Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fun Games I've Played Lately: Red Dragon Inn

We've finally been getting back into tabletop gaming in our household after a long period of inactivity--for years, my friends and I played 'City of Heroes' when we wanted to do stuff together, because a) we all liked being superheroes and b) co-operative games felt more like our "thing" than competitive ones; then, when my wife moved in, there were always scheduling issues (I worked nights, then she worked weekends and nights, then our roommate worked nights...) But now everyone is working weekdays, and we have Saturday nights free to game. And 'City of Heroes' is temporarily unplayable. (I refuse to believe it is anything other than temporary.)

So we've been playing some of the games I've accumulated over the years. Including my most recent purchase, 'Red Dragon Inn', which is just fun. The basic premise is that you are one of a party of adventurers who has just returned from an epic dungeon crawl, replete with gold and high on life. As such, you do what adventurers everywhere do when they're full of cash and on an adrenalin go to a tavern and you gamble, carouse and brawl until you pass out or get kicked out.

In this case, that's literal. Every character starts with a stash of cash, a Fortitude score of 20, and an Alcohol Content of 0. Every turn, you play cards that help you win (or cheat) at gambling, (probably) accidentally injure your friends, and keep you (marginally) sober in the face of a seemingly endless supply of drinks given to you by your friends/opponents. If you ever run out of gold, or if your Fortitude score ever equals your Alcohol Content, you are either kicked out or pass out. Winner is the last one standing.

The mechanism is clever; each player uses their own deck, custom-made to reflect that character's strengths and weaknesses. Gerki the Sneak has plenty of cash-grabbing cards, and unsurprisingly he's the best of all of them at gambling (and cheating.) Deirdre the Priestess has healing magic that keeps her Fortitude up, but isn't really that good at staying sober. Fiona the Volatile is tough and hearty, but loses money quickly; while Zot the Wizard is a well-balanced character with a little of everything (and a psychotic rabbit familiar named Pooky.) The sequels, which can be combined freely with the original game, add other characters to the mix.

But what's best about the game is the sense of fun involved in the design. The art is spectacular, giving each character a personality that seems to come right off the cards. The card names give you a vivid idea of what's going on in the game; countering a drink with Fiona's "This is just the thing to polish my armor!" or injuring someone with Deirdre's "Oops! Sometimes my healing spells just wear off!" evokes the sort of punishing camaraderie you see in a role-playing group. (Or, in the case of cards like, "Oh no! Pooky's on a drunken rampage again!", just how freaking weird roleplaying games can get sometimes.)

It's a perfect "end of the night" game, best played among people who aren't too competitive, and we'll definitely be picking up the sequels. If for no other reason than one of them actually lets you play as Pooky.

1 comment:

Dean said...

This game is a lot of fun- be advised that RDI3 introduces some new mechanics- there's a gnome clockworker whose abilities can be kind of random (he draws from a special random effects deck when he plays a clockwork-type card) and an orc paladin whose powers are dependent on her Holiness score. Also, all three versions are compatible, so you can choose from up to 12 characters when playing.