Red Dragon Inn

Red Dragon Inn Review

  • Personal Score: 8/10
  • Time to Play: 45 minutes
  • Number of Players: 2 – 4 (more if you have expansions)
  • Complexity: II – Don’t be shy about showing this game to your friends, they might enjoy it!
  • Key Enjoyment Factors: Humor, Social Interaction, Role Playing, Ease of Play
  • Board Game Geek Link: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/24310/red-dragon-inn

Synopsis

The Red Dragon Inn is a drinking game! Er… well… a game about drinking anyway. Whether you choose to consume alcohol or not, the character you represent in the game will most likely be downing more pints than they can handle. Every player takes on the role of an adventurer at an inn in a sword and sorcery setting. The objective of the game is to not get so drunk you pass out, and not to run out of money and be unable to pay your bar tab. Last person standing is the winner!

Each player is given a character deck that represents the actions they may take as well as a play mat and 10 gold coins. Markers are placed on the play mat to keep track of a player’s two stats – fortitude and alcohol content. As the game is played, fortitude will decrease and alcohol content will increase. If a player’s alcohol content ever becomes greater than their fortitude, that player is out. In addition, if a player loses all of their gold coins, they are also out.

A player's playing area
A player’s playing area

A deck of cards representing drinks called the drink deck is placed in the center of the table.

Drink Deck with Associated Discard Pile
Drink Deck with Associated Discard Pile

At the start of the game, players draw 7 cards from their character deck and are given one face down Drink card, which goes on the “Drink Me!” section of their play mat. Then players take turns. During a player’s turn, that player follows 4 steps in order:

  1. Discards and draws
  2. Plays an Action card
  3. Buys a drink for another player
  4. Drinks a drink from their “Drink Me!” pile

In the first step, a player may discard as many cards from their hand as they like and then draw until they have 7 cards in hand. In the second step, a player may play one Action card from their hand. An Action card is a type of card. There are a few others that will be explained momentarily. In the third step, a player takes the top card of the drink deck and puts it face down on another player’s “Drink Me!” pile. In the fourth step, a player reveals the top card of their own “Drink Me!” pile and suffers its effects, often causing their alcohol content to increase.

Players’ character decks have a few other types of cards as well – Sometimes, Anytime, and Gambling cards. Sometimes cards can be played on any player’s turn during some condition stated on the card. Anytime cards can be played literally anytime during the game. Gambling cards can be used during the gambling mini-game that is initiated whenever a player uses their action to start a round of gambling by playing the special card “Gambling? I’m in!”

"Gambling? I'm In!" Card
“Gambling? I’m In!” Card

This card is both an Action and a Gambling card and multiple copies of it exist in every character’s deck.  When a round of gambling starts, each player puts a gold coin into the center of the table and the player who started it is currently “winning” the round. Each player, clockwise in turn, is given the option to play a Gambling card from their hand or pass. The player who last played a Gambling card is always currently “winning” the round of gambling. If every other player passes consecutively after someone plays a Gambling card, that player wins the round and takes all the gold in the center of the table. Some Gambling cards force everyone to put more gold coins in the center, making gambling the best way to quickly rid other players of their money if you are lucky! (Or cunning!)

As always, my synopsis of the game is intended to give you an overview of gameplay, so you can more readily appreciate my critique. It is by no means an exhaustive set of rules.

Critique

If you’re into board games enough that you’re reading a blog about board games, you’ll probably agree that the mechanics are fairly simple. Where this game really shines is in its humor, and in the interactions that it encourages among its players.

Each card has a title that is a quote that the represented character might say while they were taking the associated action. It’s stated in the rules that you are supposed to read the title of the card when you play it.

No really! It's in the rules!
No really! It’s in the rules!

If players get into the roleplaying aspect and read the titles with some conviction – or better yet, paraphrase them to suit the situation in character, the results can be very funny!

It's not my fault, I swear!
It’s not my fault, I swear!

Retaliation is also made simple and easy with the game’s Sometimes and Anytime cards. It’s always fun to get back at your friends immediately after they try to hurt you, or watch a couple of your friends start throwing cards at one another in an attempt to get the last hurrah! This part of the game is most fun when playing with a group that has some competitive spirit, but isn’t very serious about winning.

For strategy buffs out there, although the game is largely luck based, there is some strategy to enjoy. I won’t spoil your fun of figuring the game out by revealing any of my strategies, but I will say that deciding which cards to play, and which to pitch remains interesting game after game. Different characters play differently and you have to pay attention to every character’s strengths and weaknesses at the table. Some characters you will want to bankrupt, and others you’ll want to drink under the table. This becomes more complex as you add in more and more characters from expansions. I found that the four characters from the base set have a very good dynamic together that I probably enjoy the most. The most interesting strategic element of the game, however, usually doesn’t have anything to do with optimizing plays based on the game’s mechanics directly, it has to do with handling the human emotion aspect of the game. You can’t assume that your opponents will play optimally because that’s usually not the case! As I’ve stated before, people will often retaliate if you hurt their character, even if it’s not in their best interest to do so! Be careful about who you attack, how you do it, and when you do it.

Although I tend to enjoy plenty of strategic elements in my games, one of this game’s biggest strengths is that you don’t have to be a strategy buff to enjoy it. In fact, even if you are a significantly better tactician than anyone else at the table, there’s still a decent chance that you’ll lose, and in this case that’s good! The Red Dragon Inn is meant to be enjoyed as a casual, social game where everyone can share a few laughs and feel like they are participating in a meaningful way that has an impact on the outcome of the game. For this reason, it is my go-to game to enjoy in with groups that aren’t made entirely of people who play strategy games. I’ve played this game more times than any other game in my collection simply because it can be enjoyed by a much wider audience than most other games I own, and of the simpler games with broader appeal it’s the most humorous and has the most enjoyable theme. If you don’t have this game, I’d strongly recommend adding it to your collection! And when you do, take a moment to figure out how to explain the rules to newbies. You’ll probably be doing it a lot!

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