Liga: review of The Mysterious Dragon Cave

Dragon CaveDesigners: Carlo Emanuele Lanzavecchia & Walter Obert
Artist: Rolf Vogt
Publisher: Drei Magier Spiele
Players: 2−4
Age: 5+
Playing Time: 20 minutes

The little dragon on a big treasure hunt wants to collect as much as treasure as possible, and the players are eager to make this happen.

Design a game for kids is a great challenge for a game designer. You have two main constraints to follow: the game has to be simple and the game has to be fun. Kids are not wishful to play difficult games and they don’t like boring ones. Walter Obert already showed us his skill in designing fun games: Tokyo Train and Ugg-tect are good examples and also Carlo Emanuele Lanzavecchia has experience in designing simple games.

Kids like stories: dragons, princess, knights, elves and fairies are the best. What’s better than helping a little dragon hunting treasures ? Finally kids like games with nice graphic, good materials and something astonishing: this time is the dragon that, during the game, turn on his flame.

Here my review includina an interview to the two designers

The Rules

The game is simple and, as most of kids’ games, has memory’s elements. You have two cards in two different colors. You have to keep secret and they are your goals. The map show fields in the 6 different colors connected by trails. You throw your die and move the dragon along the trails the exact number of fields. Some fields are special and turn on the dragon’s flame. Exactly one field in each color can to that. If you are able to finish the dragon’s movement in a field of the color of one of the cards in your hand and the flame is turned on you collect the card and draw a new one. Playing the game, to collect the cards, you have to remember which fields are the one lighting on the flame. The first one collecting six cards win the game, You have always to move the dragon the full amount showed on the die and you can’t move on and back on the same trail.

Dragon Cave

[Liga] Is it designing a kids game easier or more difficult than a normal adult game ?

[Walter] I think is always difficult, but in different ways. In kids games you must to keep active the players for all the game, and it’s more and more difficult because today’s children are often overstimulated and their level of attention is lower than in past time.
[Carlo] A good recipe should be:
– an attractive, original feature
– a magic moment
– a visible, intuitive way to play
– good interaction or attention level request

The Game

What’s actually happening is that player roll the die moving the dragon on the fields discovering and trying to remember the special fields. Where to move the dragons ? Which path travel to reach the desired destination ? It is a game of small but important decisions that entertain and challenge kids. Of course it is a 5+ game and I think it is OK also for 6-7 years old. The map has two sides: simple and complex. Under the map there are two half-board activating the dragon lamp: you can combine the two maps in different ways actually changing from game to game the special fields positions.

[Liga] How much do you think is important for kids the materials and the theme ?

[Carlo & Walter] They are basic elements, but we prefer to feel the game as a coherent mix of pictures, stories, interaction, strategy and emotions too. Materials are the bricks for building the final result.

[Liga] How much do you think is important for kid the memory aspect of the game ?

[Carlo] It’s really important. On designer’s side, even a wrong move can teach you something, because you will be able to remember where is the right spot in the future.
[Walter] … and it’s almost impossible to beat children on memory skills!

It is fun ?

I played it with kids and, actually, it is fun. Kids like memory games much more than adults and the enlighten flame is the amazing thing they are looking for. The game is quick (10-15 minutes for a game) and simple. There is also one special face on the die displaying the Dragon. If you get it you can move the dragon anywhere on the map: as all the kids know Dragon are able to fly, sometimes.

Now some more quistions to Carlo and Walter

[Liga] In the prototype are you already thinking how to make the Dragon flame light ?

[Carlo & Walter] No, Edgar came later. In the beginning it was just a nice trick with reversal magnetism between a pawn and some hidden magnets under the gameboard. We started from the “WOW” element building all around it on a second time.

[Liga] Have you designed the game with the idea of the Dragon Hunt or more abstractly ?

[Carlo & Walter] We like to start design games with a basic idea of the theme. In this case, it was a mage with a large hat on his head. When he stopped on a good spot the hat jumped up, revealing two wide astonished eyes over it. It was great to view! Meanwhile Donald Ullman show drafts of little wonderful plastic things with electronic components inside to Drei Magier, and the result was Edgar. Thanks to the Schmidt / Drei Magier team and the wonderful pictures by Rolf Vogt!

[Liga] You are both Italians. How are you been in contact with Schmidt ?

[Walter] It always a pleasure meet Schmidt people at the fair. I really appreciate the care of every production detail and their special attention dealing with designers.
[Carlo] It’s our second game from Drei Magier after Die Verzauberten Rumpelriesen,. After the fair we remain in contact by email and it’s works well.

[Liga] How much do you think is important for a designer partecipate in designers’ events ?

[Carlo] I love to play other games because I feel inspiration doing this. One of best place to do this is IDEAG meetings, where italian designers join together testing their prototypes. During IDEAG you feel that all the persons don’t compete, but they are there to help you to improve you game. And with a lot of fun too. Walter is the founder of IDEAG.
[Walter] Yes, I am the guilty one! IDEAG is a network of meetings where designer share their ideas without fear and helps each other on their projects. It’s a winning formula, after 12 years I can say it.

[Liga] How was working with Carlo/Walter ?

[Walter] Carlo is full of ideas and he is a living database of games. Sometimes good ideas are not enough to make a good game, and I make my part on the process. On reverse, when I talk about a new idea, usually his answer is: “already done”, and we start again to mumble over.
[Carlo] Walter is a “Master” for me. When I was a child I played so much times with the “Vamipres” by Ravensburger. In the years after I know him (…and for me Obert was a german game designer!) and I appreciate so much his passion on game design.
He is an incredible volcano! All times he studies new concepts for games, new mechanics and new wow effect…and he is the only author that I can match when I had strange ideas (I mean really really strange!).
Walter was the first person that believe on my “gaming talent” and I will always be grateful for that.

Dragon Cave

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About Andrea "Liga" Ligabue

Andrea "Liga" Ligabue is a game expert contributing to many games related international projects including Gamers Alliance Report, WIN, ILSA Magazine and Boardgamenews. Member of the International Gamers Awards Committee is coordinator of Play - The Games Festival and founder of the project Ludoteca Ideale.
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