Recommend
11 
 Thumb up
 Hide
6 Posts

Dragonmaster» Forums » Reviews

Subject: It's hearrts, but prettier and with a little bit of strategy added rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Dylan Birtolo
United States
Lynnwood
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
General Information
Number of Players: 3 - 4
Game Length: 20 - 45 minutes
Difficulty of Game:
Strategic Depth:
Fun Factor:
Popularity at local game night:

Overview
A trick-taking game that is similar to hearts. But, this game adds flavor, variants, and a touch of artwork. However, the main thing this game has going for it is nostalgia, the meat behind it is very light.

Game Materials
The entire game consists of a deck of cards and collection of plastic gems. Considering the age of this game, the cards have stood up surprisingly well. The artwork on them is very well done and the cards themselves are enjoyable to look at. Even with a 25 plus year old game with many plays under its belt, the cards are only showing some mild wear and tear. They have held up better than any other deck of cards I have used before. The gems are simple pieces of plastic that are durable, but not noteworthy.

Play Summary
The deck of cards is divided into four suits - warriors, druids, nomads, and dragonlords. Each of the suits has several ranks ranging from fool to king. This is a trick-taking game, meaning one player starts playing a card and if you have the same suit, you must play a card from that suit. If you are void in that suit, you can play any card you wish. After all players have played a card, the highest card in the suit that was led wins the trick. That player then starts the next trick until all the cards have been played. This constitutes a hand.

The basic game gives each player an opportunity to be the dragonmaster. When a player is the dragonmaster, he or she deals out all the cards and then looks at his or her cards. After checking the cards, the dragonmaster chooses which hand will be played. The versions of the hand are Runesword - Prince of Warriors, First and Last, Dragonlords, Wizards, and Staff of Power. In each of these hands you are trying to avoid taking the specified cards. For example, if the hand is Wizards, you are trying to make sure you take no Wizards. Each Wizard you take requires you to pay the dragonmaster a certain amount of your gems. The Staff of Power variant includes all of the other four versions. Since each player is the dragonmaster once, everyone has an equal opportunity to earn the same amount of gems from the other players.

After all of the players have had a chance to be the dragonmaster, the player with the most gems wins the game.

The advanced game adds the edition of the dragon to the deck. When you receive the dragon, you have the option of playing it to create a power play. In a power play, you are attempting to take whichever version of the hand you specify. So, again, if you play the dragon and choose Wizards, you are attempting to take the Wizards rather than avoid them. If the Power Play is successful, all players need to pay the power player a specified fee, and the power-player steals the deal from the dragonmaster. Once that player finishes being the dragonmaster, the new dragonmaster is the person to the left of the original dragonmaster. This way, each player has a CHANCE to be the dragonmaster, but might have it revoked.

The expert game adds two new things. The first thing is there are lead restrictions on what you can play on the first trick. The second addition is the secret power play. A secret power play can only be attempted on three versions of the hand: Wizards, Dragonlords, and Staff of Power. A secret power play is similar to shooting the moon in hearts: you are trying to take all of the cards you are supposed to avoid, but without letting the other players know what you are doing. If you get all of the prohibited cards you will reap the rewards. If you fail, you must pay the appropriate penalties to the dragonmaster.

Play Experience
Most of the time we have played this game, we have played the basic version. The basic version is very easy to explain, and if anyone has played hearts before, they will be familiar with the mechanics. It does not take very long to explain and the game can get going very quickly. However, the basic game also has the least amount of depth and variability to it.

The advanced version and the expert version add a little bit of complexity to the game, but are not hard to explain to people who are familiar with strategic games. Even a regular hearts player will have no trouble grasping these optional rules, and the depth that they add to the game is well worth the explanation effort. I would recommend that if you do play this game, play the expert version right out of the gate; you will get the most mileage from this game if you do.

The different versions of the hand are a very nice touch. When you are looking at your hand, it might seem like a very bad hand (lots of high cards). But, you can still make the hand work with some clever card playing based on which version of the hand is in play. This requires a little bit of different thinking depending on which version is in play.

Similar to hearts, when you are playing the expert version of the game, you need to pay attention to who is winning which tricks. There is always the possibility of a secret power play, and you might want to eat a penalty to make sure it doesn’t happen. It is possible to win a secret power play without planning to! I have seen this happen before. Wizards is by far the easiest secret power play to win and the one I have seen most people go for. However, if you have the dragon, you are usually better off attempting a power play than a secret power play. This is for two reasons - with a power play you get to choose which version of the hand you will play; and if you succeed you will then become the new dragonmaster giving yourself more opportunities to earn gems. Of course, the downside is then everyone will know what you are trying to achieve and will most likely attempt to sabotage you.

A final note - if you pay attention and wish to play as quickly as possible, you can stop a hand when all of the point cards are taken. For example, with Runesword, as soon as someone takes the Prince of Warriors, the rest of the cards are moot. If you are interested in saving time, there is no need to play the rest of the cards.

Notable Praise
This game is very quick and easy to explain if anyone has played hearts before, or a trick-taking game of any measure. There are no trump cards to worry about, and the gameplay is very simple. This means that it works well as an introductory game or a game for people who don’t want to sit through half an hour of rules explanation (such as Twilight Imperium (Third Edition)).

The game travels well. All you need is a deck of cards and a bag of gems; the box has a lot of empty space in it. Games that travel well are always held in high regard.

For me personally, this game has a lot of nostalgia value. I played it often as a kid, but less so as I grew older and was exposed to more games. However, admittedly, this one always has a special place for me because of the memories attached to it. Heck, I can remember even building large "wands" from the crystals because they interlock with each other. Because of my personal experience, I think this game appeals well to younger players as well.

Notable Gripes
There is not much to this game. While my statement in the beginning about there not being much meat may be a little harsh, it is the truth. With the exception of the power play, this game is basically hearts with some variants of what not to take. In fact, multiple people that I introduced to this game said afterwards "why don’t we just play hearts?"

This game has an unusual position. It does not appeal to a lot of the more strategy-minded players because of how light it is. On the other hand, people who are not into strategy games might have the reaction of preferring to play hearts. As a result, it is hard to find a group of people who would consistently want to play this game.

Summary
Whether or not you like this game is a very simple equation: do you like hearts and strategy games? If so, you will probably like this game. It adds a touch more strategy than hearts. If you don’t like hearts, I can almost guarantee you will not like this game. However, this game tends to fall by the wayside during game nights. It suffers from the fact that it has little to offer and pales in comparison to other games that are out there. If we are in the mood for a trick-taking game, we will usually default to something such as Tichu or Sluff Off! over this.
12 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rob Miller
United States
Mishawaka
Indiana
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nothing but kudos to you!

I had a copy of this game as a young child back in the early 80's. Of course, it was lost over the ages.

About a year ago, I started my own personal quest to remember what I could about it, figure out what it was, and see if I could track down a copy. In about a month, this plan came to fruition.

I can't begin to tell you the excitement with which I opened the package it came in, set to gaze upon this beautiful piece of gaming nostalgia. It was great. Just great. :-]

Needless to say, I beelined to my buddy's house, intent on showing him this wonderful work. He, being a gamer and 80's fan himself, appreciated it immediately and promptly suggested we play it when the rest of the crew showed up that evening.

It went over beautifully, and we still bust it out fairly regularly. I've since bought a second copy.

Everything about this just screams great gaming and shades of yesteryear. The card art, the drawstring purse that holds the "gems" one uses as currency, the special rules that make it fun...

You understand, I'm sure. :-]

Interesting note: the red "gems" you'll find in this wonderful game are the same as the red "jewel/idol" from Fireball Island.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Just Another User
United States
Mundelein
Illinois
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Seconded. I enjoyed this game as a kid, and when I got back into gaming a couple of years ago, BGG was very helpful when I wanted to track down another copy.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dylan Birtolo
United States
Lynnwood
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Doc Robot wrote:
Everything about this just screams great gaming and shades of yesteryear. The card art, the drawstring purse that holds the "gems" one uses as currency, the special rules that make it fun...

You understand, I'm sure. :-]


Thanks for the compliment, and trust me, I TOTALLY understand. I will never part with this game and always feel the need to bust it out of the gaming closet every now and then. It is ingrained too much in my childhood.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
McDog
United States
Saint Paul
Minnesota
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I just inventoried my game minutes ago. All the cards are there! The rules are a bit yellow with age but really all I am missing is 6 crystals.

Not bad considering I moved 4 times since I bought it in the early 80's.


2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.