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Dragon Castle


Hjalmar Hach, Luca Ricci, Lorenzo Silva

Horrible Games

No. of Players:



Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

Dragon Castle was high in the hotness of BGG before SPIEL 17. As a result, I was really looking forward to play the game, and I was glad that HORRIBLE GAMES at once scheduled a demo meeting during the convention. After the fair I played the game with my whole family and we really enjoyed it.

You must know that I really love Mahjong. Back in the days, when my children were not born yet, we regularly met in a pub or at home with another couple or with some friends to play one or two rounds of Mahjong. When I speak of Mahjong, I mean the traditional, tile-based game. Playing in the pub, we always attracted a lot of public attention, mainly because of the unfamiliar Chinese ideographs, the stringent and odd mechanism to set-up the wall as well as the complex scoring mechanism and payment at the end of the game.

But, of course, there is also the Mahjong Solitaire game that a lot of people got to know as a computerized version in the 90s of the last century. In this solitaire variant the same set of mahjong tiles is used to build up a pile of tiles in various formations. It is the player's aim to find matching pairs of identical tiles, choose them, and by this remove them from the board. As a result, more and more tiles become exposed over time, and the new freed-up tiles can be used for other pairs again.

Dragon Castle adopts the idea of this solitaire variant, but expands it further to a multiplayer game. First of all, the lovely designed Mahjong tiles are used to build up a Dragon Castle. As in the computerized version, various formations can be used to do so.

On their turns, players can either find and take available tiles from the castle (similar to the computerized version). A tile can only be chosen, if it is on the edge of a floor of the castle. And the first tile must alwayson be taken from the top floor, while the other one can be on a different floor (but still it must be located on the edge of the floor). Alternatevely a player can also discard any available tile from the top floor (so it is completely out of the game) to gain victory points. Finally, it is allowed to pick a single tile from the top floor without discarding it (and without gaining a victory point) to take a shrine (more on that later). All tiles that were not discarded, but had been collected by a player must be placed face up on empty spaces on his or her personal Realm board. On these boards, the main scoring takes place.

It is the players' aim to collect game tiles of the identical faction and place them adjacent to each other. As soon as a player has four adjacent tiles of the same type, he must consolidate them. That means that he gains victory points, depending on the exact number of identical tiles, but on the same time he has to flip all of these consolidated tiles face down. Could be worse, you might think, but unfortunately the personal board is not the biggest, and so you sometimes have to “destroy” your own plans. On the other hand, you can use those flipped Mahjong tiles to place new tiles on higher floors, above the flipped tiles. This is not only allowed, but two neighbouring tiles on different floors are still considered to be adjacent.

But this neighbourhood ends with the Shrines. Shrines are a blessing and curse at the same time. On the one hand you can use a Shrine when you consolidate to further score VP at the end of the game. If you have a Shrine in your personal supply, you can put it on top of one of the Mahjong tiles that you have just consolidated (in some cases you may even place two Shrines). But on the other hand you are not allowed to place any more tiles on top of this Shrine and the Mahjong tile underneath is no longer adjacent to any other tile.

In the basic variant of the game, you concentrate on finding matching tiles that fit to your collection on your personal board, and to skillfully place Shrines. But Dragon Castle also has an advanced feature that personalize the player a little bit. Spirit and dragon cards give the players individual abilities that slightly influence the way the players will play.

I must say that I really love playing Dragon Castle, because I think the game is an excellent adoption of the traditional game. The simple mechanism of the computerized Mahjong solitaire is further developed by a clever scoring mechanism. So, for winning the game, it is not alone important to find matching pairs, but you must also try to arrange won tiles on your personal board as best as you can. Additionally you have to keep an eye on the actions and personal boards of your opponents. Sometimes it also seems to be clever to choose the discard action just for preventing another player to take a specific Mahjong tile. The different starting formations as well as the individual abilities from spirit and dragon cards that you can introduce in the game, should guarantee long-time re-playability. And of course, the Chinese Mahjong tiles still will attract public attention, if you should play Dragon Castle in a pub. Me and my family immediately fell in love with the game.

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Copyright © 2017 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany