Matt Carlson: Dragon’s Breath

It’s always a fine line to create a boardgame playable by children, but yet contains enough of a seed of strategy so that adults will also find it entertaining.  Dexterity components or memorization aspects are both popular mechanics to employ in order to “even out” a game’s challenges between young and old. Dragon’s Breath has a small dexterity component (players lift rings off of a column, causing the gems inside to spill out) but the game primarily revolves around betting on the expected results (which colors of gems will spill out the most.)  Since the gem spilling is fairly chaotic, the game does not need to handicap the adults. However, this does mean the game isn’t able to capture the interest of older gamers. 

Dragon’s Breath
Designers: Günter Burkhardt, Lena Burkhardt
Publisher: HABA
Players: 2-4
Ages: 5+
Time: 15-20 minutes
(review copy provided by publisher)

Dragon’s Breath is a straightforward game whose components are sure to turn the heads of any child (or adult) who likes a bit of sparkly bling in their life.  The game is played inside the bottom of the box which has been divided into sections. A column of blue translucent rings is formed in the middle and then transparent gems of five different colors are poured inside.  This results in a lovely blue column full of sparkly gems, and manages to capture the theme of little dragons trying to melt down a column of ice to capture the gems inside.

The game is played in rounds, one round per blue translucent ring.  Players examine the stack of gems inside the column and try to predict which gems will fall out.  Starting to the left of the active player, players pick up a token to indicate which of the five colors are most likely to spill out.  Thus, the active player has the last choice of color. The active player then removes the top-most ring and allows the gems to fall onto the box.  There are a few holes in the box, so occasionally a gem or two will fall through and not be able to be claimed by a player. Once the gems have settled, each player claims any gems of their chosen color and bank them behind their baby dragon standee to be counted at the end of the game.  The active player then passes to the left and a new round begins, starting with the choosing of gem colors. Since the active player has the last choice in color, they will typically be motivated to let as few gems fall as possible since they are most likely to be in a color favorable to an opponent.  The game continues until all the rings have been removed (at the bottom there is a cardboard disc so any gems remaining on the disc do not count as having fallen out.) The covering over the box is removed and players can count up the gems they have banked. The player with the most gems wins.

The pieces here are marvelous, which is a good thing to have in a kid’s game where one is trying to attract the attention of the younger set.  Sure, there is some estimation to be had in picking out which color will be most likely to fall, however I found that there was often a key level or two in the game where one color was able to pay out substantially.  So while the chaotic nature of the gems falling was a nice variable, fair to all, some games boiled down to one or two levels where the player with first pick of the colors was able to scoop up an abnormal amount of gems.  However, from a pure kid’s perspective, the game stands up well. It’s pretty, easy to understand, easy to play, and that makes for a solid kid’s game with an “I like it” ranking by me. If you want one of those slightly more advanced kid/adult hybrid games, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Opinions from other Opinionated Gamers

Dale Y:  (4 plays, only one with all adults) – this is a fantastic game for younger gamers.   There is a bit of skill involved, some risk taking, and sometimes some good old fashioned luck that comes into play.  The end of the game usually involves squealing/excited yelling as there always seems to be some surprise when the box floor is lifted and the score revealed.  That being said, this is a game that failed miserably with all adults. Which isn’t a fault of the game (IMHO) – this is meant to be a kids game; it just doesn’t seem to translate well to adult play which is a trait that many older HABA games have, and I think I unfairly expect all their games to now fit that criteria.  This is a well deserved Kinderspiel winner, and this is one of the games that I keep on quick re-order at my favorite internet retailer when we need to send a gift to a gaming child (or one we want to get interested in gaming).

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it!
I like it.  Matt Carlson, Dale Y
Not for me…

About Matt J Carlson

Dad, Gamer, Science Teacher, Youth Pastor... oh and I have green hair. To see me "in action" check out Dr. Carlson's Science Theater up on Youtube...
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1 Response to Matt Carlson: Dragon’s Breath

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