This review is not intended to relay all the rules and subtle game mechanics of the game. It is simply a list of what does and doesn't work in the game (in my opinion). It should be a good way to find out if you want to buy the game. If one is interested in learning about the game mechanics I would suggest linking to this review by Tom Vasel: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/14262 It explains the rules and gives a great overview.
Also, if you feel that anything should be added to the list, then post a reply or geekmail me. If I agree with your opinion (I usually do) I will add it to the review and mention you at the end. My goal is for this to become a large list of everything that could possibly be good or bad about Fist of Dragonstones.
With that said, let's get started on the review. Take note that the pros and cons aren't listed in any particular order of importance...
1. Quality of Components
Fist of Dragonstones, like most other Days of Wonder games, has excellent component quality. The player shields are sturdy and serve as a player aid, the stones and coins are high quality, and the cards are made from good stock with excellent artwork. My one complaint is that the card backs are a boring black and white. Otherwise, the pieces are beautiful. Just check out the picture:
This game can be found for around $15-$20, nuff' said. The one problem is that prices could go up now that the game is out of print.
Dragonstones has a very high reply value. Due to the random order of the cards each round, there are no set patterns it can descend into. Plus, adding the two random characters each round also serves to mix things up.
4. Player Interaction
The bidding nature of this game drives the player interaction through the roof. Players are constantly trying to second guess each other and make deals about who's going to bid on what. The witch is great for this.
"Hey John, if you don't outbid Mark on the Sorcerer he'll win."
"Well why don't you use the witch?"
"Cause if you outbid him then I can use it later."
"Screw you Tim!"
30 seconds later...
"Wow, you selfish suckers both decided to bid nothing. I win!"
-Mark does a victory dance-
5. Travel Size
I love any game that I can easily slip into my backpack and take on a trip. Fist of Dragonstones is one of those games.
6. Easy to Learn
Dragonstones is a very easy game to learn and can be taught in about 5 minutes.
7. Short Playtime
Thanks to the three point victory conditions, a typical game will only take between 1/2 hour and 45 minutes if everyone knows what they're doing. Some groups can go even shorter. I have found that a game with newbies can last up to an hour. (Although this usually doesn't happen)
8. Online Support
If you and you friends like this game, then you can go to http://www.daysofwonder.com and play each other over teh interwebs.
1. Blind Bidding
Attention! This is the con that tends to make or break the game for people! Be sure to read this! Fist of Dragonstones hinges on a unique bidding system known as blind bidding. Basically, all players hold their bids in a closed fist and reveal them at the same time. (If you don't get it, then look at the hands on the box cover)
Everybody has to pay ALL the money they bid, even if they don't win the auction. There is no prize for second place. IF YOU DON'T LIKE THIS TYPE OF BIDDING THEN DO NOT BUY THIS GAME! I personally find blind bidding a tad undesirable, but it doesn't affect my enjoyment of the game. Other people hate the system. Go read the player comments under 1's and 2's and you'll see why.
2. The Thief
This con stems directly from the one above. There is a character called the Thief that punishes the second highest bidder. Due to the nature of the bidding, many people will refuse to bid on the Thief because they don't want to get caught in 2nd place, making the Thief auction an awkward one indeed.
3. Unbalanced Random Setup
When setting up the game, each player draws four random stones from the bag. This can give a very unfair advantage to anyone who manages to get four stones of the same color due to the Sorcerer card.
4. Sometimes Ends too Soon
While the 3 point victory condition does keep the game short, I sometimes feel like the game ended just when it was getting exciting. It's possible for a player to get 2 points in the first turn and already be 2/3 the way to victory. Heck, it's even possible (although rare) to WIN in the first turn.
5. Out of Print
Fist of Dragonstones is currently out of print. As with most other out of print games, this will mean a hike in the hard-to-find department and an inevitable price boost. Hopefully DoW will reprint it in the near future. If not, then get your copy while you still can.
6. No Online Community
While this game does have online support, there is no online community. That means you and your friends will have to schedule computer playtimes. Plus, the online version only supports 4 players.
7. Two Points Usually Wins
When a player manages to nab 2 points he/she gains a huge advantage and will usually win. This is due to the fact that Mr.2Pointer no longer has to split up his funds between multiple bids in a round. He can just throw it all on that one card he needs to win. Not to mention that there are usually 2-3 scoring options for a player each round. Players who try to outbid him will get screwed over for the rest of the round if they end up winning. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
8. Repetitive Auctions
Each round you basically bid on the same 8 cards, the 2 random ones usually don't have too large an effect on the overall strategy. This can get old after extended play.
"But wait, you said the game has a high replay value!"
That's because it does. What I mean by replay value is that there is always a different set of options. This game is not affected by same-strategy-every-game syndrome. Even though the auctions can get repetitive; the random order of the characters coming out creates variability in each game.
9. Less Fun With Strangers
Dragonstones suffers when played with a group who doesn't know each other very well. Interaction, bluffing, teaming up, and screwing your neighbor are all deeply ingrained in the game, so while it's great with friends, I wouldn't recommend playing it with people you just met.
I personally find Fist of Dragonstones to be a fun, short and light game that is great for taking on trips. It's easy to learn rules make it good to teach to non-gamers. The player interaction is excellent. I rate it a 8-9. I can also understand why some people loathe it with a passion. I recommend making one decision before buying this game: Do you hate, love, or are you at least able to tolerate blind bidding? If you think you can make the relationship work then I suggest getting it before it's gone. Curse you out-of-print demons!
Special thanks to cymric,sagrilarus and Kyellan for their input.
P.S. Please remember to reply or geekmail me if you think this list is missing anything.
- Last edited Sat Apr 14, 2007 4:40 am (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Fri Apr 13, 2007 7:56 am
Maarten D. de Jong
The core ideas of FoD are good, and I enjoy the game whenever I pull it out. But the game is a textbook case of 'to be taken in moderate amounts', because I do find the auctions repetitive: of the 10 cards up for auction, only 2 are new each round. Whenever the game is done, I feel like the producer could have cut the already small deck in half, and that I know all there is to know.
Second disadvantage: if someone has a score of 2, it is almost impossible to stop him winning the game once a new deck of cards is prepared. Newcomers do not always realise this, and therefore let people get away with cheap sorcerers and the like. In other words, the game requires a bit of group think to work properly.
I do not play often, but I like the zany mix of mechanics when I do.
My group's games don't seem to last as long as yours. Maybe that's why we sometimes play to four points, which evens out the game a bit. It's also the Thief's job to keep people from having four stones of the same color, as much as possible. The scoring markers also make more sense for a four-point game (why have a three-point side when that ends the game?), so maybe that was an early endgame condition.
I think it's a decent game with the right group of players. Business-minded people who've taken courses on pricing have liked it a lot. Some people just like the game theory problems the game poses.
With many different groups of gamers involved, this game has produced more fun than almost any other game in my 300+ collection.
We find that when the players understand the game, the climb from 2 points to 3 can be a long one.
"But the drum-beat strains of the night remain, in the rhythm of the new born day."
This is a game where you definitely have to understand that it's not you against the others. Each card presents a need to team up against the player that can profit from that card. Absolute player interaction, and a need to read not only the guy who wants the card, but everyone else at the table as well. A lot of work preventing other players in this game, often more than the work to win.
In a tightly knit group this game is excellent. In a group of strangers not so much. But still a good play. I enjoy this one.
"2. The Thief
This con stems directly from the one above. There is a character called the Thief that punishes the second highest bidder. Due to the nature of the bidding, many people will refuse to bid on the Thief because they don't want to get caught in 2nd place, making the Thief auction an awkward one indeed. "
Has anyone played the Thief as it can only steal from people who have bid NOTHING for the thief?
That seems to fix the thief.
Has anyone played the Thief as it can only steal from people who have bid NOTHING for the thief?
That seems to fix the thief.
I don't see how that would work. Wouldn't people who didn't really want the Thief just all end up bidding 1 fairy gold as an insurance policy?
¡dn ʇǝƃ ʇ,uɐɔ ı puɐ uǝllɐɟ ǝʌ,ı
There are 10 kinds of people who understand binary: Those who do, and those who don't.
Cons: The Thief
The thief is a very important card. Under the right circumstances, you can steal a stone from someone who has four stones of the same color and stop their potential of gaining two points when the sorcerer is turned up. Merely not bidding opens you up to the theft more than bidding on the thief does. Because...
We interpret the wording on the thief card to say that you can steal a stone from the second place bidder this way:
If you bid nothing on the thief, it is still a bid. Thus, if you bid one coin and win the thief, you can steal a stone from anyone who bid zero coins.
So if you bid nothing, you're only immune if (at least) two other people bid higher than you did.
We also play that if a tie occurs on the fairy-gold bidding round (when either everyone bids zero, or at least two people bid the same amount, and the highest amount) then the tiebreaker (the silver coin bidding round) only involves those that were tied after the initial round.
So if everyone bids zero fairy gold, everyone has to offer silver coins, or not, on the final round. If I bid one silver and everyone else still bids nothing, I steal a stone from any of the zero silver bidders.
If everyone is still tied at the end of the silver coin round, the thief is not won by anyone and it is not played on this turn.
From the rules:
"If only one player bids for the Thief, all other players are considered second, and he may steal from any one of them." (5)
So Murray is right that the Thief can get a cheap steal if only one player bids.
"If there is a tie-break auction for the Thief, the second bidder reffered to in the character action is the second bidder of the tie break auction." (4)
"When two or more players bid the same number of coins, the players who tie bid again, but this time only using their silver coins." (4)
"If no bids are made for a character, this character is passed on and not played this turn." (4)
So the silver auction does not happen if no one bids any gold; if there is a silver auction, only players that tied in the gold auction can bid.
I also find that in our group's games, the player who gets to two points first almost never wins. The rest of the players gang up to prevent him from getting the third point, often letting someone else win surreptitiously.
Pete (tends to be the guy who suffers this fate)
Plate of Shrimp.
Here we are folks, the dream we all dream of.
Hey guys, wanna come over and do some fisting?