GAME REVIEW: Dragon Farkle

I’ve never played the popular dice game Farkle, but I do like dice games.  There’s something about picking up the dice, shaking them in your hand and rolling them on the table.  It’s a satisfying thing.  I even still like Yahtzee.

I saw Dragon Farkle at GenCon over at the Z-Man booth and wondered what it was?  Was it a variation on farkle?  Was it Farkle with a theme pasted on?  Or was it something more?  I knew someone who liked dice games back home and also liked farkle, so I decided to pick it up for her.  I didn’t really know what to expect, except maybe a mindless dice game.

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Dragon Farkle is published by Z-Man Games and plays from 2-5 players, ages 8 and up and takes 30 minutes to play.  If playing with the full player count, it could easily go to nearly an hour though.  It was released to the public in September.  Here’s how it goes:

All players take on the role of a wannabe hero who attempt to defeat an evil dragon who is destroying their kingdom. They will be spending turns attempting to recruit soldiers by rolling dice.  Once a player has at least 5000 soldiers, they may enter the dragon’s keep, where they will attempt to defeat the dragon.

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Each player takes a reference sheet, 6 soldier dice of one color, a companion character card (who will help you on your journey) and a one time use magic card.

On your turn, you may do one of three things:

  1. Recruit soldiers
  2. Brawl another player
  3. Battle the dragon (once you have at least 5000 solders)

Most of the time you’ll be either recruiting or brawling, which both actions consists of doing the same thing.  Rolling your dice, trying to get the best combinations to get lots of soldiers, which are represented by cardboard tokens.

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When you choose to recruit, you roll all six of your dice, plus the orange dragon die.  Unlike Yahtzee, you don’t get to hold certain dice and re-roll.  You pretty much get what you roll.  You take away any dice that scored you points (or in this case recruiting soldiers), then if you want to push your luck, you may roll any leftover dice to get more soldiers.  If your roll scores you no points/soldiers, that results in a farkle, and you lose all soldiers that you would have gained that turn.

Here are all the possible scoring combinations you could roll, which is conveniently printed on your player sheet:

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Your turn ends once you either pass and collect the soldiers you earned, or if you farkle.

Brawling is pretty much the same thing, but this time you are attempting to take soldiers away from an opponent.  When you choose this action, you target another player and then proceed to roll your dice just like you would when recruiting.  When you either pass or farkle, the player you targeted gets to roll their dice.  When both players are done, the person with the most soldiers subtracts the amount of soldiers the other player had from their total, and that is the amount of soldiers the losing player gives the winner of the brawl.

Besides rolling your six soldier dice when recruiting and brawling, you also roll the orange dragon die.  It has 4 blank sides, but the other 2 sides have a double axe symbol and a dragon symbol.

If you roll a double axe symbol, this allows you to either draw another magic card, or double your soldier score.

If you roll a dragon symbol, the dragon eats any scoring die that turn.  But if you farkle, then you can ignore the farkle and get to roll again.

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When you enter the dragon’s keep once you get at least 5000 soldiers, then the game changes a bit.  You still roll all of your dice (plus the dragon die), but every time you would have received soldiers from a combination result, you LOSE that many soldiers, because the dragon is eating them.  When you roll a dragon symbol this time, it means you deal 1 damage to the dragon.  When you roll a double axe, that’s 2 damage to the dragon.  At the beginning of the game, you decide how much life to give the dragon (3-5, depending on how difficult you want the game to be).  Your turn ends if you farkle (no scoring dice or hits to the dragon), and the dragon heals all of his health. If the dragon eats all of your soldiers, you leave the dragon’s keep and must recruit all over again.

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There are companion cards that players receive randomly at the beginning of the game.  They give you an ability you can use once per round.

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Players also receive one random magic card during the game that gives them a one time advantage.

Play will continue clockwise, recruiting, brawling and battling the dragon. Once the dragon loses all of its life points, the active player wins.

Like I said before, I’ve never played farkle before I played this one.  I have since tried regular farkle so I can tell you that this is pretty much farkle with a fantasy them attached.  If you’ve played farkle, then you’ll know exactly what to do.  But I feel like the theme is more than just tacked on.  The designers really put some effort into this one I think.

First of all the artwork is really elaborate for such a simple dice game.  The companions have such great detail in them.  They look fantastic:

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The tokens are a nice addition to farkle since normally you just keep score with a pen and paper,  but here you have tons of numbered tokens to help keep track for everything.  That’s nice.  But they go even further by making it thematic, calling the tokens soldiers.  That’s cool.

As far as the gameplay goes, it’s a dice game not unlike yahtzee and other push your luck dice games.  I find that very entertaining.  Sure, it’s pretty much all luck, but I enjoy that.  Now, do I want all of my games to be pure luck?  Of course not, but once in a while it’s fun to push your luck and leave your fate up to a roll of the dice.  And when you get that near impossible combination that you’ve been trying for the past 30 rolls….. it’s very satisfying.  There’s usually lots of cheering involved.

It depends on who you play with, but sometimes there will be more recruiting then brawling going on.  If you’re playing with competitive players, there will be more brawling.  Either way is fun, but if you have people in your group that get turned off by that kind of play, they might not enjoy the brawling.  But it can be fun to steal soldiers from your best friend on occasion.

Because of the luck factor involved when it comes to rolling dice, I’ve had some games take 20 minutes and some nearly an hour, which could be a downside for some people.  I’ve only played 2-3 players.  I don’t think this should be played with more than that.  I think a 5 player game would go on for a very long time.  There can be a lot of down time in this game, especially if players are mostly recruiting and not brawling.  That’s why I would stick to a 2-3 player count.  I also have a house rule where I start the dragon off with 5 health.  If a player battles the dragon and fails, then I reduce his health by one (keeping his health to a minimum of 3). This keeps the game moving a little swifter, especially if player’s are having a difficult time defeating the dragon.

I like the variable abilities of the companions, though some are more powerful than others I think.  The magic cards are nice, but I sometimes forget about them and have had many games where I’ve never used them.

But the main reason to play this is to roll them dice.  And that part is very satisfying.  And the theme really comes out for a dice game.  I mean, this isn’t the most thematic game I’ve ever played, but the theme does add some welcome flavor to the proceedings.

Obviously, if you’re not a fan of dice games or games with lots of luck, then you probably won’t enjoy it.  But if you like farkle and fantasy themes, then I feel like this would be a hit for you.  If you’re not a fan of fantasy, but love farkle, maybe try it first.  If you’re looking for the next fun dice filler game for your collection, give this one a try.  I;ve played this one a lot since Gen Con because it’s easy to teach, and very accessible.  This one caught me off guard.  Glad I picked it up.

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