Review of The Draugr

The Draugr

Designer: Todd Sanders
Artist: Harry Clarke
Publisher: BGG
Players: 1
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 20 minutes
Times Played: 6 (review copy provided by BGG)

OK, Google, what is a Draugr.  Oh, so it’s like a Norwegian zombie?
Alright, let’s see what this is all about.

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In The Draugr, your playing area is a 3×5 grid representing locations and townsfolk being draugred. These are dealt randomly, and a different one of the 6 Draugrs are assigned to each row. There’s a token representing you as you go to see different locations and persons to fight the draugrs, prevent corruption, and remove corruption.

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Corruption is tracked by double-sided red markers which show 1 or 2 corruption starbursts. The Draugerry are defeated by a combination of iron markers and holy water as reflected in their art. Your supply of markers is held in the Town Square, and you begin with 2 of each. Through the actions of the townsfolk and buildings, these markers will be moved onto The Draugrs.  Once defeated, you regain these markers to your Town Square.

Turns have two major phases- one of the Draugrs will act and then you act.

For the Drauggery, one will be activated each turn, and this determines which row will be corrupted. The game comes with a marker for each of the Draugrs, and you’ll need a system for picking one: you can shuffle and choose, draw from a cup, or as some resourceful players have done, convert the six faces to the sides of a die.

Now that you have the row, repeat this procedure a second time, as each Draugr chit also has one of the game’s symbols on it, and you’ll add a corruption marker to any of the locations or townsfolk in that row which show that symbol.

(There is a potential third time through the procedure as well.  Two of the Draugrs have a special ability of sorts which could rob you of some resources from the Town Square. If either of these is pulled in the first step, perform the third pull to see if it happens and which resources you may lose.)

Once a card reaches 4 red starbursts of corruption, it is considered “Corrupted” – locations can still be used, but townsfolk cannot.  Additionally, “Corrupted” cards can never have corruption removed.

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For the player’s phase, they may move 1 or 2 spaces and trigger the ability of the space or person at the destination.  These will include gaining new resources, applying resources to the Draugr, removing corruption, and preventing corruption. There are spaces which activate adjacent locations and spaces which activate adjacent townsfolk.

There are also a few exceptions. You can’t move to a building that was activated in either of the last two turns, and you can’t activate townsfolk who have been corrupted- though you can activate corrupted buildings. Two cards also allow you to remain and not move.

Victory is the bodies of 4 Draugrs at your feet, and a loss is each of the 7 townsfolk corrupted [4 red starbursts] or any 8 cards corrupted.

The game also comes with an expansion of sorts consisting of three additional Draugrs and the corresponding chits.  With these Draugrs, once defeated, a certain event is triggered – adding corruption to the row or column where you are, or losing resources from the Town Square. (These triggers are interesting, but the other side of that coin is that their chits have two symbols on them, so the odds of adding a corruption to cards in a row during the second pull is increased!)

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The Draugr has a number of interesting things going on.  I didn’t say it above, but once a Draugr is draugrred, you slide an adjacent Draugr to cover an additional row.  Now, the deceased’s token is a free turn when drawn with no additional corruption added. On the other hand, the one playing zone offense will now trigger two (or three) rows when drawn.  

The fancy two, which trigger the third pull and deplete your resources, are an obvious target as your first slaughter, but are intertwined in such a way that it can be tough to take one down.  The others are easier to defeat, but you have the fancy two hanging over your head sniping your stuff. Who do you go for first? Who do you go for second – another on the same side as the first?  If so, the third should almost certainly be on that side again, as now you’re back to one Draugr per row– Or do you fight several at once to avoid the potential double/triple row Draugrerry?

–All the while deciding between card abilities which handle corruption levels or fighting the Drauggery.

I enjoy the restrictive nature of the movement, as often the card which seems helpful is just one step too far -and other times on the far side of the board. I do wish though that there was an easier way to track the restrictions on where I can move – some elegant way to mark where I was the turn before.

I would’ve appreciated some tighter language on the cards or a crib sheet to expand on the predictable FAQ type questions (though I’m ultimately going to take a different approach to the card language below).

The art on the Draugrs is beautiful*, and I love the matte finish and card stock choices.  That said, some of the other graphic design choices I think take away from the experience.

[*It hadn’t occurred to me that the drawings were anything other than custom artwork for the game, as I’m used to such illustrations being, but thanks to a tip from the fellas over at Low Player Count, I have learned that in fact, Harry Clarke passed away in 1931.  Much of the illustrations originally seemed to have appeared in a 1919 edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination. See more about it here.]

For instance – telling apart the locations and the townsfolk cards.  The title font color is slightly different, but not significantly. The people have a “C” in a box at the bottom, but it’s subtle. Each card of both sets start with a “The”, but this may have been another point where the cards could have been differentiated. A sharper distinction would make the game flow smoother at several points such as determining if you’ve lost; determining which adjacent cards can be triggered by certain abilities; and which cards cannot be activated once corrupted–

That last point shouldn’t be a problem (and even determining if you’ve lost), as the rules state that once a townsfolk is corrupted, the markers are removed, and the card flipped face down.  I chose not to do this in my plays, as there is a card which allows you to activate adjacent townsfolk –even if corrupted–, so face down would make this awkward.

The other art choice that gummed things up for me was using text for the card abilities over iconography. I consistently found myself in a position where I need more holy water, or wanted to add an iron marker to a Draugr, or another game function, but needed to read each card on the board to find which cards could do that.  (In one play, I hand wrote a chart with some icons as a cheat sheet for myself.)

With some language-neutral iconography, scanning the board would be a smoother process, and I think “smooth” is the right word. None of this is ultimately a problem, but the extra drag added to the game’s momentum -each time I stopped to determine location vs. townsfolk or look for a card ability I wanted- piles up. A “smoother” presentation would likely lower the drag coefficient enough that it might raise my rating from “Neutral” to “I like it”.


Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

I love it!
I like it.
Neutral. James Nathan
Not for me…

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