(Photo courtesy BGG user @ziozucca)
Wanna play Mahjong? But not really Mahjong at all? Dragon Castle is for you! The premise of this title is you are taking the large, majestic Dragon Castle and breaking it apart to create your own smaller Castle…kinda selfish!
(All photos here are not mine, pulled from around the interwebs)
When you sit down to play DC, you have to first build the main castle and you build it on a board that will tell you how high each stack of tiles should be. You do this as randomly as you can as a group. To me this is fairly cathartic and it also helps everyone have buy-in right from the get go! Once that is built, it is much easier to teach the game.
Each turn you have a couple of actions to choose from, but all of them have limitations. No matter what, the first tile you pull off of the Dragon Castle must be from the top level of the castle. If you pull one off, you can either gain a shrine (more on this in a moment), or you can destroy that single tile for a point. These are both fairly strategic moves and non-ideal moves. The most ideal move is to pull two tiles off of the castle, to do this you can grab one from the top level, then you can grab an accessible tile that matches that first tile from anywhere on the board. My main philosophy in this game is, the more tiles, the better.
You might be thinking to yourself, “ok, I have all these tile, now what do I do with them?”. Great question, I am glad you asked! You get to place them in your personal realm! This is the main way that you score points in DC. When placing tiles in your realm, if four or more tiles of the same color are touching orthogonally, they do something called “consolidate”, and this is something you HAVE to do if this situation arises. They all flip over and you score them based on how many are flipped. 4 gets you 2 point, 5 gets you 3, 6 gets you 5 and it grows from there. The tricky aspect is getting the right tiles at the right times and placing them in the right places. You can then build up from there and make your castle bigger and better! You can even add your shrines (I told you I would come back to this) to flipped tiles to add to your end game scoring. You get a point for every level that shrine is on top of.
(Photo Courtesy of BGG user @argaille)
This game is absolutely gorgeous, it is really a fun experience, it is a nice little mid-weight and mid-length thinky filler. And all of this is just the base game! There are Spirit cards and Dragon cards that add unique abilities and end game scoring conditions that make each game feel a little different from the last. To gain the spirits abilities, you destroy one of your shrines in your supply or a tile in your realm and they often have some really great abilities!
Personally, I really enjoy this game, but my wife dislikes this and my game group prefers some more weighty and lengthy games so this game lives in a very odd limbo. Unfortunately I do not believe it has a place in my collection any more, even though I love it.
+ fun and engaging mechanics AND set up
+ beautiful and very tactile components
+ lots of variability with different set up options for castle and different spirit/dragon cards
- falls in a middle ground with my group, I haven nothing bad to say about this game!