How to Play Seven Dragons
Playing Seven Dragons
When I first bought Seven Dragons by Looney Labs, I was expecting something a little different than I got, but I can't say that it was a bad discovery. What I thought was going to be a game that featured various leagues of dragons battling each other with various special powers, actually turned out to be a fairly interesting and strategic version of dominoes.
All of the cards feature the gorgeous artwork of Larry Elmore, king of fantasy dragon art, and a good game of Seven Dragons will last up to 30 minutes. The rules take a matter of minutes to learn, and where there is a lot of luck of the draw that goes into playing, the more you play, you will find that the strategy will get more and more fierce. Add in a few friends, and it gets more vicious as the board, or your winning condition, is different every time it gets back to your turn.
What I loved about the game is that it is the type of game that is going to be easily understood by children as well as adults so that you can play it with anyone. Be careful though, there is something about Seven Dragons and the young mind that make them strangely great at the game, having lost to my 10 year old nephew more than once. The rules even offer you a few variants to get your little guys into playing the game slowly, introducing the rules at a more lenient pace until they are ready for a full session.
How to Play Seven Dragons
At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt one card that is defined as their winning condition. This card simply has the picture of one of the five dragons on it. The object of the game is to have seven of the same dragons in a row somewhere on the gameboard.
(Note: There are only six different kinds of dragons in the game, consisting of red, green, blue, yellow, black, and the starting silver dragon. The "seven" in Seven Dragons refers to the way to win, not the amount of dragons. This fact also initially confused me so I figured I'd be clear with you upfront.)
If you are playing with less than five players, the excess cards go off to the side. They still might be used as at times your winning card can (and will) change throughout the game. The silver dragon is placed in the center of the board as the starting 'wild card' and each player is dealt three cards which will either have a game changing action or various domino dragons arranged in any number of ways.
Seven Dragons Rules
The simple mechanic is to take a card, and then to play a card. In a game that can run as smoothly as Seven Dragons, it goes without saying that it eventually becomes your mantra. Take a card. Play a card. Play enough and you'll repeat it in your sleep. Take a card. Play a card.
Each of the 'domino' cards features anywhere from one to four dragons arranged strategically. Some are going to have one on the top half and two on the bottom. Others will be a complete picture of their associated dragon, representing only one color. Those are two of the variations, but there are quite a few more. With the center being a wild card, each player puts down a card, matching its color scheme to something else on the board. Not all colors must match, but if you happen to connect more than one color, you get a bonus draw, upping your hand's size by one.
The only other big game changer is the 'Silver' spot. In an Uno-like fashion, all specialty cards go down there, and also have a dragon color connected to them. So the 'Zap Card' action, which lets you remove any one card from the board is red, where the 'Rotate Goals' card that has all players move their winning condition card in the direction of the player's choosing is blue. That dynamic means that all of a sudden, the combination you have been building has been rendered split by somebody's use of a special attack.
Seven Dragons Strategy
Decide which way you're going. - There are a few strategies that you are going to learn fairly quickly in Seven Dragons, but it is one of those sorts of games where people learn their style of play and stick to it. I tend to prefer to work on one side of the silver dragon spot to make sure I never have a problem with somebody changing my work in the middle of a game, but that allows them to utilize what I've done by taking my goal. Others prefer to work on both sides, in the hopes that nobody will notice their inherent sneakiness.
Know each other's goals. - It's a little easier in a multiple person game than a two person, but it can become easy to start figuring out which person is fighting for which color. As that becomes clearer, you'll start to figure out when you should steal people's goals to make them your own. There is nothing that says you can't benefit from someone else's hard work.
Zapping is power. - One of the most powerful cards of the game is the 'Zap a Card' action that is connected with the red dragon. As the game board gets larger and more in depth, you might find that you can get rid of one card and crush two or three different combos. Don't waste this card on removing one thing in your way. The likelihood is you are going to lose your goal the minute you do that. Instead, blow away everybody's combo so everybody feels the pain.
Seven Dragons is a light game for when you are bored, but don't want to dedicate hours to gaming. It is easy to pick up and easy to put down, but the vibrant fantasy art, and quick gameplay can make for a fun afternoon distraction. If you like dominoes, or are looking for something new to play with the kids, this might be the game to beat.
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