Draconis Invasion

It’s an awesome fantasy deck builder game!

I love the fact that Calgary is starting to house some of the best up-and-coming designers in the board gaming world. For example there’s Orin Bishop who came up with Steampunk Rally, Dr. Gordon Hamilton who created the highly anticipated Kickstarter Santorini, and even Gavan Brown and Matt Tolman who created the board game version of Super Motherload. All of these games published by Roxley Game Laboratory, a firm located in Calgary.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I went into Pips to start my shift and my manager told me that we would be distributing the Kickstarter game Draconis Invasion to those who had backed the game in Calgary. I’m going to be honest, I never really heard about the Kickstarter until that week, but when I went into the supply room, there were dozens of copies of this game littered all over. I could only imagine how many were sold nationally, and even all over the world.

I was asked to read up on this game so that if players had questions on how to play it, I would be able to show what to do. After reading the rules, and playing a round of it, I had to buy my own copy.

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Draconis Invasion is a dark fantasy deck building game created by Jeffrey Lai and is published by Keji games. In this game, you are protecting your kingdom from various invaders using your army of defenders.Each invader has different values of victory points and generally speaking, the more difficult the invader to defeat, the higher the victory points. The game ends either when a player successfully defeats six invaders, or when a retreat card is shown in the event deck, and the player who gets the most victory points wins.

Set-up, just like many deck builders, is pretty time consuming. You can use the preset choices provided by the game, or randomly select the cards that you will be playing with using the randomizer cards provided with the deck. Take out all these decks and place them face up on the table, as well as the default “Casualty of War” action cards and “Imperial Guard” defender cards. Place on the table the rest of the cards needed for the game. These include the money cards “Wealth”, “Treasure”, and “Fortune”, the Invader Cards, the campaign cards, the appropriate number of event cards, and the terror cards (yes there’s a lot of cards).  At the beginning of the game, the starting threat level also needs to be established by rolling the threat level die. Depending on what number you get will determine how many terror cards each player gets. And then you’re ready to begin.

Draconis Invasion has a turn based system called “A-BCD”. It is an acronym used to describe what you are able to do on your turn. A stands for action, which allows a player to play one of their action cards. Action cards will either help you gain more money, allow you to draw more cards, give you additional actions, trash cards you don’t want in your deck, or let you buy more cards during the buy phase. After you  have taken all your necessary actions, you can do either B, C, or D. B stands for buy, which allows you to buy a card from the common market. If you have the money available in your hand, you can purchase only one card, unless one of your actions allow you to purchase more. C stands for campaign. This allows you to take more campaign cards, which give you bonus points for defeating certain invaders.  Finally, D stands for defend. This is where you are using the defenders in your hand to defeat one of the face up monsters in the game. Blue invaders are typically easier to beat but earn you less victory points while gold invaders are tougher to beat, but give you more victory points. To use the defenders, you must have the available income in your hand. Their total attack value will determine whether or not you defeat a monster, and if you defeat the invader, you take that card and reveal a new one to the rest of the players. However, when you show a new invader, you must deal with the negative stuff found on the card you just unveiled. This could mean you draw less cards for your next turn, or add terror cards to your deck, which really clog up your ability to get good cards.

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On that note, terror cards add an interesting spin to the game mechanics. Terror cards slow down your capacity to make any worthwhile actions. They also increase the threat level that was established during setup. Every time a terror card would be discarded into a player’s discard pile, the threat level would increase by one. Once the terror die reaches six, then an event occurs, which usually affects the leading player, the one who had killed the most creatures. The terror die would then be reset again.

Playing this game for the first time, I said that this was practically like Dominion. So I started to play like Dominion. I tried to get myself cards that would chain additional actions,  get a few “Casualty of War” cards so I could discard cards that I  wouldn’t really need, and looked for ways to efficiently get more money. As I progressed, I started to realize quickly that I had to adjust some of my strategies that I would normally use for Dominion. For example, I decided to defeat an Invader because I had enough guards to do it. I quickly learned that because I was the leading player,  all of the events and essentially the terror cards would be targeted towards me. Terror cards are difficult to eliminate from your deck, so they became a pain to play with and eventually my opponents would overtake me in the end. It became apparent that timing was important. Defeat the invaders early, and you would be bombarded with all the bad cards clogging up your deck. Defeat the invaders too late, and you’re now playing catch up against your opponents.

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Another great thing about this game is that it’s a deck builder that supports six players. Most deck builders that I have seen are for a maximum of four players, so it’s nice that a game is trying to step out of that mould. My only concern is that a stack of cards can be instantly depleted, especially if it is a card that is popular among the group. My friends and I played with five players, and already certain stacks were gone because they were helpful in that player’s deck.

I also really appreciate the components of Draconis Invasion. The artwork on Draconis is spectacular. The cards are  created beautifully and stick to the dark fantasy theme. They are also durable, which I find is necessary for a deck builder. These cards will fill up the very sturdy box provided by the game, but only one column. This begs the question as to whether or not there are going to be more cards. I feel that although the current cards are great, there needs to be more.

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When reviewing Draconis Invasion, you have to compare it to its predecessor Dominion. Dominion, in my opinion, will always be a staple in the gaming community. Whenever a player wants to get involved with a deck builder, I teach them Dominion so that they understand the routine: play your cards, do the actions, possibly buy a card, discard, shuffle when necessary. Once they understand this mechanic, then many other deck builders will make more sense. Draconis Invasion is definitely a weightier game compared to Dominion. It still has the same routines, but now you have to consider many other facets as well.  It is almost guaranteed that your deck is going to be bogged down by terror cards that have been automatically been placed, as opposed to Dominion where most of the time the slowing down of the deck is caused by you purchasing victory point cards. I also liked the fact that there is a mechanic in place to slow down the leading player. This makes timing vital; it almost feels like that strategically you want to score your victory points all in one go so that you can end the game without being bombarded with too many terror cards, but as many Dominion players know, ending the game early may mean you don’t have enough points to win. There’s also the rule where you must use any monetary cards to activate the defender cards you have, which creates added pressure in deciding what actions you should do. All of these elements I really appreciate because it takes the current routine of deck building and adds both an interesting theme and compelling strategies.

Overall, I really like Draconis Invasion. If you have been a fan of Dominion, then this game will definitely push you further in  your ability to strategize in deck building games. Although I find Draconis Invasion to be a great game, it definitely has potential to grow. The box design is inviting more cards and expansions in it and I’m curious to see where it will go from here. I currently own the base game and the Kickstarter backers got more cards, so I can only speculate that there is more that you can do.  If you are into deck builders, then I highly recommend purchasing this one.

Pros: 

  • Beautiful artwork
  • Takes the deck-builder mechanic to a whole new level
  • Terror cards and events cause players to be more mindful of their timing
  • If you know what you’re doing, game is fairly short
  • Has much potential in expanding the game

Cons: 

  • It’s a deck builder. Setup is going to suck
  • It’s a deck builder. You’re going to have to a read a fair bit to understand stuff
  • Popular stacks of cards may be exhausted faster when playing with five to six players

 

 

 

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