The Dragon King has died and you are one of two dragon mage acolytes who must prove your mastery to take your place as the new Draco Magi. Command dragons in battle and acquire gems as proof of your victories – once the right gems are collected, you will earn the right to take the crown.
In February of 2014, a successful Kickstarter campaign that attracted a lot of attention funded and launched the birth of Draco Magi. This 2 player card game would pit 2 players and a handful of dragons against each other in a fight for battlefield supremacy through a variety of tricks and battle tactics. While the stunning artwork attracted many backers, the game itself was new and intriguing. So, did the game stand up to the hype? Read on to find out!
Out of the Box
Draco Magi comes in a small rectangular purple box and contains the following:
- 18 double-sided battlefield cards
- 40 battle cards
- 18 advanced battle cards
- 64 dragon cards
- first player marker
- card index sheet
The contributing artists to the game – Kerem Beyit, Ertac Altinoz, and Emiliano Cordoba – all put great effort into making the dragons on this world fearsome and beautiful.
Playing The Game
Here is a photo of the setup in the rulebook, and a photo of our setup with the Draco Magi playing mat (sold separately).
First, separate the decks. There will be a Gold dragon deck and a Green dragon deck. A Gold battle deck and a Green battle deck. There will also be a Battlefield deck and an advanced battle deck. All of the battle cards (green, gold, and advanced) have green, gold, and red borders, accordingly. The dragon decks each have different colored backs.
The oldest player takes the first player marker and chooses their color, then takes the dragon and battle decks for the color they chose. Shuffle the advanced battle deck and leave these to the side for now. Shuffle the battlefield deck and draw 3 from the bottom of the deck. These cards are double sided and come into play in the same orientation as they’re drawn – they can be flipped during battle by dragon abilities. Players shuffle their dragon and battle decks separately and place them face down beside them.
The last phase in setup is the advanced battle draft. Each player will draw 3 advanced battle cards. Each player will then choose one card to keep, one to give to the opponent, and one to discard.
After this is done, shuffle the discarded cards back into the advanced battle deck, and each player will shuffle the 2 acquired cards into their battle decks…and you are ready to begin.
Phase 1 – Scrying Pool
Player one draws battlefield cards from the bottom of the deck until there are 3 cards in play. Please note that this phase is here for future turns – you will skip this phase on the first turn since you’ve already done this in the setup phase.
Phase 2 – Summon Dragons
Draw cards from dragon decks until each player has 8 cards in hand. If at any time you cannot draw 8, shuffle the dragon discard pile to form a new one.
Phase 3 – Command Dragons
Starting with the first player, each player takes turns placing one dragon card at a time on the battlefield – they can be placed at any of the 3 battlefield locations, and the following rules must be heeded:
- Dragons may only be placed on the commanding player’s side of the battlefield, and must be played on top of any other previously played dragons in each location.
- No more than 3 dragons can be played to one battlefield per side.
- Some locations have bonuses and downfalls to your dragons, depending on their types. Be sure to read these before placing your dragons.
- If your dragon has a Ranged attack, you may choose to immediately attack the topmost dragon on your opponent’s side of the battlefield. If the dragon is immune or there are no dragons opposing, no ranged attack occurs. In a ranged attack, declare it and then draw battle cards equal to your dragon’s ranged attack value (the fireball symbol on the left side of the card). Reveal these and add up the number of burst symbols (successes) in the upper left hand side of the battle cards. The defender then draws battle cards equal to the shield value (shield on the right side of the card) of the defending dragon. Add the number of successes in the upper right hand side of their battle cards. If the attack successes exceed shield successes, the defender has lost and must discard the defeated dragon. If the shield successes are equal to or greater than the attacks, then the ranged attack has failed.
Once both players have placed all dragons or placed the maximum number of dragons (9), they must pass to end the command dragons phase. If any dragon cards remain in hand, they are placed face down until phase 5.
Phase 4 – Dragon Melee
First player chooses a battlefield to resolve and complete melee battle.
- Draw battle cards from their decks equal to the sum of melee values on the dragon cards at that battlefield location. This value is the number at the top center of each dragon card. If at any time your battle deck runs out, shuffle your discard pile to form a new draw pile.
- Attack – first player plays a card or card combo and announces attacks. If a player has no battle cards, they pass the attack to the opponent. Cards may be played in a combo if the symbols on the top edge of the battle card match (sun, moon, and stars). Note that the symbols much match only for an attack, not for defending. If a card doesn’t have one of the three mentioned symbols, it cannot be played as part of a combo.
- Defend – The defending player defends each attack with a card of the same type (a Bite for a Bite, double claw for a double claw, etc), or may any number with a Flight card. If a player attacks with a bite, a claw, and another bite, the defending player must defend with a bite, a claw, and another bite, or use a flight card to avoid all 3. If an attack cannot be defended, the defending player discards the topmost dragon, and continues for each attack that cannot be defended. If at any time a defending player runs out of battle cards, they may draw one random battle card from the top of their battle deck to attempt to defend.
- Defender becomes the attacker. Repeat steps 2-4 until either only one player has dragons at a battlefield (they win the battle), the defender has no battle cards -and- the attackers has more dragons at the location, or both players have no attack battle cards. The player with the most dragons at the battlefield wins. If there is a tie, dragons remain there for the next round.
- Resolution – pass the first player token to the other player, and the winner of the battlefield location takes the card, and any remaining dragons go their owner’s discard piles. You must take the card in its current orientation. Any battle cards remaining in hand are discarded, and the new first player picks the next battlefield to resolve. Once all 3 battlefields have been resolved, move on to Phase 5.
Phase 5 – Nightfall
If either player has dragon cards remaining, they may keep or discard as many as they’d like. Each player draws one new advanced battle card for their deck and reshuffle their battle decks, including the discarded cards. Start back at Phase 1 and repeat until a winner is established!
To win the game, a player must collect 3 gems of different colors, 3 gems of the same color, or 4 gems of any color.
In The Flurry Of Battle
I was a fan of Draco Magi way before it ever entered my hands – I had been eyeing it on Kickstarter and loved the artwork as it was posted there and on Facebook. I finally got my hands on a copy at BGG.Con and even got a demo before I left that day. Strangely, this is one of the few games I’ve played that a demo was actually more confusing than just reading the rulebook. So, when I got home, I was left spinning a little in worry that the rulebook would also confuse me. This was not the case to my surprise, and upon reading the rules, I was good to go.
The placement of dragons is very important for a few reasons. Some of the dragons have key abilities like they can’t be targeted by ranged attacks, have extra power in certain locations, or are boosted if they are played with specific dragon types. Also, the battlefield locations often say that that a particular dragon type gets +2 attack or +2 defense, or something along those lines. The ability to flip the battlefield locations is key, too. Some of them have the same location rules on both sides, but others can drastically change the outcome of the battle if flipped at the wrong time. Each location has a different colored gem, so flipping locations most often will be to the advantage of the player doing the flip, whether it is a gem they seek or to hinder their opponent.
I’m not really sure that in the game I get the “feel” of being a dragon acolyte through the game except for directing placement of the dragons. The melee itself is more determined by the dragons, as I don’t really see a human standing back and giving them orders like they were pocket monsters. The dragon theme, though, is heavily seen throughout the game. The framework on the battle cards has a celtic-type feel but in dragon knots, the dragons themselves are just beautiful.
Draco Magi absolutely has the potential to be different every time – even if a player has similar dragon card draw, the battle cards can completely change the outcome of a game. We’ve played many games where it looked like I was going to have a win because of dragon placement, but my battle cards let me down, allowing my opponent to come out on top. That isn’t to say you can just play cards wherever and expect a win – there is still a heavy element of strategy. Each player has the potential to set up some heavy combo attacks, and while they may be hard to defend against every time, if played right, the defender can come out on top as an attacker later in the game.
While they seem to be unavailable for purchase at the time of this review, I do feature in some photos in this review a special playmat for the game that has designated spaces for how the game is meant to be set up, which is handy and well organized. If you are able to find one of these mats (18″x24″), it would certainly enhance your game.
Draco Magi retails at $24.99 and we believe that it is well worth it. Once you know how the battle cards work, the game is smooth, the cards are well laid out, and the design and art are just fantastic. I am personally a dragon lover, and the theme of the game was so powerful, I really felt like I was in the heat of battle, making quick decisions on how to come out of a battle on top, or at least causing as much damage as I could if it was a losing fight. I enjoy Draco Magi whether I win or lose, and greatly admire the time that was put into this. If you’re looking for an innovative 2 player card game, I’d highly recommend Draco Magi as your next game shelf addition.
- Stunning artwork
- Thoughtful card layout
- Mechanics are smooth
- Rules are clear and cards are easily read
- Matching attack for defense cards during melee makes for great theme
- Ranged battle can be “chancy” since they are flipped from a shuffled deck