Draconis Invasion (Game Review by Chris Wray)

  • Designer:  Jeff Lai
  • Publisher:  KEJI Inc.
  • Players:  1 – 6
  • Ages:  14 and Up
  • Time:  30-90 Minutes
  • Times Played:   > 5 (On Review Copy from Publisher)

Draconis box upd.png

I’m a big fan of deck building games, and between Clank, El Dorado, and a others, we’re still seeing new twists on the genre several years after the release of Dominion, the genre’s founding game.

I was offered the chance to review Draconis Invasion, a “medieval fantasy deck-building game” by Jeff Lai.  Each player is a hero charged by the King to gather an army and crush the dark forces.  Although the players are fighting a common enemy, there will be only one victor among them at the end.  

I’ve enjoyed my plays, and if you’re a fan of deck building games, I recommend Draconis Invasion.  

Gameplay Walkthrough

The goal of the game is to defeat invaders and complete campaigns, and the game will end when either (1) a player has beaten six invaders, or (2) the event deck has run out.  At that point, the player with the most glory points on his or her invaders/campaigns wins.

Each player starts the game with 12 cards: 5 “Imperial Guard” defender cards (used to attack), and 7 “Wealth” gold cards (used to buy new cards).  Players shuffle these and draw six.  Players also receive four campaign cards: they select two and discard two.  (Campaign cards add bonuses for defeating certain invaders.)  Finally, a dice is rolled to determine the starting “threat” level (more on that below), and players may receive additional cards into their discard pile.

On a player’s turn, he’ll follow the “A-BCDE-F” system, which mostly resembles what players are accustomed to in a deck-builder.  (The first version of the game omitted the “E” and “F” parts below.)

DraconisCards

A sample set up.  Terror and gold cards are at the top.  Action cards are in the next row.  Defender cards are in the third row.  The last two rows are invaders and campaigns.

First, the player may take one Action by reading its text and following its instructions.  Players start with no action cards, so they’ll be acquiring them over the course of the game.  Next, they player may either Buy, Campaign, Defeat, or Eliminate.  You can only do one of these actions, which speeds up the game nicely.  

  • Buying means buying a card and placing it in your discard pile.  
  • Campaign means taking two campaign cards, either from the top of the deck or from the face-up display of three.  These are worth glory (i.e. victory) points at the end of the game.
  • Defeat means using your defender cards to defeat an invader, paying gold as necessary as well.  When a new invader is revealed to replace the defeated one, resolve its effects.
  • Eliminate means trashing a non-terror card from your hand, removing it from the game.  

Finally, players may Forward one unused gold card from their hand onto their draw pile.  Then, as in a standard deck building game, players discard their hand and draw six new cards.

Throughout the game, players will accumulate terror cards, which can really clog up a deck.  When these are discarded, the threat level (as indicated on a die) moves up one level.  When the threat level hits six, an event card is drawn and resolved by the upcoming player.  Event cards generally have a negative effect on the player that has defeated the most invaders.  In the middle of the game, the threat level only matters for triggering events, although the starting threat level can affect the cards in the game (as described above).

Once again, the game ends when (1) a player has beaten six invaders, or (2) the event deck has run out.  At that point, the player with the most glory wins.  There are a few more rules — including variants for solo play and two-players — but that description should give a feel for the game.  

My Thoughts on the Game…

If you like deck building games, I bet you’ll like Draconis Invasion.  The fast gameplay — which is faster than in most deck builders — and variable setup make this an addictive little game.  Throw in the artwork, and I see why this has great ratings over at BGG.

The clever twist here is that gameplay moves faster than in other deck building games.  You generally only get one action, and in some games, you might not even be buying that many actions to execute.  (You don’t start with any, so you’ll have to buy them.)  After your action, you then get a choice of one thing — buy, campaign, defeat, or eliminate — to do next, whereas other games might allow you to do all of those things.  It speeds up the turns and makes for a quick trip around the table.  

Draconis Invasion is very easy to learn, with the “A-BCDE-F” system making intuitive sense, especially to those of us that have played a few deck-builders.  One advantage of the genre is that many of the rules are on the cards, thus the game is easy to teach.  On top of that streamlined mechanic, Draconis Invasion uses an effective iconography and a well-written and organized rulebook.  

The artwork is stunningly beautiful.  (Please forgive my terrible photography!)  This is easily the most attractive deck builder I’ve played.  I’m not a huge fan of the medieval fantasy theme, but I know a lot of gamers will be.  

The most controversial part of the game, at least with the people I’ve played with, is the terror cards.  I think they’re a clever addition to the game: when combined with the event deck, they make an effective timer for the game, and they do operate as a bit of a catchup mechanic.  But I can also see why they’d be frustrating: they really can clog up the deck, and they can be hard to avoid.

Like its predecessor, Dominion, Draconis Invasion features highly variable gameplay.  There are about 500 cards in the box, and you could make practically endless scenarios.  The game comes with 10 recommended “battle stages,” which are a nice touch.  

Overall, I’m impressed. If you’re a fan of the deck-building genre, I enthusiastically recommend this game.  Given the high replayability, tremendous artwork, and fun gameplay, there’s a lot of value in the box.  

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!  
  • I like it.  Chris Wray
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

 

 

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