May 14, 2016
Seven Dragons is a handsome card game of visual strategy for two to five players of ages 6 and up. You can think of it in the same family as a basic game of dominoes, as players are trying to connect panels of different colored dragons with the goal of creating an unbroken link of seven dragons of a particular color. Because each player’s favored dragon color is kept secret, no one knows for sure who is planning what strategy and there’s plenty of room for bluffing and deception along the way. It’s a nice little twist on visual perception with a hint of hidden identity thrown in for good measure!
As the title of the game alleges, there are seven different colors of dragons fighting for dominance on the table. In addition to the five colors that a player may use (Gold, Green, Blue, Red, and Black) there are also Rainbow dragon cards (which are essentially wild), and the Silver dragon, which functions as the starting card. The Silver dragon initially acts like a Rainbow dragon but thereafter changes its color to match the Action card that was most recently played. Five different types of Action cards change up the game quite a bit, providing a Fluxx-like element and encouraging all players to constantly adapt their strategies.
At the start of the game, players each get a Goal card, which dictates the color of dragon they will initially be trying to chain together. These are kept secret from the other players but are by no means permanently set! The turn order is simple: draw a card and then either play a Dragon card or an Action card from your hand of four. Dragon cards may be oriented either vertically or horizontally as long as at least one panel on the placed card matches the color of each adjacent card already on the board. Connecting dragons in this way forms a chain to claim “territory”, and the first player to connect seven dragons of their current Goal’s colors wins the game.
Like Looney Labs’ biggest hit, Fluxx, the Action cards are what really makes Seven Dragons fun. Actions can majorly impact the way things are played – for better or for worse! – and can destroy carefully-built strategies while at the same time inadvertently assisting opponents. Some Actions simply let players swap hands with an opponent. Others change your Goal through either trading or all-player rotation. There are even Actions that can move cards which have already been placed, and the very useful (and dreaded) Zap, which allows a player to pick up a placed card into his or her hand.
The balance of randomness and strategy in this game makes it highly addictive and incredibly replayable. Figuring out your opponents’ Goals as soon as possible is generally a sound plan, but Actions can quickly muck up things and change everyone’s best laid schemes on a dime. Adding in a whiff of subterfuge by keeping Goals secret and allowing players to fake out each other with clever placement keeps things lively and much more interesting than a pure tile-laying game like Dominoes.
Seven Dragons focuses on abstract strategy, hand management, and creative card use. It’s a quick, easy-to-learn icebreaker or cool-down game with amazing art by the acclaimed fantasy artist Larry Elmore. If you’re looking for a fast-paced blast of fun that only takes between 15 and 20 minutes, Seven Dragons is a ferocious way to go.
– Joe & Darren