Dragonrealm: A Worthy Successor!
Can you defeat the dragons – again?
In 2015, Gamewright released Dragonwood: A Game of Dice and Daring from Darren Kisgen and it quickly became a popular title because of its excellent gameplay, theming, and art. (At least, we thought so in our review.) In 2019, they’ve teamed up again to publish Dragonrealm: A Game of Goblins and Gold!
Dragonrealm is an area control game for 2-4 adventurers age 10+ that lasts about 20-30 minutes. It features the same basic gameplay mechanics as Dragonwood, making it a familiar return to the same fantasy world. The addition of area control makes Dragonrealm slightly more complex, but still accessible for beginning gamers.
First, place the Adventurer’s Academy or Adventurer’s Alley location in the middle of the play area. Then, sort the location tiles into colored stacks and prepare the location stack with a green location on the bottom and six cards on top: blue, orange, purple, blue, orange, purple. Turn the first three cards face-up in the middle of the table.
Deal three enhancement cards (purple backs) to each player to choose two levels worth of enhancements to keep. Put the discards on the bottom of the enhancement deck. Deal five adventure cards (red backs) to each player. Place the deck face down in the center of the table, and turn two cards face up. If anyone (including the table) gets a Goblins! or Rockslide! card, return them to the deck and replace them. If playing with four players, remove two Goblins! cards from the deck.
Assign a color to each player and give them their eight meeples. It’s time to explore and find treasure!
On an adventurer’s turn they can Rest or Explore.
Resting adventurers draw two adventure cards, either from the face up cards or from the deck. Cards are either numbers, Goblins!, or Rockslide! cards. If an adventurer draws a Goblins card they must immediately play it and place a Goblin meeple on the indicated location (left, center, or right). These goblins clog up precious spaces and might cost someone a majority in a location! The adventurer draws a card to replace the goblin. Rockslide! cards force all players to pass cards around the table.
Exploring adventurers try to take control of a space on a chosen location. Taking control of locations is how adventurers get coins, which are the goal of Dragonrealm.
Adventurers can place meeples on locations by performing one of three explore actions: Sneak, Search, and Storm. These actions represent familiar poker scoring hands and should be familiar to Dragonwood players. Adventurers play one-to-six cards face up and declare their desired action:
- Sneak – Cards that are all the same color (Flush)
- Search – Cards that are all the same number (x-of-a-kind)
- Sneak – Cards that are in sequence (Straight)
They then roll a number of dice equal to the number of cards played, hoping to beat the threshold for this action on their chosen location. The adventurer must meet or exceed the threshold with the sum of their dice to place a meeple on one of the location circles. If the threshold number appears in a gold circle, place two meeples when you beat it! If the adventurer fails to meet the threshold, they put a meeple on the Adventurer’s Academy instead. This meeple can be removed later to add one to a die roll.
As with Dragonwood, adventurers may use enhancement cards to help their rolls as well.
Scoring a Location
Locations score when all of the circles on them are filled with meeples. The split shield on the card shows the scores for the first and second place adventurers, depending on who has the most meeples on the card. The winners take that many coins from the central pile. Goblins can take majorities as well, but any coins won by Goblins are lost.
When there is only one adventurer on a location that scores, they get BOTH prizes! If adventurers tie for the most meeples, add the numbers and divide evenly, rounding down.
Most locations also have Dragonstones. Whoever has the most Dragonstones at the end of the game gets a five point bonus.
The game immediately ends once the last location (the Dragon location) is complete. Score uncompleted locations as if they were completed, and assign the Dragonstone bonus. Whoever has the most coins wins!
Dragonrealm adds another layer of complexity over Dragonwood, but this is welcome. Anyone who has played and enjoyed Dragonwood would feel comfortable with Dragonrealm. The transition of the core mechanics from a point collection game to an area control game is seamless, and the goblins add another X-factor that keeps things interesting. Each play will only see six of the twenty-five possible locations, which helps with replayability. Chris Beatrice‘s artwork remains consistent with the original, and is gorgeous to take in.
I would have liked to have seen more special cards in the adventurers deck to mix up the gameplay. If using the Adventurer’s Academy, there’s no way to get extra enhancements after the initial selection. We’d recommend using the Adventurer’s Alley as soon as you understand the other rules, so you can trade failed rolls for new enhancement cards.
Resting either gives you number cards or negative effects. This varies from Dragonwood, where some monsters give bonuses when defeated, or even some positive cards that could help one or all players.
I’d love to see a hybrid of both games where players must defeat monsters in certain locations before they can capture a location. Monsters could award points, treasure, or Dragonstones; and the player who defeated the monster could have a bonus in capturing that location. This could allow for some varied strategy with some players choosing to defeat monsters while others only explore locations.
Without this, Dragonrealm is relatively one-dimensional. This isn’t bad as it is an entry-level game. But some options in gameplay would be welcome to more advanced players.
Still, Dragonrealm will remain a favorite for a straightforward area control game accessible for the whole family. Contact your FLGS or check out Amazon to get a copy today for just around $25.
The Family Gamers received a promotional copy of Dragonrealm for this review.
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Number of Players: 2-4
Playtime: 30 minutes
Age Range: 10+ (we say 8+)