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Author: Tom Jolly

Fantasy Flight Games 2002

Awards: none



Deep Dungeons, mighty Heroes, fearsome Dragons - Tom Jolly's new Fantasy Boardgame leads up to 6 players to take up the roles of some Heroes who were foolish enough to enter a Dragon's Dungeon in search for treasure. However, the Dragon has captured all of them, and now the players have got to race against each other in order to collect five gold coins from the Dragon's Maze, since only the first player who succeeds to do so will be released by the Dragon...

The gameboard for the game will not be set up at the beginning of the game. but instead it will be slowly developed during gameplay. Thus. it consists of square-shaped tiles of which each displays a room with different entries, exits and special features. To set the game up, only one chamber with four exits, the starting chamber, is placed at the center of the table. To begin the game, each player is given one of six different characters (Wizard, Barbarian, Thief, Dwarf, Knight and Amazon) and also receives four randomly dealt chambers. When all players have positioned their figures in the starting chamber, the game can begin.

Taking turns, the players now can either place a new chamber from their hand adjacent to another chamber which is already in play (and refill their hand to four chambers by randomly drawing a new chamber) OR move their figure into an adjacent chamber and (possibly) perform the special action required by this chamber.

When adding a new chamber to the gameboard, the player has to look at the arrows which are printed on each chamber and he has to observe the rule that arrows pointing from two adjacent chambers may not face each other. These arrows are needed for the movement of the players' figures, since these may only move from a chamber following the arrows printed in that chamber. Thus, as the gameboard is developed, slowly a maze of chambers and passages will be developed.

As indicated earlier, many of these chambers will contain a special feature which may require a special action from the player who enters it. The most obvious possibility is that the chamber may contain one of the gold coins needed to win the game, but many other features also may be displayed instead, being either helpful or hindering for a player who enters the chamber: The Dragon may demand gold from the player, the player might steal a gold from his left or right neighbour, a map may allow the player to hold more chambers on his hand, a Mind Control Orb allows the movement of another player's figure etc.

Finally, the rules are spiced up a bit further by the special ability each character possesses and which may be used once during the game. This may, at a decisive point, be used to gain an advantage and possibly get closer to winning.

The looks of the game alone certainly remind a player of Games Workshop's classical boardgame Dungeonquest (Drachenhort in Germany), and due to the undeniable similiarities of both games Drakon will have to stand a comparison with its older counterpart.

As far as gameplay is concerned, the rules for Drakon are fairly easy, but due to the high player interaction which is caused by the methods for the placement of chambers and the different special features a chamber may contain the game may take quite unexpected twists. These rules serve to enhance the competitive spirit between the players, and thus they nicely capture the general theme of the game.

In comparison to Dungeonquest, the complexity of both games is broadly the same, but whereas interaction between players in Dungeonquest is only a reflection of the placement of room tiles the interaction between the players is much more direct in Drakon. Thus, the general fun players can derive from being in direct competition with each other is definately higher in Drakon. Dungeonquest on the other hand retains the upper hand as far as design and story elements are concerned. To be honest, I am a bit disappointed by the look of Drakon. Knowing that the game has come from the same company which created hundreds of stunning artworks in their Diskwars-Series, the somewhat monotonous design of the chambers and the general artwork in Drakon certainly does not reflect the generally rather skilful artwork of other Fantasy Flight products. Also, the different characters in the game remain rather flat with each one only possessing one special ability which may be used just once during the game. Of course, a balance would need to be found between introducing special abilities and keeping the game simple and easy going, but a few more characters to chose from and a bit more abilities to shape out each character's strengths and weaknesses would have served rather well to enhance the depth of the gameplay. This fact unfortunately is not fully addressed by the Expansion Set One which was released for Drakon. This set introduces new kinds of chambers and also the possibility for the Dragon himself to join the fray, but it leaves the possibilites of changing a few of the character-rules unexplored...

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany