In The Year of The Dragon Review
Last Friday i played this game, a game with Chinese theme originally published by Alea Games and reprinted in English version by Rio Grande Games. Designed by Stefan Feld (the man behind the game Notre Dame, Die Burgen von Burgund, Luna and many more).
“He who has no vision for the small things also blinds himself to the greater design.”
(Confucius, 551 – 479 B.C.)
1. The Theme
This game really has strong theme in my opinion. The title itself really describes the Chinese sense for the title refer to one of the Chinese Calendar. Players take on the role of Chinese ruler around the year 1.000. The game is set in one year length (12 months as the rounds). These 12 rounds / months will present the game with certain of events (randomly faced up) which almost consist of bad events. So i guess the theme makes the game unique, even in the first place i really don’t put much interest in these kind of games (with Chinese theme and the illustration is really lame).
2. The Artworks
Really, it surprised me to know that Michael Menzel did the artworks for the game. For the artworks really turned me off when i saw the cover. So, bye bye In The Year of The Dragon, i won’t try this game (first i thought). But one of my friends told me that the game, despite of the artworks, is really good. I am not saying that the artworks are bad but it’s just doesn’t really fit into my style. But the worst part of the artworks is the game board (okay i know i lil bit cross the line, this is supposed written in the components section) which really poorly designed.
3. The Game Components
First off, continuing from my last written review about the game board, it sucks! The game board really seemed was not designed at all. You can see monotone color of red (pale red) with looked like the board is turned upside down. The first reaction of mine was: “hey, seriously, you set the board in the wrong side!”. And all was done for… what a lame board. The other components are quite good, from the peasant tiles, action tiles, character cards, event tiles, and tokens (palace, dragon, rice, fireworks and coins). I would say that the palace tokens were really made unique, the shape really resembling the shape of a Chinese house roof.
4. The Game Play
As stated before, players take the role as Chinese ruler which must lead his people through 12 months of suffering (yeah, this game is not a fun game, at least the theme). They must prepare their people to face 12 events throughout the year> the year consist of 12 random events that will be drawn face up when setting up the game. The events are 2 peace events, 2 mongol invasions, 2 drought events, 2 dragon festival events, 2 imperial tribute events and 2 contagion events). Which you can see that there’s only 2 peace tiles (this would give you time to take a breath) and 2 dragon festival which can give benefit. Each player will be given 11 character cards with each character a card and 2 joker cards. These character cards can be played to activate the role of that peasant. The goal of the game is like every euro games, is collecting VP. Players will start the game with 2 palace tiles, 6 yuan, 2 peasant tiles (player can choose what peasant he want to choose but must not the same combination as any other players) and the 10 character cards.
The game started by randomly place the action tiles into (based on the amount of players) separate decks. The available actions are harvest, fireworks display, research, build, military parade, taxes and privilege. Each round consist of 4 phases in order (action – person – event – scoring).There also 2 track marker o the board, one is the population track and the other is point track. Person track manage players population (how many peasants they have) which will affected the turn order. The player with highest position on the person track is the first player. In action phase players choose what action they want to do (put his dragon marker on the action tiles layout). There are spaces contains 2 action tiles, and the player who put his dragon marker on that space will have the option to choose between that 2 possible actions. Players can choose an occupied space by paying 3 yuan to the supply. Player can put his dragon marker but completely pass his turn in this phase (thus gain up to total 3 yuan). After all players had put their dragon marker, each action is resolved. Taxes will give you 1 yuan and additional 1 yuan for each tax icon on the tax collectors you own in your palace. Build will give you palace tiles and 1 additional tiles for each hammer icon on the craftsman in your palace. Harvest will give you 1 rice and 1 additional rice per rice icon in any farmers you own on your palace. Fireworks will give you 1 firework token and additional tokens per fireworks icon in pyrotechnists you own.Military parade will give move you person track 1 space for each helmet icon shown in warrior tiles you won. Research will give move you scoring track 1 space forward and additional space for each book icons in researcher tiles you own. Privilege will give you the chance to buy small privilege for 2 yuan or 2 privilege for 6 yuan. These privilege token will give you additional point for every dragon icon in the privilege tiles you own in the scoring phase each round. A player may only purchase 1 privilege per action. Next phase is person phase, which each player (start from the first) play his person / character cards and take the peasant tile corresponding the character played and put it in his palace (if all the slots are occupied, he must decide which peasant tiles he want to get rid of (kill, this is the reason why the game is brutal). This cards are discarded into the discard board and won’t be returned to players’ hand. This 11 character cards represent all person / peasant tiles in the game with 2 joker cards which can be assigned as any characters. When performing these action, each player person marker will advance depending what peasant tile he took.
Next is the event phase, in this phase the actual event in that round is resolved. Each player must perform the event obligation (pay something or kill some peasants). Here are the list of events and their effects:
- Peace Events – Nothing happens
- Mongol Invasion Events – The players moves their scoring tracks as many as their military strength (helmet icons), gain that many VP. Player with the lowest military must lose 1 person tile from any 1 of his palaces.
- Imperial Tribute – Each player must pay 4 yuan to the emperor. If a player can’t pay the tribute he must lose 1 person tile from any of his palace for each missing yuan.
- Drought – Each player must pay 1 rice token for each palace that contain at least 1 peasant tile. If he doesn’t have enough rice tokens he must lose 1 person tile from each palace that he cannot supply.
- Dragon Festival – Player with the most fireworks tokens score 6 points and the second most score 3 points. After the scoring, players return half of their firework tokens (rounded down) back to the supply.
- Contagion – Each player lose 3 person tile of his choosing. He can prevent this if there are healers in his palaces (1 medicine icon prevent the lose of each person tile).
Decay. After an event occurred, each player must check, if they have a palace unoccupied by peasant tile, they must lose one story of that palace.This could also possible that one story palace will be terminated by this condition. The last phase is scoring. Each player score how many palace and dragon icons he have for each VP.
The game end after the last event has been resolved Thus trigger the final scoring phase which is the same like the previous scoring phase but with some addition. Each person tiles worth 2 points. For the monk, multiply the number of Buddha icon with the number of floors that monk inhabits. Each rice and fireworks tokens can be sell from 2 yuan worth, and 3 yuan can be converted into 1 point.
5. The Replay Value.
Well there are not much can be hope for. The replay value only lies on the event randomizer and the layout spaces for action tiles. The rest are kinda static (you always have 11 character cards, which 2 joker can be used in any combination if that’s count as replay value), fixed with 12 rounds (12 months). But it’s a fun game even it’s dreadful with misery events. Maybe you can get different feel of the game with different gaming group.
My Thought of The Game
It’s a simple game but full of chaotic events which made the situation more lively and in the same time require good decisions and planning. This game is known to be cruel by most gamers, where constantly forced players to kill his peasants. Just played this game once and really eager to play it again. A good game filler to have fun but for a filler game this takes quite a time (about 2 hours). Well, the game looks easy but it’s hidden gem lies on the strategically plans that player must take to face all the events.