What to get the Red Dragon Inn fan who has everything? How about this epic entry in the series that’s also ready-made to collect every previous game and expansion?
|The Red Dragon Inn 5: The Character Trove||SlugFest Games||Card Game|
In The Box
Describing this as a “ginormous” box–the term creator SlugFest used in last year’s successful Kickstarter campaign–doesn’t even do it justice. It will easily dwarf all but the largest game boxes in your collection. Best of all it will quickly swallow up all the previous Red Dragon Inn games, including any Allies sets you may have picked up between major releases. If this is the first game you purchase, it’s an instant invitation to go splurge on at least one more full game. Much like that classic line Lay’s used in the ’80s, once you try a Red Dragon Inn game, there’s no way you can just own one.
RDI 5: The Character Trove is smartly packaged with foam inserts you can use as dividers or spacers, oversized spacers so you don’t lose track of specific characters or drink decks, two sizes of cloth bag perfect for holding coins, and small clear baggies good for keeping the small tokens associated with certain characters from rolling around in the box. There are smaller (compared to prior games) cards specific to each character that you can use for tracking health and sobriety, which are also tailored to tracking any player’s special ability or add-on decks. This was the only thing close to downside, since even though the original player mats were generic, they were much bigger, thicker and more durable. You can still use the old mats, but the assumption for this set appears to be that you won’t keep them. Especially if you own more than one core game, it will be quite a project to get everything transferred over, but when you’re done it looks amazing and you have a small suitcase packed with RDI goodness.
Even if you’re lucky enough to own the entire collection of RDI material released up to this point you’ll find that it still doesn’t quite fill up RDI 5: The Character Trove. A hint for future releases? We sure hope so! The handy foam dividers make it possible to arrange things neatly while leaving room for whatever comes next set in this endlessly entertaining game franchise. This release is an especially thoughtful gift from the creators of Red Dragon Inn, who could just as easily have produced yet another standard box to sit alongside the other four. It’s touches like this that get us excited whenever SlugFest brings another game to Kickstarter or releases a character pack, and shows they’re really putting gamers first during their design process.
How It Plays
RDI 5: The Character Trove isn’t just a storage solution. Happily there are four new unique characters included here. Sera the Fleetfooted, Lizwick the Collector, Joran the Trickster, and Zakhan the Drunken Master are the latest denizens of The Red Dragon Inn you’ll encounter around the table. Lizwick comes with an additional deck of item cards, and Zakhan comes with a custom tracking token, but otherwise these are custom decks that don’t have as many goodies as some of the past characters and Allies. Don’t let appearances fool you, each of these will stand their ground against any of the past characters while also bringing some fresh energy to your game.
Lizwick is a Gnome Rogue for the purpose of keeping track of special race and class effects, and she’s got a bag full of tricks. No really, a Bag of Holding is depicted on some of her cards that allows you to dip into her special deck, appropriately named “Lizwick’s Items.” To avoid creating an overpowered character, equipping items means you can hold a smaller number of cards. Equipped items can be stored and used at the appropriate time, to save you from a round of gambling or avoid / reduce the power of a drink. Some items are duds and a few are extremely powerful. Our favorite was “Omni-Sight Monocle” that lets you peek at another player’s Drink Deck and rearrange their cards. Once items are used they’re discarded, again keeping Lizwick from being overpowered.
Zakhan the Drunken Master makes interesting use of one of the game’s core features: inebriation. Those new to The Red Dragon Inn games will learn that there are only two measurements that count in this game. One is health, called fortitude here, and the other is alcohol content. When your body’s health and alcohol content meet, you black out and have to leave the game. The last man, woman, dwarf or whatever standing is the winner. Zakhan has the power to convert some of his alcohol gain into “Drunken Chi” that he can then use to amplify some of his card effects. It’s a dangerous gamble that can pay off mightily, as when you slam them with a “Monk’s fireball” or “Thousand-palm strike!” card that causes them to lose fortitude relative to how much Drunken Chi you’ve accumulated. You’ll occasionally need to discard cards to cut your Drunken Chi and avoid blowing up your total alcohol content.
Your two other new characters, Sera the Fleetfooted and Joran the Trickster, don’t come with special accessories but have decks stacked with cards designed to frustrate opponents. Sera can spread pain around the table with flying daggers and has a rogue’s skill at cards. She doesn’t have much in the way of overpowering strength but her attacks go a long way to ensuring she’ll survive the night. Drinking others under the table isn’t her style but she’s good at fighting and collecting coins, both invaluable skills when pitted against the right characters. Joran is amazing if you like floating through the game letting attacks and drinks roll off you like water off a duck’s back. He’s got a cool portal ability that works exactly like you’d expect, allowing him to redirect damage dealt to him, which isn’t likely to make you popular with others around the table.
Sera and Joran aren’t massively powerful characters, but by this time in the series of games we’ve seen plenty of characters on either side of the strength/skill spectrum. Playing supremely crafty characters can be a bit much for those new to the game as it requires more strategy and keeping tabs on the flow of cards. On the other side those with tens of games under their belt using previous characters will appreciate the nuance these two offer. There’s also something to be said for handicapping very seasoned players with characters that require plenty of strategy to use. Suffice it to say Sera and Joran will quickly gain a reputation as two of the most irritating characters yet to grace The Red Dragon Inn.
If you missed RDI 5: The Character Trove on Kickstarter it’s time to rectify that situation. We wish more publishers would put this kind of thought into serving their fans, especially as games become very popular. The temptation to simply keep churning out variations on a theme and accessories must be strong, but here’s an example of some lateral thinking, a game that offers fresh content and real utility, rewarding loyal fans while setting up the future of the franchise. After this strong move, we can’t wait to see what’s next!