Dragonwood is a deck-building, dice-rolling, family game, said to be suitable for two to four players. However, five or six can easily play this game too. A game will typically take between 20 and 45 minutes. Players are adventurers, on a quest to defeat many mythical and woodland creatures, scoring points and using magical enchantments on the way.
Dragonwood is best played seated around a table. There are two sets of cards, Dragonwood and Adventurer cards. Five mythical creatures are drawn from the Dragonwood deck and displayed face-up in the centre of the table. The creatures have different strengths. When a more challenging foe is chosen, the rewards for defeating them are greater but the risks are increased. Battles are fought by rolling up to six dice. The maximum number of dice that can be used is determined by the number of Adventurer cards played by the player from their hand.
The Adventurer cards depict five helpers (or suites) to assist the player on their quest and are numbered from one to 12. Each turn players have two choices; either to draw an additional Adventurer card (up to a maximum hand of nine), or to attack a specific creature. These cards are concealed from the other players.
By developing the hand of Adventurer cards, players can choose the type of attack. A run of cards with consecutive numbers can allow a strike attack. Cards of the same number can allow a stomp. Groups of the same adventurer will enable a player to scream at a creature! Each creature has different vulnerabilities. For example, fire ants can be easily overcome by a stomp but an ogre needs a strike.
The dice are labelled to give a maximum score of four. If the total score of all dice rolled exceeds the creature’s vulnerability then the attack has been successful. This Dragonwood card is then captured by the player for scoring at the end of the game. The player then discards all the Adventurer cards used and play continues. If the dice score is too low a player must forfeit one card of their choice. This means that, before launching an attack, it will help to gauge the chance of achieving different totals with certain numbers of dice.
The game ends when all the creatures have been defeated or both dragons have been slain.
Thoughts on Dragonwood
Dragonwood, by Gamewright, comes in a small box with cards, dice and rules. The rules are clear, colourful and well laid out, with very straightforward instructions to first-timers. The cards are of standard playing card size and quality. The compact and sturdy box means it can easily be packed and taken to play anywhere.
This is a popular game among our children. It is relatively simple and can easily be mastered by children of eight years or older. The theme of being an explorer and stumbling across deadly creatures can make it a fun family game. The deck management mechanism teaches young children the importance of planning ahead. By collecting the necessary cards, this can improve the probability of success in subsequent attacks. Children will also learn how numbers of dice will affect the chance of success or failure. From just a few cards and dice there are some maths concepts that are wrapped up in this little box. This is not a maths game but in playing it children will certainly grapple with probabilities.
Dragonwood is definitely family-friendly. There is an element of luck in the Adventurer cards drawn but there is some co-operation in that all the players need to defeat all of the creatures to complete the quest. There is no “nastiness” or direct battling of each other. The only competition is ensuring you achieve more battle points and capture more Dragonwood cards than everyone else.
To assist in the adventure, a number of enhancement cards can be added to the deck. This provides more decisions whether to use valuable Adventurer cards to gain enchantments – and make later battles easier. Alternatively, you could go for a quick win against the creatures already present. Some enhancements are for single-use only. Others will have an effect on all other battles later in the game. Each spell has a different value and is “captured” in the same way as the creatures. This means that their relative value might reduce as the game progresses. These enhancement cards do certainly “enhance” the game and make the game far more interesting. Indeed the game needs these enhancement cards to help in the battles with some of the more challenging creatures.
The game will end when all the creatures are defeated. This usually takes about 30 minutes for a four-player game. However, the number of cards (and enhancements) can be varied according to the time available. The winner is the adventurer who has the highest total points scored on their captured Dragonwood cards.
Dragonwood is a good little filler game for the family. It is very portable, making it suitable to be taken on holiday. Younger children will enjoy the theme of defeating mythical creatures as adventurers. Others will take to the deck-building and chance element of the game.
Parents can justify playing the game as it teaches maths concepts to younger children without them realising they are learning planning and probabilities at the same time.