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Subject: Semi-big adventure in a small box rss

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Michael Debije
Netherlands
Eindhoven
The Netherlands
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Aladdin’s Dragons, the card game, was authored by Richard Breese and published by R&D games in 2009. It is playable by 2 to 5 players in a little more than a half hour.

What You Get

This is a card game, so you get a nice little box filled with 112 nicely-illustrated cards by Juliet Breese. The cards come in several types, including a start player card, a palace guard, four dragon cave cards, 15 artifact, 16 spell, and 25 hero cards, and finally, 50 treasure cards in four ‘suits’ numbered from 1 to 5. The cards themselves are of acceptable but not outstanding quality. Two rulebooks come with the game, one in German and one in English. In all, quite an attractive package.

What You Do

The card game of Aladdin’s Dragons holds most, if not all, the same activities found in the earlier board game. Each player is trying to acquire artifacts. At the end of the game, whoever has the most of the 15 available artifacts, wins. You start with a hand of five hero cards of your color, numbered one to five. The other cards are laid out to form the ‘board’: first, the four dragon lairs are laid, and filled with treasures, with 4 treasure cards face up in the first lair, three in the next, then two and finally a single treasure card in the last lair. Another treasure card is laid upside down on the palace guard. A stack of spell cards is next to the lairs, then the ‘start player’ card, rotated to point to the current start player, then the ‘guard’. A number of artifacts are made available: the number depends on the number of players, and the draw of a card from the treasure deck. With 3 players, for example, there could be 3 or 4 artifacts available this round. The game is ready to go.

Starting with the current start player, you take turns in order around the table. Your turn consists of placing one of your five heroes face down on one of the locations on the board: one of the dragon’s dens, on the ‘tent’ containing the spells, on the ‘start player’ card, or on one of the available artifacts. The next player follows in turn until all the five hero cards are allocated by all the players. Now, the locations will each be addressed to see who has precedence there.

Starting with the first dragon’s den, all hero cards are turned over, and the total sum of the values allocated by each player are compared. The player that allocated the highest total gets to pick the first card from that dragon’s den, followed by the second highest, and so on, ties resolved in order of play. This continues for the other lairs. Note, there are often less treasure cards available than number of players vying for the cards: if all the cards are gone when it is your turn to choose, tough luck. At the tent, the highest scoring hero set will allow the player to draw the top two spell cards. The player chooses one, and hands the other to the second highest scorer at the tent, if any. The spells have various functions, such as allowing the swap of artifacts, the forcing of other players to place heroes face up rather than face down, and other devious tricks. Next, a new start player is determined if anyone has allocated. If there is no allocation, the next turn will be rotated to the current start player’s left.

The guard is then approached, and his ‘fee’ is revealed: the value of the card +1 is the bribe they require to allow you to enter the palace to gain the artifacts. On one’s turn to attempt to gain an artifact, one reveals one’s hero and compares his/her value to the amount of bribe required. If the hero has a greater value, the guard is cowed, and the player may go on to acquire the item by paying a fee in treasures equal to the value of the hero(es) played on the artifact. The treasures played must all be of the same suit, and no change is given. If the hero’s value is lower than the guard, additional treasures equal to the difference must be paid the guard before artifacts may be bought. The artifacts themselves have special powers, each of which is usable once. Once all artifact purchases are done for the round, the board is reset, and play continues with the next start player placing their first card. As mentioned earlier, whoever gets most of the 15 treasures, wins.

What I Think

This game gives a boardgame feel in a very small, quick-playing package. It is a game about bluff and double-bluff. You always wish you had one more card to play. My only real gripe is that we feel that the artifacts come too cheaply, and that were they to double in price it wouldn’t be amiss. Generally, the requirement that all treasures be the same suit to make a purchase is rarely a problem, but with this rule alteration it would make this more a priority. The spells are powerful, but none seem to be game-breaking and so makes for an agonizing choice of focusing on treasures and artifacts, or to grab some spells for safety. The bid for first player seems underused in our games, but perhaps is really not so important except right near the end of the game or something. Anyway, I found this a very enjoyable pastime that I use over lunch break at work. Even novice game players have been charmed by the game play, and you can get up and running within minutes of laying out the board, and after half a round, everybody ‘gets it’. In Essen, the game was 8 Euros, and for that price you certainly cannot go wrong.

P.s.: There are variant rules in the by allowing play by two players using a ‘dummy’ player. While I haven’t yet tried it, after a read of the rules it seems like it would work just fine. Eventually, I’ll give it a go and maybe append my thoughts here.
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Richard Breese
United Kingdom
Stratford-upon-Avon
Warwickshire
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Thanks Michael for a nice write up. Therefore I shouldn't quibble, but I was a little perplexed by your comment that:
mi_de wrote:
The cards themselves are of acceptable but not outstanding quality.
Albeit that you go on to say:
mi_de wrote:
In all, quite an attractive package.
I actually demanded top quality (thick 365µ Trucard) cards and, as a consequence, had to redesign the box to make it deeper in order to accommodate them! Not sure what else I could have done on that front?
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Jasper Bosman
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I'd like to pick this one up, but Dutch stores don't seem to have it. What's the current price in Germany?
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Simon Woodward
New Zealand
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1. I agree on the card quality. They're ok, but not linen finish, and they are easily damaged (compared with Bohnanza cards, for example). The box is nice and big. Compared with Archaeology, Mamma Mia, Al Cabohne and Saboteur, the box is a little bigger - but I prefer the linen finish on the cards in the other games.

2. Did you try playing with doubling the artifact costs? If so, how did it go?

Thanks
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