Friday, February 17, 2017

Quick Review - Dragon Dodge - Kickstarter Preview

Dragon Dodge
Designers: Jeff Fitzgerald
and Maggie Stewart
Publisher: Hidden Creek Games
2-4p | 15-25m | 8+
Quick Review - Dragon Dodge - Kickstarter Preview

So, what do you do when a dragon is barrelling across the elemental arena toward you at full speed?  Some might try to stand and fight.  Others might try to use their dragon training skills to lull it to sleep.  Or maybe they'll try their hand at riding it.  All of these are incorrect, of course.  If a dragon is running for you, you dodge it!

Dragon Dodge is a light strategy game for two to four players that plays in only 20 minutes or so.  It's great for kids ages eight and up, or maybe even younger.  Two teams of wizards are competing in an elemental arena while trying to avoid the dragons.  Dragon Dodge is available through March 20, 2017 on Kickstarter for only $20, including US shipping.

Read on to learn more about Dragon Dodge from Hidden Creek Games!

Dragon Dodge came to me to review via the Everything Board Games Network!  Check the page out for more awesome reviews!

Dragon Dodge is a very simple game that hides a fair amount of strategy in its simplicity.  The object of Dragon Dodge is to capture your opponent's wizards while having yours avoid the dragons.  You'll be able to control both your wizards and the dragons on your turn and your opponent will control her own wizards and the dragons on her turn.  Dragon Dodge is essentially a two player game, but it can be played with more players with teams.

To set up Dragon Dodge you randomly place the 24 tiles face-up into a grid pattern.  There are several suggested starting layouts, or you can make up your own.  Then place the wizards and on their starting tiles.  Finally, shuffle each of the two separate decks (element spells and tile spells) and deal out one of each to the players.
It's a small game with just a few components.  Have I mentioned before how much I love small box games?
On your turn you'll start by drawing two cards.  You can draw from either the element spells deck or the tile spells deck, or one from each.  Then you'll play spells to either move your wizards, move the dragons, or manipulate the tiles in the game.  If you move a dragon onto an opponent's wizard it is captured.  The first player or team to capture both of the opponent's wizards wins the game.
A quick and variable setup allows you to jump right into this quick game.
So, what are these different spells that can be played?  There are two main types, element spells and tile spells.  Element spells help you move your wizards or the dragons and tile spells allow you to manipulate the tiles.

There are four different types of element spells: Earth, Water, Wind, and Fire.  These will help you move around the elemental arena.  Each tile has borders that are composed of one of the elements.  To move from one tile to the next tile you need to discard element spell cards that match the elements you need to cross.
Four element spells let you move your wizards or the dragons.
If you'll be crossing a Fire and Wind border you'll need to discard both a Fire and Wind spell to move.  But if the borders on the tiles match, for example two Waters, you only need to discard one of that element spell to cross.  These movement rules apply to both your wizards and the dragons.  The only difference between moving wizards and dragons is that the tile a dragon leaves gets removed from play.  You get to keep any tiles removed when you move a dragon though.  You might have a chance to add them back later.
The dragon in the foreground can move toward that orange wizard if Earth and Wind spells are discarded.
The orange wizard can escape away from the camera by playing just a single Fire spell.
There are also three different types of tile spells: Move, Rotate, and Add.  These let you manipulate the tiles in the elemental arena.  Discarding a tile spell card lets you perform that action on one tile in play.  Move lets you move a tile into an adjacent empty space.  Rotate lets you rotate a tile 90, 180, or even 270 degrees.  You can do either of these to any tile in play, even if the tile is occupied by a wizard or dragon.  The Add spell lets you take a tile that you removed when moving a dragon and add it back into the elemental arena.  However, with any of these you cannot Move or Add a tile beyond the outermost border of the current area of play.  So as tiles get removed from dragons moving the play area will shrink.
Tile spells let you manipulate the playing area.
You can also trade in any three of the same spell to act as a wild of that spell type.  E.g. you can play three Wind spells as a Fire spell or play three Rotate spells as a Move spell.  Your hand limit is six cards, so at the end of your turn you have to discard down to six, but you can play as many cards as you like on your turn.

Any time a dragon moves onto a tile that has a wizard on it, that wizard is removed from the game.  Players or teams take turns until one team's wizards are both eliminated.

Final Thoughts:
Dragon Dodge is a fun little strategy game.  I really like the theme and the mechanics are solid.  It's super simple to teach and doesn't take long to set up or to play.  Dragon Dodge would make a good filler or light, family friendly strategy game.

The artwork in the prototype is very bland, and some of the reviews you may see, including mine, feature that artwork.  However the final game will have all updated artwork (as well as custom shaped meeples for the wizards and dragons).  The updated artwork is very nice, and gives the game a very striking look.  The new tile graphics are vibrant and well defined, and the element spell cards are energetic.  Even the tile spell cards have a much more epic look to them.
The updated artwork is very striking!
While I did have fun with the game, I do have a few concerns though.  Calling this a two to four player game is a real stretch.  It's really a two player game.  Playing with three or four players just splits the turns into two teams.  With this logic you could play with just about any number of players, within the limitations of the components.  Teams alternate taking turns, and players on the teams take turns as well.  There's not supposed to be any communication between players on a team about what cards they each have.  But this is a relatively minor concern.  The game still works well with three or four players, but it's more like playing four player chess where two players control white and two players control black than playing a game specifically designed for four players.
The game plays very well with two players.  My seven year old enjoyed it quite a bit!

A bigger concern though was the role of the wizards in the game.  I played several times and for the most part the game revolves around maneuvering the dragons into position to attack the wizards.  Until a wizard is close to being attacked by a dragon there is very little incentive to move your wizards.  I felt like I wanted the wizards to be doing something.  But as long as I used my element and tile spells to keep pushing the dragons to pursue my opponent's wizards I felt no need to move my wizards.  That means the game turns into a game of who draws the more useful cards first.  I really want a reason to move my wizards.  I feel like there should be a balance between the desire to move the dragon in pursuit of your opponent and a need to move your own wizards in pursuit of some alternate goal.  There should be a risk/reward element that encourages you to want to move your wizards without just waiting until a dragon is getting close.

That said, this is the impression that I've gotten after a few plays.  The designers have indicated that some people employ other strategies and move the wizards around quite often.  I just don't see how that can be a viable strategy when moving the dragon is what ultimately will win the game for you.  In the first game I played I did move the wizards more, but quickly realized that was wasting moves I could be using to move the dragon toward my opponent.  In games I played against other players, they did the same thing at first, moved their wizards, but after the mechanics and goal of the game became clearer they also opted for moving the dragon instead.  Maybe you'll find a different strategy that works for you though.
Until a dragon starts getting too close to a wizard there's really no incentive to move the wizards.  Even then, it's usually
more beneficial to focus on the dragon, either by moving it directly or by manipulating the tiles around it.

As a simple family game, or very quick filler, I think Dragon Dodge works well, but I don't feel that it has the depth necessary to keep it interesting for more than a few plays.  You often hear games described as "minutes to learn, a lifetime to master".  Dragon Dodge does only take minutes to learn, but it doesn't feel like there's anything to master.  It's a cute, casual game that looks great and will be fun to play once in awhile.

For $20, you can pick up a copy of Dragon Dodge on Kickstarter right now.  For what you get that's a pretty good price, especially since that includes US shipping.  If Dragon Dodge sounds like something you would like to play, check out the Kickstarter through March 20, 2017.

Oh, and I have to give props to Maggie and Jeff for the letter that came with Dragon Dodge thanking me for reviewing the game.  It was written on parchment-like paper and in an envelope sealed with a wax dragon stamp.  Cool stuff!  It just goes to show how much heart they have invested in this game!
That's a cool wax seal!

Preliminary Rating: 6.5/10

This review is of a prototype game.  Components and rules are not final and are subject to change.

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GJJG Game Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some are print and play versions of games.  Where applicable I will indicate if games have been played with kids or adults or a mix (Family Play).  I won't go into extensive detail about how to play the game (there are plenty of other sources for that information and I'll occasionally link to those other sources), but I will give my impressions of the game and how my friends and family reacted to the game.  Quick Reviews will only get a single rating of 1-10 (low-high) based on my first impressions of the game during my first few times playing.  Hopefully I'll get more chances to play the game and will be able to give it a full review soon.

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