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In the Year of the Dragon» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Damn that Dragon -- Double Session rss

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T. Nomad
Netherlands
Den Bosch
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OK, so there are no actual dragons in this brilliantly evil Stefan Feld offering. That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of hardships to go around, though. Mike, Shane, Brad, Maggie, and 'Nomad sat down to an inaugural game, and--unable to resist the lure of famine, imperial tribute, and marauding hordes--followed it up immediately with a second.

Game one was the first for all, and it took us a while to get a handle on things. We didn't think so at the time, mind you. First a period of peace and prosperity, followed by another.
'This is a piece of cake,' we all thought. Shane and I jumped into early vp leads while disregarding the turn order track. Then, over the horizon, rose Khan and his armies. It cost Brad, and we all snickered at his loss.

Disease followed, and then tribute and disease again. Soon we were all gasping at the calamities that had decimated each and every one of us to some degree. We paused and took a 2nd (and longer) look at the chain of disasters that were to be inflicted upon us. Not until months 10 and 12 would we enjoy the respite of fireworks festivals. Until then, it would be one catastrophe after another. We shared the nervous laugh of the desperate, and plunged on.

Though we were all learning, with heaps of strategic and tactical table talk, it became clear that Brad and Maggie (married to one another, incidentally) had done well to load up on privilege early. Every scoring round, they pulled a couple of VP farther ahead of the rest of us. Shane tried to make up for it mid-game with some shrewd purchases of his own (and the addition of a court lady to one of his houses). In the end, though, it wasn't enough. My early lead had long since evaporated, Shane and Mike battled each other for turn order, and the wedded pair ran off ahead. In the end, Maggie beat her guy on the last scoring portion of the game, when an extra monk in the house got her the 4VPs needed to leapfrog over.

Final score:
Maggie: 88
Brad: 87
Mike: 56
Shane: 51
Nomad: 47
Time: 100 mins.

It didn't take but a moment to have a second go. This time--no newbs, we--we were ready and armed with long-term strategies.
"It's all about the money," said Shane, "with it, you can buy the action you want regardless of turn order."
Brad was equally convinced: "I am determined to prove turn order is irrelevant."
Mike was quiet, but that's when you can least trust him. He was giving up a chance to play Race for the Galaxy to have a second go at Dragon, so we all knew he meant business this time.
I was hoping not to get spanked again, and trying to remember whether scholars got you victory points or people points. (No really--in games like this I can strategise long-term, but have a real problem with remembering basic mechanics.)
And of course we were all gunning for Maggie, who had just won game one.


The game had a surprise in store for us, though. Just as we all thought we were ready, the calamity cards were dealt out: peace, peace, fireworks, plague, plague, tribute, tribute, mongols, mongols, famine, famine, fireworks. Should we reshuffle? Naaaaaah: what could go wrong?

My strategy this time was to maintain first choice at all cost, and make others pay for what they wanted, so I opened peacetime with a monk for 6, and a pyrotechnician for 5 more. That secured me first and a fireworks VP bonus early. I threw in a grab of 3 privilege, just to keep things lively. I was therefore scoring 6VPs per round from round 3 on. Shane and Mike countered with cash-heavy strategies, to buy their choices (usually a pay-3-to-get-8 result). Maggie grabbed privilege early, too, and added a court lady. Brad got to building wide (4 palaces) early, but paid for it in turn order (which he was convinced didn't matter "if you had the cash"--which unfortunately, he didn't).

I kept my lead on the people track for turn order, but Mike added a couple of 3-book scholars to reel me in on VPs sometime in month 7 or 8. While he was spending like mad to get his roles (having to choose the money role to make cash and lucking out on great double-role draws), I was trying to keep my lead from dwindling too quickly. But he did pass me--barely--on the VP track. I stayed with him though, with both of us scoring 6VPs consistently in the final rounds. I figured with just enough points in the endgame....and snapped up a pair of two-Buddha monks in rounds 8 and 9. Not that it didn't cost me: by month 10, I had 5 people in 3 palaces to Mike's 8 people in 4 palaces, and was choosing my role 4th. But at the end game he had nothing left to score with, and I had big multipliers with my monks. I wasn't alone, though: Brad had also added monks for a total of 12 points, and with the help of 2 court ladies placed in the mid-game, was in range by the time we'd wrapped up the last fireworks display. He leapt over Maggie, and just over Mike and myself to score 116, and announced: "Great! We don't have to count anymore!" That was wishful thinking. I hadn't scored my leftover goods yet, nor my cash: add 4VPs for me, for a final total of 118.

The double-whammies we had so feared when they were revealed didn't seem as big a problem as we'd thought, though. Sure, we all took hits when we couldn't put enough rice or funds together two months in a row, but we also agreed that it made planning easier, especially in terms of planning ahead the sacrifices we all had to make.

I have always maintained that in a first game, a player should expect to lose, hope to win, and be determined to learn. Well, my first game, I got thumped, from an early 3-4VP lead to a 30-point loss. Game two, I went with a risky 'sprint and minimise damage' strategy, and while I thought it had cost me, it ended up being just enough for a squeak victory.

Final score:
Nomad: 118
Brad: 116
Mike: 114
Maggie: 105
Shane: 99
Time: 55 mins.

A final hats off to Mike for bringing it, and to Feld for creating it. Thanks to both for a hysterical evening of extremely dark humour, agonising decisions, and more dread than any dragon could ever bring to the table.
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Chris C
United States
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Massachusetts
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Wow - you guys are a glutton for punishment. However, the game isn't that harsh.

According to the rules: "With the exception of the 2 peace tiles, there may never be 2 identical event tiles next to each other, so if you draw 2 of a kind in a row, slide the second one over to the next free space."

Next time you get such a harsh draw, this should help things out a lot.

 
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T. Nomad
Netherlands
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You know, we thought there might be a rule like that somewhere. But what's really weird is: it made the overall game easier. So while we missed the rule, I think we'd all agree its intent is misguided.
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Travis Bridges
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Nazareth
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Violating the rules and allowing that event setup would not destroy the game, but just make it extremely boring. It would remove a large amount of the choices that make the game great. This draw is not harsh...in fact, it is quite the opposite. You know exactly when you will need money, exactly how many rice tokens you will need, and what persons to keep and what to throw away. I think the rule is in there, not to protect the game from brokenness, but to spare you a tedious session.
 
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T. Nomad
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You're exactly right. The rule is there to exacerbate the calamity. Just another wonderful facet of the level of evil that pervades every moment of this game.

That being said, the results of double-ups were far from dull. The game was extremely close, felt less random than the prior game, and the runs on workers it created were truly gut-churning. While against the rules and somewhat 'simpler', it did have the effect of making jockeying for role selection order much more significant.
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