Drakborgen is a fantasy themed strategy game where the goal is to gather treasures that has the most worth and then escape the castle alive. Two to four players enter the castle, but between the play sessions that I’ve had, only one or two players made it out alive.
There are multiple smaller systems which make up the game and I’ll describe each systems role in short below.
The sun dial
The sun dial acts as the games’ timer, and when the sun have reached 21 the game ends and everyone still inside the castle is considered dead. This makes players still inside the castle to want to get out before the “timer” runs out or they’ve lost the game. The sun dial progresses every time the sun dice shows something other than a cloud. In every other case the dial increases with the number of suns on the dice.
The playing field in Drakborgen is a grid of nine by nine tiles which works as either rooms or corridors. The corners acts as entrances to the castle. One of the nine tiles in the middle of the board is the treasure chamber in which the dragon guarding the treasures sleeps. When a player enters the chamber she takes a treasure card and a dragon card.
Drakborgen features two different movement and turn-taking patterns. First there’s the standard one and then there’s an advanced one. I prefer the latter because of the rapid pace in which a game can be played without feeling rushed. The standard way is to take turns moving the character one step in the desired direction, execute the event and let the next player do the same. In the advanced rule-set each player moves during the movement-phase and then only takes turns to execute the existing events. By playing with the advanced rule-set players have a chance of ending up on the same tile and then have to decide whether to engage in combat and who gets the treasure if there are one. As soon as a player loses the game, she will take control of all the enemies and gets the option to move a monster each turn. When a monster encounters a player, a battle gets initiated as usual.
There are a number of different types of tiles. Here are the major ones.
When a player encounters a corridor, she proceeds to continue to the following unexplored tile, and this counts as a single movement between multiple corridors.
- Normal room
Upon entering a room which have no special properties, an event card is drawn.
- Room with debris
There are some rooms which have debris in them. When a player enters a room like this she must perform an agility check by rolling a D12 lower than their agility.
- Treasure chamber
There’s only one treasure chamber tile and it’s one of the nine tiles in the middle.
Some of the tiles have special features which affect the flow of the game.
Tiles with a door can be opened by either; rolling a D12 lower than their agility twice, or rolling a D12 lower than their strength. The latter results in a door which is opened permanently for the rest of the game while the former enables the player to choose whether to leave it open or not.
- Iron bars
Iron bars are considered a trap and only come into effect when a player have entered the room. In order to leave the same way the player entered, she need to perform a strength check by rolling a D12 lower than their strength.
- Dungeon openings
On some tiles there is an entrance to the underground dungeons and a number which determines what number the player should roll on the D12, in order to enter that tile from the dungeon.
The dungeons are what’s underneath the castle and traversing them can be difficult since when a player have entered a dungeon. The only way to leave on is to roll the D12 with a value which corresponds to one of the room tiles.
Encounters can be against both players and enemies. When a player faces an enemy, the first choice she has is to either; flee, attack or wait. The player then draws a card which determine what the outcome is. The enemy can then either; attack, flee or remain neutral. When an enemy is neutral it remains on the current tile and only again become a threat when the next player enters the same tile. Battles between players work in the same way except the whole behavior stage is skipped and instead the players themselves choose what the do.
When there’s a battle multiple factors play a large role in the outcome. A battle works as follows; each opponent begins with the amount of HP (hitpoints) which the max HP dictates. Each opponent takes their battle-discs and choose one of the stats which corresponds to the stats on their character sheet. The players then reveal the chosen stat and the discs determines whether someone got hit or if there’s a miss. The whole system works like a four part, rock-paper-scissors where; agility beats armor, armor beats strength, strength beats mind, and mind beats agility. If none of these combinations are achieved, then it’s considered a miss. And after three consecutive misses the target automatically flees. When one of the combinations are achieved then the losing opponent lose one HP. When both opponents choose the same stat, then the one with the lesser stat-value loses the difference between the stat-values in HP. The fight ends when someone wither have fled or defeated the other opponent.
During combat some characters have the ability to use throwing weapons which give them an advantage with some luck with the dice.
In the beginning of the game each player receives a random ring if their character sheet don’t say otherwise. Rings are hidden to the other players since they grant the player special abilities which can come to use later in the game.
The amulet is an item which a player can get from an event card. The interesting characteristic which amulets have is that; the player which found it, don’t know what it does until a criteria is fulfilled. Only one of the other players knows what criteria that is and keeps that in mind during the rest of the game.
Drakborgen features multiple great aspects and below follows some which I think are the most noteworthy.
Drakborgen is a game in which each play session differ from the previous one. This is partly because of all the randomized elements within the game but mostly due to the varied play style each character offers.
The first choice the player has is what character she will be playing. Each character have its pros and cons, some are tougher, some have valuable items which will come to good use at one time or multiple times during the game while others are agile and have a easier time avoiding enemies and traps.
Whenever a player enters an unexplored tile during the movement phase there can either be a room tile or a corridor. If there’s a corridor and it leads to another unexplored tile the player move on to that tile. When the tile is a room the player should draw a room card which determines what the next event is.
Risk vs Reward
When exploring the castle players have the choice of at any time leave the castle with the accumulated treasures and be considered out from the game. This leads to none of the players wanting to leave until the last final rounds. Nobody wants to leave early and risk the chance of finding that particular treasure which grants the victory.
This comes into play at two parts of the game. First there is the regular exploration of rooms, where there is a risk of bumping into a, difficult to beat, monster or having the luck of finding a valuable treasure. The second part is whenever a player enters the treasure chamber. First upon entering there’s a risk of waking the dragon. This have a one in twelve chance of happening the first time since there’s twelve dragon cards which each gets discarded upon draw. As such the chance of waking the dragon increases the longer the player stays in the chamber. The pile only gets refilled when no one of the players are inside with the sleeping dragon.
Here follows some of the things which I find are the flaws of the game.
According to the rules, all the traversable tiles are meant to be placed foremost with its event tile underneath. This means that you have a grid of stacked tiles which constantly have to be readjusted due to someone accidentally bumping into a tile which cause every other tiles next to it to move.B Because of that we skipped the entire tile placement phase and instead grabbed a tile and its event from a pile when needed. This didn’t disturb any game systems because the randomness of exploring rooms and corridors was still there with a well sorted deck of tiles.
As soon as a player ends up the same tile, one of them can choose to engage in combat. If someone does start a fight with the other player, then it’s only to disable the other person from winning the game, since there’s no real reward in killing another player. This I think is a bad incentive to kill other players and there should be some kind of reward in doing so. Perhaps in form of some of the loot which the defeated player carry.
One time events
Whenever someone explores a room, an event can happen. I’d like there to be a way for players to return to a room where an event have occurred and reactivate another event. Instead, when the players choose to leave the castle and there are no enemies left in their way, you can just consider the game ended since there are no more events which can occur.
When playing the combat felt a bit too random in my opinion. And there weren’t too much difference between the enemies in the game. As such, some felt redundant because of how the stats were somewhat similar to other enemies. I would have preferred some kind of system where the enemy was reacting more to each attack through perhaps some kind of graph which would act like an extension of the initial encounter behaviors where a specific approach not yielded the same result every time. That might have the negative effect of making the game a bit more complex though. But I think that’s a fair price to pay in favor of more interesting combat since it’s such a large part of what you do in the game.
The minimum age requirement is advertised as ten years and up on the box, but as previously mentioned I think that is too early for someone to grasp the correlation between all the different systems within the game.
As such the target age should be advertised a few years older and at least thirteen years old in my opinion.
The game is aimed at people who like the fantasy setting and would enjoy a simpler version of a pen and paper role playing game since there’s strict rules of what you can and cannot do.
In the end, Drakborgen is an enjoyable game and during the play-sessions, there have been great diversity between how each game have played out. The initial character choice have a large inpact on how the game will be played and no game is alike another. Drakborgen have multiple versions and this particular analysis is based on the version called: Drakborgen Legenden which is a remastered version of Drakborgen 1 and Drakborgen 2. This version though isn’t fully fleshed out and I think that maybe there were too few playtests before launch of the revised version.
~Per “Gimmic” Johansson