Merric Blackman
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Ramping up my reviewing.
Happily playing games for many, many years.
I've now played Aladdin's Dragons about four or five times, but I think this is my first session report for it. I'm somewhat surprised by that, given how many session reports I write, but the game does have its challenges in writing a session report about it that doesn't bore the reader.

My solution? Use some pretty pictures!

Laurie and Josh considering the board

Okay, they're not quite pretty, but they are pictures. And sometimes they even include the game. Can you ask for much more? Well, yes, you can, but let's see if I can give you some pertinent words as well.

Aladdin's Dragons is a glorious Eurogame where each player places 8 tokens on the board, attempting first to steal treasures from the Dragon caves, and then take them up to the palace to buy artifacts. Those artifacts have special abilities that then help you in the rest of the game.

If you like, you can detour to the city and get a few special abilities - learn some spells, trade your treasures, become first player, that sort of thing.

The trick to the game is that, unlike a worker placement game such as Agricola, more than one person can attempt a task... but only the person who has devoted the most value of tokens does so successfully. Tokens are placed face down, and range from 1-9 in value. So, the game is about bluffing, using your resources well, and not overbidding.

In other words, it's tricky.

The tokens are placed!

There are places (spell shop, dragon lairs) where being in second, third or even fourth place can occasionally be of value. However, when even one more person enters the fray than can be accomodated, suddenly the decision-making process becomes more painful. Are they bluffing? Have they placed a 1 or a 9? And, if they place two tokens, have they outbid you or are they bluffing even more?

Urk. It's no surprise that Aladdin's Dragons causes as much Analysis Paralysis as anything amongst my friends.

Me, I plan ahead. I know where my tokens are going, even before anyone else starts placing. Unfortunately, I tend to plan badly, and that's not good at all.

In this particular game, Laurie was playing for the first time, and it showed. He just wasn't able to get artifacts, although he was causing the rest of us great worry with his placements. Josh started really well, and took two artifacts in the first turn. Uh-oh!

We overestimate the guard's strength

The second turn was mine, as I took two scrolls. Scrolls are unusual - they only come into play at the very end of the turn. If you're tied for most artifacts, then whoever has the most scrolls wins. After that play, the other players really started looking at me cautiously. And my game began to fall apart.

The problem was that I wasn't getting enough treasures from the dragons. Sure, I was sending people down them to collect them, but I wasn't being aggressive enough. I was trying to do too many things at once: collect treasures and artifacts. And then do things in the city as well. It wasn't working that well. When Randy pipped my two tokens at the trader with just one of his own... well, I'd misplayed that. Obviously.

We start resolving a turn

Josh's great start began to trail off, and Rich and Randy began to pick up more treasures. In fact, they picked up a lot of treasures, and more than I actually noticed them doing. When the game ended and the number of treasures was tallied, I was extremely surprised to find that Randy had a total of 8 treasures. With a par score of 6, that was an exceptional result.

Randy 8, Rich 7, Merric 6, Josh 6, Laurie 3.

The thing is, despite Aladdin's Dragons being a great game, it does feel like it takes too long for what it is - and that is due to the Analysis Paralysis that grips most of us once the game is in full flight. So, my enjoyment of it is somewhat mixed. I'm sure we'll play it again, but it isn't one we pull out every game day.
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