Exploring the mountain side, you come across plenty of caverns that seem well suited for mining. However, the quest to successfully join these mines for cohesive profit is more difficult than it seems. Mines of the Sacred Dragon is a tile placement game based on the fiction story written by Yeh Tian Ai, and Sunrise Tornado Game Studio takes the credit for the board game adaptation. This game was produced in 2012 with Game Salute’s aid, and was designed by Ta-Te Wu. Mines of the Sacred Dragon is meant for ages 10+.
Out of the Box
Inside of Mines of the Sacred Dragon, you will find the following :
- 80 hexagon tiles (in punch boards)
- 50 mine tokens (10 in each color : red, yellow, green, blue, and black)
- Score board
- 5 Player Aid cards
- Multilingual rulebook
Once you punch out the hexagon tiles, they will fit in piles in the box’s center insert, but removing the insert and replacing with bags is also an option.
The box is good quality, and the art on the outside is certainly intriguing, bearing a fierce horned dragon.
How to Play
Each player takes all the mine tokens of their chosen color and keeps them in front of them, placing one on the ‘0’ mark of the score board. The pile of hexagon tiles is shuffled and placed upside down on the side of the table. Each player randomly draws 4 tiles from the pile and keeps them hidden. Each player, starting with the youngest, then draws one tile from the pile and places it in the center of the table, matching the tile edges to corresponding colors. Yellow to yellow, red to red, blue to blue, etc. The only exception to this is the white sides, which are essentially a wild color and can be placed anywhere.
Then, with each player, they may take one of three actions.
Action 1 – Explore. Player plays 1-3 tiles on the board, each connecting to a pre-existing tile. Once laid, the player can build or expand a mine, which we will get to in just a moment.
Action 2 – Supply. Player can draw a tile, but only if they have less than 3 tiles in their hand.
Action 3 – Reoganize. Player can discard a tile in hand from the game and draw 2 new tiles. However, players may only have 3 tiles in their hands, so if a player starts with 3 tiles and discards one, they may only draw one.
So, to build a mine, a player can look at the tiles they’ve just played, whether it be one, two, or three. They may place a mine token on the last tile played this turn. This tile is called a foundation. A foundation must have at least 2 sides attached to the mountain, and it cannot be built next to any other foundation, including the active player’s.
Scoring works as follows : If a foundation is attached with two sides, it gets one token and scores 2 points. If it is attached by 3 sides, place one token and score 3 points. Four sides attached gains one token and 4 points, 5 sides attached gains two tokens and scores 5 points, and finally, the nearly-impossible six-sided foundation gains 3 tokens and scores 9 points.
To extend a mine, after a player has placed 1-3 tiles, if the last tile played is adjacent to one of the current player’s foundations and is attached by at least 3 sides, they may place a mine token on it as an extended mine location. Extended mines can be adjacent to other players’ foundations. Similar to foundations, if an extension is attached by 3-6 sides, that player would gain 3, 4, or 5 points respectively. If any extensions are attached by 6 sides, then 2 tokens are placed and 9 points are scored again.
The game ends when any player runs out of mine tokens or the pile is depleted! The scores from each players’ foundations and extensions are counted up and final scores are marked on the score board.
Want to play solo? Draw 20 tiles and use the same rules as above. Calculate your score when you run out of tiles or tokens, and celebrate your victory.
Don’t Judge This Game By Its Cover
The reason I call the conclusion section of this review what you see above is because if you judge the game by the beautiful artwork on the cover, you’re sure to be disappointed. Mines of the Sacred Dragon has nothing to do with dragons, first of all. I also felt like the components could’ve been of higher quality. The score board is beautiful, bearing the dragon you see on the cover of the box, but it stopped there. Many of the tiles tore while I was punching the tiles out. I’m not particularly rough with this process, so when multiple tiles tore on the way out, I was pretty disappointed.
I played this game for the first time in solo mode. I did enjoy this mode as it was a nice quiet puzzle game for myself, requiring some strategy though I was left to the randomness of the draw. However, with all the work I did to create foundations and extend my mines, I could tell within 5 minutes of playing that I would hate this game with more players. And I was so very right.
Because other players can build upon the tiles you place, you may have set yourself up for a sweet six-sided placement, only to have another player swoop in and take it from you. Not to mention how bored you will be while your opponents take their turns. All you can do is impatiently hold on to your tiles and pray that the tiles you are eying for your next move are left alone until it returns to you. Just try to not flip the table, because in every instance, my moves were taken from beneath me.
I feel that the ‘luck’ factor in this game is too strong, and players that pick up the white-sided tiles are at a steep advantage over everyone else, as their placements are much easier to manage. Besides this, the bottom line is that this game is just, well, boring.
Mines of the Sacred Dragon retails for $35.00, but I wouldn’t pick it up for that price. If this is something that you think you’d like or would be a good fit for your gaming group, I’d look into buying it on a clearance sale or even trying out a friend’s copy before picking it up. Even so, I feel like this game should only be a solo player game, because that was the only mode I actually liked it.
Thanks to Game Salute for providing a copy of Mines of the Sacred Dragon for review!
- The artwork on the box is beautiful
- Works well as a solo game
- Component quality not high
- Pure luck of the draw without much strategy
- Scoring can be confusing
- Players will find themselves bored when not the active player