Number of Players: 2-4 (special rules for 3)
Time: 20 Minutes
Age: 7 to 107
Game Type: Combat Engine Building
Gamer Type: Casual
Anyone who reads this column knows, I love dragons. Unicorns are not as interesting to me, so a bunch of dragons eating unicorns (if you play it right), was an interesting combination. Yes, the game is well balanced so the unicorns have the same chance as the dragons- which makes it all the more interesting. Dragons v. Unicorns is a fun game that the whole family can play, now lets look at how it works.
I like to see a good story of why the different groups in a game are fighting. With epic characters like dragons and unicorns, there is a lot of lore and legend why they could be at a disagreement (not to mention the three player rules where you can mix and match). Unfortunately, the game has the single phrase, “Dragons and Unicorns are in an eternal battle to decide who the most powerful.” Not much of a story to work with here, more like a gang battle. The cards do, however, open up to a little bit of a back story such as how some of the parts came to be, so hopefully we will see more story in future expansions. (2 of 10 for story).
So DVU comes out of the gate a little slow with story, but comes back swinging with the artwork. One of the hardest things about builder games where you put pieces together is ensuring that the cards match up. Too simple, the game is not engaging. Too complex and it is almost impossible to get the cards to match up. DVU hit the sweet spot in the middle, the cards match up and there is enough diversity to make it work. Add to that some cheeky cards and absolutely adorable card art and you have a good offering for art. The box is a little thicker than a standard small medium box, but should fit on your shelf quite well. 7 of 10 for Art.
If your a serious gamer, then you probably saw the 7-107 for the age and worried whether this is a game that is worth an adults time. If you are looking for a euro war game which will take hours and challenge every aspect of your mind, then this is not the place; however, if you are looking for a quick fun game that is different every time you play and will test your patience versus you desire to build out the perfect creature, then you have a winner. Even if an adult is playing a child in this game, you will see a lot of cool mechanics that keep things moving.
First of all, this is a dual randomize game. Let’s wait a second for the euro gamers to catch their breath, I know that concept scares them. This game uses dice and cards (and that is it) to randomize the experience. This means that you can have a “bad draw” that dooms your game; however, those games tend to go very fast. The cards are used to build your dragon/unicorn, depending on the species you need a head, legs, weapon, a body and tail. The depth of the card selection is deep enough that you will see some pretty funny dragons. The cards themselves just have strength, but no abilities, which makes it fun for kids, but can leave adults wanting a little more. The d3 used for attacks is balanced and you need specific numbers (or better) to overcome a specific body party- kill the critter, get the points and play till the dust settles. Overall, astonishingly simple for such a fun game (7 of 10).
With dual randomizes, strategy is fairly limited. You will see quite early on that offense and defense play a major part in this game. Do you want to make a run at an underdeveloped critter to get an easy early kill, or do you want to build a war machine to terrorize the other side. Your choice and both are fairly straight forward. Rush is crazy in this game, you can attack with just a head if you want (which leads to the need for a couple turn “grace period” a-la 1990’s Starcraft to prevent the rush. Engine building is key in this game as there are several “instant” cards you can use in battle to help you. The strategy, while simple is well defined and people can learn it quite quickly, 6 of 10 for strategy.
Fantasy games are pretty stacked when it comes to offerings on the market. DVU definitely falls into the fantasy category. This means that it has an uphill fight to distinguish itself. In fantasy, we tend to see a lot of complex games, DVU is not complex- so, there is a win. Likewise, many fantasy games tend to be too convoluted, DVU is not convoluted. The artwork is fun a cheery, so that hits its target audience right on the head. This corrects what a lot of people see as a problem in fantasy as people try to get too gritty.
The building mechanic is effective, and the attack mechanic is simple- once again not bad things but things we see in many games. A story would really break this game from the pack, and as I am reviewing the sample, this may change. This game is just novel enough to separate itself from the pack, but also comfortable enough people can play it with friends. A perfect balance. (5 of 10)
With an overall score of 27 of 50, this game comes in over average. It is a fun game that everyone can play and is a great addition to your collection. This is an easy game that allows everyone to play, especially while waiting for other guests. The 2-3-4 player rules also allow for you to play with diverse groups, which can be nice at the beginning or end of a gaming session.
So expansions are always a tricky thing. This goes doubly for NSFW expansions. First of all, this is not a kids expansion- do not send letters to the editor saying I told you to buy the expansion for your kids! It is an adult expansion. Some of the jokes are borderline for work, others are hilarious and step well over the line. As for scoring, seemingly in this expansion there is a battle between two S&M Lords and they are having their dragons and unicorns fight- nothing too graphic- but still not safe for young eyes. This adds to the story score +2.
The artwork is funny on most of the cards, two cards really hurt the fun feel of the game (the sacrifice horn and the other one you will be able to figure out). So i have to dock one point from the artwork for stepping too far. Mechanics is a wash, the blue pill card makes the unicorns exceptionally more powerful for a turn. Strategy also stays the same, though you have a longer game to look at with more cards. We see a one point pop in novelty, some of these cards make the game more “unique.” Overall we see a +2 addition for the total score for the expansion, really adding to the game.
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Dr. Christopher Smithmyer is a writer for NRN, the Vice President of International Affairs at Brav Online Conflict Management, and an Adjunct Professor of MBA Business at Doane University. He is also part of the founding team at BlackWalletLTD, one of the leaders in stable coin 2.0 ecosystem maintenance. Dr. Smithmyer’s focus is international business and finance, along with reviews of board games, weapons platforms, and survival items.