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Seven Dragons

[Looney Labs can always be counted on for a freewheeling gaming experience, particularly when it comes to cards. And so it is with Seven Dragons. Seven dragons for them, 694 reviews for me. – – Herb Levy]

(Looney Labs, 2-5 players, ages 6 and up, 10 to 30 minutes; $15)

 

Reviewed by Herb Levy

Looney Labs has been around for over a decade now and Andrew Looney, the company’s head man and chief designer, has a penchant for chaotic card games. There is Fluxx (Summer 1998 Gamers Alliance Report) and Aquarius. In his latest offering, Looney has re-themed Aquarius, giving it a fantasy theme, and renaming it Seven Dragons.

sevendragonsSeven Dragons consists of a deck of 72 cards: 5 Goals, 1 Silver Dragon, 51 Dragon cards and 15 Action cards. Each player is randomly given a Goal card. This card depicts ONE of the five colored dragons of the game. (This is the color dragon you are trying to connect.) The Silver Dragon card is placed in the center of the play area; it never moves. The rest of the deck is shuffled and three cards dealt to each player.

On a turn, the active player first draws a card from the draw deck and then plays one card. Most of the time, you will be playing a Dragon card.

Dragon cards, nicely illustrated by noted fantasy artist Larry Elmore), show dragons of green, blue, gold, red and black. There may be one in a single color; there may be two, three or four of different colors occupying different panels on the card. Legal placement of a card means that at least one panel of the new card matches a panel of the same color on an already played card in the array. (There is one “rainbow” Dragon card. That card will match ANY color dragon.) All cards are placed in the same, vertical, direction. Diagonal placement and horizontal placement of cards are not allowed. Skillful card placement will grant you rewards. If you manage to match up 2, 3 or 4 dragons with one card, you get the immediate bonus of drawing 1, 2 or 3 bonus cards. But rather than playing a Dragon card, a player may choose to play an Action card instead.

There are 3 each of 5 different Action cards. Trade Hands does just that. You swap cards with another player of your choice. Trade Goals is similar to Trade Hands except the only cards that switch ownership are the secret goals between two players. Rotate Goals is similar except that ALL player will shift goals with the player next to them, clockwise or counterclockwise, at the discretion of the player who uses the card. (Even with less than 5 players, ALL Goal cards are in play. They rotate too.) Move A Card allows you to take a card in the array and move it to a new, legal, location. Zap a Card is similar; it allows you to pick up a card and take it into your hand. (This is a good card to use to block an approaching 7 dragon connection and/or poise yourself to create a winning link on your next turn.) But Action cards have a dual effect: they can change the color of the Silver Dragon.

All Action cards have a color in the center. When an Action card is played, the Silver Dragon takes on that color. This can be a turning point in making that 7 dragon alignment. But you don’t have to live with the dual effect. You can forgo one if you wish by either placing the Action card at the bottom of the discard deck so that the top card is not changed, the Silver Dragon retaining the previous color OR you can put the card on top of the discard pile (changing the Silver Dragon’s color) and not take the Action.

The goal of the game is contained in its name: you are trying to connect a string of seven dragons of your color. The first player to do is the winner.

Seven Dragons fits the bill as a light filler, tailor made for fans of the Looney Labs line of games. As you might suspect if you are familiar with Fluxx, there is a good deal of flux to be found here too. While players are rewarded for skillful card placement, they are also extremely vulnerable to circumstances beyond their control. It can be pretty frustrating, for example, to carefully construct an alignment of 5 or 6 blue dragons only to be hit with a Trade Goals Action card, leaving you to piece together a red connection that isn’t there. Not enough chaos for you? There is an “expansion” Action card available which you can add to the deck (up to a maximum of 3) which would allow players to “shuffle hands” when played. (These Action card would turn the Silver Dragon into a Rainbow Dragon, matching every color!)

Sure, it’s chaotic and sure, you won’t have absolute control over your moves. You have to expect a little “lunacy” from Looney Labs. To complain about that is like complaining about a dog barking – it’s the nature of the beast. But the game is easy to learn, accessible to non-gamers (thanks to its colorful and pleasing artwork) and plays quickly (less than 30 minutes and closer to 15 in our experience) so it doesn’t wear out its welcome. Seven Dragons works well as an opener or closer for an evening of gaming.

 


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