Dragonrealm Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 10 and up
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • Approximately 30 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management
  • Worker Placement & Area Control

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Seek adventure, fame, and fortune by exploring dark and dangerous locations!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

The Roman poet, Ovid, said, “The bold adventurer succeeds the best.” In this game, players will take on the role of brave adventurers who leave the comforts of the local tavern to go venture in dark and dangerous locations. Along the way, they will find treasure and more than enough goblins that are causing mischief. But if the adventurer is bold, if their heart is pure, and those dice do their job, they will return to the tavern with stories to tell and much gold to spend.

Dragonrealm, designed by Darren Kisgen and published by Gamewright, is comprised of 68 Adventurer cards, 50 Treasure coins, 32 Adventurer meeples (in four different colors, eight per color), 21 Location cards, 16 Enhancement cards, six Goblin meeples, six custom six-sided dice, and four Turn Summary cards. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing cards. The meeples are made of wood. The illustrations provided by artist Chris Beatrice are colorful, detailed, and serve to enhance the game’s theme and narrative.

Packing for Your Adventure

To set up the game, first find and place the “Adventurer’s Academy/Adventurer’s Alley” Location card. This is a double-sided card. The “Adventurer’s Academy” is recommended for first-time and younger players. Not because it makes the game easier to win, but because there is less to consider on your turn. Once the group decides on which side to use, place it face-up in the middle of the game playing area.

Second, take the remaining Location cards and separate them into four different piles based on the Location card’s color. Shuffle each of these piles separately.

Third, build the Location deck by drawing one random “Dragon” Location card (green) face-down. Then draw and place on top of the “Dragon” Location card the additional Location cards in the color order provided here: purple, orange, blue, purple, orange, and blue. In total, seven Location cards will be drawn. This is the Location draw deck. Place the Location draw deck above the “Adventurer’s” Location card and draw the first three, placing them face-up in a row. Place any Location cards not used to build the Location draw deck back in the game box.

Fourth, separate the Enhancement cards and the Adventurer cards to create an Enhancement and Adventurer deck. Shuffle each.

Fifth, deal three Enhancement cards to each player, face-down. Each player now looks at their cards and chooses to either keep one “Level Two” Enhancement card or up to two “Level One” Enhancement cards, placing the cards face-down in front of them. The cards not kept are returned to the bottom of the Enhancement draw deck. If the “Adventurer’s Academy” Location card was selected for use, return the Enhancement deck to the game box. Otherwise, place the deck face-down in the middle of the playing area.

Sixth, have each player select eight Adventurer meeples of the same color and take a Turn summary card. Place the six Goblin meeples to one side of the game playing area.

Seventh, sort the Treasure coins by their value and place in a pile off to one side of the game playing area. Place the custom dice here, as well.

Eighth, deal five Adventurer cards to each player, face-down. Players should look at their cards but keep them hidden from their opponents until played. Place the Adventurer deck off to one side of the game playing area. Draw the top-two Adventurer cards and place them face-up in a row next to the Adventurer draw deck.

This concludes the game set up. Determine who will be the first player and begin your adventure!

Adventuring We Will Go!

Dragonrealm is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. A player’s turn is comprised of two actions. Only one action can be taken per turn. Each of the available actions is summarized here.

Action: Rest

The Rest action allows the player to draw two Adventurer cards, placing them in their hand. The player may either draw them from the Adventurer deck (which are face-down) or choose either of the two face-up Adventurer cards. If the player chooses to take a face-up Adventurer card, a new one is drawn to replace it immediately. This happens before the player chooses their next Adventurer card.

The Adventurer cards include numbered/colored cards that depict different adventurers, goblins, and rockslides. The Adventurer cards that have numbers/colors are kept and used during the Explore action. Goblin and rockslides are immediately resolved once drawn.

Example of Adventurer cards

The “Goblin” Adventurer card will indicate a location (left, middle, or right). Take a Goblin meeple and place it on a meeple space found on the identified (left, middle, or right) Location card. The “Goblin” Adventurer card is then discarded. The player can then draw a new Adventure card.

The “Rockslide” Adventure card forces players to pass Adventurer cards in their hand to the left or the right player, as identified on the “Rockslide” Adventurer card. Once resolved, the card is discarded, and a new card is drawn. If a player is unable to pass you the number of cards indicated, Adventurer cards are drawn to complete the number required from the Adventurer deck. Yes, if you draw a rockslide or find a goblin, they are immediately resolved.

The maximum sized hand a player can have is nine cards. If the player has more cards than the maximum hand size allows, they must discard down to no more than nine cards. If the Adventurer deck is ever depleted, shuffle the discarded Adventurer cards to create a new Adventurer draw deck.

Action: Explore

The Explore action allows players to encounter one of the currently available (face-up) Location cards. To do so, the player can either Search, Sneak, or Storm the Location. The player announces which Location card they will visit and using what technique.

  • Search: The player places one or more Adventurer cards with the same numerical value in front of them, face-up. Color of the Adventurer cards is not essential.
  • Sneek: The player places one or more Adventurer cards with numerical values that are in sequential order in front of them, face-up. Color of the Adventurer cards is not essential.
  • Storm: The player places one or more Adventurer cards of all the same color in front of them, face-up. The number values on the cards is not essential.

After the player places their cards, they collect a number of dice equal to the number of cards they just played. The dice are then rolled. The sum of the rolled dice is then compared to the Location card, which shows the necessary minimal value for the technique that must be rolled if it’s to succeed. If the rolled value is equal to or greater than what is listed on the Location card, the player succeeds and places one or two Adventure meeples (depending on what technique was used to explore the Location) on an open meeple space. The player then discards the played Adventurer cards and draws one Adventurer card from the Adventurer draw deck (resolving any goblins or rockslides).

If the exploration failed, the cards played are returned to the player’s hand, and one of the player’s Adventurer meeples are placed to the “Adventurer’s” Location card. The player can then take the action noted on the “Adventurer’s” Location card if applicable. Some Locations also have additional rules that are to be followed per the Location’s detail.

Using Enhancements

The Enhancement cards can be played during the Explore action on the player’s turn. These cards improve the odds of the player being successful. These cards can be played at any time that makes sense and does not count towards the player’s maximum hand size limit. Some Enhancement cards can only be used once and are then discarded. Some remain in play and stay face-up and active once used.

Scoring a Location

After all the meeple spaces are filled (with a mix of Goblin and Adventurer meeples), the Location is scored. The player with the most Adventure meeples on the Location card is awarded the number of Treasure coins shown on the Location card for first place. The player with the next most Adventure meeples is awarded the amount of Treasure coins shown on the Location card for second place. All other players who have at least one Adventurer meeple on the Location card are awarded a Treasure coin worth “one.” Collected Treasure coins should be kept face-down once awarded.

If there are Goblins on the Location, they are considered a “player” when awarding treasure. Whereas a player would collect the Treasure coins, any awarded to the goblins is simply ignored (stays in the piles). Goblins can only ever win first or second place at a Location card when scoring.

If only one player is at a Location card when it’s completed (meaning, there are no other Adventurer or Goblin meeples), that player is awarded both first and second place.

If two or more players tie for first place, add both first and second place values together and divide the Treasure coins between the tied players evenly (rounded down). There is no second-place award for this Location.

If two or more players tie for second place, divide the Treasure coins for second place between the tied players evenly (rounded down).

The winner (first place) collects the Location card and places it next to them, face-down, for the duration of the game. A new Location card is then drawn and replaces the Location card collected.

Ending the Game

The game ends once the “Dragon” Location card is fully explored and scored. Any Location cards not completed are scored as well, counting the meeples on the Location cards (no matter how few) to determine first and second place, as well as collecting the Location card.

All players now flip over their collected Location cards and add the number of shown Dragonstone icons. The player with the most is awarded five Treasure coins. Tied players get three Treasure coins each.

All players now add their Treasure coins, including any bonus treasure provided by played Enhancement cards. The player with the most treasure wins the game.

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

Final Word

The Child Geeks has a great time with the game, finding it fun to talk about the different locations and creating stories about them. The game doesn’t give players any background or context regarding why the Location is of any interest to the player, but it’s easy enough to make up a reason. Adventurers, after all, don’t do anything unless there are treasures and glory to be won! According to one Child Geek, “I like this game. I like visiting the different places and figuring out how best to get inside to get the treasure!” With three different ways to approach each Location, players always have options at their disposal, giving players a reason and means to keep exploring. Another Child Geek said, “Love the game! Hate the goblins!” True, the goblins are a real nuisance, which is precisely what I would expect from a goblin. When all the votes were in, the Child Geeks gave Dragonrealm high praise.

The Parent Geeks found Dragonrealm to be an excellent game for the family and a fun game for the adults, as it was simple enough to play and fast enough to keep everyone at the table invested at the moment (read: away from the TV, video games, and smartphones). According to one Parent Geek, “I good game. Visually very appealing and interesting to see how players are taking on different locations. I feel like you are somewhat gambling, which was interesting, and reminded me a lot of Smashup when you are trying to win a base by having the most influence.” Another Parent Geek said, “Really liked playing it with the kids and playing it with my husband. A fun game for the family table.” When the last coin was counted, the Parent Geeks all agreed Dragonrealm was worth every gold coin.

The Gamer Geeks recognized many of the game’s mechanisms and appreciated how tightly it all worked together. They were not fans of the amount of luck that played havoc at times but didn’t think it was a big enough hit to the overall gameplay to make much of a difference when it came to the game’s level of enjoyment. That said, none of the Gamer Geeks felt that Dragonrealm was a game that was for them. According to one Gamer Geek, “A solid family game for younger or less experienced players. A good way to introduce the hobby. But once you play enough and get to know how rich and interesting games can be, I don’t see anyone staying too long in this realm.” Another Gamer Geek said, “Solid. Well constructed. Tight rules. Quick gameplay. All the things that a game should be. Too bad it isn’t geared towards players at my level. But for what it is, good stuff for the kids and families.” Dragnrealm was given a healthy amount of praise, but not the Gamer Geek’s vote of approval.

Dragonrealm is an excellent example of a light game that introduces the fundamental concept of hand and resource management. The game is not complicated or deep enough to keep an elitist engaged for long. Still, for families and younger or inexperienced players just getting into the hobby, Dragonrealm is going to be a real treat. While luck is involved, you can always improve your chances of succeeding. The catch, which will throw players off, is that you can still fail a roll. A player quickly learns to balance their expectations of outcomes with thoughtful card plays. And since acquiring additional cards takes time, players must also learn how risking it all could lead to big rewards or loss of time.

I should also mention, Dragonrealm feels like the big brother of Dragonwood (also by Gamewright). Similar games, but Dragonrealm has much more depth.

For those who are plagued with dice that hate them, the game gives them a road to recovery. Keep in mind that the game does not play favorites, but it does sympathize – greatly – for those who can’t get Lady Luck to play along. This proved to be an outstanding addition to the game rules as it kept a player in the game, even if their adventurer keeps falling and failing to live up to their legend. Since players always have a viable out, the risk is more about losing an opportunity, not an advantage—a great way to keep players in the game without handing them the victory.

Overall, I am most pleased with Dragonrealm. It’s a game – sadly – I will not be keeping in my collection as all my children, family, and friends have long since graduated into the realm of much more complicated games. Dragonrealm, however, is a game I would have LOVED to have in my collection as little as five years ago. Lots of replayability with a smooth learning curve and engaging gameplay that keeps the player involved. Great stuff for families and new players to the hobby. Do go adventuring with Dragonrealm if the opportunity presents itself. It’s a journey you’ll enjoy.

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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