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Subject: Dragonflame Review - Board Game Maniac rss

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Maria Panagou
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This review was originally posted at www.boardgamemaniac.com:
http://www.boardgamemaniac.com/mod/blog/51-Review-Dragonflam...

Many small, easy games appear from time to time, trying to catch our attention and gain a place on our gaming table not just for one play but over and over again. However only a few of them succeed in keeping us interested enough and those are the ones with true quality. But what is it that defines this quality? In my opinion, for this category of games, it is as simple as that: pure fun. And you can tell if a game is fun rightaway, from the first play. Next question that arises is what determines fun. Do all people have fun with the same games? No, but you can say that there are some elements that, in general, work toward creating fun. For me personally these elements are some clever and original mechanics, a little bit of luck, easy rules and as much as possible player interaction. All of the above need just one more secret ingredient to get the recipe done, which is: "magic". A glimpse of something you know it's there but can't quite figure out exactly what it is. It just makes you want to play again and again. So, here's a new game, in a small package, called "Dragonflame" and the question is: "Does it have that magic feel?". Well, let's find out!

Dragonflame is a card game for 2-5 players that lasts 45 minutes the most. As the title suggests, you take the role of a mighty dragon. Your aim is to loot a lot of treasures from remote castles in order to become the gloriest of all dragons. And on your way there you can also burn some poor villages that just happened to be there. Moreover, if you are really lucky, you may encounter a beautiful princess, claim her heart and rejoice forever. But wait! You are not the only dragon out there. There are many others that will try to do the same as you so here's the chance to show them what you are really worth. The path to glory won't be an easy one. It requires careful planning, a little bit of luck and a lot of bluffing. Let's see how the game is played:

The cards of the game include Castles, Villages and the Main Deck. Castles are double-sided cards and feature Castles on one side and Banners on the other side. Banners are used to indicate the order in which players take their turns but also the way cards must be played, face up or down.



There are two individual play areas in the game. One concerns Castles which dragons will attack and loot and the other is the Villages that dragons will try to burn down on their way to castles. A grid of Villages and empty fields is formed to represent the Villages play area. Dragonflame cards will be resolved there as dragons try to strike fear among villagers and gain more glory.

Dragonflame, Villages, burn
The Village grid with villages, fields and fire tokens on village cards

Castle / Banner cards, equal to the number of players plus one, are laid on the table in ascending order, with their Castle side face up. Each player gets a set of fire tokens which will be used for resolving Dragonflame cards. The main deck is shuffled and each player is dealt 3 cards (or 4 in the case of a 2-player game). Banner cards will be dealt to players randomly, determining the order of play.

Players will start playing cards from their hand, one at a time, onto the castle cards. Each Castle card has a maximum number of cards that can be played on it. Banner cards, are used besides keeping track of turn order, to also determine how cards are played onto Castles. Some cards must be played face up, while others face down in a specific order. That is indicated by white or black squares on the banner cards. Cards must be played in the order that the squares appear on the banner, from left to right. After all cards being dealt to players, have been played on Castles, it's time for the dragons to attack! Each player in turn order chooses a Castle to attack. He returns his banner card to the middle of the table and loots the castle of his choice, taking all cards played on it, along with the Castle card. Any face down cards are revealed and Dragonflame cards must be resolved immediately.

Dragonflame cards have fire icons on them and allow players to place fire tokens on Village cards according to the number of fire icons on the card. Tokens are placed on Villages, one token per Village card in a straight line either horizontally or vertically, starting from any side of the grid.

Once all players attacked a castle, the remaining castle is discarded and the round ends. The player banners now become castles and the castle cards players attacked become the new banners, determining the new order of play. New cards are dealt to players and the next round begins. Play continues this way until only one card remains in the main deck. Players add up their Glory points and the player with the most Glory points wins. Now let's see the different kinds of cards that exist in the game:

Relics: Relics are magical items that enable players to do something special in the game, not allowed otherwise. For instance a Relic card may allow players to swap a treasure at the end of the game with another player or prevent a player from attacking the castle of his choice.

Treasures: Treasures are worth Glory points at the end of the game and can be of three types:

Statues. They are worth five points each but only if they are unique. If a player ends up with two or more statues of the same type they get no points for them
Chests. Each chest is worth points equal to the number of chests with the same name. Players must choose only o.e set of chests to be scored. All other chests are worth one negative point.
Jewelry. They are worth the number of Glory points indicated on the card
Knights: Knights give three negative points each at the end of the game.

Curses: A curses forces a player to loose two glory points for each different named chest in his hoard at the end of the game. Each player can have only one curse.

Princess: The lucky dragon that gets the princess gets Glory points equal to the number of different named treasures in his hoard at the end of the game. Each player can have only one princess.

Banners: They are worth Glory points equal to the number on the banner at the end of the game.

Villages: A Village must be completely destroyed (all spaces on the card must be filled) in order to be scored. All dragons that have fire tokens on a destroyed village get Glory points, based on who did the most damage. The player who has the most fire tokens on the card gets the most points, the precise number indicated on the card.


Various cards of the game: Castle, Curse, Knight, Treasures (Jewelry, Chest, Statue)
It's time to see how the game scores in our usual scoring categories:

Components:

Dragonflame, fire tokens
Fire tokens

Dragonflame comes in a sturdy little box that can be easily carried anywhere and makes it ideal to carry on a vacation. Inside the box a few but worthy components can be found. Cards, fire tokens, player aid cards and a rulebook. The cards are of high quality paper with bright colors and exemplary artwork by Rob Lundy. Village cards have different names but depict the same village. It would be nice if each village had its own artwork but that would increase the production cost of the game and the final retail price. I guess one can't have it all. The same applies to Castles. Fire tokens are really nice, made of wood, custom cut in the shape of a small fire. The successful kickstarter campaign of the game, helped add this component to the game. Player aid cards are really useful, summarizing gameplay and the way cards are scored at the end of the game. The four-page rulebook explains everything going on in the game in detail. 9/10

Gameplay:

The game plays out very smoothly. There is a little bit of luck involved and a lot more of strategic thinking. I really appreciate that, because most games in the category Dragonflame falls (easy and rather quick family games) usually rely hell of a lot in luck. In Dragonflame you are mostly in control of your progress because you choose which castle to attack. Of course there is always a risk entailed in attacking a castle with face down loot. These hidden cards may be curses, knights or other cards you may not want for your hoard but that is that little "magic" that makes the game interesting.

Players are faced with simple yet important decisions. One concerns the order in which they will play their cards. The goal here is to carefully set a trap for your opponents maybe by mixing a few probably good cards with some face down nasty ones or try to make a good pile of cards for you to pick up, if you are playing first. The order of play plays an important role here because if your opponents play before you, you must make sure they will be attracted by your traps and leave some good piles behind for you to pick. If you fail in this, you may end up falling in your own trap and be forced to take a bad pile of cards yourself. The next important decision will be which castle to attack. Sometimes you will opt for a safe pile, one with face up cards only but other times you will feel greegy and risk by taking a pile with many cards, some of them face down, just hoping for the best. Your decision will also be somewhat influenced by the relation between castles and banners. The castle you attack, determines the order in which you will play next round. I like the dilemma imposed by this decision. Sometimes it will be hard to decide between attacking a low numbered castle that will give the opportunity to play first or second next turn but it will grant you few cards and a high numbered castle with many cards that will force you to play last. That is a very clever design element that gives even more gravity to the choice players have to make and more strategic value. Another decision, more obvious this time, is how to resolve Dragonflame cards. You will want to ensure that villages get burned down while also securing that your dragon contributes the most at this by placing your fire tokens appropriately. The ability to start your fire from any edge of the grid, makes this decision quite easily handled.

Relics are a game changer that you can use to turn the tide for you while also hurting an opponent and enhances the player interaction element of the game. There are only a few of them however, so you must grab one whenever you have the chance.

Another positive element of the game is the special attention given to make the game balanced and interesting for any number of players. The game is played with 2 to 5 players and small adjustments have been provided for each case. Certain cards are removed from the game in 2, 3, and 4-player games and the Village grid has been revised to 2x3 in the 2-player game, instead of 3x3 for three or more players. Moreover in 2-player games, castle cards remain in their positions and players exchange their banner cards according to which castle they attacked. Such adjustments show that the game went through thorough playtesting and the designer has given much attention to detail.

All in all, I find that Dragonflame although not really innovative, has an intriguing gameplay with a clever combination of mechanics, and what I mostly like is the enhanced element of strategy and bluffing versus luck. I couldn't really find any faults in gameplay or things I didn't quite like. 8/10

Learning Curve:

Learning to play Dragonflame is a piece of cake really. The four-page rulebook explains everything going on in the game in detail. In a two player game, I had some trouble figuring out, how the switch of Castles and Banner cards works or actually that there is no switch and Castle cards remain in their positions throughout the game. Apart from that, rules are pretty clear and can be read and explained within minutes. That makes the game very attractive to non gamers or gamers that are bored of reading or being read a lot of rules. 8/10

Replayability:

Dragonflame is one of those fun little games you can play with just about everyone: from the whole family to friends that are either casual gamers, non gamers or board game enthusiasts. You can also easily carry it on a vacation or at a board game cafe and it serves as an ideal filler game. Its easy rules and interesting gameplay suggest that it can find its way to your gaming table often enough. The reduced element of luck, the -always fun- element of bluffing and hidden information along with the short duration makes me want to play Dragonflame at any given time. 8/10

Theme:

The theme of the game is best supported when resolving Dragonflame cards. At that point you really feel like a dragon as you choose at which point you will stand to start throwing your flames. At a game I played, a friend asked me why he couldn't place tokens in an irregular manner and was obliged to do it only horizontally or vertically. My response was to try to explain the theme to him. I told him that he is supposed to be a dragon and throw flames at these villages. Has he ever seen a dragon in a movie or book spitting fire in irregular directions?

In general I try to feel the theme in each game I play and find out if it can really put you in the situation it is supposed to. Other than the Dragonflame cards, the theme is lightly presented. Being a dragon, being able to place treasures in the castles you will loot, doesn't make much sense thematically. It is supposed that treasures, knights or curses are already there and you just go and get them. 6/10

Fun:

I enjoy myself a lot each time I play Dragonflame and I've seen all my fellow players have fun too. Bluffing is certainly the mechanic that puts smiles on players' faces. The most fun moment of the game is undoubtedly when a player falls in the trap of another and chooses to attack a Castle with many cards, hoping for big treasure, only to find hidden cards being knights or/and curses. The easy rules, quick gameplay and short duration of the game enhance the fun factor of the game. 8/10

Dragonflame, gameplay, game in progress
Final Verdict: Dragonflame makes an excellent choice of a filler game, having easy rules and fun gameplay. There is just a fair amount of luck involved and the outcome of the game relies basically on players' choices when laying out cards on Castles, attacking and resolving Dragonflame cards. Gameplay is also balanced and attractive for any number of players. The components of the game are of high quality and the artwork is really nice. Dragonflame comes in a small sturdy box that can practically be carried anywhere. I more than recommend it for a fun game night with friends or family, casual gamers or not.

Pros:
simple rules, anyone can learn to play within minutes
bluffing mechanic
attractive artwork
strategy wins vs luck
plays out nicely with any number of players
Cons:
theme not ideally applied

Recommended for: families, casual gamers, non gamers, simple game fans
According to our scoring system, scoring categories have different weights. Components have 15% weight, Gameplay 35%, Learning curve 5%, Theme 5%, Replayability 25%, Fun 15%. According to this system and the above scoring in each category, overall weighted scoring of the game is:
Overall: 8.1

Check out my other reviews at:
http://www.boardgamemaniac.com/board_game_reviews.html
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Evil Bob
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Umm... I think this review is in the wrong forum.
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Matthew M
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8/8 FREE, PROTECTED
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Moved to Dragonflame forums
 
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