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Subject: Dragon Valley - Initial Take After Playing with the Designer rss

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Greg Syferd
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While strolling around in the 2011 Origins Board Room, I noticed a lot of activity around Dragon Valley. I decided to give it a whirl and see what it was all about. I ended up in a four-player game that included the designer and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Below are some of my thoughts on the game.

Concept
Each player represents one of the King's loyal servants, charged with defeating hordes of evil mon-sters attempting to take over the Kingdom. Unlike most games of this genre though, you are taking the fight to the enemy. Your forces have surrounded the evil minions and are advancing on their bases.

The board has 4 areas where players build up their forces, construct buildings, and defeat the on-coming enemy. In the center are the enemy bases, represented by 9 tiles that are initially hidden. The board has various charts and tables, used to provide quick information. Finally, there is a score track. The first person to 30 points ends the game.

The attackers consist of orc hordes, dragons, and battering rams. To stop them each player has knights, archers, and trebuchets. Combat occurs whenever two opposing units enter the same space. Using a handy on-map chart, players cross reference the fighting units and determine if one or both units die fighting.

Finally, there are numerous buildings the player’s construct that can buff your units, provide special abilities, or stop/delay enemy advancement. The favorite will probably be the dungeon where play-ers can execute prisoners for points.

How to Win
Players score points using several different strategies. The first is simply to kill monsters as they enter your area. Although not all that efficient, with constant swarms of monsters always heading towards you it is possible to score a lot of points. Killing monsters in your area yields 1 or 2 points. It's also possible to build an impassible barrier (such as a moat.) This has the effect of pushing monsters towards a cliff, which if they fall off, awards you 4 points per monster.

The second is to build up your forces to take it to the monsters by invading the center area and lay-ing siege to a tile. The center tiles are worth 10 or more points. These are awarded by having the required units (ex. 4 knights, 2 archers, and 1 trebuchet.) Managing to score two of these tiles will likely result in victory.

Mechanics
Other reviewers have covered the rules and specific mechanics, so I'll spare the lengthy detail here. Each turn is basically comprised of divvying up resources that the king has allocated to the players, acting on cards that generate events, either moving your units or constructing buildings, and finally resolving enemy movement.

What I will comment on is how this all played out. Dragon Valley feels like a resource management game, with a light tactical wargame element. Each turn you'll likely receive a random assortment of good guys and monsters. You want monsters, in order to score points, but need to be sure you have the right units in place to take them out without losing many of your own forces.

You'll also have to make tough decisions on whether to move your units or spend a turn construct-ing buildings. The buildings provide many special abilities such as adding bonuses to movement, enabling units to kill units they normally couldn't, or preventing baddies from advancing. However, it's a turn spent standing idle (unless you have a card which allows you to do take two actions.)

Finally, as the game progresses, you have to be aware of the armies your opponents are assem-bling. Why? Well because as you build your forces, inevitably you'll want to grab one of the valuable center tiles. When laying siege to one of the tiles, if you don't have all the required units necessary to score it, one of your opponents scan swoop in and garner the King's praise by providing the re-maining units. Although you score some points, your opponent will also score.

Summary and Impressions
First off, CW (the designer) was fantastic. Nice, down to earth guy who was patient and took the time to explain what he was thinking when asked about elements of the game. He shared the story and his games are obviously a labor of love to him.

The game itself seemed complex at start. I did not have a chance to read the rules, but can say that it did seem confusing at start. However, after playing two turns it all clicked and there was no con-fusion on how to play. Game time should go down to 90 minutes or less after a single play.

On your turn, there are many choices to be made but it doesn't suffer from analysis paralysis since the best choice usually comes to you pretty quickly. There is no down time, since each player does all the actions on the turn (we all move, we all fight, we all move monsters.)

Finally, there are many paths to victory that can change as the game progresses. I had decided ini-tially my strategy was going to be to sit back and just mow down monsters as they came out me. However, mid-way through I had an opening to take a center tile that I couldn't ignore, which com-pletely changed my approach.

Is it worth it???
Oh yeah...it really is.

There are many elements I like: resource building, player interaction, and hidden challenges. It has no down time, a fair amount of player interaction, and just enough luck to keep you coming back for more.

Since I played on a mock board, it's hard to visualize the final product. I did have a chance to see some of the final artwork though, and it looks incredible. I look forward to seeing the final version.

Keep an eye out for this one in late 2011/early 2012.
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Bill Reed
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I think it's worth mentioning that this is a Kickstarter project. So until it's funded we may NOT see it. I'm still trying to decide if I'm going in or not...leaning towards yes.


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Greg Syferd
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Great point, I had forgotten to mention that!

As I mentioned, CW is a great guy. Hope nothing but the best for him!
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Jason Fordham
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Backing at the $60 level on Kickstarter.

Everyone else should too!

Dragon Valley on Kickstarter

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Karsten E
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I second most if not all of what the OP (Greg) said; CW is quite the patient teacher and was kind enough to share a bit of back story regarding intended play.

Looking forward to giving this another go or two with one play under my belt.
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Bob Menzel
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Missed it by that much ...
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Will this be demo-ing at WBC? I saw it in action a couple of times at Oriigins but could never seem to be there for a seat.
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CW Karstens
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I will have a copy at Gen Con which is the same weekend as WBC. The artist Kurt Miller will be at WBC but I have not checked if he would be willing to demo there. I will ask.

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CW Karstens
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I confirmed with Kurt Miller that he will have the prototype copy at his World Boardgame Championships (WBC) table as well as proofs showing the final artwork for the game. He won't have time to give many demos if any but hopefully something will work out.

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CW Karstens
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Here is the Geek List on what people want to play at WBC. You can use that to find others to play Dragon Valley with.

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/69383/item/1736338#ite...

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