Family Game Review: Draconis Invasion

It’s Family Game Review time again! This is where my kids and I play a game that none of us have played before, then we each independently write something about it. Along with me, you’ll hear the thoughts of Connor (22), and Rhiannon (14). This week, we played Draconis Invasion by Keji Toys and Games.

Draconis Invasion box
The box art convinced Rhiannon to play.

Scott

Up until his point, I’m pretty sure the only other deck-building games I’ve played are Dominion and Deck Building, the deck-building game. Oh, and a couple of prototypes by other designers at prototyping meets (one of which was at the Online Protospiel, which I wrote about here). But I have an idea of how the mechanic works, so Draconis Invasion was pretty easy to pick up.

  What makes it a bit different, I think, is the variety of cards you have to choose from to build your deck. There are the money cards, of course, which you can use to buy bigger money cards so that you increase the chance of having enough money drawn into your hand to buy even more expensive cards. The cards you need to move toward winning the game are the Action cards and the Defender cards. 

Draconis set up
I didn’t take any pictures of game play, because the play area doesn’t change much.

  Action cards are, as they sound, actions that affect your turn. You are only allowed to play one Action card on your turn, but many of the cards allow you to play another action card, or draw another card from your deck into your hand, or count as an additional amount of money if you choose to make a purchase that turn. They can be very useful to have to enhance what you can do on your turn, but you can’t win on Actions.

  Defender cards are the troops you are using to defeat the invaders. There are four Invader cards laid out to start, and each has a “Health” value. In order to defeat an Invader, a player must play Defender cards whose combined attack values are equal to or greater than the health of the Invader. Doing so gets the player the card, and earns them the number of Glory points indicated on the card. There are two levels of Invader, blue and gold. The gold ones are tougher, but give more Glory for defeating them. Glory points work as Victory Points, with the winner being the player who has the most Glory at the end. Once an invader is defeated, another is drawn from the deck and put in its place, triggering a (usually negative) effect against the player whose turn it is.

Skeletal Soldier card
I beat up a bunch of these guys! Well, four of them.

  There are some interesting twists that complicate things a little bit for the players, though. As all of these evil forces are invading, there’s bound to be some concern for the general situation in which the people are living. Thus, we have Terror! Certain Actions, Invaders and Events can cause players to take a Terror card and put it into their deck. The Terror cads are all identical and don’t do anything other than take up space in a player’s hand. Having these gets in the way of drawing a nice, useful hand of cards for a player to accomplish what they wanted to do. But also, any time they are discarded (and all unused cards are discarded at the end of a player’s turn), the Terror counter (a six-sided die) goes up by one. When the counter reaches 6, an Event card is drawn. The event cards have detrimental effects that usually affect the player who has defeated the most Invaders.

  The game ends when either the last Event card has been revealed, or when one player defeats six Invaders. Then Glory points are added up, and whoever has the most, wins. A player can earn bonus Glory points by completing campaigns. Instead of buying a new card or defeating an Invader on their turn, a player can draw two Campaign cards, choosing between taking one of the face up cards, or pulling one from the top of the deck. The campaign cards give bonus points for defeating specific Invaders, sometimes in multiples of them.

  In our game, I defeated four Skeletal Soldiers (because they are easy), and was hoping to get a Campaign that gave points for defeating them. Of course, I got distracted by other things and forgot to use the option to draw Campaign cards, and discovered after the game that the next card on top of the deck was in fact, a Skeletal Soldier Campaign card. I did strategically take the Succubus Campaign card, even though I didn’t defeat any of them, because Rhiannon did defeat a Succubus, and I didn’t want her to get the bonus points.

Draconis campaign cards
Examples of Campaign cards.

  Set up took a while for this one, as we needed to sort the cards into the specific set up layout.

There are different cards to use for the different “Battle Stages”. That is, each time you play the game, you can play a different Stage, which gives you different Defender cards and Actions to use. The lists of which to use are all in the rulebook, and the cards will be easier to find with our next play, since the game comes with tall “divider” cards that go between the sets of cards, like the ones they used to put in between the CDs with the artists’ names on them at the record store. Anybody remember those? Anyway, as long as everything is put away correctly, it will be a lot easier to get started next time. And once we were set up, we got into the game pretty quickly.

  The artwork is cool if you like fantasy monsters and warriors. In fact, Rhiannon was only kind of interested in playing until I showed her the box, and then she became a lot more interested! 

  I liked this one and look forward to playing it again. I would even play the first Battle Stage again now that I’m familiar with what the Action and Defenders do, then play the next stage later to discover new cards and have a slightly different experience. This is a good game if you don’t mind the randomness of the draw and making the best of what you have, but also planning ahead to create good combinations.

Connor

Draconis Invasion is a mostly standard deck-builder, but with a couple of interesting twists.  Having the enemies really changes the focus from building the best deck to how good a deck you should build.  I went with a strategy around the long game, purely building up at first, and then killing lots of big monsters at the end to more than make up for the larger number of little monsters that my opponents killed earlier.  While it was very effective against the balanced build they went with, I can see it getting crushed by a rush-style deck that kills the requisite number of monsters before the long game deck can get running.  I’m unsure of whether a more balanced deck would in turn counter the rush-down.
I’m definitely interested to see how having different cards would affect the game with more plays, so I’m looking forward to playing this again and experiencing how it evolves.

Rhiannon

It took a while to learn the rules and set up but after that it was really easy. I liked how there were consequences to killing monsters but you had to so you could win the game. For the whole first half everyone was just collecting money so they could get the biggest defenders (I personally couldn’t see the point of getting action cards). I got a few big defenders and you have to pay money to play them. I couldn’t seem to get enough money in my hand when I wanted to play the defender. So I barely killed anything. I ended up having a lot of Terrors (not as much as dad though) so that made things fun and interesting. 

In the end it was a fun game!