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Rio Grande Games Dragonriders
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- 50 Playing Cards, 26 Energy Chips, 12 Magic Traps, 8 Flight Paths, 6 Dragons
- 6 Speed Indicators, 2 Damage Dice, 1 Game Board, 1 Set of Rules
- For 2-6 players
- Takes about an hour to play
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From the Manufacturer
Climb aboard your trusty steed and lift off for the race of your life! The players race their dragons on a course in a deep and winding canyon. You have some magic to use to aid your cause, but the real test is your skill at maneuvering your dragon through the course to reach the finish line ahead of the others. Players choose their speeds on each round secretly, but then must move at that speed, even if other dragons or canyon walls are in the way.The movement system gives players more maneuverability at lower speeds than at higher, so you cannot turn your dragon on a dime unless you are going very slowly. The track is made of two-sided tiles, so players can design their own races and change them every race to keep things fun and exciting! Dragonriders is for 2 to 6 players and takes about an hour to play.
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The game comes with 15 square shaped tiles and a frame so you can mix and match any kind of race track you want to play on. Your dragons will be flying down a path trying to stay inside the walls and win by completing one lap ahead of the other dragons. But since this racing game has no pre-programmed conditions, you can make your own rules like going multiple laps and such.
Component wise, the game is a real mixed package. The game looks very impressive when you open it because, for starters, movement in this game is determined with these cleverly made rulers that determine the distance a dragon can fly at any given speed. A ‘V’ shaped slit is cut out of either end which also determines how much maneuverability your dragon has, as it determines how you can rotate the base of their figure and how sharply you can make those tight turns. It is, indeed, an amazing mechanic to behold.
But unfortunately, this same mechanic is the games own undoing. The positions of your figures is not determined by marked spaces. They stand in the middle of open space with nothing to remind you of their position if they get knocked over. While you are trying to move a dragon you’ll have to be careful never to bump another person’s figure or push something by accident. The game is practically begging you mess it up when lots of figures are crowded together and you must somehow squeeze a ruler in there to determine your dragon’s movement. It’s not an easy game to sit down and play because you will be standing up and going around the table to manipulate your pieces from the best possible angle. Just for the sake of nitpicking, a dragon bumps into another dragon if the base of their figure touches, but the dragon on the upper half is actually wider than it’s base, which has lent itself to some awkward problems.
The game could have benefited a lot if there was some way to keep a dragon figure stuck to the track maybe, but it’s much too easy to knock them over. But as much as I criticize the mechanics of this game, it isn’t hard to enjoy it if you have a few house rules. Example: A knocked over figure is not a big deal; just pick it back up.
Theme wise, I guess the game is okay but the title is kind misleading. When I hear the word “Dragonrider” is immediately assume Dragonriders of Pern, or maybe Eragon. A simple dragon race is like one chapter of a really cool mythology but you won’t learn anything more about this awesome world they’ve created. The game doesn’t even have characters to choose from or any special powers to make any dragons different from each other. As lackluster as the theme is, the game is still pretty and features some nice art. It is not, however, impressive enough to suck you in and see past the rules and the components, but it nearly does at times.
There is a secret to enjoying this game but it’s definitely not for everyone. Older people (not kids) will get a kick out of this if they enjoy Mario Kart or other racing games along those lines. It’s almost embarrassing this game made it past its play testers and nobody bothered to fix this one tiny problem the game has, but it’s still an okay game. If you have a group of people who get along well together this will be a somewhat enjoyable game.
Written by Klaus-Jurgen Wrede & Jean du Poel with artwork by Andreas Adamek, Rio Grande pulled this title from a company called Amigo rather than their usual pool of Kosmos or Winning Moves. I have no prior experience with Amigo's other games but if Dragonriders represents the epitome of what they've produced, I've gotten as close as I would ever want to!
I suppose in all fairness I should begin with the positive: The game, as is par for the course with Rio Grande, is both stunning to behold and built of top quality materials. Beginning with the box art itself then getting into the goodies contained within, Dragonriders will fool even the most skeptical gamer into believing he's discovered fantasy-gold. The bottom doesn't drop out until you actually begin the first round of play. However, right up until then, prepare to be dazzled with excellently painted wooden dice, cards that hint of powerful magic spells, colorful plastic molds of dragons in flight, and a giant board made up of sturdy interlocking cardboard tiles within a frame. Good stuff, all.
Here's where the trouble begins. This is a race game and despite pieces and a full-color 16-page rulebook that seem to say otherwise, it is nothing more and sadly, a poorly engineered one at that. The idea, at its core, is that each player picks a measuring stick from the 8 available and sets it on the racecourse. Now, and here's where it really gets ugly, he then butts the base of his plastic dragon against the cardboard ruler and jumps to the edge of said piece. Fair enough if surgical-level precision wasn't required to determine the results of that move! If the ruler touches the courses border, turn over, you are docked two energy units and are punished in the following round. If your dragon itself so much as touches the drawn-on border you suffer a similar set of punishments. If your dragon touches someone else's dragon, you guessed it! So what ends up happening is you have a bunch of pieces on the board at any given moment that nobody so much as dares to breathe-on lest ruin the round for a fellow player. What's worse is that cardboard and plastic pieces on a laminated cardboard playing surface are naturally quite slippery. It's nearly impossible to line up the ruler without bumping everything around to some degree and when you're talking about a game that can end due to a variance in millimeters, you begin to see the natural flaw in the design.
For this concept to even come close to working, it would require pieces that somehow locked onto the playing surface and distance-measurement that was incredibly accurate. Perhaps to the point of electronic sensors on the board that would light up spaces indicating precisely where the piece will land after the player has inputted his variables. And even then one has to wonder how much fun this would be to play. As it stands with a sliding cardboard ruler and a featherweight plastic pawn, making moves is laughably inaccurate in this, a game that depends entirely upon NASA-precision calculation accuracy.
So what about all of those other great looking pieces I mentioned earlier? Yes they do have a purpose but unfortunately since the game's most fundamental dynamic is so fatally flawed, mean little to nothing once the game gets underway. Spell cards exist to allow lagging players an opportunity to "lasso" the leader's dragon and protection cards exist to counteract the spell cards but again, it's all useless when you can't tell if you actually touched the course borders or if the opponent's dragon is precisely 600 units ahead of the spell caster to be considered "in range". Simply taking these ridiculous measurements is enough to disrupt the pieces and well, I think you understand where I'm going with this.
In all, this is perhaps the worst board game I've ever played. The intention shows a bit of promise but the game-play mechanics have somehow gotten so terribly lost in translation that even the nice cards, board, and box art are hardly worth the paper they're printed on. I'm currently working on the rules for some sort of module to, at the very least; make the game playable in some capacity. After all, interesting fantasy pieces and bits are a terrible thing to waste.