Burnination isn’t necessarily a core value of Blue Orange Games, but in a year like 2020, it only makes sense that fantastical fiery beasts dominate the landscape of this family-friendly publisher. If you have young players at your table that adore these beastly basilisks, you’ll want to read about two new Blue Orange releases that feature dragons!
Design: Bruno Cathala, Marie Fort, Wilfried Fort
Artwork: Maëva da Silva, Christine Deschamps
Billed as a “My First Kingdomino” game, Dragomino takes the very basic concept of matching dual-faced tiles, and distills it down to a light strategy experience for players aged 5 years and older. Much like its older sibling game, four domino tiles will be available to draft each round, with each player claiming one to develop their landscape. Every match created by placing this new tile earns that player a dragon egg, which is flipped over to reveal either a baby dragon or an empty egg. Each baby is worth a point, while an empty egg draws over the mama dragon meeple. The mama determines the first player for the next round, and is worth one point for whoever she is visiting at the end of the game.
The basic game of dominoes never really appealed to me, but it’s been fantastic to see the classic concept connect with my children. For nearly all of our games played, both Big and Little Bean were intently focused on keeping their tableau organized, and every dragon egg discovered created a crescendo of excitement, particularly when a baby beast was found, eliciting a boisterous cheer of “I GOT A BABY DRAGOOOOOOON!”
In particular, I was impressed with how my easily distracted 3 year old was able to fully participate in the experience. While she’s not yet able to seek out the deeper tactics of trying to set up an opportunity to collect multiple eggs, it’s the most invested I’ve seen Little Bean in an entire game experience. We’re still a few years away from trying to tackle Kingdomino as a family, but this game is absolutely paving a path towards that goal!
Design: Fréderic Moyersoen
Turning the well-trodden trope of dragon abduction on its head, the story of this game is right in its title – Save the Dragon! Some nasty-looking baddies have managed to trap our sacred scaly beast, and players are racing up a dangerous staircase to de-shackle our dragon in distress. At its core, Save the Dragon is a roll and move experience – roll a chunky six-sided die, that allows our heroes to climb up 1, 2 or 3 steps. If the result is 1 or 2, an even chunkier die is rolled, which will allow us to shift the position of our shield, move the door at the top of the steps, or … unleash a giant boulder from an open doorway! The boulder aims to topple one of the heroes, likely sending them all the way to the bottom of the steps, to restart their trek to overcome the tyrannical trio. The winner will be whichever player can first get to the top of the steps, and step through an open entranceway!
Save the Dragon is not a thinky game by any means, but each game does involve a handful of interesting decisions. Positioning the shield and doorway to protect yourself can make enough of a difference to help a player claim victory, and positioning your hero in the same lane as an opponent might make them think twice before sending the boulder in your direction. Dropping the boulder down the steps is just plain fun, and because the box bottom is used as the base of the staircase, the massive marble will remain on the table for the duration of the game. I fully expected the bumping of other players to the bottom of the steps to result in some sour feelings, but since that results in receiving a coin, it somehow negates the negative feelings. My girls absolutely LOVE this game, and we have pulled it out nearly every day since it arrived.
Blue Orange’s double dragon games are likely not going to be pulled out much after the younger children are asleep, but they are each games that will engage budding gamers in very different ways. If you are building a children’s collection of games, I believe there is plenty of contrast to warrant purchasing both of these titles. However, if you were to twist our arms to force us to recommend one game over the other, both my children and their young friends are asking to play Save the Dragon more often, and it holds their attention for a longer period of time once it’s on the table.
DOUBLE VERDICT : TWO LITTLE THUMBS UP!
We thank Blue Orange Games for sending review copies of Save the Dragon and Dragomino to make this article possible.