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Tom Vasel
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I was very excited about the release of Fist of Dragonstones, as it looked to be similar to one of my favorite games – Citadels. Reading the rules for Fist of Dragonstones (Days of Wonder, 2003 – Bruno Faidutti & Michael Schacht) got me even more excited. After reading mixed reviews on the web, I was still excited and eagerly waited for my game to come in the mail.

Was it worth the wait? The answer is that Fist of Dragonstones is one of my favorite Faidutti games to date (and by that, I mean one of my favorite games!) and is extremely fun for three to six players. I really enjoy the game mechanics and am excited about the expandability of the game. There are so many good things to say about this game, so I will start with the game play.

Each player is given a screen, behind which they hide their money. Each player receives 8 yellow wooden disks (fairy gold), 2 beige disks (common gold), and five silver disks (silver). Each player randomly draws four stones (aquarium style) from a bag and places them in front of their screen (the stones are red, yellow, or blue). Finally, each player puts a scoring die in front of their screen, rotating it so that no dots are showing on the die. A deck of twenty-five “special” character cards is shuffled and placed in the middle of the table. The eight standard characters are set aside, and the first round is ready to begin.

In each round, the Witch card is separated from the standard cards. Two “special” character cards are drawn from the deck and added to the standard cards, which are then shuffled. The shuffled cards are placed face down, with the Witch being placed on top. Each card (starting with the Witch) is then turned over and auctioned off, in turn. All auctions are secret auctions, with the players putting their bids in a fist, which all players will then reveal simultaneously. Any money bid in an auction is lost, whether the player wins or not. Fairy gold that is auctioned is placed in front of the player’s screen, for they will get it back at the beginning of the next round. Common gold, once used, is gone forever. Silver coins are not used to bid, unless two players have a tie when bidding. After a tie, both players involved in the tie bid again, but with silver coins only. Silver coins are also lost forever when used. The player who wins the auction for the card immediately uses the power of the character on the card. If no one bids on the card, the card is set aside, and the next card is auctioned off.

When a standard character is won, each has a different effect for the winning bidder…
- The Witch gives a black wooden disk to the bidder. The bidder can bid this coin in a future bid (during this round only) to cancel the effects of that character.
- The Red Dragon gives the bidder a red stone.
- The Blue Dragon gives the bidder a blue stone.
- The Yellow Dragon gives the bidder a yellow stone.
- The bidder who wins the Sorcerer can take a common gold coin from the bank, or they can pay four identical stones to the bank and receive two points.
- The bidder who wins the Magician can take three silver coins from the bank, or pay four stones to the bank and receive one point.
- The bidder who wins the Wizard can take three silver coins from the bank, or pay three different stones – one of each color – to the bank and receive one point.
- The bidder who wins the thief can steal a stone from the second highest bidder, unless they have no stone, or if no one was the second highest bidder.

There are twenty-five special characters, and they do a variety of things, such as
- The bidder who won the Sorcerer Apprentice puts two identical stones in the bank and scores one point.
- The Ancient Dragon gives the bidder a stone of their choice.
- The Fairy gives the bidder an extra fairy gold.
- The Goblin draws a character at random from those that haven’t yet been auctioned and plays it.
- And many, many more.

Once one player reaches three points on their scoring die, they are the winner!

Some comments on the game:

1). Components: The components for this game are absolutely incredible, starting with the box, which is illustrated with a beautiful fantasy flair, and which holds everything inside. And everything in the box was pre-bagged – which is a wonderful touch! The cards are fantastically illustrated, and very easy to understand. The wooden disks are very plentiful, and easy to handle. The player screens are of good quality, with a good illustration on the front, and a summary of game rules on the back. A nice cloth bag comes in to hold the beautiful stones, and the scoring dice are neat little three dimensional rectangles, which while unnecessary, add a little more effect to the game. Fist of Dragonstones is worth buying based on its components alone!

2). Rules: There is an eight-paged booklet in full color, explaining the rules. After three pages of rule explanation, there is a detailed description of each character card in the game, and how they play. There should almost never be an argument over how the rules work, since the manual goes into such detail. The game is very easy to teach and learn, but even then, a web card comes in the box, which a player can go online to www.dragonstones.com and play the game there.

3). Website: There are several blank cards provided with the game. On the Days of Wonder website, there are many, many cards that players have submitted that can be added to the game. Some of them are even officially play tested and approved. This means that the game can be played countless times, with maximum variety. The website is also useful, as it includes tutorials, forums, and strategy tips.

4). Thief: The one character I’m not a huge fan of is the thief. A player can only use his special ability on the second highest bidder. Since most people don’t like to be stolen from, almost never is the card bid on. And if a player does bid on it, most likely they will be the sole bidder, in which case they have spent their coins needlessly. The character isn’t so worthless, but we will replace it with the Goblin, and put the Thief in the special character deck, to be used once a game.
5). Bidding: It takes a little bit to get used to the bidding. When you lose all your money, whether you bid or not – you tend to become extremely careful with your bidding. Many, many characters will not be bid on, and then others will have quite a bit bid on them. It’s funny to see one player bid six gold on a character, when no one else does. If you bid five gold on the same character, however, it’s not quite so funny, as you’ve spent most of your gold, and have nothing to show for it. The Witch’s special ability is also quite fun, as whoever gets the black coin has a nifty veto power. The game can turn into a game of bluffing, where each player tries to determine from the other players’ faces as to how much they’ve bid.

6). Theme and Fun Factor: There is s slight fantasy feel to the game, about the same as Citadels, but not a truck load. The game is still a lot of fun, however. Some people on the internet complain about the secret bidding, but we find that the bidding is a lot of fun. If you’re not a fan of secret bidding, I wouldn’t recommend the game, as it’s done about 60 times. If you do like secret bidding, however, the game is a blast! We really enjoyed the “poker” aspect to the game, and the new and different special characters kept the variety going.

So I highly recommend this game to everyone except those who don’t like blind bidding. The components are of the highest quality, the game has infinite replayability and expandability, and it’s a whole pile of fun. With bidding, bluffing, and backstabbing – Fist of Dragonstones is surely one game that will hit my table time and time again.

Tom Vasel
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Devi "Day" Hughes
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Re:User Review
I also recently played Fist of Dragonstones for the first time, and was not disappointed. I had a great time, even though the bidding was a little repetative. You have to look past that portion of the game...

I noticed that you've played the Thief wrong, which makes him considerably less valuable, as you pointed out in your review. If a single player bids on the Thief, all the other players are considered "second highest bidder", and the Thief may steal from the player of his choice. If the player doesn't have a stone to steal, the Thief may take a Common Gold. If the player doesn't have a Common Gold, the Thief may steal a Fairy Gold!
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Chris Bailey
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Yeah, what Devi said. The Thief is a great card! Be afraid...be very afraid.
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Paul Incao
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Great review as always. I really enjoy your reviews.
Just one comment in regards to pulling the thief card. My group keeps it in the game but rolls the "scoring cube" to determine who is stolen from. The winner of the thief, rolls the scoring cube, if one, two or three are rolled then the player steals a gem from the player that sits that number away in clockwise order. If the blank side comes up, the player gets to pick the player to steal from.

The first player to 2 points has a huge advantage, since all he/she needs to do is sit on the lead, and bid all his/her money on one of the next one point victory cards. Playing with the thief card, as detailed above, gives trailing players a 50% shot of stealing gems from the current leader (in a four player game).
 
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