Dragon Market is the brand new set collection and movement title from publisher Blue Orange. Designed by Marco Teubner, featuring artwork from Tomasz Larek, the game sees 2 – 4 players jumping across moving boats, each with their own sailor and merchandise. Lasting around 30 – 40 minutes players aim to grab items, manipulate boats and hinder opponents. However, will you want this in your collection? Let’s find out!
At the start of the game the boats are placed on the board by the players, each with two sets of items. Each player then takes an heir pawn, placing them on the matching colour corner pontoon. Working out whom will go first each subsequent player takes coins from the bank (second player gets 1, third gets 2, etc). Shuffling either the blue or the red objective deck each player gets their first objective card, with the unused colour deck returned to the box. The starting player claims the dice and gets ready to roll.
Each turn the player starts by rolling the action dice. This indicates how many action points they have to spend, ranging from 6 – 8. Each action point can be spent that round, with unspent actions taken as coins. Up to 2 coins can then be spent to take additional actions each round. For an action point the player can choose to rotate any boat by 90 degrees, with the sailor as the boats locked axis. The boat must be able to do this cleanly though, not bumping or swinging through other boats.
Instead, a player may move a boat as far as they like in a forward or backwards direction of travel. Again, this must be clean – so the boat cannot glide over other boats or off the edge of the board. The last action is to move their heir pawn, costing one action point per square moved. Players can move through other players. However, they cannot pass the sailors, nor can they stop where other players are. The aim is to simply walk over or stop on the four items of merchandise on your objective card – taking the token accordingly.
Once a player has managed to collect the four items on their objective card it is time for them to return to their starting pontoon. Upon getting back to the pontoon that matches their colour, located in one corner of the board, the objective is completed. Players need to complete two objective cards, including getting back to their pontoon. The second is only obtained after completing the first. Note, it is not possible to collect merchandise ahead of time for the second card. As soon as the second is complete the game is over and that player is the winner.
While the blue objectives are the way to get the game to the table quickly, the red objectives spice things up a bit. The blue objectives solely show the four items the player needs to collect. While the red objectives show this they also depict an ability. Each time a red objective card is taken, at the start or after completing the first, two are drawn from the deck. The player can then decide which they wish to keep and which to discard. Once a card is completed players unlock the shown ability.
The powers range from sailing a boat over another once a turn to swapping positions with another player on the same boat. None completely change the game but they do mean there are new opportunities to watch out for, and new ways to spoil an opponent’s plan. While you cannot mix the blue and red objective cards, to have new and experienced players using different decks, there is the ability to let the game grow a little with players.
Straight off the bat it Dragon Market is a rather striking game. The game oozes visual appeal due to the deep blue water of the board, the contrast of the boats and the sailor and player piece shapes – mostly due to the iconic hat shape. The icons used on the objective cards and tokens are clear and easy to read – though with the boats moving a lot each round they can be hard to keep track of. The only minor complaint about the otherwise top level production quality comes from twisting the boats. With a slightly shiny finish spinning a boat too quickly can cause the tokens to slide off. It’s a minor problem, occurring only a handful of times – though does disrupt the flow of the game when it happens.
Dice can instill fun or risk into a game, but that is not the case in Dragon Market. Rolling for action points can put one player at a disadvantage, even if the range is only from 6 – 8. There is simply no getting around the fact that having 8 actions is better than 6. A problem that is only exasperated due to the way coins can be obtained. If everyone had 7 actions it could be fairer. It would even be possible to keep the slight excitement of the dice; if rolling below 8 were to reward coins for future turns to outweigh the lack of actions on the current turn. Dragon Market is a fun and fast title, but still the dice can provide irritation.
Between turns there is sometimes things to laugh about, as one player ends up nowhere near where they want to be. Other gaps are filled with other players pondering and calculating if they can perform their 8 actions in the perfect way. This can mean that players feel the downtime from one turn to the next. Especially in a 4 player game, where the entire board will have changed between turns, as it isn’t possible to plan ahead. This sees players go through all of the thoughts and planning only when their turn comes about, slowing the game down considerably.
The game truly gets going when there are more than 2 players. At times in a two player game the most beneficial move can be to simply take coins and wait. When more are round the table there is more chaos thrown into the mix, with the boats shifting all across the river. This makes it harder to work out what will hinder one opponent but help another. This sees players either going only their objectives or stopping an obvious leader – giving the game a more family friendly fun feel rather than a cut throat back and forth vibe.
Dragon Market does have its problems, which some will find more severe than others. The way a player can roll a six without a benefit over a player rolling an eight doesn’t sit right, even for a fast paced game like this. The way the board changes drastically between turns does stop forward planning, though it can also be exciting when it is your turn to cause chaos and see the board change so much. Despite this there is something fun about rotating and moving the boats around the stunning board, and seeing the heir player pieces hopping across the boats. For the entertainment and the boat based chaos that can occur Dragon Market is a game which is worth a play, and for the right people a space on their gaming shelf.