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    Review: Dragonwood

    September 30, 2016

    Dragonwood is a delightful little adventure card game where players challenge creatures from myth and fantasy in order to secure the most valuable treasures in the land. With great risk comes great reward, so only the craftiest (and luckiest) adventurers will be able to emerge unscathed from the dark, dank forest of Dragonwood!

    With simple card- and dice-based mechanics and game play that conjures memories of Uno and Gin Rummy, Dragonwood is really easy to pick up and start questing with right out of the box. The components include two decks of colorful cards (separated into Adventurer and Dragonwood decks) and a handful of custom dice, the latter of which represent the “actions” of the brave heroes and heroines. Action dice are obtained through the clever play of Adventurer cards, and with these dice, the players will confront random encounters from the Dragonwood deck and decide how best to face down the creatures they’ve come across.

    To set up the game, five random Dragonwood cards are placed on the table (called the Landscape), which can be revealed as Creatures, Enhancements, or Events. All players are given five Adventurer cards to start, and each player enters the fray by choosing their turn’s one action, whether that be to Reload (draw an Adventurer card) or Capture (play Adventurer cards from their hand to collect a Dragonwood card from the Landscape). The management of Adventurer cards is the key to unlocking enough skill to face whatever dark nasties show their faces in the Landscape, so the choice of what to do on a turn is very important. Adventurer cards are numbered 1-12 and are suited by color and image, so when a Capture action is announced, how these cards are played is essential to the strategy of the game.

    Because of their numbers and suits, Adventurer cards can be played in a variety of ways. Playing them in numerical order regardless of color is considered a Strike. Playing a series of cards with the same number equates to a Stomp. And playing numerous cards all of the same suit is a Scream. No matter the method, each card played on a turn nets that player one action die, and the more cards that are played in a series (up to six), the more dice are gained for that Capture. The three types of Capture attacks correspond to three different target numbers displayed on each Creature and Enhancement Dragonwood card. When declaring a Capture action, it’s up to the player to choose the type of attack that will most likely succeed based on the target number of the card they wish to capture and also the resources available in their hand that will get them the most action dice to roll.

    As an example, the Grumpy Troll who is currently pacing back and forth in the Landscape has a Strike value of 9, a Stomp value of 11, and a Scream value of 9. Declaring a Capture action, one of the players shows four orange-suited cards to get four action dice to roll. Since that Capture action is a Scream, the target number that must be rolled is 9 on four dice – not too terribly difficult, but certainly not a sure thing! If the target number is matched or exceeded, that player has defeated the Troll and gets the card as well as the number of Victory Points displayed on it (in this case, 4). If the target number is not met, the player must take a “wound”, which means discarding one of their valuable Adventurer cards from their hand!

    Creatures aren’t the only types of Dragonwood cards to be faced in the Landscape. There are also Enhancement cards, which are captured just like Creatures but which offer helpful bonuses to their owners. Donning the Ghost Disguise, for example, allows that player to add two points to any Scream attack, while befriending the Magical Unicorn adds one point to any Capture attempt. Event cards also hide within the Dragonwood deck, and when they are revealed they immediately trigger for all players. The Sunny Day card allows all players to draw two Adventurer cards into their hand, for instance, while the Wind Storm forces each player to pass one Adventurer card to their right.

    The game continues along until the Adventurer deck is cycled through twice or until both of the elder boss Dragons in the Dragonwood deck have been defeated. Each player’s Victory Points are then totaled up on their captured Creatures and Enhancements, and the player who has captured the most Creatures gets a three-point bonus. The brave explorer with the highest total wins the game!

    There’s a lot to love about Dragonwood, which is why it was an instant pick for our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide. It’s inexpensive, super easy-to-learn, and replayable over and over again. It’s great for two, three, or four players of practically any age, but we’d recommend 7+. The theme conjures a stirring fantasy adventure with its gorgeous art and quality components – as we’ve come to expect from Gamewright, which is one of our very favorite manufacturers. We love showing Dragonwood to our customers and we have no doubt that it would be a hit in your household, too!

    – Darren

    If you like: Uno, Rummy, Munchkin
    You’d definitely enjoy: Dragonwood
    MRP: $14.99
    Designer: Darren Kisgen
    Produced by: Gamewright