Dragon Market Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 45 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Visuospatial Skills
  • Cooperative & Team Play

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Shop until you drop

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek mixed!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Congratulations! Your family has the honor of being invited to the prestigious wedding of a young princess. You are required to attend – without having any choice – and that brings up the problem of what wedding gift to bring? You consider your options and decide that one will not do for a princess. Making a list, you give what items to purchase to your energetic and talented heir. It’s on them you put your hope that one of the items to be collected is a gift that makes the princess smile and brings honor to your family.

Dragon Market, designed by Marco Teubner and published by Blue Orange, is comprised of one large game board, 10 Boat markers, four Heir pawns, two custom six-sided dice, 40 Merchandise tokens, 12 Coin tokens, 13 Red Objective cards, and 10 Blue Objective cards. The game component quality is excellent. The game board, cards, and all the game pieces are solid and durable. The game intray is well designed and keeps all the game pieces organized when the game is not in play. Once again, a quality release from Blue Orange.

Preparing for Your Shopping Trip

To set up the game, first place the game board in the middle of the playing area and where all the players can easily observe and reach it.

Second, taking turns, each player places a Boat marker on the game board, one boat at a time, until all the Boat markers are on the game board. There are a few rules when it comes to placing the Boat markers. First, each Boat marker must take exactly three square spaces on the game board and may not cover any square space other than open water.

Third, each Boat marker has two open spaces (the third is occupied by the boat’s owner, referred to as the “Sailor”). Place two identical Merchandice tokens on each of the Boat markers, for a total of four Merchandise tokens per Boat marker.

Fourth, each player now takes the Heir pawn that matches the color of the corner of the game board they are closets to. Each of the four corners of the game board is occupied by what looks to be a dock. This area is referred to as the player’s “pontoon.” Players place their Heir pawn on the matching colored pontoon at this time.

Fourth, shuffle the Blue Objective cards and deal one card to each player, face-up. These cards remain face-up for the duration of the game in front of their owning player. Place the remaining Blue Objective cards in a single pile, face-down, next to the game board. This is the Objectives draw deck for the duration of the game.

Fifth, place the Coin tokens and dice to one side of the game board.

Sixth, determine who will be the first player using whatever methods make sense to you. Turn order goes clockwise around the table. At this time, the First Player receives no Coin tokens, the Second Player receives 1 Coin token, the Third Player receives 2 Coin tokens, and the Fourth Player receives three Coin tokens. Coin tokens remain in front of their owning player and are visible throughout the game.

That’s it for the game set up. Time to go wedding gift shopping!

A Shopping We Will Go

Dragon Market is played in turns and rounds with no set number of rounds per game. A typical game turn is summarized here.

Step One: Roll Them Dice

The first thing the player does on their turn is to collect the two dice and roll them. The total number rolled on the two dice informs the player how many move actions they can take on their turn.

Step Two: Make Your Moves

There are several move actions the player can take on their turn. Each of the summarized actions reduces the total number of move actions the player has remaining by one. Players may take as many or as few of their allocated move actions as they like and in any order they want.

  • Move a Boat: The player may move a Boat marker one square space on the game board in the direction of the boat’s stern or bow (front or back of the boat). The player cannot move the Boat marker off the game board and cannot move onto or through a square space occupied by another Boat marker or a pontoon.
  • Turn a Boat: Using the Boat marker’s Sailor as the pivot point (the center of rotation), the player may move the Boat marker by 90-degrees, aligning with the square grides on the game board. Boat markers must have the required space to rotate, meaning the rotation move itself cannot make any portion of the Boat marker go off the game board and cannot move onto or through a square space occupied by another Boat marker or a pontoon. Note that due to the location of the Sailor on the Boat marker, some Boat markers require less room than others to rotate.
  • Move Your Heir: Heir pawns can move on and through their pontoon and any square space on a Boat marker, but not if that movement is diagonal. They can pass through but not stop their movement on any space occupied by an opponent’s Heir pawn. Heir pawns cannot move on or through open water or the Boat marker Sailor. If a player’s Heir passes through or ends their movement on a space that contains a Merchandise token that matches identical listed merchandise on their Objective card, they can now take that Merchandise token and place it on their Objective card. This does not count as a move action. Players can never collect Merchandise tokens that are not required by their Objective card.

Example Blue Objective card

If the player has collected any Coin tokens during the previous rounds (or during game setup), they may elect to spend a Coin token to receive one additional move action (to be used as the player likes as noted above). A player cannot use any more than a maximum of two Coin tokens during their turn. Coin tokens spent are returned to the pile off to one side of the game board.

Step Three: Collect Coins

Sometimes a player will not use all their allocated move actions, either by choice or due to the current location of Boat markers. For every move action not used, the player now collects one Coin token. Players first take Coin tokens from the pile placed off to the side of the game board. If that pile is depleted, the player takes any still needed Coin tokens from the opponent who currently has the most Coin tokens. If there is a tie between two or more players for the most Coin tokens, the player can choose which opponent they want to take the Coin tokens from or take Coin tokens from multiple opponents who tied.

Merch Commando

After the player has collected all the Merchandise tokens that match the required merchandise on their Objective card, they must return their Heir pawn to their starting pontoon. Once they do, the collected Merchandise tokens are considered “secure.” The collected Merchandise tokens are returned to the game box, and the player draws a new Objective card, which is placed face-up in front of the owning player.

A Successful Shopping Trip

The game continues as noted above and ends when a player completes two Objective cards. The first player to do so is the winner of the game. Remember: An Objective card is not considered complete until the player returns their Heir pawn to their pontoon. More than one player will likely have collected all the required merchandise required by their second Objective card, making it an exciting race to see who can get back to their starting pontoon first!

In our last game, we had an epic boat traffic jam

Game Variants

There are several game variants available right out of the box. Each is summarized here.

Advanced Game

If the basic game summarized in this review seems a bit too simple, there is an advanced game mode of play that can be used instead. To do this, use the Red Objective cards during game setup and gameplay instead of the Blue Objective cards. Each player is dealt two Red Objective cards and selects one as their first Objective card to complete, putting the Objective card they do not want back in the deck to be shuffled. Red Objective cards remain FACE-DOWN in front of their owning player instead of face-up.

When a player completes their Objective card, it’s turned face-up. Listed on the completed Objective card is a unique bonus action that the player may take. Bonus actions, depending on the Objective card, can be made only once per game or once per turn. The bonus actions include:

  • Moving a Boat marker through another Boat marker
  • Rotating a Boat marker 180-degrees for a single move action, ignoring the standard rules that do not allow the Boat marker to pass through other Boat markers or pontoons
  • Move a Boat marker sideways
  • Move over a Sailor
  • Move your Heir pawn diagonally
  • Move over one open water square space
  • Swap Heir pawn locations with an opponent
  • Rotate a Boat marker using its opposite rotational axis point
  • Swap the position of Merchandise tokens on a single Boat marker
  • Roll one die again
  • Ignore specific merchandise on an Objective card (allowing for an easier completion)
  • Choose from three Objective cards instead of two
  • Take three Coin tokens

Example Red Objective card

If playing the advanced game, victory goes to the first player to complete three Objective cards.

Two and Three-Player Variant

Like the advanced game, players must complete three Objective cards to win, regardless of what Objective card color they are using.

Team Variant (Two versus Two)

The rules are identical to the advanced game rules summarized above with the following exceptions:

  • Players work together as a team of two, deciding on what Objective cards to complete (meaning each side only has one Objective card to complete at a time)
  • Team members share Coin tokens, and alternate taking turns with their Heir pawn
  • If the team has collected all the necessary merchandise, returning any Heir pawn to their starting pontoon will complete the Objective card
  • Victory goes to the first team to complete four Objective cards

Additionally, if using the Red Objective cards, only one player per team can use the bonus action per round.

To learn more about Dragon Market, visit the game’s web page.

Final Word

The Child Geeks very much enjoyed the game, with the younger and less experienced crowd finding the Blue Objective cards and game rules to be at an acceptable level of difficulty and the more experienced, as well as older, Child Geeks preferring the Red Objective cards. According to one Child Geek, “This game reminds me of a sliding puzzle, where you have to move the different squares up and down until you make a certain pattern. This is better, though, because you have to not only think about what you shift but how you move around in the shifting puzzle.” Another Child Geek said, “Challenging, but not hard. I didn’t ever feel stressed, and I always had something to do. I like stealing coins from others, too.” When the last piece of merchandise was collected, the Child Geeks all agreed Dragon Market was a great time.

The Parent Geeks preferred the Red Objective cards right off the bat and enjoyed the team plays with their peers a great deal. According to one Parent Geek, “Casual and light, but the game makes you think and keeps you engaged. A great mix of puzzle challenges and logistics. I’d play this again.” Another Parent Geek said, “I like playing the game best with a partner. You can talk about your strategy, shift boats for your partner to take advantage of collecting merchandise, and take more offensive moves to slow down the other team. Great fun!” The Parent Geeks also enjoyed playing the game with their families but were frustrated that the game only allowed for four players at maximum. When all the games were over, the Parent Geeks gave Dragon Market their full approval.

The Gamer Geeks found Dragon Market to be a well-designed, high-quality, puzzle game. But they also found the game to be a bit too casual for their tastes. According to one Gamer Geek, “I’m going to give this game a mixed review for two reasons. First, I approve it because it is a fun game, great production value, and has a level of depth that makes it a challenge. Second, I am going to reject this game because it is too casual, doesn’t have enough depth, and has the potential flaw of giving one player a huge advantage based on the random Objective card they drew and the starting location of the Merchandise tokens.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A great game for the family and casual gamers. The best I can say about this game is that I’d play it with my family, happily, but this is not a game I would bring to my more advanced groups. There isn’t enough game in this game for my gamer buddies.” When the last Heir returned to their pontoon, the Gamer Geeks gave Dragon Market a mixed review, finding it to be an excellent game that wasn’t for them.

I very much enjoyed this game with all our groups. It’s true; Dragon Market feels a bit too light for players who enjoy games with a great deal of depth and complexity. However, it should also be noted that these same gamer types enjoyed every moment of gameplay with Dragon Market. The final votes from our groups are based on several different areas that they take into consideration. In all respects, Dragon Market scored high with the elitists, but when it came right down to it, the game didn’t deliver enough complexity to make the Gamer Geeks sweat.

Which isn’t a bad thing for the majority.

You don’t need every game you put on your table to give you the mental equivalent of hemorrhoids while you strain your brain to come up with your next move — all kinds of unnecessary. What you have here with Dragon Market is a game that balances complexity with casual gameplay. It has just the right amount of depth to keep you engaged, and the ever-changing game requires players to reevaluate the game board continually. You cannot help but keep your eyes fixed on the game even when it isn’t your turn.

My suggestion to you is that you only use the Blue Objective cards when playing with young Child Geeks or with players who have minimal experience with games. The Red Objective cards and the Advanced Gameplay variant are where you will be spending most of your time and feels the most satisfying. It ups the difficulty by a few notches without putting stress on any aspect of the gameplay. Sometimes game designers get it wrong, thinking that more choices give the game more depth. This is not correct. More options is just that – more opportunities — not more depth. In Dragon Market, the Red Objective cards do give the player more choices, but the results are beneficial to all the players who now get to see their game, and their choices change as well since the bonus actions shift the game board and its pieces for everyone.

Dragon Market was good fun, a clever puzzle to solve, and an entertaining game to play. I recommend it to families and to Gamer Geeks who want to play a game that keeps their interest but is still within reach of all their family members who yet don’t know the awesome power of a twenty-sided die. Do give Dragon Market a try at your family gaming table.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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