After hearing about Dragon Brew on Reddit, I decided to contact the game designer for an opportunity to playtest the game because he had a huge head start on what I hoped would be one of my top 10 games. It integrates all of my favorite thematic and mechanical elements into one.
* Worker placement game
* Fantasy setting
* Resource management
* The game challenges you to play as tight as possible for maximum result
Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Surely this isn’t the perfect game for me. Somehow, it’s going to let me down, right?
My goal as a playtester was to try it out with as wide of a variety of people as possible and ultimately find the flaw. For my first game - I made my 10 and 8 year-olds set up the game. If they can do it, the rulebook is well written and let's face it - there are rulebooks that we all struggle to follow. No issues here. Now on to gameplay.
After playing a few 2 and 3 player games with my boys, I brought the game to my friends and the rest of my family. I had already eyed a couple of potential loopholes to exploit and after a few incredible attempts, they were to no avail. Our hunger to brew again was increased because we were trying to break the game and failed multiple times. Still a little skeptical that it was turning out to be too good to be true, but we played on. For me, each play left me wanting to try new player races vs. other races in a way that I would want to replay Eclipse to try an alien race I hadn't played before. Each game also showed a slight increase in score and efficiency, like playing a good Eurogame. In the short time I had to play, I was only able to scratch the surface. Even if we played the same races from game to game, we were not just playing the same way every time. There were many times I was forced to change my tactics because the game changed, therefore my plan had to change. The more Dragon Brew satisfied what I was seeking in a new game, the more I was bracing for the letdown when I found that ultimate flaw. By the time I returned my playtest copy, I hadn’t found it yet. I don’t think I was going to, either. It left me with moments of success and failure as I began to realize that the game was truly multidimensional and required an adaptive approach to playing that most of my favorite games require. It was challenging enough to make each successive play worthwhile and accessible enough to teach adults and children alike.
I've played many games that blend elements I love together in a way that simply falls flat. If you've ever played Lost Legends, you probably understand. Card drafting to upgrade a hero right before diving into a dungeon. Great! Quality mechanics in a setting that I enjoy in and out of board gaming. But no. Despite my desire to love the game, I ended up not even liking it at all. As a board game collector and player, I’m individual player races/powers (too many to list), running tight on income (Agricola/food and La Granja/money) and the ubiquitous worker placement. Again, I really wanted to like it, but I was not going to let what I knew I liked about it overshadow it's flaws. I struggled to find fault from place to place as we explored the game over time. It felt like we had exhausted all of the nooks and crannies of a good dungeon crawl and were ready to emerge from the cave as heroes ready to tackle the next dungeon. The most difficult part of the playtest was mailing the prototype back to the designer. I feel like I have done my homework and Dragon Brew is, after careful playtesting and consideration, an extraordinary board game.
If you like worker placement games, it’s a great game. If you like the fantasy theme, it’s present and full of character. If you like individual player powers, the different races are dynamic and full of flavor. Also, I’m not a huge fan of direct player interaction, but there’s enough interaction that I would not classify this as multiplayer solitaire, even though I don’t mind it. Dragon Brew measures up to my picky Eurogame standards and has a place on my shelf waiting to be filled later this year.