The first game of A Thunder of Dragons is designed as a tutorial. Drawing inspiration from so many legacy games, you get to play with the basic mechanics, before more complexity is added. Below is how game 1 unfolds. I’ll include relevant comments about the evolution of the game as we go.
The game comes with a rule book. Actually the whole game is a rule book, because it’s a MaYP game, and the player supplies everything else. The rules cover a few pages, and the campaign/hidden information covers a few more. But there are also 2 sheets of paper needed for game play. First up is the page with the game trackers,etc. From top to bottom it contains:
- Game counter. Cross off a game at the start of play.
- VP and Magic trackers. Marked with cubes during each game.
- # of breeds. Bonuses are released after you have bred the required number of dragons with each element.
- Dragon habitats. Small initially, with Large habitats released later.
The initial campaign will take place over 48 games. It is split up into months to facilitate the release of limited dragons (e.g., a limited Halloween dragon would be available to breed during October; games 37 to 40). Up to 18 Cubes are required to track VP & magic and mark the habitats for each element, though generally far fewer will be required. Each time you breed a hybrid, even if you don’t keep the dragon, you mark off a square for each element in the # of breeds, to get 1 step closer to those bonuses. And the habitats are along the bottom of the page, so you can stack the dragons under them as you breed them.
The other page has a 6 by 6 grid of dragons, that shows the 6 primary dragons, and the 30 possible breeding combinations. It shows the suit order in the top left corner, and then there is a space where the players can name each hybrid as they breed them for the first time. The second row shows the magic and VP value which you use when creating a dragon card. The third row shows the breeding combination required. The bottom row has a check box that you can mark/colour in, when you breed it for the first time. There is space next to it, where you might keep a tally of how many you breed.
The first game only has the Plant and Fire elements, so the squares required are the 4 found in the top left corner.
The plant + fire breeding hints might seem redundant, but there are dragons with more complicated requirements. Maybe it would be better to leave the simple ones blank, and just print the rules for the exceptions. That would give more space for tally marks, for the easily bred dragons.
As well as those sheets, you need cubes to mark the game tracks and the habitats, a stack of index cards and pencil(s) to write on them. Game 1 has just 12 cards, 1 to 6 of the plant and fire suits. On card 1 of each suit, you create the primary dragon on it, with the information copied from the dragon table. When you create these primary dragons, mark off the square for that dragon in the 6×6 grid, and a check box in the # of breeds bonus.
Cross of Game 1 in the tracker. Then each game is prepped by shuffling all the cards together, and discarding cards from the deck, until you reveal a starting dragon. That dragon is placed into a habitat. You put a cube on that habitat, to indicate it has been built, and you gain VP for the habitat and the dragon. For Game 1, it will be one of the primary dragons, placed into its matching habitat, and you will get 2 VP (for the dragon and the habitat). Deal yourself 5 cards, and then gain the magic from the dragon in the habitat, by placing a cube on the 1 space on the magic tracker. You are now ready for the first turn of the game.
(Originally there was a lot more going on to get started, including KOing cards from Game 1 to earn the magic, to build the habitat, and play the dragon, but it became obvious that was just unfun busy work before you got to play the fun part of the game. It broke Rule 3, and so that was eliminated.)
Taking a Turn
A turn is broken into 4 stages.
- Action Phase – Spend magic to build things, play dragons from your hand, or breed dragons together. You can do any or all of these things multiple times on a turn, as long as you have magic to spend, or until you complete an action that awards you VP, equal to/or beyond the end goal for the game. (Game 1 ends when you have earned at least 10 VP.)
- Discard Phase – You must discard any blank cards in hand, and may discard as many other cards as you choose. But you must always discard at least 1 card.
- Draw Phase – Draw back up to 5 cards, shuffling the discard pile into a new deck when necessary.
- Earn Phase – Earn magic for the dragons in habitats, limited by the habitat caps.
You will note we did the Draw and Earn phases at the end of the Setup.
Action Phase – Now for our first turn, we have just 1 magic to spend, and only one thing to spend it on. Building the habitat for the other primary dragon. It is possible we have that Primary dragon in hand, but we cannot play it until we have built a habitat with a matching element. So we place a cube on that habitat, and gain 1 VP . That drops our magic back to 0, so we remove the cube from the magic tracker. We have no more magic to pay for actions, so that ends the Action Phase.
Discard Phase – If we have 5 blank cards in our hand, we discard them all now. If we have the other primary dragon in our hand, we keep it, and discard the other 4 blank cards.
Draw Phase – We draw up to 5 cards, and almost certainly we should have the other primary dragon in our hand.
Earn Phase – We gain 1 magic from our 1 habitat with a dragon in it.
And that is turn 1. We have 3 VP and 1 magic.
Action Phase – Assuming we have the other primary dragon in hand (else we need to wait another turn), we spend the 1 magic we have to play it from our hand. It uses 1 magic, and gets us 1 VP.
Discard Phase – We discard all our blank cards, which is all our cards in hand.
Draw Phase – We draw up to 5 cards, shuffling the discard pile to make a new deck when needed.
Earn Phase – With 2 primary dragons, we earn 2 magic.
Action Phase – We now have 2 dragons that we can breed together. Breeding costs us the total magic value of the 2 dragons, in this case, 2 magic, which is what we have to spend. When a breeding combination has just 2 elements, there is a simple way to check the result. We reveal a card from the deck, and that suit is the major element of the dragon. The other suit is the minor element of the dragon. So if we reveal a 5 Red Square, we have made a Fire/Plant dragon.
As the discoverer of this new species of dragon, you get to name it, and mark it off as discovered. In Dragonvale it’s a Flower dragon, and I’m going to stick with that, mainly so as not to influence any naming ideas that you might have. You can put a tally mark on the grid, to keep track of how many you breed, and also add a check mark to both the plant and fire # of breeds. Then you add the VP, in this case 3.
The final question is do we want to add that dragon to our deck, or let it go free. If it goes free, we simply put the revealed card into our discard. If we want to add the dragon to our deck, we add the details for that specific breed to the card we revealed, including adding a Green Asterisk for the plant element. We then add that card to one of our habitats. It has both plant and fire elements, so it can reside in either one, as both of those habitats can hold 2 dragons.
We discard our hand, which must be blank cards, and draw back up to 5. We now earn 3 magic from our dragons in our habitats, and that is the end of turn 3.
Turn 4 will play out exactly the same way as turn 3. You can choose any 2 dragons to breed together; they will cost you 2 magic, and you will be making a hybrid dragon with the plant and fire elements. If you discard a Red Square again, you will have made another Flower dragon. You can make it on the card you discarded, or choose to free the dragon and discard it. If you discard a Green Asterisk you will have made the plant/fire dragon, and get to check it off the dragon list and name it.
Either way, you will mark off a square each in the plant and fire # of breeds, and earn 3VP. This will take you to 10VP, and will end game 1. You have a slightly better than 50/50 chance of getting both hybrids at the end of this tutorial game. It will have taken a maximum of 10 minutes, given you a small deck with 3 or 4 dragons in it, and should have given you a decent sense of how the game works.
The next post, will walk through Game 2, where we add a third primary dragon, and up the complexity of breeding.
All the posts for the design and development of this game can be accessed at the Index Page.