PAX Australia has always been a great opportunity to try a lot of new games and this year was no different. I am still slowly working through all the new toys and on top of my pile was Dragoborne, the new CCG game from Bushiroad. Yeah, the name is pretty bad. It’s too close to dragonborn and… why does it feel so unnatural to say ‘Drago’? Anyway, the name aside, the game is quite fun and uses quite a few unique and interesting elements.
Dragoborne is played with each player using a single deck and three separate banners that are laid out before the match. The banners are your starting resources. After the decks are shuffled, two cards are placed face down in the forts in front of each of your banners. They act as your life points and undefended attacks to one of your forts will cause you to lose a life point there. Lose both and the fort has fallen. Lose all of them and the game is over. The game is played with each player playing creatures and ambush (think ‘trap’) cards and attacking each others’ forts. Whenever a card in a fort is destroyed, it is revealed and put into the owner’s hand. This mechanic, coupled with some cards having abilities that activate when they are destroyed, acts as the games main comeback mechanic.
The game also adds a dice roll mechanic to every turn. Each player brings three dice that match the colour of their banners. At the start of every turn, the player rolls their dice and uses the result to reinforce either their fort or their creatures. Now, a lot of CCG players could be turned off by dice rolls but the mechanic tries to temper the luck element and simply make it another layer of tactical decision the player has to make. You see, the number on the dice only counts when reinforcing a fort or a bonus effect on certain cards. You can also only reinforce a fort with the dice that match the colour of its banner behind it so you will have to factor that in to the deck building process. Using too many in your deck will make your dice allocation less flexible. When used to reinforce a creature, it simply counts as a +1/+1 no matter what the number you rolled is. However, the creatures can also have abilities that activate when a die is reinforcing it. These abilities can sometimes reference the number on or colour of the dice as well. As you can see, Dragoborne tries to add a lot of depth to its dice rolling mechanics.
Overall, Dragoborne is fast and fun. The games can be swingy with its built in comeback mechanics but I feel that’s more preferable to the steamrolling that can happen in some games. Since defence is very important to the game, removal tends to be very powerful and the endgame can get quite intense. Some competitive players will be turned off by the luck elements of the life card reveals, as well as the dice rolling mechanic, but they make the game fun in a unique way. Overall, Dragoborne is quite interesting and has some great potential.
In the art department, Dragoborne excels! As is expected of a Japanese card game, there is a real emphasis on the card’s physical real estate. Every single card is almost comparable to full art versions from other card games and the art is crisp and eye grabbing. The settings mishmash of anime, sci-fi, fantasy, and mythology also lends very well to the unique nature of the art. The only detraction some might feel about the art direction is that some of it is… shall we say, ‘thirsty’? Almost every female characters has their feminine features accentuated and a lot of them are in compromising poses. This is going to be a turn off to some and an attraction to others, so I though it important to mention.
Dragoborne launched with its premier set and three starter decks. The 4th starter deck and the second set have just released so it’s a perfect time to jump on board. The barrier of entry is pretty low, especially with those starter decks being pretty good for their price. If you are looking for a TCG that has a unique blend of tried and true mechanics and pretty great art direction check out Dragoborne at your local game store.
While I didn’t play the game at PAX like Lin did (time always being the issue) I did pick the game up once I had returned home and have been playing it at my local gaming store once a week. I come from a background of Magic: The Gathering and Call of Cthulhu Living Card Game. I enjoy the interaction of MtG, while I prefer the combat strategy of Call of Cthulhu. Dragoborne, in many regards, is a hybrid of both and one of those games that I expect will consist of ‘Best of One’ rather than ‘Best of Three’ matches, simply because of the amount of time, thought and strategy that goes into each combat phase.
As Lin mentioned the game does include an added element of luck in the form of the dice and card burst, however the dice feel very subtle and only influence the game in very minor ways, typically for the better (I’ve not seen a card yet that penalizes you for a dice having a particular value). It’s definitely nothing like the RNG of Hearthstone.
Bushiroad are a fairly big name when it comes to TCG’s, having made some of the biggest and best Japanese TCG’s to come out of South-East Asia in recent years. It’s interesting then that Dragoborne was specifically designed for Western audiences. While the artwork does have a slight anime look at times, a lot of the creatures and artwork is more typical of something you would find in a Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. The game did not receive a Japanese language release either, with Dragoborne only available in English.
Interaction isn’t quite on par yet, and the first release had very little of it. More to come though I’m told and future expansions will (apparently) create more card interaction and hopefully bring us up to par with Force of Will at the very least.
Boosters are a little pricey considering there are only eight cards in each, however the card pool per set is quite small when compared to other TCG’s so getting that particular rare card might actually mean it’s rare and worth a few dollars. This might mean that despite the number of cards in the pack and the price per pack, the potential card value in that pack could easily match or exceed purchase price. Too early to tell if we will see much of a secondary market just yet. It’s also the sort of game that I intend to ease into slowly, only buying a booster or two each week rather than whole boxes. Trading with local players will also get me what I want much quicker and much cheaper.
From the matches I’ve played (quite a few now) they are typically fairly close, often coming down to the last health on both sides. That’s great, I love balanced games and close matches. Hopefully Bushiroad can maintain the meta and keep the game balanced going forward.
Overall I’m really enjoying my time with Dragoborne and I’m very keen to see what the future holds for this particular TCG. I strongly urge you to check it out at your local game store.
Dragoborne Official Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/Dragoborne/
Dragoborne Official Australian Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/DragoborneAU/
Dragoborne Official Website – https://www.dragoborne.com/index
A huge thank you to Oz Animart for supplying us with the initial intro decks and boosters required to perform this review.