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Subject: Light and mediocre game, but not horrible rss

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Matt Lee
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East Meadow
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Dragonriders is a race game where players mount their dragons and race through a winding valley peppered with magic spells and energy fields against other players. It has gotten badly panned in the geeklists. It's not that bad as a very light game, but doesn't rise far above mediocrity. I note that I am basing this on the printed english rules with the sole exception of the magic loop card rule, which I will explain below.

The package contents are gorgeous, from the nicely sculpted dragon pieces to the artwork throughout the game with the sole exception of the bland energy chips. The pieces are made of thick and sturdy cardboard and the insert mostly fits everything well, though the flight paths end up loose in the well with the track tiles instead of having their own place to sit. The dragons do slide a lot and fall over on the board due to the lack of weight to the base of the figures. A felt bottom would have helped with the sliding problems.

The box comes with 6 sculpted dragons, 6 speed indicator dials, 8 flight path markers, 15 double sided track tiles, a 6 piece border for the track, a pair of damage dice, 3 types of cards (magic spells, starting position, and exhausted) magic trap tokens and energy tokens.

The board and track needs to be laid out first, and players choose a dragon token and matching speed dial. Magic cards are shuffled and the exhausted cards are placed to the side. Discard the uneeded start cards (the ones that exceed the current number of players), shuffle and randomly hand out the start cards. Players place their dragons on the appropriate starting positions and receive the listed number of energy chips and magic cards. Players placed farther back in the pack get more energy and more magic cards to start with.

The start card also shows what starting speed the dragons begin with using DS or Dragon Speed. The speed dials have two arms and the dial shows DS from 100-800. The gray arm shows the last speed used. The gray arm is moved to the listed speed on the start card. The matching colored arm will be moved by the player to mark the new speed within 300 DS faster or slower than the previous speed.

Once players are ready, all players secretly choose a new speed and place their dials face down until everyone is done. Players cannot pick up and measure with the flight sticks when choosing speeds. Players must rely on visualizing the path in front of the dragon and the turn radius in their minds. If a player wishes to use a magic card, it must be played at this time and will be lost whether or not it is used during the turn. Players make their moves based on how far along they are on the course, so the leading dragon will move first, followed by the next farthest along dragon and so on.

The flight paths are all different lengths and have different turning radii on the ends. The paths have a notch on each end that the dragon model will be placed in. The dragon models have a hexagonal base where the front or back point will fit in the notch. The flight paths also have an angled edge next to the notch that represents the maneuverability of the dragons in flight at the different speeds. Slower speeds allow the path (and then the dragon) to change direction much more easily than the faster speeds. Players take the appropriate flight path and may turn it (up until it hits the angled base of the dragon), then move the dragon to the other end's notch and may rotate the dragon again (within the boundary of the path).

If a magic card was used, the card is shown at the same time as the current speed. Depending on what type of card is played, the card must be used before or after movement as shown on the card. Magic cards include a fireball (2 dice of damage at 400 DS range), a Magic Loop (pulls back a dragon within 600 DS of you. This contradicts the printed manual, but matches the illustration of the rule), Obligatory Alliance (lets you use another dragon within 400 DS of you to pull you behind them), Magic Traps (like caltrops or mines where a number of dice are rolled if a dragon flies over them and are marked with 0-2 on each Trap marker), Magic Energy (player may steal an energy chip from another dragon within 600 DS), Dragon Strength (allows the dragon to move up to an extra 300 DS faster than the current speed for just this turn. Does not affect the dial's current speed), Magic head wind (allows the player to move up to 300 DS slower than the current speed but does not affect the dial's current speed), or Magic shield (protects the dragon from other magic cards played that round). For damage dice that are rolled, each dragon's head that appears means the player will lose an energy chip. Blank faces mean the dragon has come up unscathed.

If the player cannot safely fly along the path without hitting something, there may be a penalty. Touching the border will cause the dragon to lose an energy chip and will reset the player's current speed to 100 DS. If the player's path would take him off the course completely, the player loses 2 energy chips and the current speed is set to 100. The player's dragon may then be placed in any facing along the border that was crossed. Dragons that have no more energy chips must take an exhausted card and will receive two energy chips. Exhausted dragons, however, have a maximum speed of 500 and lose all magic cards and cannot receive new ones until the card is removed by landing on an energy field. If the player crashes into another dragon (either along the flight path or when placing the dragon at the end of the path), the dragon hit must move sideways to the closest boundary (in any facing the player desires) while the offending mage loses one energy chip and loses 100 DS from the current speed. If there is not enough room, the offending player must move behind the dragon that was hit. Exhausted dragons that run out of energy chips are taken out of the game.

The board has several special spots marked along the course. If the player passes over a magic card marker, the player may receive a new magic card. If the player stops on an energy field, the dragon may receive a new energy chip and remove an exhausted card.

Despite all of the extra stuff from the magic cards, the game is very light, and speeds are somewhat predictable to the other players. It plays rather quickly, and magic cards do not seem to have much impact unless everyone moves at a slow pace, but as a light game, it works okay.

Some problems we noted :

Once a player starts to pull away, it is nearly impossible for the other players to catch up unless everyone moves slowly and are bunched up. Part of the reason is that the course tiles are very narrow in many places for the size of the pieces. Since the course narrows so much, players in the lead can effectively block the other dragons from passing them. In fact, the narrow course at points are so narrow that it makes what could be a fast, fun game, into a very slow one as players try to maneuver through the narrow gaps, and successfully make it through the next tile.

If the start tile is within 2 tiles of a corner, no matter how wide the corner is, the last players can be blocked from making a successful passing move. The extra energy chips and magic cards do not seem to have much effect, and if the leading dragons get exhausted quickly, the players in the back will have a much harder time trying to improve their spots.

Overall, it's a fun, light game as long as players don't expect too much from it. The artwork is gorgeous and the pieces are good quality, but the additions to try to make it heavier do not seem to have as big an effect as they should. The potential runaway leader problem can be a factor by mid-game, and the narrow course parts somehow fail to be a tactical challenge and instead falls towards tedium since it makes it very difficult to pass and nearly locks the game's positioning early on with little room for change.
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Matt Lee
United States
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This was previously reviewed based on play with 3 players. Having tried with 6 players, I realize this game does not work wiht more than 4 players. The congestion is very bad with a full plate of 6 players and the game drags into tedium and becomes a bad game, as many reviews have complained about. With 3, the game moves well. With 6, it is pretty bad and much too long.

With 3 players - Review score of 6/10
With 6 players - 3/10
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