Dragon Dodge: Preview

Fairway controls a team of wizards in a ridiculously dangerous cave filled with other wizards and two hungry, but easily manipulated dragons. Yep. Today he’s reviewing Dragon Dodge, a two-player spell-casting and tiling laying game.

Dragon Dodge is two- to four-player game by Hidden Creek Games in which players control two teams of wizards attempting to coerce two dragons into eating your opponents two wizards. Well, I’m not sure if they’re “eaten” but they do go away. I reviewed a prototype version of this game so aspects of the game may change before final production.

Initial Impressions ^

  1. This game was a total surprise. We both enjoyed manipulating the dragons and cave and the tension that created.
  2. The tile art leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s almost forgivable for the fun game play.
  3. There’s some real fun strategic choices available to players at almost every turn of the game.
  4. The game is easy to learn and really quick. The fact that you can customize the board makes it highly replayable.

Game play ^

In Dragon Dodge, players control two wizards. The object is eliminate the other player’s two wizards by moving the dragons onto the same square as their wizard.

To start, players arrange a set of square tiles to form the board. The rules provide some example boards, but it can be any arrangement. The more symmetrical the starting board, the more fair.  Each of the players’ two pawns are placed on the board (usually on opposite sides) and the two dragon pawns are placed near the middle of the board.

Each player takes an initial hand of cards from one of the two game decks: tile spells or elemental spells. During a player’s turn, these cards are used to make changes to the map and move pawns around.

On your turn, you first draw two cards. You can take them from the tile spells or the elemental spells deck.  The tile spells let you move, rotate and add new tiles (if you have one) to the board. When you discard a tile spell, you then can move any tile, even one that’s occupied. The elemental spells let you move pawns across matching boundaries on each tile.  For example, you can discard a “fire” spell to cross a tile joined by two “fire” boundaries. You can discard an “air” and “fire” to move a pawn across an air and fire boundary. You can also discard three of a kind to treat it as a wild.

In Dragon Dodge, the spells can be used to move any pawn on the board, including an opponent’s wizard or a dragon. There are a few catches. First, two wizards cannot occupy the same tile. Second, if you move a dragon, the tile it was previously on is removed from the map and placed into your hand.  You can then place this tile later using the “add tile” action. Finally, if a dragon moves onto a wizard’s tile, the wizard is eaten and removed from the game.

The game continues until all of one player’s wizards are eliminated.

On the green ^

We enjoyed Dragon Dodge’s game play for a few reasons:

Ease and play time.  This game is both understandable and easily teachable. There is no confusing objectives or rules. Players picked it up very quickly and got the hang of the strategy without a lot of help.  The game is also pretty quick. There are not so many tiles on the board and so you dragons catch wizards pretty quickly.  most of our games were setup and complete in under twenty minutes.

Plenty of strategy.  There’s a good amount of strategy in this game: positioning the dragons, creating passable paths that only require playing single spells, moving your own wizards, etc.  There’s just enough luck in the game to make it something different than checkers or chess. The luck is introduced in the draw of element and tile spells. Your well-thought out plan can be foiled by not getting the right spells before your opponent.

Tile laying/shifting.  The game does a good job of implementing an interesting tile playing mechanic. The board essentially becomes a shifting chess board.

Element spells.  The clever use of spell cards was welcome too. We liked that you’re casting spells that let you affect not only the dragons but your and your opponent’s wizards. There’s no “damage” or “attacking” in casting spells, just strategic manipulation.

Where it comes up short ^

Art. The game is fun, but it felt a bit like the art and graphic design were after thoughts.  The textures on the tiles weren’t all that compelling. The spell cards lacked the mystical nature you might expect. I feel like nice art could take the game to another level.

Player count?  The game says it plays up to four players. The third and fourth players are just teamed up with players one and two. This wasn’t quite the fantastic gaming experience of the two player duel.

Is it fixable?  With a few extra meeples, we tried a three player game with three teams of wizards. It didn’t really change the game much, other than that it introduced a player elimination mechanic.  The games generally went quickly so that wasn’t a huge issue.

In the hole ^

Dragon Dodge is a clever little tile laying game. While this game is lacking a bit on the art side, it’s got great game play. The game packs in a wealth of player opportunities and strategic choices, but adds just enough luck to avoid being too much like a six-pawn version of chess. The game is quick and readily teachable to even the youngest of players. If you’re in the market for a quick, fun, tile-laying games, you definitely shouldn’t dodge this one.

Dragon Dodge is in the hole for a par. ^

Fairway was provided a pre-production copy of Dragon Dodge to write this preview but was not otherwise compensated for his opinion.






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