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Subject: Navia Dratp: A Long Review rss

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AxonDomini
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Navia Dratp Review

Overview
Navia Dratp is best described to the uninitiated as “Magic: The Gathering meets Chess” (or, better yet, Shogi, but more on that later). Like Magic, it is a collectable game that allows you to build your own army of game pieces. Each piece has a unique combination of movement range and special abilities, and a key strategy is fielding a force whose collective special characteristics complement one another.

However, like chess and chess variants, Navia Dratp is a game of perfect information. You know exactly what your opponent’s force consists of and what it is capable of. There are no surprises – if your opponent does something surprising, you have nothing to blame but your own lack of imagination. Thus, while Navia Dratp may feel more chaotic than chess, it actually isn’t - there’s simply more to keep track of.

Roots of Navia Dratp

Navia Dratp is a game whose roots are firmly rooted in Shogi, or Japanese chess. While most people compare it to western chess, anyone who has played both Shogi and Navia Dratp will tell you that the former clearly was the inspiration for the latter. Shogi and western chess are, of course, closely related, so comparing Navia Dratp to western chess is not inaccurate. However, relating it to Shogi provides a better insight into the game.

The most obvious similarities to Shogi include:
*Navia Dratp black gulleds (pawns) move like Shogi pawns – one space directly forward.

*There are no “colors” – i.e. no white and black pieces. The only way to determine which player controls a piece is by the direction it is facing.

*Pieces may be “dropped” on the board. While the mechanisms are different that those used in Shogi, the effect is similar. Later stages of the game may actually have more pieces on the board than earlier stages, which is distinctly different than western chess in which the piece count can only go down, never up.

*There is a distinct leaning in Navia Dratp toward having pieces that can only move forward, not backward. As in Shogi, there are some pieces capable of moving backward, but a significant number are not able to retreat once advanced (except with the assistance of other pieces that allow pieces to be instantly moved to another space on the board). Also, like in Shogi, many of the pieces that can retreat can only do so in a limited fashion – i.e. their forward movement is more flexible than their backward movement. This creates a drastically different feel from western chess in which all major pieces have perfectly symmetrical movement. Symmetrical movement is actually the exception in Navia Dratp rather than the rule.

*All pieces (except pawns) may be promoted. Again, the mechanism is different than in Shogi, but it plays a significant role in the game and players must always aware of which of their opponent’s pieces are able to be promoted.

The end result is that Navia Dratp “feels” more like Shogi than western chess, although the new elements that it brings to the table are numerous and significant. Similarities aside, it is definitely it’s own game and not a “knockoff” of chess or any variant of chess.

Terminology
Navia Dratp, unfortunately, has lots of silly sounding terms to describe things that already have names in the world of chess variants. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll provide brief definitions of them all before getting into the game in depth.

Navia – each player’s king. If your Navia is captured, you lose. If your Navia crosses to the other side of the board and then moves off of the board, you win. If you promote your Navia, you win.

Gulleds – Pawns. Each player has seven black and two red gulleds. Of the two, the red gulleds are more powerful. Black gulleds may move once space directly forward only, while red gulleds may move one space directly forward or one space diagonally forward.

Gyullas – Crystals. Players earn gyullas in a number of ways, but primarily by moving gulleds. Black gulleds earn one gyulla when they move, and red gulleds earn three gyullas when they move. Gyullas can also be earned by capturing your opponent’s Masetai, moving a gulled to the other side of the board and then off the board or through the special abilities of some Masetai.

Masetai – Major pieces. These pieces are the equivalents of knights, rooks, bishops, etc. A player customizes his army by choosing which seven Masetai to use out of the (currently) 44 available. Masetai must be summoned to the battlefield during the game, and all may be “dratped” by paying a certain number of gyullas. This number is indicated on the Masetai’s compass. This is also the number of gyullas an opponent earns when they capture that Masetai.

Dratp – Promote. Both Masetai and Navias may dratp. If a Navia dratps (which costs 60 gyullas), the dratping player wins the game.

Production
Navia Dratp is very nicely produced. All of the figures are well detailed, although the print on the pawns is a bit fuzzy and hard to read. Each of the Masetai has a compass in the front to indicate which direction it’s facing, how it may move and how expensive it is to dratp. Once the Masetai is dratped the compass is flipped over to show what effect the dratp has. The compasses are well made, feel solid when flipped and are easy to read.

The gameboard is clear and attractive. There are a number of different types of spaces on the board, and all are clearly marked with easily distinguished symbols. Even the starting space for the Navia is marked for easy reference. The keeps are easily distinguished as they are black as opposed to the red/white of the playing area. Each player also has areas designated for their graveyard and their gyullas. Said gyullas are small plastic bits of white (1 gyulla), blue (5 gyullas) and yellow (20 gyullas).

As well produced as the game is, the decision to go with an anime style and naming convention was, at best, questionable. Navia Dratp manages to look both impressive and silly once it is set up for play. The Navias are your typical anime girls who have adult bodies and the faces of twelve year olds. The Masetai range from fierce looking to downright childish – one even has a more than passing resemblance to Pikachu of Pokemon fame. For anime fans this is probably all great. For the rest of us, however… well, let’s just say I’m happy that I’m able to ignore the theme and focus on the gameplay. Others may not be so lucky. This is not a game that’s going to convince non-gamers to take the hobby seriously, at least not at first glance.

Aside from the anime inspired theme, the other problem with the production is that you must buy two starter sets to play a game. Each starter set includes only enough playing pieces for one person – one Navia, seven black gulleds, two red gulleds, seven Masetai and seventeen gyullas. Oddly enough, each also includes a gameboard. Thus, after buying both starters, you will have a spare gameboard with no real use. You can’t even give it to a friend since they won’t have any gulleds or gyullas with which to play the game.

Gameplay
Starting Setup
Navia Dratp is played on a 7x7 grid, with a “keep” of seven squares behind each player’s first rank. This is where each player’s Masetai are kept until they are summoned into play. At the start of the game each player only has their red and black gulleds and their Navia in play. If a player wants to bring a Masetai into play they must summon it from their keep, and thus may not move any of their pieces that turn.

Playing the Game
The early game normally consists of moving your gulleds to earn gyullas and gain early control of the central area of the board. As with most chess variants, the center is important as it commands a lot of area for pieces with good movement. What makes it even more valuable is that there are five central squares where players may dratp Masetai for half of their normal cost (rounded up). This is particularly useful for those Masetai which have very high dratp costs.

Soon, however, players will start summoning their Masetai, and that’s when things get really interesting. Not only are Masetai more mobile than gulleds (usually), many have special abilities that can radically alter the course of the game. Some earn you extra gyullas, while others will destroy an enemy piece (or multiple pieces) outright. Others allow you to instantly move any of your Masetai or gulleds to another (unoccupied) spot on the gameboard.

This is where the balance of the game could have been completely thrown out of whack, yet Bandai appears to have done some very thorough playtesting. There is a wide range of dratp costs for the Masetai, ranging from a mere three gyullas to a whopping twenty-five. In addition, those Masetai with the most devastating special abilities all require you to sacrifice them once they are dratped and are usually pretty weak in their undratped state. The end result is that a useful army must have a good balance of movement, special abilities and dratping costs. Thus, while Lord Kiggoshi is certainly intimidating on the field as he destroys ALL pieces in any 3x3 area when he dratps, his 25 gyulla dratp cost and weak pre-dratp movement mean that he is not a “must have” piece in your army.

As the game progresses, the flow of gyullas generally starts to slow as players lose their gulleds and start summoning, moving and dratping their Masetai. The decision to advance your board position by moving or dratping your Masetai or increase your supply of gyullas with your gulleds becomes critical. On top of that decision, one must decide exactly when to summon Masetai in the first play. They are the key to winning the game, of course, but most Masetai can only be summoned in a player’s first or second rank, well out of the action most of the time. This results in effectively sacrificing a tempo now for later advantage. Plus, some Masetai are almost as valuable in your keep as out. Your opponent will be very wary about summoning his best Masetai if he knows you have Lord Kiggoshi waiting in the wings ready to vaporize them.

Of course, no Masetai needs to stay dead thanks to a rule known as a “line over”. While a Navia line over (also called a Navia Goal) will win you the game as noted previously, performing a line over with a red or black gulled allows you to either earn an immediate 10 gyullas or move one of your Masetai in your graveyard to a summoning square (undratped). Of course, getting a mere gulled all the way across the board and into your opponent’s keep is not always that easy to accomplish. However, in the endgame it can make the difference between a crushing loss and a seat-of-the-pants victory.

Impressions
Navia Dratp is tense every time. You must not only craft a strategy suitable to the army you’ve chosen, but also one that will work effectively against the army your opponent has chosen. You may enter the game planning to capture your opponent’s Navia, only to discover that dratping your own Navia is a far more viable option.

In spite of the huge variety of Masetai and the effectively limitless army makeups (more than 19 billion, assuming you don’t use any Masetai twice), the game did not feel at all “chaotic” to me. Complex, sure, but not chaotic. Most games that I played saw only 3-4 Masetai in play per player at any given time. The reality is that you simply cannot afford the loss in initiative to summon all of your Masetai in a short span of time. Summoning must be carefully thought out, both in terms of when and which to summon. This keeps the variables down to a (somewhat) manageable level.

I have walked away from every game satisfied and looking forward to my next match. Navia Dratp is one of the few games that I think about during idle moments, which for me is the sign of a truly great game. Theme and silly terminology aside, I cannot find anything about this game to not like.

On Collectability
After playing a bit of Magic:The Gathering, I was turned off of collectable games for a while. I dabbled briefly with A Game of Thrones and Call of Cthulhu, but the prospect of gathering the cards I wanted, building decks from such a huge array of choices and the potential expense eventually soured me on the idea. I never got past buying the starters.

For obvious reasons, Navia Dratp gave me pause. The more I looked into it, however, the more I saw that it was a non-issue. With only 44 pieces to collect, it simply isn’t that difficult to get them all. Sure some are painted and others not (the technical rules only allow you to duplicate a Masetai in your army if one is painted and the other is not), but I’m a gamer not a collector. I currently have 23 of the 44 Masetai (one painted), and plan to buy the 9 first edition figures I don’t have on e-bay for about $20.00. That will give me 32 to play with, and 12 more to get when I get around to it. In the end I may end up spending $100.00 for everything (probably less, actually). So, if the collectable aspect of Navia Dratp is holding you back, my suggestion is to reconsider. The starters alone provide a lot of fun, and a relatively small investment in additional figures will add to that fun significantly.

My final rating: 10, without reservation.
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Dane Peacock
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This is an outstanding review. I agree with nearly everything that was covered.

This is the only collectable game that I can recall that plays just fine with the starter sets. The collectable pieces sure are great, and they add all the fun that comes with the strategy in 'deck' building, but they are not necessary to provide a fun, intense gaming experience.
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J B
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How does one choose which pieces to start with? A draft? Is there like a pool of points to buy pieces with? (like Heroscape?)
 
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AxonDomini
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You can use whatever metod you like to choose you starting pieces-draft, preconstructed armies, etc. There are no point values for the pieces beyond their "dratp" costs, so you can have any combination of pieces you like (as long as there are no duplicates). No limits are needed thanks to the design of the game. Powerful pieces are expensive to upgrade. Having too many expensive pieces in you army can be a real problem. It's an excellent design.
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Rodney Loyd
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I bought some starter sets on ebay from this seller's store -- Great price ($8.99) and will combine shipping:

http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?type=4&cam...
 
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Alan Kwan
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Powerful pieces are not only expensive to upgrade, they also give more gyullas (energy) to your opponent when captured. If your opponent has a whole army of very high-cost pieces, you can aim for a Navia Dratp victory (energy victory) by forcing exchanges. This is actually a very feasible and practical strategy.
 
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N Koff
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It's on!
I love re-reading reviews!
Whose ready to Play-By-Forum Navia?

Alan?

I'd still like to see Jeff & JowJow go at it again laugh
 
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