Dragonflame--A Double-Take Preview

"Unclean beast! Get thee down! Be thou consumed by the fires that made thee!" ~Brother Jacobus, Dragonslayer

Dragonflame is a new area-control, set-collection, pseudo drafting card game from Minion Games, currently on Kickstarter. Let's take a look. 

You are a powerful dragon, looking to destroy more, and capture more loot, than your opponents. 

You set up a series of towns, each of which is worth different numbers of VPs and has different numbers of spaces for influence, depending on those VPs. 

You'll lay out those town cards in a grid, which will be 2 x 3 for 2 players, or 3 x 3 for 3 or more players. 

(There are a few different rules for 2 players, so we're just going to talk about things as though you're playing with 3 or more.)

Firestone--This works well as a 2-player game. I still prefer 3 or 4 (and I don't think I'd even try 5), but it scales well.

Jeremiah--We played with 3 and 4 players, and game play didn't change all that much--this is a good thing. I'm a little leery of games that have special 2-player rules, but there isn't a major difference with the 2-player version.

This next part is hard to explain, but is a key part of the game. So here goes. There are cards that have a Castle on one side and a Banner on the other. The Banner determines turn order, and also has three card outlines across the bottom. If the card is light, you'll have to play your cards face-up. If it's dark, you play the card face-down. I'll get to what that means in a minute, but you can see what I mean in the images below.

 A mix of face-up and face-down cards. Great mechanism. 

A mix of face-up and face-down cards. Great mechanism. 

On the other side of the card is a Castle. In the upper left-hand corner, it shows how many cards can be played to the Castle. On the upper right-hand corner, it shows the Banner number that's on the other side. It's all related!!

So there are two sets of these cards. At any time, one set of Banners will be in front of players, and the other set will be on the Castle side, out on the table. 

The main deck is a mixture of Dragonflame cards and treasures. Everyone starts with a hand of three cards. Based on the Banner number, players take turns playing cards down to the Castles. Each Castle can only hold a select number of cards, and players have to follow the face-up and face-down symbols on their own Banner card. Eventually all of the cards will be at one of the castles. 

Firestone--We received a prototype copy, so we can't comment on the physical quality of the cards, but we can comment on the artwork, and I really like it. It's a solid fantasy art that's clear and colorful. 

Jeremiah--Agreed, the art is fantastic, and the prototype components were well done, so I think we're in for a great game once it hits retailers. The theme is also super fun--I mean, who doesn't want to be a dragon burning up villages and raiding castles for loot!?

 The 3 and the 4 Castle can hold any number of cards. 

The 3 and the 4 Castle can hold any number of cards. 

Now, again using the Banner numbers, players will "attack" one of the Castles, taking all of the cards there, and resolving them. (There will be one extra Castle that isn't taken.) Treasure cards go down in front of the player, and Dragonflame cards affect the village. Each of the Dragonflame cards has a number from 1-3. Dragons will start on one edge of the village cards and "burn" across them, placing Fire tokens on the village cards. 

After players resolve the Castles, they flip over the cards to the Banner side. The more spaces there are on a Castle card, the lower the Banner number. Now you start the whole thing over. The whole thing ends when there's only one card left. 

Then you score villages based on majority on the card. And the Treasure cards give you different VPs--and a few of them take some VPs away.

 Some Treasure cards. Note the Knight who costs you points. BAD KNIGHT!

Some Treasure cards. Note the Knight who costs you points. BAD KNIGHT!

Firestone--It seems like there's a lot going on, but it's actually fairly straightforward. The cardplay is really interesting. You're trying to create good stacks for you, and ones that your opponents don't want. This isn't easy, and it's fun trying to figure out what cards to play where, and which cards to play face-down. And it's not just the Treasure cards, but also the village piece. That's like a mini game within the larger game. 

Jeremiah--I love the different scoring mechanisms within the game, but I think that's the one thing that slows the learning curve down a bit. We had to reference the rules a few times throughout our first game to remember how each type of loot scored. That's a minor thing though, and the game really comes to life when you try to bluff while placing a card face down. Is that a card I really want? Or a card I'm hoping to stick you with... Do I get to choose first so it doesn't matter? There are a lot of fun little overlapping strategies in the game and they all create a good time!

Firestone--Do you have someone who likes Coloretto or Zooloretto? This is a perfect next-step, with some mechanics they'll recognize, while giving them new ones to think about. My 10-year-old liked this quite a bit, but he did have some trouble making the best decisions on card-play. But he's close, so that feels like s good base age. Another plus is that the Kickstarter price is $25, shipped, and that's fair, IMO. 

 Lots of pranks in this village. 

Lots of pranks in this village. 

Jeremiah--I have to say even for a prototype the cards and components were really top notch, and the graphic design and artwork are spot on too! The game looks great, and also plays great! The very nature of the game pushes you toward player interaction--you know what each player is scoring and can really push cards toward them to try and trip up their plans...or, at least you can try. And to me that's where the game shines. You never have a "bad hand," necessarily, because there's always a play to make with them whether positive for you or bad for your opponents...

Firestone's Final Verdict--Dragonflame is a polished offering that reminds me of terrific games such as Coloretto and Ra. This works with gamers, family, and nongamers--all in a 30- 45-minute package that gives you plenty of things to think about. Dragonflame gets a thumbs-up from me. 

Jeremiah's Final Verdict--I agree with Firestone: There's a lot of familiarity but enough uniqueness that Dragonflame creates a fresh gaming experience. We had a lot of fun with this one, and at the price-point on Kickstarter it's a no-brainer in my book. Dragonflame is a lot of fun wrapped up in a great theme!

You can find Dragonflame on Kickstarter right now. Check it out! And thanks for reading!