Friday, October 2, 2009

Review -- DRAGONS


Recently it’s been newer games which have attracted attention in this column, but this week it’s time to look back on a game that came out several years ago.
The exact date is seemingly lost, at least to sources I am aware of, including on the game box itself. Dragons though is a Canadian produced game, coming from Chieftain Products Inc., an Ontario-based company which produced a number of games.
As is often the case with games of the era coming from companies which had a catalogue of products, the game designer of Dragons is not listed, and is probably a fact lost to all but the creator and his/or her close friends. Too bad that at the time the genius of designers was often left uncredited.
In the case of Dragons the design builds off one of the simplest games out there, the often played pen and paper game Xs and Os, or Tic Tac Toe if you prefer.
So what is there exactly to Dragons?
Well to start with the game name is really just pasted on. I wish there was more to connect the game to the idea of dragons, but there isn’t much here in that regard. The box has a couple of nice dragons in gold, but when you get inside, they are no where to be found. Having some flying dragons around the edge of the simple cardboard play area, or on the actual pieces would have immensely improved the aesthetics of the game.
As it is, the components are function, but very plain.
The game is played on a 5x5 square board. The board is further marked out into quadrant play areas of 3x3 in each corner. The quadrants represent the different seasons, as signified by very simple art in each corner, a snowflake for winter, flower for spring etc.
The goal of the game is to get a row of three stacks of counters placed in one of the seasons.
The game pieces are in white and green, and are very well made, albeit in plastic. They have a slight concave surface that helps hold stacks in place nicely.
Players alternate placing their respective counters on empty squares until such time as somebody gets three in a row in a season (or overlapping seasons). When a player achieves a row, all other pieces in the involved seasons are removed, and the player's removed pieces are stacked onto the last played piece of his color. The opponent’s piece goes back into his off-board supply for later use.
Since you have a finite supply of pieces, 15, you need to make sure your stacks do not get too large, because when you run out of pieces to play, you use up a turn reclaiming a non-critical stack from the board.
The first stack a player forms will of necessity be at least three high. After that shrewd placement can keep subsequent stacks at two pieces in height since stacks can be part of three-in-a-row, and only single pieces are removed to form new stacks.
First person to get three stacks within one season wins.
There is certainly more here than the old pen and paper game we all played as kids, but it is also still has Tic Tac Toe at its heart, so it’s not overly deep. That said, because Dragons is based off a game which everyone knows, it’s a relatively simple learning curve.
Certainly a game worth grabbing if you see it, partly because it is Canadian. It would rank a bit higher too if they had really pushed the Dragons theme once inside the box.
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 30, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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