My Wife Always Wins - An Uphill Battle in Boardgaming!
by Brian Shabbott
This Week’s Game: The Dragon and Flagon
If I had it my way, I’d spend all my money on games and spend all my time playing those games. Unfortunately, in order to maintain a marriage you need to go on these occasional things called “dates.” That’s a pro tip, by the way – nobody bothered telling me that when I signed up for this.
Anyway, my wife, Lyndsey, and I were on one of these so-called dates at one of our favorite taverns over the weekend. We brought Zombie Dice with us, as we are wont to do, and played while we ate and drank. Needless to say, I lost. But that’s not the game we’re talking about right now.
While rolling our dice, we garnered our server’s attention. She had a passing interest in games, and so wanted to ask us about this one. I explained the rules, but Lyndsey wanted to explain other things. As the conversation progressed, she explained to our server how bad I am at games, and that she always wins. Lyndsey even made it a point to show her last week’s edition of this article for good measure.
Wasn’t it bad enough? I was losing at Zombie Dice, so I’d be paying for dinner. But now I also had to suffer her bragging to a complete stranger when all I wanted to do was enjoy a meal and a few drinks. It took every ounce of my energy not to flip the table and storm out.
When we got home, I pulled out The Dragon and Flagon, a game where I’d be able to flip all the tables I could possibly want. I could even throw a chair or two at Lyndsey. Perhaps channeling my ire was just what I needed to claim victory in this chaotic, tavern-brawling game.
The Dragon and Flagon is an action programming game for two to eight players. Players control either one or two characters in a massive tavern brawl, depending on how many people are playing. The object of the game is to throw, smash, kick, and slash opponents to gather reputation points. The player with the most reputation points at the end of the game is the most renowned bar-fighter – at least within the walls of the fine establishment known as The Dragon and Flagon.
Each turn consists of three phases. In the first, players program their actions. This consists of picking any cards from his or her deck, and placing it in one of the action slots on their character mat. There are three action slots, and at the end of each planning phase, players must have two actions planned. This means players that already have two or more actions lined up at the start of the action programming make no selections. Players with zero or one actions already lined up on their mat would select two or one actions, respectively.
The second phase is the action performing phase. Turn order is random, and each player performs one action. This means a player’s second action selected during the first phase can’t be played until his next turn. The unpredictability of everybody else’s turns can disrupt the effectiveness of your plans. Actions consist of everything from moving, picking up and throwing objects, or even yanking the rug out from under somebody’s feet.
Each action costs a certain amount of time, and after performing the action, the player must advance their token that many turns on the time track. The third phase is to then move the time marker one space on the time track – all player tokens on that space then begin at phase one. Because of this, a player who plays a three-turn action could wait while her opponent plays three consecutive one-turn actions before getting another turn.
The tavern has a famous drink, the Dragon, and there is a flagon of it at the center of the building – the name of the game makes sense now, right? Anybody who picks up and drinks The Dragon can make use of their Dragon card – a character specific action that packs a big punch!
Four endgame tokens are placed at the last four spaces on the time track. One of them is the town guard. When the town guards show up, the game is over, and whoever has the most reputation wins!
You can download the rulebook here.
Time to Play
Since we are playing a two-player game, each of us had to control two characters. I selected Teo the Monk and Asma the Mage. Lyndsey played Thras the Barbarian and Tuuli the Cleric. We shuffled all the character tokens on the first space, and Teo got to go first. We both started moving toward the center of the tavern, with eyes on the Dragon. Along the way Lyndsey and I both picked up some objects – I picked up a chair with Asma, and she picked up a mug with Thras. Due to the chaos of randomized turn order, however, our predictions failed, and we each threw those objects at absolutely no one.
I struck first, and slashed Thras with Teo. I got to take two of Thras’s reputation. We passed a few slashes and tosses back and forth, and by mid-game we were pretty even and nobody had made a grab for the Dragon.
I kept my distance with Asma and tried to cast a few spells with my actions. A few hit, while others missed as characters moved throughout the game.
Teo spent most of the game face down, as Lyndsey continually performed actions that caused him to fall. One turn, Thras swung from a chandelier and kicked Teo down. Another turn, Thras shoved a table into him. On yet another turn, Tuuli yanked the rug that both Teo and Asma were standing on, sending both face down. Being knocked down brings with it the risk of losing certain actions, and as my luck would have it – I lost my opportunity to act more often than not.
Even with the beating I was taking, I dealt enough damage myself as well. By the time we reached the number 27 space, I was only down by three reputation. The number 27 space is also the first of the final four – so it was possible the game would end after our turns there if the guards showed up. Only Asma and Tuuli got to go in round 27, Thras was on space 28, and Teo was all the way at 30.
I had selected chain lightning as my action. It would strike both Thras and then Tuuli. The first hit would be for three points, while the second was for one. I was down by three, so if everything went to plan, I’d be ahead by one point at the end of the round. If the town guards showed up, I’d win.
But I assume you’ve been reading my article for a few weeks now. Do you think everything went to plan?
Of course not. Tuuli went first, and moved to a different position. She was still struck by the chain lightning that bounced off of Thras, so I did get my four points. But Tuuli was now in a position where Teo – my character – would also be struck for one. When a player would steal a reputation point from his own character, as I would with Teo, he must discard those points entirely. The game was tied.
We turned over the endgame token – it was the guards. I had to consult the rulebook to see what happened in the case of a tie. Again, I’ll assume you’ve read a few of these articles. Do you think the rules were in my favor?
Of course not. The player whose token is on the lowest time track space wins. Space 27 was resolved, and only Thras was on space 28. My wife won again.
The Dragon and Flagon is a relatively new game (it released in August 2016), and is definitely one to consider for your collection. It’s pretty simple as far as programming games go, so even if those types of games aren’t your thing, you can find some enjoyment here. The mechanic really facilitates the chaos of a bar brawl, which in turn makes a game that has both a believable premise and a lot of replayability.
The setup took a little on the long side – but it’s a longer game. If you spend 10 minutes setting up, you’re still making it worth your while in an hour long game. Plus, the setup is interactive, because you get to design the layout of the tavern to your specifications. Normally I’d be turned off by a game I couldn’t sit down and play within five minutes, but this factor seems negligible here.
The biggest setback for this game is that it isn’t optimal for two players. It is playable, and we both enjoy it – Lyndsey even ranks it in her top three. While playing, it is just obvious that the game is lacking at two-player and would really come into its own at four or five players.
Having said that, I’ll just keep playing it at two-player. There’s no need to introduce anybody else into my eternal embarrassment.
Brian Shabbott is a 31 year old aspiring writer. Brian spends much of his time playing games with friends and family. Brian loves to compete and play games he loves - but he never wins against his wife! Brian is looking forward to introducing himself as a writer and producer for you!
Follow Brian on Twitter @heyshabbott
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