- For ages 6 and up
- For 2 to 5 players
- Approximately 15 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Risk vs. Reward
- Visuospatial Skills
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult- Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Connect dragons as fast as you can before you get burned
- Gamer Geek rejected!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
The very first fantasy creature I can remember falling in love with is the dragon. A fearsome foe to fight in games and a wise teacher in others. They represent chaos and order, destruction and creation. Dragons have been part of mythology in just about every culture and continue to be a topic of discussion, interest, and admiration. In this game, players will attempt to match different colored dragons to the table, and just like dealing with real fake dragons, you best be careful how you go about it. Never trust a dragon, and never trust this game to give victory to you easily.
Seven Dragons, designed by Andrew Looney and published by Looney Labs, is comprised of 72 cards. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card. The majority of the card illustration was provided by the well-known and highly respected artist Larry Elmore. This makes the cards all the more beautiful and interesting to look at.
Preparing for the Dragons
To set up the game, first find the Goal cards, shuffle, and then deal one to each player, face-down. Players should look at their Goal card but keep it a secret until the end of the game. Any Goal cards not used are placed face-down to the table and in between players. These Goal cards will remain face-down and do not belong to any player at the moment. However, these Goal cards are rotated around the table and selected by a player during the game using Action cards.
Second, find the Silver Dragon card and place it in the middle of the playing area, face-up. Make sure this card is in a good spot as you will not be able to move it for the game’s duration.
Third, take the remaining cards and shuffle. Deal three cards to each player, face-down. This is the player’s starting hand. Players may look at their cards.
Fourth, place the remaining deck of cards off to one side. This is the draw deck for the duration of the game.
That’s it for game set up. Determine who will go first and begin.
Seven Dragons is played in turns with no set number of turns per game. A player’s turn is summarized here.
Step One: Draw a Card
The player draws one card from the top of the draw deck. This card is added to the player’s hand.
Step Two: Play a Card
There are two types of cards that can be drawn. These are Dragons and Actions.
Play Dragon cards to the table. When playing a Dragon card, it can be orientated, so the dragons are standing on their feet or their head, but at least one color on the played Dragon card must match the colors of the Dragon card it’s touching. If players have difficulty distinguishing colors, they can use the dragon illustrations. All connections must be horizontal or vertical. Never diagonal. Cards must also be adjacent and never skewed or placed at right angles. If played correctly, the player might also be able to get a bonus, which is explained in a moment.
There are two special dragons in the game. These are the Rainbow Dragon and the Silver Dragon (placed on the table during game set up). The Rainbow Dragon is considered a “wild card” and represents all the dragon colors at all times. The Silver Dragon, the starting card, begins the game as all the colors in the rainbow, but it can change its color during the game.
Play an Action card and announce the action to the table. The player immediately resolves the action, and the Action card is discarded. Actions include trading hands with an opponent, moving a previously played card (more on that in a moment), trading Goal cards with an opponent, rotating the Goal cards among all the players, and zapping a card (which will be explained in further detail along with card movement). In addition, the Silver Dragon’s color is now changed based on the Action card. For example, if the player took action to trade hands, the Silver Dragon becomes the same color as a Black dragon.
Optionally, a player can decide to take action or the color change, but not both. If the player only wants to resolve the action, they do so, and the card is placed at the bottom of the discard pile. If the player wants only to change the color of the Silver Dragon, they can forgo the action resolution and place the Action card on the top of the discard pile.
This completes the player’s turn. The next player in turn order sequence now goes starting with step one noted above.
Connection Bonuses, Moving Dragons and Zapping Those Big Lizards (for fun and profit)
During the game, the player can place a Dragon card that shows two to four different dragons. If this card is played, so it makes a connection between two to four different colored dragons, the player gets bonus cards. Three dragon connection awards the player two bonus cards, and four dragon connection awards the player three bonus cards. Bonus cards are placed into the player’s hand. No bonuses are awarded if connecting to the Rainbow or Silver dragon.
Dragon cards (other than the Silver Dragon) can be moved around the table when the “Move” Action card is played. To move a Dragon card, pick it up, and place it anywhere to the table where the connection is considered “legal.” Yes, it’s possible to “orphan” one or more Dragon cards already played, disconnecting a smaller group from the larger collection of cards. This is completely OK and provides players a new opportunity to connect them.
Like moving a Dragon card, a player can use the “Zap” Action card to remove a Dragon card from the table. This card is placed in the player’s hand. The only card that cannot be “zapped” is the Silver Dragon.
Victory Over Dragons
The game continues, as noted above, until any player completes their currently held Goal card. To achieve the goal, the player must show that seven or more dragons of the color type noted on the Goal card are connected. If this is determined to be true, they win the game. Mr. Elmore is most pleased…
The rules come with three game variants that make it possible to play the game with Child Geeks as young as three years old. This is done by simplifying the game focusing on colors and matching and removing action cards or only using one type of Action card.
To learn more about Seven Dragons, visit the game’s web page.
The Child Geeks very much enjoyed themselves, finding the game easy to learn and easy to play. The game’s endings always left more than one player feeling disgruntled, but only towards the game’s outcome. According to one Child Geek, “I like playing the game and always find it frustrating when I’m about to win only to have my goal taken from me or forced to pick another. That sucks. I still like playing it, though.” Another Child Geek said, “I really like dragons, and I really like this game. It is like Dominos and with dragons. I think the game gets harder and harder to play as you keep playing it, but I always liked it.” When all the dragons were in flight, the Child Geeks agreed that Seven Dragons earned their approval.
The Parent Geeks also enjoyed the game, finding it to be both casual and complex. According to one Parent Geek, “An easy game for me to teach to the family and fun to play. We were surprised at our first game how hard it suddenly got towards the end. In our next game, we were prepared for it, but we were still very aware of how complex the game became at the end. We all enjoyed it, but none of us liked losing.” Another Parent Geek said, “The game is great with my family, and I really appreciate the extra rules included that make it a fun game to play with my four-year-old. We normally have to help her with games, or she joins an older player as a partner. Not the case here. The extra rules allowed us to play the game with just her, and she felt very good as a result.” When all the votes were in, the Parent Geeks gave Seven Dragons their full approval.
The Gamer Geeks were not as enthralled. They found the game to be challenging, but the victory being stolen from you at the last moment left a very bitter taste in their collective mouths. According to one Gamer Geek, “Great artwork and a fun little abstract game, but the fact that you can steal goals or shift goals make it impossible for me to enjoy the game. Essentially, everything I do in the game is basically worthless. I can play as much as I like and be as intentional as possible with each card played, but it all goes to shit when my son steals my goal. I love my son. I do not love this game.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A great introduction to abstract tile-laying games using cards. Great artwork. Simple rules. And that’s about all I can positively say about it. Everything else is what makes this game for elitists like me cringe. I don’t care for the fact that victory can be taken from me without any ability to stop that from happening.” When the final dragon was put away, the Gamer Geeks agreed not to play the game again.
Seven Dragons is easy to play with a mixed group of ages and skillsets. As the game progresses, it becomes more complex as the players all get close to completing a Goal. Note, however, it might not be their goal. This is because it’s obvious to all at the table that one or more dragon-connected colors are within striking distance of making the required seven connections. This is where the game goes from carefree to intensely cutthroat. It can be a bit jarring at first, but I learned to love it as the game starts brisk and then settles down to a good pace, followed by tactical card plays that takes time to think through.
Of course, the downside to this is the game’s momentum. The beginning of your games will feel effortless. Cards are easily played to the table, and it feels very satisfying to connect dragons, especially if you can get the bonuses. Actions are seldom used, meaning players leave each other alone and focus on the pleasure of making patterns.
Mid-game, this changes. Players start to understand that they are being blocked in some areas and need to take advantage of others. Action cards now come into play, reducing the number of dragons to the table. This makes playing Dragon cards more complex but still very doable.
Towards the end of the game, dragons are being moved, removed, and the entire dynamic of the gameplay goes from friendly to decidedly not. Everyone knows that a goal will be obtained soon and so, too, the end of the game. After working so hard to connect dragons, no one wants to lose. Goals are passed around like hotcakes and each dragon played feels tense because you don’t know if it’s the last card to end the game.
In short, awesome. It ramps up at a great pace for such a small and casual game and always left me feeling satisfied with the gameplay, but seldom with the game’s outcome. This game is not easy to win, and that is very much a good thing, as luck is a component and keeps all players on the same level playing field. A Gamer Geek can easily lose to a Child Geek playing the game for the first time. It all comes down to the cards played, opportunities taken, and a little luck to make sure you come in first place.
Do try Seven Dragons when time permits. It’s fun to play, exciting to win, and will leave you feeling satisfyingly beaten up or victorious. This is most certainly a casual game and not for the elitists among you, however. Nothing hurts more than having your hard work mean nothing in the end. Talk about victory going up in flames, eh.?
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.