Seven Dragons is a simple tile/card laying game, where players are trying to create chains of matching dragons to achieve victory. It’s easy to learn, quick to set up and is good for playing with children. I played it with my nephew who is seven and this is how we got on with it.
How To Play
In Seven Dragons players begin with a hand of three cards and a secret goal. To win the game they will have to lay cards on the table to create the titular chain of seven dragons in the colour of their goal card. However, special ability cards may allow someone to swap goal cards with you and gazump your hard work just as you are about to achieve victory.
This meanness might not always sit well when playing with children. It also adds a layer of strategy to the game that some children might not twig on to easily; holding a swap goal card and waiting for the other player to do the leg work before doing the old switcheroo. However, one of the things I liked about Seven Dragons is that the rulebook contains suggestions for rule alterations to adapt the game for different age groups.
The core rules for the game were easy for my nephew to pick up, though. Draw a card then play a card keeps the turn uncomplicated, the ability cards weren’t hard to explain and card placement was as simple as matching at least one dragon to an adjacent dragon.
Things that were more difficult to grasp were how the silver dragons colour changeability worked, and how to get bonus cards by making multiple matches. My nephew also got super-focussed on achieving his goal, leaving him a sitting duck for the swap goals card. Interestingly, this is the ability the designers suggest to use for his age group, but I would say the zap/move card powers are a better fit.
7 And Up
The rules for Seven Dragons say the game was designed for adults and can be adapted for children. For my tastes, I would say it is something I would only play with children. This isn’t a criticism. I’m always looking for games where my nephew and I can compete together on a fairly level playing field and Seven Dragons certainly ticked that box.
It’s far more rewarding to approach Seven Dragons as a true family game. The differentiated rules are a nice touch in this regard and the way the game easily scales to include more family members. As is the quick play time that allows for another game if a mean uncle steals your goal and beats you (maybe I did this, maybe I didn’t). This stops the take that elements of the game from feeling too bullying or crushing. He won the next game if you are worried.
The artwork is fairly generic, but the different colours were easily distinguishable and the different dragons seemed to have different characteristics: the red dragon was linked to fire, the yellow dragon hoarded treasure etc. While some might see some of the pictures (featuring skulls etc.) a little scary for children, my nephew seemed to really engage with them and spent time after we’d played looking through the cards.
Seven Dragons is a game from Looney Labs better known for Fluxx, which should give you some indication of where this game is pitched. It’s not going to be one for grand strategists as the ability cards bring an element of chaos that can be hard to plan for. Likewise, the gameplay is not going to present players with a myriad of difficult choices and routes to victory. Not every game has to be for heavyweight gamers, though!
I’m a firm believer that there is a place for all types of games. While I think Seven Dragons would have been better pitched at the family game market, I also think that assessing it on those terms casts the game in a favourable light.
There was enough going to keep adults and children engaged. The age/ability differentiation rules are not something I’ve seen often and are perhaps something more family games could adopt. Coupled with the light ruleset, they enabled younger and older players to play the game with a fairly equal chance of winning.
The real test of any game is, I suppose; would you play it again? And, yeah, I would play Seven Dragons again. It gave my nephew the opportunity to flex his grey matter on something a little crunchier than his roll and move games (nothing wrong with those either, though) and had enough going on beneath its bright fantasy surface to stop me getting bored. Seven Dragons has earned its place on my nephew’s growing game shelf.