Reviewed by Herb Levy
DRACONIS INVASION (Keji Games, 1 to 6 players, ages 14 and up, 30-90 minutes; $40)
It is a bad time for the kingdom. It seems the dark forces of Draconis are invading and the King has charged nobles (such as you) to defend the land and defeat the incoming hordes. This is the fantasy medieval world in which you (and your fellow players) will find themselves as they battle mythical creatures to save the kingdom, amass gold and gather Glory Points along the way to victory in the new game Draconis Invasion. .
Draconis Invasion, designed by Jonathan Jeffrey Lai, is a deck building game and, as in traditional deck building games, comes with a large assortment of cards. The card display consists of stacks of gold (in denominations of 10, 20 and 30), Action cards, Defender cards, Campaign cards and 2 rows of invaders (blue backed, easier to defeat and gold backed, more powerful – and more valuable). There are also those all important Terror cards.
Each player begins with an identical starting deck of 12 cards: 7 Wealth (gold coins valued at 10) and 5 Imperial Guards (Defender cards). Defender cards have a cost (although Imperial Guards are free) as well as an attack value AND an activation cost. In addition, the Campaign deck is shuffled and two cards dealt to every player. Campaign cards give bonus Glory Points to players who have mananged to vanquish the particular invaders specified on those cards. Campaign cards are not part of your deck (or hand). They are kept secret and only revealed (and scorecd) at the end of the game. Finally, the Event cards are shuffled and a number of them (based on the number of players) are placed, face down, in their own stack. Now poised for action, the initial threat level is determined.
A regular six sided die (with a “terror icon” for number six) is rolled. That number determines the level of threat (and also gives at least one player a Terror card.) From that point on, unless a card demands it, the die is not rolled again. Instead it acts as the method to track increasing threat levels. Now players take turns following the ABCDEF procedure.
First, the player may play an Action card (seen at right). These cards generally give you additional money and/or cards to draw and/or allow you to play additional Action cards. Then, the player may do ONE of the following: Buy a card (all cards have a gold cost with cards purchased usually going into a player’s discard pile, ready to be recycled into his draw deck when his deck is depleted), Campaign (draw two more Campaign cards from the three cards displayed on the table or drawn from the campaign deck sight unseen), Defend (attack ONE of the invaders by playing Defenders with a value equal to or higher than the Invaders’) or Eliminate a non-Terror card from your hand by trashing it. The final and optional action a player may take is Forward which means to place an UNUSED gold card (one not used to buy a card this turn) from his hand on TOP of his draw deck, ready to be the first card drawn the next turn.
As players buy more and more cards (both Action and Defenders), they will reach a point where they can tackle those Invaders. In most games in the genre, cards purchased may be used once they are recycled and appear in your drawn hand. In Dragonis Invasion, the use of attack cards (some seen below) depends on being able to “fund” them with gold from your hand. This means that Action cards take on an even greater importance. Those that provide gold are good; those that provide extra actions are better; those that allow you to drawn additional cards into you hand are the best. With more cards in your hand, the odds increasse that gold will be drawn allowing more powerful attacks to be funded and more valuable (in terms of Glory Points) invaders to be defeated. Creating this engine is what gives the game its considerable appeal.
Once an Invader is defeated, his card is placed, face down, in your play area and a new Invader drawn from the appropriate deck to replace him. All Invaders have text on them that goes into effect immediately. Generally, this results in the attacking player (and, sometimes others) gaining Terror cards.
Terror cards propel the game forward. Every time one is discarded, the threat level on the die rises by 1. When the die hits six, an Event card is drawn. Event cards are generally bad news, limiting hand size for someone’s next turn, adding more Terror cards into play and more.
Play continues until ALL Events have been resolved OR someone has defeated six Invaders. At that point, Glory Points are totalled.
To the Glory Points found on each Invader card, GPs earned for those secret Campaign Cards are added. The player with the hightest total is acknowledged the King’s Greatest Hero (and wins the game)! If tied, the player with the most completed Campaign cards gets the nod. Still tied? Then the tied players share the victory!
The game comes in a large, deep box, with lots of room to accomodate future expansion sets of cards. (In fact, there is talk of at least one such expansion coming later this year.) The rules are well laid out and easy to follow. Graphically, the artwork is dynamic and certainly reflects the game’s fantasy nature. But the color pallette used favors dark colors. While keeping with the theme of dark denizens of the realm, it does make easily deciphering the text (which favors small type) and icons on the cards a bit more challenging than necessary.
The second edition rules (which this review is based upon) adds more options to play including Option E which involdes trashing a non-Terror card. We would have preferred that option be handled like the Action cards: available each turn without having to sacrifice one of the core options to take advantage of it. Having to give up buying a card or taking campaign cards or making an attack to just trash a single card seems like too harsh a penalty.
The pace of the game accelerates due to the ever increasing accumulation of Terror cards, picking up speed as it races to its conclusion. This makes the already quick turns seem to go even faster. Even with larger groups of players (the game handles up to six), this keeps down time to a minimum. Events and the “reveals” of new Invaders tend to make “bad luck” befall players perceived to be in the lead preventing a runaway leader problem. While most of the game involves players concentrating on their own hands and plans, there are some instances where the play of a card can leave another player with an additional Terror card or less gold than expected (even, sometimes, a positive effect like being able to draw another card) so there is some, although not a lot of, player interaction.
Since the emergence of Dominion (featured way back in the Winter 2009 issue of Gamers Alliance Report) onto the gaming scene, there have been many deck building games on the market. Some are very good and some not so much. Draconis Invasion is one of the good ones offering a dynamic deck builder full of strange and wondrous creatures and fast paced exciting game play. – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy
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