Review – DrachenSchatten

DrachenSchatten: The Other, Other Essen Spiel ‘12 Filler
Designer: Jochen Schwinghammer
Publisher: Adlung-Spiele
Ages: 8+
Players: 2-4
Time: 15-20 mins

Reviewed by Luke Hedgren

2 Dudes at Essen Spiel ‘12

Hey dude, what’s happening?

Nothing, just trying to figure out if I can fit one more game in my suitcase. Terra Mystica looks alright, but that box is huge. It probably won’t be that great anyway. Sounds kinda dumb, actually. Play anything cool?

Yeah, so, I played this really cool filler, You should grab it..

I think I know the one you are talking about. It’s been getting some buzz.

Its a card game, really simple, comes in a small box. It has these cards that are actions…

Oh, yeah, and each player has 2 of them, face down. You do an action, and others can call your bluff. It’s called Coup, right? Small company, will never get widely distributed I bet.

Uh, no, see, it’s a really simplistic design. You just draw one card each turn, an…..

Ah, yeah, yeah, I played that. Only 16 cards, totally luck based. Seems totally random. Some Japanese thing. Love Letter, right? Seems like a dud.

No. Its not that, either. It’s called DrachenSchatten. You know, Dragon’s Shadow.

The dragon did what?

Classy. Anyway, there are 8 piles of town cards, and 8 piles of dungeon cards, face down. Each turn you draw a card from one of two groups of piles of cards. Basically, you either go to town, to get an item card, or you go to the dungeon, to encounter a monster, get a better item, or get some treasure.

When you choose one or the other, then what?

You just flip a card from one of the piles. That’s it.

Sounds……fun? I guess.

Well, that’s not totally all of it. Other than flipping a card over, you can use any of your items you’ve already collected, before or after flipping. But, you can only ever use an item once for the whole game. Then they are tapped.

[cough] Trademark/copyright/patent/something infringement [cough]

Ok, “used”, whatever.

What do the cards do?

Stuff like let you look ahead at the cards you flip, take extra turns, reuse a different used item, protect you from monsters, steal or destroy other people’s items….

Oh, it’s one of those kind of games. I get the item that lets me take another turn, and before I even get to use it, you steal it. Lame!

No, it’s not like that. You can’t steal or destroy an item until after it has been used. So, you always get to use the items you draw.

Now, why is it useful to steal or destroy a used item? It’s already spent, right?

Well, that’s one of the ways to win. If you collect 7 different items, you win the game.

Sounds, um, very exciting. And dragon-y. [rolls eyes]

Well, there are two other ways to win, too, smartass. You can kill 3 monsters…

Now you are talking. How do I kill? I like killing monsters.

You collect a monster killing item, then you run into the right kind of monster in the dungeon piles. You tap, er, use your item, and poof, dead monster. Do that 3 times to win.

You say “monsters”, plural?

There are mostly dragons, but there are a few hydras mixed in so that you don’t feel too safe when adventuring with just a dragon-protecting item.

Safe? Safe from what?

Oh, sorry, so if you run into a monster without protection, you lose all your cards.

Like, “all” all? Even all my previously killed monsters?

Yeah, all.

Ugh. So, I can collect stuff (boring) or I can kill stuff (awesome). You said there was a third way to win?

The dungeon piles have treasures. Get 3 to win. No special equipment needed.

If there is one thing I like more than killing monsters, it’s getting treasure. I think I’m going straight for that.

That’s actually a valid strategy, I’ve found. Early on, you don’t have anything to lose in going to the dungeon. Like, literally, nothing to lose. [Edit – This is actually not quite right. See below. – Luke] So, go there, maybe grab an early treasure, or nice item or two, first. Once you have something to lose, go to the town for some monster protection.

Oh, yeah? Hmm, sounds like you’ve played a bunch?

Yeah, I love it. Its easy to explain. Takes about 15 minutes, tops. Plays 2-4. Thematic. I mean, the torch lets you look at what’s ahead, and the boots let you take another turn.

Just like in real life.

Exactly. The 3 winning conditions really dovetail into one another well. You might get a treasure, then get a dragon shield to protect your treasure, and decide that monsters is the way to go. Halfway there, you realize that you almost have the 7 items you need to win. And, it’s not too “take-that”-y. Stealing and destroying items is all in the name of getting to a win condition, not (necessarily) out of spite.

Sounds like you need to play it risky to win, then?

Not necessarily. There are just enough unique items in the safe town pile to allow a slow, safe item victory, too. I’ve seen all three win conditions multiple times, and different levels of risky-ness take the victory as well.

Fine, you talked me into it. Where is the Adlung booth?

Its over there. On the way, wanna stop by the IELLO booth? The line should be pretty short to get that Richard Garfield card signed, right?

Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers

Dale Yu: OK, I wouldn’t have even picked this one up at Essen (and in fact, I didn’t…)  But Luke is in my group, and he loves this game, and as a result, I’ve probably played it about 4,235 times since Essen 2012.  And you know what, of the Adlung games, this is one of the best that I’ve played both in terms of fun as well as staying power.  It’s a little 15 minute game that fits in your pocket that always elicits groans or cheers when the mystery chosen card is flipped over.  Having three different win conditions keeps the game from feeling same-y, and there are just enough item cards that allow you “attack” the other players to give you choices on what to do.  In the end, the player who chooses the best random cards will win the game, but hey – sometimes that’s just what you need!

Joe Huber (played twice): Well, there is a game in the box.  But – there’s a huge amount of luck involved, and not a lot of productive options.  The second game I played was a good example of this – the first player drew, on the first two turns, protection against dragons and hydras.  Then on three of the next four turns, he drew treasures; the other turn, he drew an object, so he was never in danger.  It’s not an unpleasant game – but I disagree strongly with Dale that it stands up to Adlung’s best.  I’d far rather play Adlungland, or Winhard, or Kathai, or Die Fugger – or, from Essen 2012, Like Dice.  It’s not the Adlung game I’ve enjoyed least, certainly – but I feel no need to own it, or even any great willingness to play it again.  If you’re picking up a dragon-themed game from Adlung, Zauberschwert & Drachenei (from the same designer) is a much better choice in my opinion.

Dan Blum: I mostly agree with Joe here. It’s not awful, but there’s very little going on; in particular, the decisions you make are based on almost no information, so you might as well flip a coin most of the time (unless you have a torch, of course, but in that case the decision is usually too easy). I think there are too many cards in the game: with, say, half the number of cards it wouldn’t take many turns before you can actually use your knowledge of the cards drawn to make decisions.

I also should note that Luke is wrong when he says that at the start you might as well go to the cave because you have nothing to lose: since everyone starts with a village card, you always have at least one card to lose.

(Luke – Huh, totally missed that rule. Doesn’t change much except my too strong claim of “literally nothing to lose.” Fine, how about “not much to lose.” Thanks, Dan.)


4 (Love it!): Luke Hedgren
3 (Like it): John P, Dale Y
2 (Neutral):  Joe Huber, Dan Blum
1 (Not for me):

About Lucas Hedgren

Lucas Hedgren likes playing, designing, reading about, thinking about, and writing about games.
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1 Response to Review – DrachenSchatten

  1. Marcel says:

    This is a great example of why the OG review format (where other people chime in with extra comments) is so useful.
    After reading Luke and Dale’s opinion, I thought “I need to get this game ASAP”. Then after reading Joe and Dan’s comments – “Ok, I don’t need this after all.”
    It’s only an Adlung game, so you guys havent’s saved me a lot of money, but still – thanks.

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