GAME REVIEW: Wrath of Dragons

I picked this up at GenCon.  I saw the board with all its cubes, bits and pieces set up at a demo table, and I immediately got excited.  Then I saw the box cover….. and that it was it.  One of my first purchases of the day.  This just became available to the public last week (it’s at cardhausgames.com, as CoolStuffInc doesn’t have it yet).

Wrath of Dragons is from Catalyst Game Labs and plays from 2-6 players.  On the box it says it takes about min. to play.  In my first 2 player game it took about 75 minutes as we were learning it.  My second play was just a little under that.  The age range says 13 and up, but depending on the kid, I’d say you can play with 11 and up (my daughter just turned 12 and she did just fine)

If you look at the box, you might think that the game is going to be some Fantasy Flight/Cool Mini or Not-style game with dice rolling and hit points.  It’s not.  It’s actually a resource management game, but instead of collecting resources, you’re actually destroying them because in this game each player takes on the role of a dragon whom over 6 centuries are competing to be the most feared dragon in the Old World.  You do this by stealing gold, destroying fields, settlements and cities, as well as eating livestock, and capturing nobles.

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The game is played over 6 centuries (rounds) and in each round there are 4 phases: Settlement Growth, Awakening, Lair and Attack.  The board is divided into 6 regions and you must carefully plan and decide which of those regions you will attack on your turn.  You want to balance the places you attack in because there will be points awarded to the dragon who destroyed the most settlements in each region at the end of the game.

I will try to briefly describe each phase so you get a fairly decent idea on how the game plays.  I won’t get into every detail (like explaining every card) as it would take a little too long to explain:

Phase 1: Settlement Growth – This one is simple enough.  You just restock the board with fields, gold, livestock, nobles and settlements, and replace any cards that need to be replenished.

Phase 2: Awakening – Each player/dragon gains 1 health (you start with 4), and then draws cards.

Phase 3: Lair – From the “lair” space on the game board, each player in turn order chooses one benefit (taking resources, victory points, start player token, etc.)  Then each player chooses a face up action card from the board (yes, you get cards during 2 phases in this game)

Phase 4: Attack – This is the meat and potatoes of the game right here.  In turn order, each player places their dragon piece in one of the six regions (you can’t share a region with another player).  You can do three things during this phase.  Play action cards, spend resources, and use the action hex in the middle of the board.

Action cards are the main way you collect (or destroy) things in this game.  Each card has a specific region (though there are a few that say “all” regions), and a resource you can collect (some might say you can choose the resource you take).  For example, you might have a card that says you can take one livestock from the green region.  In order to do that action, your dragon must be in that region.  If you have a dragon attack icon on your action/ region card, then that gives you one attack point to use on a settlement. Settlements take 1 attack point, while towns and cities take 2 points.  As you see, you must plan carefully when placing your dragon at the beginning of this phase.  You can play as many cards as you are able to do so on your turn.

During this phase you can also you the action hex in the middle board by playing your action hex card (you get that card back at the end of each action phase).  There are 6 actions listed on the hex, each pointed to a specific region.  2 destroy a settlement/city actions, and one action each for gain a livestock, gold, noble or field.  Whichever region your dragon is in when you play the action hex card, you do the action that is listed in your region.

During this phase you may also spend resources that you have collected to do various things.  If you spend/eat a sheep, you can move one spot.  If you spend/eat a noble you gain a life (because you lose life every time you destroy a settlement and/or a city).  If you spend a field you can get an additional action card (by drawing 2 and discarding 1).  If you spend gold, you can move the action hex one spot in any direction.

There are also ways to level up.  You can level up 3 different times.  You can level up by destroying 3 settlements, destroying a city, or collect any combination of 4 resources during a round.  And each time you level up you can choose one out of 2 different abilities.  Like gaining 2 health during the awakening phase, increase max life to 6 health, travel to an adjacent region without spending a livestock, etc.

At the end of 6 rounds, there is a final scoring.  Besides scoring points for having destroying the most settlements in each region, you also score points for collecting the most in each resource (livestock, fields, nobles, gold), whoever took the 3 point victory token during the lair phase, if you destroyed a settlement in every region, and for each city destroyed.

Whew!  And that’s it.  So, how is the game?  Well, if you go into this expecting a rousing adventure, attacking things while rolling dice, you will be severely disappointed.  But if you enjoy Euro resource management games, with a hint of area control, you should dig it.  I love Euro games, so I did enjoy this game.  And I actually don’t think the theme is pasted on.  While it may not be the most thematic game I’ve ever played, the theme fits.  I often did feel like I was a dragon destroying cities and eating nobles.  I like games where you really have to think about where you need to focus your energy on in order to win.  With all the different things you can collect on your turn, it kind of becomes somewhat of a balancing act in order to try to find a way to get majorities in all the different regions and getting the most in every resource.  That kind of thing is fun for me.

The 2 player variant is well done too I think.  There are 2 dummy dragon players that simply just put their dragon in a randomly drawn region, which limits where you can go.  I also liked that the cards have 2 purposes.  On the back of each card is a region, which you use to determine which regions get settlements in the beginning of each round.  I like games that find ways to kill 2 birds with one stone.

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The artwork on the game box and the player screens (which are used to hide your resources you collect, so you never know exactly what your opponent has) are fantastic.  There are 6 dragons to choose from (though I have 7 to choose from because I got a gencon promo, ha!) and they all have a unique and distinct look.

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Unfortunately, the dragon pieces themselves are pretty generic.  They have a kind of cheap look and feel to them.  But I guess they’re better than just a standard pawn token.  The other resource pieces are okay, but they could’ve been improved upon.  The board itself isn’t the prettiest, but it’s very functional and keeps the gameplay running smooth.

I did enjoy the game quite a bit.  It’s a different take on resource management, and has a fun theme that is usually dry when it comes to this kind of Euro game.  Not sure how this would play with 6.  I could see it taking too long.  I bet 4 players would be the sweet spot here.  But even the 2 player game was good.  It definitely feels like they put some real thought into scaling the game down to fewer players.

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In a nutshell, the game is solid.  The artwork is great.  My only real complaint is that the components could use a little upgrading, especially the dragon pieces.  Those should look amazing, but they just look cheap.  But other than that, the game itself is actually pretty good.  You just need to know what kind of game you are getting into when you sit down at the table.  If you enjoy resource management games and are getting tired of the same old dry euro theme, then you might want to check out Wrath of Dragons.  I’m glad I picked it up.

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