“Never laugh at live dragons” – The Hobbit
Dragonkeepers is a new set-collecting card game Kosmos games. Dragonkeepers reminds of the very popular “Point Salad” card game which has a 5 star rating on Amazon.com – but with a little more strategy involved. Players assume the role of dragonkeepers and it is their job to herd and look after baby dragons.
Dragonkeepers is a drafting game. Players draft young dragons, and play them as sets order to score points. This is family-weight game, but there is a lot of good decision making for experienced gamers as well.
Dragonkeepers is designed for 2-4 players, ages 8 & up, and takes about 20-30 minutes to play. If the art looks familiar, the game is designed and illustrated by Michael Menzel, the man behind the Legends of Andor board game.
What’s in the Box?
“Dragonkeepers” comes in a standard-sized, rectangular game box – 11 inches x 7.5 inches x 1.5 inches.
- 11 Shadow Dragon Cards
- 8 Starting Cards
- 104 Dragon / Magic Book cards
- 3 Scoring Crests
- 9 Golden Eggs
- 15 Pearls
- 10 Crystals
- 45 Amulet Pieces
The cards are slightly larger than normal playing cards, and are of nice paper stock. The 15 pearls are plastic. All other game pieces are typical punch-out cardboard pieces.
All playing cards are two-sided. Every card features a colored dragon on one side, and Magic Book pages on the other side.
The box itself has a basic cardboard insert to hold everything.
Here is an abbreviated overview of gameplay.
Dragons come in five colors: White, Green, Red, Blue and Shadow. Shadow dragons are wild. Each player takes turns drafting dragons. The players then can play dragon cards from their hands.
On your turn you will be able to do 3 things:
- Draw cards into your hand – The Dragon Cards / Magic Book Cards will create both a “Magic Book” and a “Display”. (See image above) On your turn, you will be able to draw 1 to 3 dragon cards (1 at a time) from the Display. Every time you draw a card from the Display, you will immediately replace that card with card directly above it from the Magic Book. This will then affect the requirements of playing cards in the Magic Book Note: you can hold as many dragon cards in your hand as you want. There is no hand limit.
- Change the Magic Book – Before you play dragon cards from your hand, you can manipulate the Magic Book pages with cards from your hand. The backs of the dragon cards are book pages. Example: If you look at the image above. The magic book would like you to play “1” Green Dragon in front of you. If you do, you will be rewarded an amulet and a pearl. But you can change both halves of the Magic Book to your benefit. You can play cards from your hand into the magic book and change the number of dragons required to play, as well as the color. So, you could theoretically change the magic book to something like “Play 2 White Dragons”.
- Play dragon cards in front of you and collect the rewards – Following the rules of the Magic Book, you may now play the exact number of dragon cards in front of you, and take the corresponding reward(s). At the end of your turn, each opponents may also play those exact same cards in front of them if they have those dragon cards. Opponents cannot manipulate the Magic Book, but they can play cards that meet the requirements of the Magic Book as you left it.
Everyone receives rewards based on the leftmost card of the Magic Book if they were able to play dragon cards according to the Magic Book. During your turns, you will be collecting treasures that reward points or extra dragon cards. The Scoring Crests, Golden Eggs, Pearls, Crystals, and Amulet Pieces will all be up for grabs for end game scoring.
Turns continue on like this until the end of the game is triggered. The person with the most points wins.
One of the things that makes this game a little “thinkier” than you might otherwise believe, is that there is a very interesting card placement rule that comes into place during the mid-game.
As we said before, you play Dragons in a a pile in front of you. on a following turn, if you play more cards of the same dragon color, you may place them on top of that stack. If you play a new dragon color, then you must start a new stack. The Dragonkeeper Placement Rule is as follows: No card may be placed on a stack that is between 2 other dragon colors. Wowza! This zinger of a rule can really make decisions important in the mid to late game.
Likes, Dislikes and Final Thoughts on Dragonkeepers
The card art is great. The dragons are so darn cute! And the card stock is good too.
Gameplay is fun and quick. Dragonkeepers does not overstay its welcome. Games usually finish in 20-30 minutes.
The game is very easy to learn and simple to teach.
There is fun decision-making in this Dragonkeepers. Not only are you trying to navigate the tricky “Placement Rule”. You also need to navigate end game scoring bonuses. The player with the most golden eggs gets a bonus. The first player to collect dragons of all four colors gets a bonus, but this comes at a cost due to the Placement Rule. Playing a hand of six dragons at once is possible for big points, but other players will be collecting amulet pieces quicker by laying smaller groups of dragon cards. So many decisions!!!
I also like the fact that you can play dragons from your hand immediately after each player has manipulated the Magic Book.
Setting up the 40+ amulet pieces “in ascending order” at the start of the game is a bit tedious.
The cardboard punch-out’s are nothing to write home about. But, they are typical for many games these days.
The game might end too quickly for some. You might be holding on to cards, hoping to lay down a big hand of six dragons, but the game might end before you get a chance to play those cards. Some games feel like you are just getting a big engine going, but your opponents’ have been working on ending the game quickly with smaller dragon piles.
Final Thoughts on Dragonkeepers
This is an excellent “filler game” for game nights with family and friends. Even though Dragonkeepers might look like a simple family-weight game, the decision to play or hold your dragon cards is where this game shines. Also, the decision to start a 3rd and/or 4th dragon pile color can be game breaking because of the “placement rule”. I love it!
If you like the game “Point Salad”, but would like a little more strategy than that, then Dragonkeepers is perfect for you.
This game is available on Amazon.com. The retail price is $27.95 which is fair for this game.