Review: “Dragonwood”

Welcome to the “Dragonwood!” Are you in search of monsters, treasures, and a good time? Perhaps you’ll find them here… But beware! The “Dragonwood” is a treacherous place, and you never know what you might find, lurking behind the trees.

Designed by Darren Kisgen

Art by Chris Beatrice

Published by Gamewright

2-4 Players

20-40 Minutes

Gameplay

“Dragonwood” comprises two decks of cards, and six dice.

The “Dragonwood” deck is made up of three types of cards: Creatures, which you will capture in order to earn victory points; Enhancements, which like creatures must be captured, but will provide you with special abilities afterwards; and Events, which simply shake up the status quo of the game. Event cards are resolved immediately, while creature and enhancement cards are placed out in a tableau of five cards which are available to players.

The Adventurer deck looks similar to a normal deck of playing cards, with cards of five characters (suits), numbered 1 to 12. These cards will provide you with your means of attack, as you’ll effectively be capturing creatures and enhancements with poker hands: Strike (a straight), Stomp (x of a kind), and Scream (a flush). Upon playing a number of cards, players will be able to roll the same number of dice against a defense number on the creature cards corresponding to the method of attack. If the dice provide a number equal to or higher than the defense number, you’ll defeat the critter. Defeated creatures have an associated point value, and the player with the most points at the end f the game wins.

Thoughts

“Dragonwood” will interest young and old, new and hobby gamers alike- there’s a lot of fun to be had in this box. It’s become my go to gateway game, providing mechanisms that most new players will already be familiar with, but applied in a new and exciting way that will keep folks engaged.

Unfortunately, accessibility doesn’t always translate to depth; and that’s really the rub here. You see, it’s important to note that there is a lot of luck in this game. Card draws, dice rolls, events… Most of this game is left entirely to chance. The capture system does have a ‘push your luck’ element to it, but it’s still unlikely you will make a truly significant decision while playing this game. All of this is perfectly acceptable, as long as you are happy with that. I’ve just discovered that some strategy gamers aren’t.

Rulebook

The rulebook for “Dragonwood” is competent. That’s not high praise, but it’s fair. This is a simple game, and the rules explanation might’ve benefited from a ‘less is more’ sort of approach. Things are a little drawn out, and certain rule elements are explained in more than one place (this is literally the worst thing you can do in a rulebook). Our group is usually very thorough with the rules, but it actually took several plays to get them right. In particular, that earned enhancement cards reduce your hand size somehow completely eluded us for several plays.

Components

We’ve owned “Dragonwood” for nearly two years now, and the cards just haven’t held up. Despite a linen finish, they’re showing signs of wear, and we even have a few split corners. The box insert is well made, but doesn’t function; every time I open this game the cards are everywhere. These issues are pretty easy to overlook though, considering the low cost of entry.

On the other side of things, the dice are absolutely gorgeous; evocative of gemstones from your most recent treasure haul. And the art by Chris Beatrice spills charm all over your table, with hungry bears, laughing goblins, and brooding dragons.

Score – 7/10

This is easily one of the most played games in our library. I’m quick to pull it down from the shelf whenever we have someone new joining us for game night. But with all of it’s reliance on luck, “Dragonwood” is good, without being amazing. The thing is, not every game needs to be amazing. This is a great entry-level title, that will earn its place on your shelf.

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