Dragoon from Lay Waste Games takes modern maker culture to the gaming table with its innovative mechanics and classy materials. This modern trend brings together the lasting nature of old-school craft with cutting-edge innovation. Dragoon is a prime example in the gaming world that has exploded onto the scene through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign alongside additional crowd-funding and support in the Harvard Innovation Lab.
Rather than typical plastic pieces atop cardboard, Dragoon seeks to be something beyond the normal. On the outmost, Dragoon comes in a cloth bag that sets it apart from the normal fare instead of using a box to hold the pieces, notorious among gamers for having waste-space. Player tokens are dragons sculpted in metal, and the board is printed on hearty cloth that seems as if it is something great-grandparents might have held onto as an heirloom of their own family’s gaming. Yet the gameplay is totally novel.
In Dragoon, each player is a dragon on a blissful island suddenly interrupted by human colonization. Play goes in rounds with three phases: Populate, Action, and Tribute. During the Populate phase, players roll dice that correlate with a grid that forms the board. The rolled squares are given villages, which may grow into cities if the number is rolled again. This field of cities serves as an ever-changing landscape through which the dragons can roam in the Action phase, destroying, demanding tribute to be paid in the next phase, stealing, dueling, or performing special actions by playing from their hands of cards.
Through the game, players race to collect gold. Several strategies can come into play as one may choose to create an empire that gives more and more tribute each turn, while another may leave a wake of destruction by grabbing instant gold amidst the ruins. Still others may try to act more sneakily, moving around the board to loot from another dragon’s cave or the human Thief that collects revenue from rolled squares that already have something in them.
With the board changing each round, players must be ready to recalculate their best options constantly. Two-player games will be back and forth something like a game of chess, while games with larger numbers of players will most likely be a madhouse of destruction. Additional strategy and adaptive quick-thinking come from the cards, some of which give bonuses to dueling combat while others extend a dragon’s reach in dominating the humans.
Dragoon is a board game for two to four players aged thirteen and up. Younger players might want to get in on the fun thanks to the eye-catching pieces and the roaring destruction of villages, but some of the staging rules can be overly complicated without an adult helping out. For families with older kids or grown-up groups, Dragoon is perfect for a tabletop night as games last between thirty and sixty minutes, a good length to bring about engagement without being too taxing. Whether young or old, players will enjoy Dragoon as a game like none other.