing to do while the other player is fighting. In Zombie Dice you can trash talk amost every roll of the dice. Here, once a quest is started it must be finished, so trash talking is pointless unless you believe that you can magically cause a bad dice roll. In between quests the tension increases, at least while challenge tokens remain. Unlike Zombie Dice, the challenge tokens make for periodic player-vs.-player rules-based interactions, allowing for more than mere trash talking.

The box advertises this at 15 minutes. This is likely possible only for a two-player game where each player rolled the dice quickly and repeatedly. Each player will add to the play time, but reaching 40 points can be a lot more of a reach than Zombie Dice's meager 13-point requirement. Player's can easily score 20+ points in a turn if a knight is challenged but prevails in slaying one or more additional dragons. Play conservatively, however, or resist a challenge, and you may bank only two to four points on a turn, making for a long game. The game is advertised for 2 to 5 players, but components are included for 6 players. I would be wary of playing this with 6 players primarily because of the 40 point goal. If even a few players play too conservatively, then I worry that the game could overstay it's welcome. However, since I've only played part of one three-player game, I reserve judgment.

I'm uncertain of the replay value, but I can tell that there are definitely decision points in the game. The order you fight the dragons matters a lot. For instance, random luck can strip you of a knight's die pretty quickly. You'll lose dice faster if you fight a red dragon first, but if you get challenged by another knight, then you can wimp out and take on the blue dragon second. If you try the blue dragon first, lose a die, and get challenged, then tackling the green dragon with two dice may be a bit difficult. Running away from a challenge after defeating only the blue dragon would net you just one point (two normally, but halved for retreating from a challenge).

I think for two-player game, I'd vastly prefer this over Zombie Dice. As a six-player game, I suspect Zombie Dice will player more quickly, and have more table talk. If you play this quickly, then this will be a better game with more and better decisions than Zombie Dice. Play conservatively or too slowly, and the 40-point goal with cause this to overstay its welcome. It's meatier than Zombie Dice, but it's still not a deep game. It's just a filler.

Components: The Kickstarter version of Dragon Slayer was a mere $7.00 for me (compared to a $12.99 retail. There's a lot in this game. There are 12 custom dice which are etched and inked. There are six score markers and six cardboard knight markers in mostly matching colors. I say, "mostly matching," because the "black knight" has a tan shield. There are two double sided sheets; one forms a battle board to track your game state, while the other side is a score track that goes up to fifty. Other than being printed on a light stock, this score track would be handy for any number of games. There is space in the box to hold everything. I was really surprised at the amount and quality of components that goes into this little package.

Retailer Saleability: The box is relatively small but has cute, cartoonish art and some foil elements to make it eye-catching. At $12.99, it's priced about right for an impulse buy, a stocking stuffer, etc. Prop one of these up near your register, and keep a copy open for quick demos. It won't demo as fast as Zombie Dice because of the impacts that challenges have on the scoring mechanics, but it will demo fast enough.

This scratches a very slightly different itch than Zombie Dice, but they are both in the same price range, so decide how that may impact your sales of Zombie Dice before carrying both games. The game has a nice theme, and while I love them zombies, dragon slaying may appeal to a different crowd. Consider showcasing this at the register or with new D&D products as a fantasy-filler. The box is too small to shelve with all the big games; it'll get lost in the crowd.

This product is from Indie Boards & Cards, and they have a strong reputation. If Flashpoint, Haggis, and other games sell well for you, then this game may move better in your shop than in others. Consider giving away a free copy to an "alpha" gamer in the shop in exchange for him or her running a demo table for an hour or so on a weekend. The game had a remarkably good kickstarter for a filler game, but a huge amount of the business was due to the $7.00 cost for backers of Coup: Reformation.

Unfortunately, the box doesn't have a clear window to see the dice or even an image of the components on the back of the box. The components make the show at this price point, so an open copy near the register may be needed to drive sales.

Overall: If you are looking for a highly portable filler with a few decent decision points and a little tension, then this may worth your while.

Lee's Ratings:

Overall Score: ? (too soon to decide on first impression)
Components: A- (thin stock on the battleboard/scoring tracks, but A+ value compared to other games at the same price point).
Art: B+ (cute art on the box, interesting graphic design on the battleboard, and attractive dice; not an art intensive game)
Rules Clarity: B+ (one key rule was unclear, but the rules sheet is overall very well done)
Gameplay: I won't rate this firmly until at least one play through, but I suspect this will be about a B for me. Take that with a grain of salt. It would probably be a B+ as a quick filer, but I worry that that 40-point goal will be too high for cautious players, causing the game to overstay its welcome. Again, this is just a first impressions review.
Retailer Saleability: B (potentially much higher if you demo it or for online retailers where a cheap game to meet a free shipping minimums may make this game fall in a sweet spot for sales).


Edit: The retail version may lack the foil elements on the box, and may come only with dice and challenge tokens, instead of all the other cool Kickstarter goodies. I don't remember these advertised as Kickstarter exclusives, but as pointed out by another user, the rules sheet's list of contents doesn't mention anything other than the dice and the tokens spent to make challenges.


Lee Valentine
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Stephan
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Thanks for the detailed post.

Quick question: what is the distribution of faces on the Knight dice? And are all three the same?

Thanks.
 
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Scott
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I played with 4 this weekend and would guess playtime between 15-20 minutes. We didn't have anyone stopping after only 4 points and we even played incorrectly allowing a max score of only 12 points (one of each dragon) instead of unlimited scoring capabilities as the game intends.

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Silver Bowen
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Note that the retail version doesn't come in a foil box. It also lacks the 6th player components, the score tracker, and the cubes/player tokens used on the score tracker. Retail is just dice and challenge tokens.
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Dan Licata
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If you are only getting 2 or 4 points per turn you aren't playing the game correctly. You may be following the rules but why bother playing if you only going to score one easy or medium dragon on your turn, unless that brings you over the 40 point total.

A couple of things you may have missed, after scoring each of the three dragons you can then attempt to hunt them again, that is you can kill the dragons more than once each but to do so you have to kill all three. You can do this multiple times if you are lucky. Also when one player reaches 40 points the other players have an equal number of turns to beat their score. So if you are going before someone likely to beat 40 points or after someone that has beaten 40 points you have a lot of incentive to push your luck to score points to beat them.

While waiting for our turns we have been actively goading each other and laughing at bad dice rolls. So there has been little if any silence during our games, enough so that people overhear us and wander by to see what we are playing.

I haven't played zombie dice before but if it's anything like this I'll be likely to check it out since I find this game to be a lot of fun.
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Lee Valentine
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silverbowen wrote:
Note that the retail version doesn't come in a foil box. It also lacks the 6th player components, the score tracker, and the cubes/player tokens used on the score tracker. Retail is just dice and challenge tokens.


That could be true, but I don't remember seeing any of stretch goals being Kickstarter exclusives. Did Travis announce that somewhere? If so, that would make this package more in line with Zombie Dice in terms of retail price vs. contents included. I checked the rules sheet, and it does say it includes 12 dice, challenge tokens, and requires you to provide your own way to track the score, so you are likely correct.

Celtic Joker wrote:
Thanks for the detailed post.

Quick question: what is the distribution of faces on the Knight dice? And are all three the same?

Thanks.


Three axes, two shields, and a fire breath blast on each die. So, even the blue dragon, which has no fire on his dice, can breathe fire on you and potentially defeat you on the first roll (long odds on that happening).


danlicata wrote:
If you are only getting 2 or 4 points per turn you aren't playing the game correctly. You may be following the rules but why bother playing if you only going to score one easy or medium dragon on your turn, unless that brings you over the 40 point total.


It's easy to score that few points depending on what happens. I went blue first. I lost a die. I did green next. I lost a die. I was challenged. I was confident I wasn't making it past the red dragon on one die. I fled. My six points were halved to three.

Next turn, I rolled big and had a large number of potential points after winning a challenge. I tried two pushed my luck by going for the blue dragon again with two dice. Double fire blasts came up. I lost all my points. After two long turns, my score was still at about three points.

I tried simulating a two-player game this morning. I rolled as fast as I could roll and still keep track of the game state. It was about twelve-and-a-half minutes for a two-player game. I don't have enough data to see if six minutes per player is typical, but I figured that I'd share what I had. This was MUCH faster than my three-player game with an infrequent gamer (my wife) plus a three-year-old.


Lee
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Lee Valentine
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danlicata wrote:

I haven't played zombie dice before but if it's anything like this I'll be likely to check it out since I find this game to be a lot of fun.


Steve Jackson Games had a lot of success with Zombie Dice. I think they re-themed it three times and released variations of the same mechanic (deer hunting, dinosaurs, and martians). If you have an iOS machine, the Zombie Dice app used to be free to play against a single zombie. The dice there also in green/easy, yellow/medium, and red/difficult. I think there are six green dice, four yellow, and three red dice. The dice are in a dice cup (read "frozen orange juice concentrate container"). You fish out three and roll 'em. You get shotgun blasts (bad), brains (good), and runners (re-roll). It's a press-your-luck mechanic like Dragon Slayer. However, there's a decision to make on most rolls, because the shotgun blasts keep mounting up, and when you get three, your score is zero for the turn. The game naturally allows for more trash talking because if you can con the player into grabbing three more dice, that might be the roll that finishes him.

In Zombie Dice, while you can calculate the dice remaining in the cup, you are drawing blind, so the dice could all be easy or all really hard. This creates more tension during the dice draw.

Since the information was all out there to see in Dragon Slayer, I didn't feel the same tension in the game. Dragon Slayer has more tactical choices about the order you are going to fight the dragons and when to challenge. Once you pick a dragon, however, there is no thinking. You just roll, roll, and roll again. That's why I described the tension in Dragon Slayer as somewhat staccato - it's on, or it's completely off.

I haven't decided which game I prefer yet. I will likely give it one go with six players at some point. Zombie Dice plays so quickly that it rarely wears out its welcome after one play. If Dragon Slayer can manage that, then it might be a good little alternative to Zombie Dice.



Lee
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Travis Morton
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Review is mostly to the point, well positioned in who it is for, and generally better spoke tahn I could have done. Well done.

Filler games are a tough, yet broad market; visit Target's game section, Walmart is dead to me in that regard.

Zombie Dice is still at Target last I checked. Indie has a solid seller here. I would add the caveat that the KS version is so underpriced for what we got, it makes me want to run a gaming store becuas of the bargains you can get.

The 'retail' version would be fair, don't know if I would risk paying close to $1/die though.

I would have that thing on sale at the end of every month, last weekend only and take 15% off if you buy something else. Because at under $10, this is a steal. Over.... well, that is in need of negotiating or salesmanship.
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hudarklord wrote:
Steve Jackson Games had a lot of success with Zombie Dice. I think they re-themed it three times and released variations of the same mechanic (deer hunting, dinosaurs, and martians).

Although packaged similarly, Martian Dice is from TMG, not SJG, and is arguably a slightly more interesting game . . .
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Lee Valentine
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nycavri wrote:
hudarklord wrote:
Steve Jackson Games had a lot of success with Zombie Dice. I think they re-themed it three times and released variations of the same mechanic (deer hunting, dinosaurs, and martians).

Although packaged similarly, Martian Dice is from TMG, not SJG, and is arguably a slightly more interesting game . . .



I was referring to Mars Attacks: The Dice Game by SJG. I mistakenly assumed it was yet another rebranding of Zombie Dice. It may be a different game from a quick look at the description.

Lee
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Nice review. My wife and I have been playing this all week. Great game for the price--especially the price offered on the KS.
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It is mentioned here, but amazingly enough, quite few reviews fail to mention they are reviewing the KS copy and comment on the 6th player, or other non-dice components; like the boards.
 
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