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.
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 will provide you with special abilities; and Events, which when revealed shake up the status quo of the game. The Adventurer deck looks similar to a normal deck of playing cards, with cards of five characters (suits), numbered 1 to 12. You’ll effectively be capturing creatures and enhancements with poker hands: Strike (a straight), Stomp (x of a kind), or Scream (a flush). Upon playing a number of cards, players will be able to roll that same number of dice against a defense number on the creature cards corresponding to the method of attack. Defeated creatures have an associated point value for end of game scoring.
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, utilizing standard poker mechanisms that most new players will already be familiar with, but applied in a new and exciting way that will keep folks engaged. I’m especially prone to throwing this in the bag when heading to the coffee shop. The art by Chris Beatrice is some of my favorite in a game ever; spilling charm all over your table, with hungry bears, laughing goblins, and brooding dragons. And the dice are absolutely gorgeous; evocative of gemstones from your most recent treasure haul.
Unfortunately, accessibility doesn’t always translate to depth; and that’s really the rub here. 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.
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.