My sister and I played this game coming into it with the expectation that initial reviews were less than ideal. I bought the game on a whim while at the local brick & mortar shop and afterwards came to the geek to see what the general temperature of the game was. My initial pitch to my sister was "This game didn't get fantastic ratings on the geek, but I want to try it anyway", so our expectations were low from the start.
We went through the rules in about 1/2 of an hour, going over the pieces abilities and the like. On our first setup of the game, we were primarily tossing pieces down willy-nilly just to get the feeling of the game down.
The object of the game is to attain more victory points then your opponents. Victory points are awarded for:
1.) winning a fight against you opponent [most pieces are worth one victory point each, except for the mighty dragon which is worth 3 victory points]. 2.) Moving your journalist onto your opponent's campsite is worth 7 vp. 3.) Having one of your pieces on a jungle terrain is worth 2 vp each.
Our first impression when starting was that we didn't feel we had much control over some of our own pieces. Depending on where you initially put your explorers, you can only flip characters face up that are adjacent to them. Once the explorers reveal your other character tokens, then they can began to move and influence the rest of the board. Our first game ended with my sister SQUASHING me in victory points by getting her journalist to my unprotected campsite for the win.
The second game we played we had a better understanding of how the pieces interacted and my sister and I both put our hunters next to our campsites to protect it from the marauding journalist. We also used our journalists to fend off the advance of the mighty dragons. The journalists are immune to being attacked from any of the other characters in the game and they can act as a good shield of sorts. In the end, although my sister had me beat handily in points from killing off one of my dragons and several other characters, I was able to play out the final turns by maneuvering my characters into the jungle spaces before she could [if any of your character is in a jungle space at the end of the game you receive 2vp for each] and got the win.
On first glance, there may be some balance issues with the strength of the dragons in this game, but as you familiarize yourself with gameplay and initial setup, this can balance out.
Overall, we were pleasantly surprised with how this game unfolded. We liked the outlandish theme of cannibal's who could take over their opponent's biplanes, journalists who are immune to mighty dragons and the like. There is a good bit of offense / defense in this game and it plays out more as an abstract strategy game in the end. Like many games, Dracomundis requires at least a second play through to get the hang of. But once the mechanics are figured out and you develop good opening strategies, it is a game that holds some very pleasant surprises!