- Designer: Robert J. Hudecek
- Publisher: Z-Man Games
- Players: 2-5
- Ages: 13+
- Time: 30 minutes
- Times played: 3, with review copy provided by Z-Man Games
Dragon Farkle is the “grown up” version of the classic mass market dice roller known as Farkle. In the original version, players take turn rolling dice trying to score points based on certain dice combinations. This new version of the game tries to add a few more strategic points into the game in an attempt to attract a more serious sort of gamer to play Farkle.
In the game, each player gets a colored set of 6 dice. They also have a nice player mat which outlines the flow of a turn as well as giving a handy reference of which dice combination score points. Each player is also dealt a Companion card – this card gives the player a certain ability which is unique to that Companion. The Dragon is set in the center of the table – the first player to inflict three damage points on the Dragon in a single turn will win the game.
On a turn, players have their choice of three options: Recruit, Brawl, or Attack the Dragon.
To Recruit – players roll their 6 colored dice as well as the orange event die. In general, you look at your die roll and then you must set aside at least one scoring die. If you cannot do so, you have “farkled” which means that your turn is over and you gain nothing on the turn. If you are able to set aside at least one scoring die, you take soldier counters from the supply matching that amount and place them in a temporary bank. You then decide if you want to end your turn and lock in your winnings – you add the temporary bank to your player mat. Or, you can press your luck and roll the remaining non-set-aside dice to try to score more soldiers. Of course, if you Farkle – you will lose any previously accumulated scoring tokens in the temporary bank. If you score all remaining dice in a roll, you could choose to end your turn or you could choose to keep going and roll all 6 colored dice and the event die on your next roll.
But the action isn’t as simple as that… you also roll the orange event die EVERY time that you roll at least one of your colored dice. The event die has 4 blank sides, a crossed axes side and a dragon side. The result of the event die determines what you do on that particular roll
- Blank – nothing special happens – you collect tokens for your scoring dice
- Rally (crossed axes) – you either double the scoring value of set aside dice OR you take the face value of set aside dice AND you get to draw a Magic item card from the supply. Magic Cards are one-time use special actions that break the normal rules of the game. You can only have one Magic card in your possession at the end of any given turn.
- Dragon – you must set aside ALL scoring dice, but you do not get any scoring tokens for these. If you do not have any scoring dice (i.e. you Farkle), you may choose to ignore that Farkle if the Dragon face is showing on the event die
To Brawl – the active player chooses one other player to brawl with. These two players have a head-to-head battle. First, the active player is the attacker; he starts with all 6 of his colored dice and the event die and has a full turn as noted above. Whenever his turn is over, his accumulated scoring tokens represent his brawling strength this turn – note that this could be zero if he farkled. Then, the defending player gets a chance to roll; though he only gets to use 5 colored dice on his turn. The defender keeps going until he chooses to end his turn (or he Farkles). The accumulated scoring tokens from his turn are his defending force. The attacking and defending numbers are compared, and the loser of the battle must give the winner a number of soldiers equal to the difference in their forces. Additionally, the winner gets an additional 500 soldiers from the bank.
The final option is to fight the dragon. This can only be done once you have at least 5000 soldiers in your army. If you choose to do this, your turn will continue until you either Farkle, your entire army is defeated, or you succeed in slaying the dragon (and win the game)! When you fight the dragon, you roll your colored die and the event die. You set aside any scoring dice, but instead of collecting armies, the score is automatically subtracted from your army on your player mat – these are the armies that are eaten by the dragon.
This type of turn also uses the event die – but the sides are interpreted slightly differently
- Blank – nothing special happens
- Dragon – you inflict one point of damage against the Dragon
- Rally (crossed axes) – you inflict two points of damage against the Dragon
The rules for Farkling are also a little different – you only Farkle if you do not lose any soldiers (i.e. no scoring dice are rolled) AND you do not inflict any damage to the Dragon.
If you do not defeat the dragon, it automatically heals all wounds and waits for the next challenger. If you are able to hit it with three points of damage, you win the game!
My Thoughts on the Game
At it’s heart, the base game of Farkle is a light push-your-luck game that is not encumbered with too many rules. Just roll, roll, roll, and try to decide when to stop to lock in your points for the turn. There’s not much more to the game than that. Dragon Farkle is a decent attempt to “gamify” the original game. The players start asymmetrically with different starting powers in their Companions. Each player has the option of two different actions on a basic turn – one of which creates a little bit of player interaction because you can Brawl with someone. The Magic Item cards also give you a chance to take advantage of certain tactical positions to make an unexpected play. Finally, the game also has the potential with a more climactic ending as you are not simply playing to a target score, but rather you have to also be able to succeed against the Dragon on your final turn. Does the new version of the game succeed? Honestly, it’s kind of a mixed bag…
The new version of the game is definitely more interesting than the base game. I would think that most experienced gamers would prefer this version. Early in the game, it seems to make sense to mostly just recruit to build up your own army; but once they armies on the board get larger, it may make more sense to Brawl in order to try to increase your own army at the expense of one of your opponents. This causes a fair amount of interaction between players, and any interaction is better than the base game where there is nothing else to do but watch your opponent when it’s their turn.
Yet, this head-to-head attack can also prolong the game. In our first few games, when someone was getting close to 5,000 armies; the other players in the game would then all try to attack him to bring him under the target number. This might then cause someone else to go over the limit; and then the focus of the attacks would shift to that person. At least the target number in Dragon Farkle is only 5,000. To win a game of regular Farkle, a player needs 10,000 points.
The Event die is a nice addition to the game. It adds yet another element of luck to the dice roll, but it also spices up play a bit. There are times when you do have to make difficult decisions about whether or not to double up scores with a Rally event or to give up those extra armies and take an Event card instead. The one thing that I do not like about the Event die is that it has different functions based on what type of turn you are taking. In my opinion, for a game that already includes 31 dice, I would have preferred the game to also include a second custom die for the Final Battle with different icons for one hit and two hits on the Dragon.
Overall, the artwork for the game is well done. I especially like the crisp clean art on the Companion cards. The dice are of good quality, and it’s nice to have enough included for each player to have their own set – you possibly could have only needed 12 or 13 dice, but they include 31 in the box so that you only have to pass around the Event die. My only quibble with the components is that there doesn’t seem to be enough counters in the smaller denominations. We’re constantly coloring up so that people can make change or take small gains from the bank after the midpoint of the game.
The length of our games vary, though in all three of my plays so far, the game has felt like it has slightly overstayed its welcome by the time the end finally comes. I’d prefer this to be more in the 15-20 minute range as opposed to the 30-45 minute time frame. Some of the game length comes from my group’s tendency to continually pounce upon anyone who might have a chance to attack the Dragon. The first person who reaches 5,000 likely has up to three consecutive Brawls coming his way as the other players try to reduce him below this threshold. This tactic often succeeds, and it takes awhile to get high enough above the target to make it through the attacks. But other than that, it’s a fairly light game that is a filler-type game though a bit long for that slot. I’ll still probably always play this over regular Farkle because there is more of a game here for the same amount of time/effort.
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Craig V: “It’s Farkle with theme!” and “It’s Farkle with a purpose!” were a couple of the comments I heard while teaching Dragon Farkle to others. I think those sound bites sum up the game fairly well. In my opinion, the primary dice-rolling push-your-luck mechanism of Farkle works quite well and is fun as a filler-type game. The regular Farkle game is fairly abstract and is just about getting points. Dragon Farkle is still that, but takes it a step or two further with the event die, magic cards, character powers and fighting the dragon at the end. The game is easy to teach, but downtime between turns and the game overall can both sometimes run too long. I really like the artwork on the character and magic items cards though.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it.
- Neutral. Dale Y, John P, Craig V
- Not for me…