Red Dragon Inn is one of my all time favorite games. This is a game that can be brought out any time and everyone in the room is always willing to play. The theme and clever play style mixed with its delightful sense of humor makes this game an instant 10 in my book. I usually leave my rating of a game for the last paragraph of my reviews, but for this one I had to come right out and say it is a 10, and now I will explain why.
As an avid fan of classic dungeons and dragons, I have an immense appreciation for the concept of this game. The game idea is that a group of 4 adventurers have just finished their epic quest. They have stormed the enemy wizard’s fortress, killed his minions, looted his vast treasure hoards, bested his champions; and what better way to celebrate their victory than to spend a night drinking and gambling and brawling away at the Red Dragon Inn!
In Red Dragon Inn, you are a party of adventurers with pockets filled with gold and a thirst for ale that needs to be quenched. You also have been traveling with this group of intrepid heroes for so long that their quirks are finally starting to get under your armor.
So if after a few drinks you accidentally slap one of them upside the head, lay a nasty curse on them or poison their drink, who can blame you? It’s all in good fun, right?
The components of this game are very well done. There are four beautifully illustrated character decks with unique cards and color schemes.
There is a drink deck that is used frequently in the game to represent the mass quantities of alcohol that will be consumed (and there will be mass quantities!). All the drink cards in this deck have amusing flavor text on them to add to the fun element of this game.
Each player has a sturdy cardboard player mat that they use to keep track of how drunk and beat up they are. As well as hold their deck and discard piles.
The mat also has a quick reference list of the phases of the game turns for easy reference. This is not a game where you have to check the rules constantly during game play. The rules are so easy that once the instructions were read, they never were referenced again.
Each player has a red and clear bead that they use to track the wounds they receive and level of alcohol they consume.
The game comes with an abundant supply of cardboard gold coins used frequently throughout the game.
Game play in Red Dragon Inn is extremely simple, which only adds to the fun factor of playing this game. Each character in the game is represented by a unique and expertly composed deck of 40 cards. The players are assigned a character and play with that characters deck allowing them to truly embody the persona of who they are representing.
Each deck has several universal cards to add a balance to the game, but the majority of each deck has unique cards that represent the strengths and weakness each character possesses. Characters are measured by their gambling skill and money managing abilities. Their drink tolerance and how well they can hold their liquor. And their physical endurance, how much punishment they can dish out and avoid in a brawl. Some characters are more straightforward in how they are played, while others are more sneaky and tactical.
The 4 characters introduced in this game are:
Fiona the Volatile. Fiona is the “fighter”. She is physically the strongest character of the four. She hits hard and deals steady damage in barroom brawls. She is well defended in her armor and can shrug off damage very well. She is good at holding her liquor which is a very important element of this game which I will elaborate on later.
Her only weakness is she is not very good at holding on to her money. Her skills at gambling and money management are the weakest of the four. Her goal is to beat down the opponents and drink them under the table before all her money gets stolen from her.
Dierdre the Priestess: Dierdre is the “cleric”. She is the most political character in the game due to her unique ability to heal players, (for a small fee of course). She is very non-threatening due to the lack of attack cards in her deck. When playing her, you will find yourself sitting back more often than not and reacting to your friend’s actions. She can heal and defend herself well, thus adding to her staying power. But her big weakness is she can not hold her liquor. She gets drunk very easily. Her goal is to protect herself and keep her life high while her opponents slowly beat and drink themselves into oblivion. She can deal the finishing blow to her opponents as long as she isn’t too drunk to stand by the end of it.
Gerki the Sneak: Gerki is the “thief”. He is the money manager of the group. He has several cards that allow him to steal money from other players and cheat at gambling. He is fairly offensive as well and can deal out some sneaky hits when least expected. He has several defensive cards that can keep him reasonably sober. But in a toe to toe fight he goes down without not too much of a struggle. His goal is to send his opponents to the poor house while amassing himself a small fortune.
Zot the Wizard (and Pooky). Zot is the “wizard” and Pooky his rabbit familiar. Zot is the most complex of the four characters. He is the character that messes the most with the flow of the game. He has a fair amount of ability to prevent himself from getting too drunk or getting beaten up to badly. He is also good at gambling and dealing damage with his magic spells. His weakness is he is the jack of all trades and master of none. Zot has to play his cards carefully because if he focuses on winning in one area, he may neglect another. His goal is winning by any means, be it zapping his opponents with magic, or stealing their gold.
These assessments are not etched in stone rules of how each character has to be played. They are simple guidelines of their strengths and weaknesses, and where they will be more likely to excel. Gerki could run out of money and Fiona could get clobbered. Anything can happen!
So after all four players have chosen who they will play as, the game begins. Everyone draws a hand of seven cards and takes ten gold pieces. On their reference mat there is a row of numbers going from 0 to 20. The players set their Fortitude (the red bead) at 20, representing they are uninjured. And their Alcohol Content (the clear bead) at 0 to represent they are completely sober. As the characters enjoy their drinks and get into squabbles and get knocked around the beads will get lowered in the case of Fortitude, and raised in the case of the Alcohol Content. And when both the beads meet or cross on the track, the character is incapacitated and out of the game. It is that simple.
And as they gamble and money gets exchanged, the player’s supply of gold will fluctuate. Once a player loses their last coin, they are kicked out of the inn as a non paying customer, thus removing them from the game.
Those are the only ways to lose. So each player has to worry about all three things. Keeping a hold of their gold, not getting beaten up and not drinking too much. There is where the strategy comes in!
On a players turn they do 4 things.
1) Discard any cards they do not want, and redraw up to seven. Here is where the game gives you the choice of where you want to put your focus. Maybe you drew a hand of all gambling cards and all you really want to do is bust some heads? Well you can discard as many as you want in the hopes of drawing an attack card to reduce someone’s Fortitude.
2) Play an action card if you have one. Action cards are usually attack cards that simply reduce an opponents Fortitude, or cards that begin a round of Gambling. So your turn may be a quick slap up the side of someone’s face, or a round of gambling where money is at stake. Some action cards can steal other peoples gold.
3) Buy drinks for your friends. You take a card from the drink deck and give it face down to any opponent who will eventually have to drink it on their turn.
4) Drink! Here is where the damage is really done. Every character has a “drink me” pile on their player mat. The last thing they do on their turn is draw the top card and drink it. It could be a light ale that only mildly intoxicates them. Or it could be a glass of highly intoxicating elven whine that is three times more potent than regular ale! This is one of the biggest random elements of the game. You could be doing a great job of thwarting your opponent’s attempts at knocking you out, but all it takes is a good stiff drink on your turn and blammo! You’re in the danger zone…
Drink cards aren’t always just simple drinks. They could be a drink with a chaser, which means you keep drawing cards to add to the drinks potency. Or it could be a drink event that makes everyone drink. So it is quite possible that a player can drink on the other player’s turns.
That is how the game plays out. Play your card, wreak havoc, draw a drink card and hope it is something light and then the next player takes a turn.
The game ends when there is only one character left standing! Games take around a half hour to play, so you can get in several plays so everyone has a chance to be certain characters.
ROLE PLAY FACTOR
This game is an absolute must for anyone who is into acting, or role-playing. You do not have to be a D&D nerd to appreciate the fun of this game! When you draw your first hand of cards you already get a feel for who your character is and what they are about.
When I play as Zot, I talk like a half senile old wizard who laughs maniacally as his spells are cast. When people play as Dierdre, they tend to talk like she’s half in the bag already.
My one friend likes to make Gerki sound like a leprechaun.
The way you choose to play a character is completely up to you. The only thing that matters is you get into character. Enjoy yourself. If you do not like making a show out of playing a card game then this is not the game for you.
After playing the characters several hundred times, we feel they have become more to us than just flat drawings on a small deck of cards; they are strong archetypes that we have grown to love.
This game is always great for a laugh. The cards are very humorously done with the flavor text and titles. People aren’t just randomly attacking others; they are reacting to insults that the other characters may have said. For example, Fiona has a card “Hey, no more chainmail bikini jokes!” The amusing way cards are constructed is excellently done. We remember laughing out loud the first time we read them. It is always great to watch first timers play their characters and see their reaction to the cards they have.
PROS and PROS
There is nothing I do not like about this game. It is simple to learn, easy to play. Great for competitive and non-competitive players. So many people like to play just to be part of the experience, win or lose.
The play time is never too long. The strategy element is still high, because you never know when your opponent may get the right card to turn the game around. There can be a great deal of ganging up on the winner some games, so you can never be sure who will win. You definitely need to know who to play your cards on when.
As originally stated, this game is a 10. It is fun, funny, strategic, and simple and an over all a great gaming experience.
I liked this game so much that I designed actual decks of all my friends and we play as ourselves some times.
OK enough reading, go to Slugfest games and order Red Dragon Inn right now, you will not be disappointed!
I love these games too. Easy to play but very fun. It's even more fun when the players try to get in the character of the character they're playing.
Absolutely ditto on the player acting factor. I'd say over half of this game is up to the players themselves, making voices and how they present the actions occurring, elaborating perhaps a little outside the text of the cards. At least have a good humorous mood around the board. That's what so great about this game.
.... YAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! hic!...
had to be bought.. could not leave without it.. fun game, you dont need to drink..but i'm sure it helps..