Where Dragon Castle’s crumble you can build your own realms legacy. A Dragon Castle board game review.

As centuries went by, the once mighty Dragon Castle was picked apart like vultures on a lioness her decaying corpse. The people who once lived here and who saw the hills change color every spring and fall so many times, could not have imagined this structure to ever be not present anymore. But alas, every man-made structure will once be part of the dust again, and so was that the future for the Dragon Castle in our story already written. The people will have to search for new realms, for new futures, for new prosperity.

But from the seemingly dark times, there will always be some sparks of hope and mankind will rise out of the ashes again. Who will rebuild his own realm stone by stone to be the most formidable of its time again? And who will build a legacy which will stand the test of time and please the spirits & the Elder dragons once more for many centuries to come? Let’s find out and join us on this board game adventure.

Horrible Games and designers Lorenzo Silva, Hjalmar Hach & Luca Ricci bring you, Dragon Castle.

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Every player will start with an empty player board of its choice. The boards are made of thin paper, with lovely seasonal art and clear spaces to put your stones.

And so it begins

We start with a big and empty main board where we will set-up the Dragon castle, from which you will pick your stones. The amount of stones diver on the player count. The possible shapes of the structure depend somewhat on that player count, but the rulebook comes with suggestions, besides the first basic ones, to set your difficulty. But if you have played the game a few times, you can take your own building imagination and take it to the next level freely.

Creating sets of stones of the same type and build shrines on top of them will score you points. Ask for favors of the spirits to manipulate the possibilities and please the Elder dragon to gain the most prestige and be victorious in the end. We won’t be covering the rules in detail but will take you through some main steps you will take.

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Now just an empty lot to be filled with the beautiful mahjong style stones. Here is it where you set-up the original Dragon Castle and will pick the stones for your own estate. Pictured is a play mat not included in the regular game, but the regular ones come with preset grids and those work fine as well.

The stars of the show are of course the mahjong style stones. Those are chunky pieces and give the game a very elegant & classy feel. The publisher didn’t cut back on the production of these beauties.

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The magic of a draw bag where you blind-draw pieces from is just such a satisfying feeling.
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The three types of faction stones, Farmers, Merchants & Soldier. Those are plenty, but they are plenty for a reason.
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Seasons, Dragons and the Wind special stones. Which come in a lower amount, but will give you bigger benefits when you combine them into your own estate.

The different colors and the different shapes have their specific functions. When you pick your stones from the Dragon Castle you will have to combine the shapes and color exactly and when you want to flip, and score the stones on your realm board, you will only have to combine the colors when you connect four or more stones. The shape does not matter anymore.

The actions you will take are one, you can pick two stones. Two you can pick one stone and a shrine or three you can destroy a stone and gain a point for it. Later in the game, a fourth action is introduced, which is gaining a countdown token which depicts points and triggers the end of the game when the set of tokens is depleted. Which is player count depend on how many will be available.

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Handy-dandy player aids with the scoring and possible actions. Flipping and combining as many stones as possible is the key to winning the game. The rarer a stone is, the more benefit it will have. Add more shrines and gain more points.

We mentioned shrines and this is why they matter. Shrines score you points based on the level they are set on, but they will also close of that spot for future building. So you need to balance it when you put them on top of the structure. Again, they went all the way and produced lovely plastic rooftops which look amazing.

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No, you cannot eat those pieces, but they do look tasty don’ t they? Maybe it is because we Dutch love “drop” so much? Okay, Erna doesn’ t like it, I do though! (licorice for the win, always!)

So in very short, above are the base set rules and those are fairly simple and we would suggest starting with the more advanced rules straight away. Those are, add Spirit and Dragon cards.

Spirit cards will give you an extra ripple or rulebreaker to manipulate the game state. Besides looking fantastic, that does spice up the zen experience a lot. From swapping stones to taking stones from their short side, a lot of variabilities and a lot of extra fun.

Dragon cards change the endgame scoring in quite some interesting ways. Borders of your realm score extra points, different sets of stones can score, etcetera. Again, this will add greatly to the tactical and strategic ways you will play this game. And again, why keep such beautiful art inside the game box? Cinyee Chiu did a tremendous job on the art style of this game.

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We would love to get some bigger copies of some of these Dragons for showcasing.
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Dragon of Majesty, just take a moment to see the fine details here folks.
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One of the dragon cards which gives extra incentive to obtain points. The graphical design is solid on these cards and the rulebooks have a clear explanation for all cards.
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The Dragon of Bravery, maybe our favorite? But that can shift
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Overview of the 10 Dragon Cards in all of their glory. Those magical creatures demand your attention, so oblige as you will.
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As to the animal spirits. Look at those? Just impressive and so full of life. Every one of the 10 cards breaks one of the rules or add a wrinkle. The little Chinese lamp is suggested for beginners.
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We are sorry, but not so sorry, more photos of the ten spirit cards

Highlights

star A zen like experience. Easy ruleset, but still a lot of game there.
star Production of the stones, shrines and the card art is stunning!
star Solid schoolnight game and a nice thinky filler. Attracts non gamers
as well as more experienced gamers. Always a big win.
star The player interaction is good. Do you take what you want or what your 
competitor would have wanted? Nice little take that is possible, but not
necessary. You can a nice friendly game too, if you prefer that.

Fire It is an abstract game in heart and the story is one you need 
to provide yourself.
Fire The player boards, chits and main board are a little flimsy, but do
what they must. 
Fire Set-up of the Dragon Castle does take a little and adds to play time.

The criteria on which we base most of our opinions, but isn’t the end all and be all.

d10-1 Does it play well with 2?
Very much and very good. It is our go-to game at the moment if we want nothing brain breaking or we want to chill and game.

d10-2 Does it suit one of our game groups (D&D, Heavy games, thematic games, etc.) or can I bring nongamers in or take it to others? You could call it a thinky filler, but that is a little bit of a stretch. Something like Azul, Dokmus or Burgundy are better examples of those. The theme is absent, even though we started this review off with some story. So I don’t think this is best suited for more involved gamers on a theme or depth & complexity.

d10-3 Does it come with a solo variant? Not included in the base game and none yet on The Geek. But, there is a thread where Alessandro talks about possibilities.

d10-4 How are theme and mechanics tied in together?
Very Yin & Yang like. It’s a take on the classic Mahjong added with beautiful art and it does give a great sense of creating something tangible. So yes it does do a good job tying them together.

d10-5 Does my collection need this? What stands out?
(New mechanics? better integration of x? new theme? etc.) We aren’t huge on the abstract games, but this one tickles our fancy and serves its purpose very well. It does lead us to explore better-themed abstracts like Tao Long and Dokmus.

d10-6 And how is the rsp?
With a price on the web from around 50 €, it is something you may want to think about if that is worth your money for an abstract game. We can see why it is a little high, those stones/tiles are plenty and a very high-quality design decision. But still, it is ” just” a Mahjong evolution and not some revolutionary new game. But, all depends on where you want to spend your well-earned dollars or euro.

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But in the end, these simple looking cardboard chits matter the most, if you end up with the most, you will win!

All we really can conclude is that Dragon Castle hits a lot of buttons for us. It plays great, it plays fast, it looks great on the table, we can get other nongamers easier into our hobby and it lets you tell stories which may not even be there. And if something tickles our fancy like this, we rate it highly.

4 star rating ABGL

Thanks for dropping by, sticking all the way to the end and we immensely love you for it!

~ Marlon

Review copy was provided by the fine folks of Horrible Games we met last Spiel!

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2 thoughts on “Where Dragon Castle’s crumble you can build your own realms legacy. A Dragon Castle board game review.

  1. Makes me want to play this game even more! Well-written. I just hope it will be more widely available so I can pick it up easier. Still, it’s my #1 most anticipated game of the moment. (Small nitpicking: your Highlights-section is lacking a few line breaks.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 100% agreed that this title deserves more widespread attention. Thanks for dropping by Stijn, we love that! Will look into the line breaks, still fresh to all the website stuff πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

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