Welcome to Board Games With OB, a somewhat profane, possibly semi-regular feature where OregonBeast gets a board game he likes and briefly explains how to play it and hopes you would be interested in playing it, too. Because board games are fucking awesome.

I have a soft spot in my otherwise cynical ice-cold heart for games that take a popular theme, but instead just tweak it in a way that turns it into something completely different.

The Red Dragon Inn series of games begins with something familiar - a party of adventurers, ala Dungeons & Dragons, Final Fantasy or any other role playing games you might think of. In the normal setup of a game of this sort, the group utilizes their varying powers and abilities to defeat monsters and obtain treasure.

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And that's where most adventure games end. Red Dragon Inn, meanwhile, picks up from that point, and turns these brave, daring adventures by day into a bunch of troublemaking, conniving assholes by night, determined to take the noble souls they just fought alongside and reduce them to nothing by taking their winnings at gambling, drinking them under the table, or outright fucking them over.

And it's a blast to do. Let's play The Red Dragon Inn.

Games: The Red Dragon Inn 1, 2, 3 & 4
Players: 2 to 4 per individual game, games can be combined to accommodate more.
Gametime: 30 to 45 minutes
Designers: Multiple designers for each game, one consistent is Cliff Bohm (USA)
Key Mechanics: Variable player powers, hand management, wagering/cheating

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Story: It was a tough battle for your party of adventures, but it was successful. You got yourselves a ton of loot. But how to relax after a long, hard day of combat and treasure-seeking? Like anybody else, go down to the local bar! And, maybe while you're at it, you can get bragging rights over your fellow adverturers by getting them all so shitfaced they get kicked out of the place or winning their share of the day's treasure in gambling...even if you have to cheat to do it.

What do you do? (NOTE: For this discussion, we will be talking about the original RDI game) A game of Red Dragon Inn starts with each player picking one of the four characters of the adventuring party. Each character has their own custom deck of cards, and each characters has its own strengths and weaknesses. Gerki the Sneak, for example, is very adept at cheating to win at gambling, while Fiona the Volatile is horrible at gambling but fantastic at holding her liquor. Knowing the strengths of each character is important to winning the game.

In addition to the character deck, each player also has an individual player board. This is where you will keep your player deck, track your discard, and hold onto cards from the drink deck. It's also has a track numbered from 0 to 20 where you track your player's fortitude and alcohol levels. The game starts with each player having a fortitude level of 20 and an alcohol level of zero. Markers of differing colors are placed on the track to indicate these. Keeping track is important, because if a character's fortitude level ever goes lower than their alcohol level, they're officially plastered and eliminated from the game.

Each player is given an amount of gold coins, and a central drink deck that all players draw from is placed in the center of the table. To start off each player takes a card from the top of the drink deck and places it face-down on their player board.

Now, the game begins. Each player's turn consists of four phases-

  • First, players have a hand of seven cards from their character's deck. They can choose to discard any number of these cards in exchange for new cards from the deck.
  • Second, players make use of the action cards from their hand. These actions could be a number of different things from regaining fortitude to lowering the fortitude of other players to taking gold from other players or starting up a round of gambling (more on that later).
  • Third, the player takes the top card off the drink deck and giving it to another players. The card remains face-down and none of the players get to see what it is.
  • Finally, the player takes a drink by flipping over the top drink card on their own player board and adding to their alcohol level. Drinks are generally anywhere from 1 to 4 alcohol content, although there are varying drinks such as water that does nothing, coffee that actually lowers your alcohol level, or ones that lower your fortitude instead of your alcohol.

Now, let's talk about the gambling action. When a round of gambling begins , all players must ante in one of their coins. Playing that gambling action card also means that player is winning the game. Going around the table, players either must pass (thus meaning they're still in the round, but are not winning), or must play action cards related to gambling that allow them to take control of the round.

Gambling action cards are both fair play or cheating. Each type of card can be played at different times and has different effects, including forcing everybody to add more coins to the pot or allowing them to kick out another player from the round. Whoever can control the round without another player making a move to take control away wins the round and collects the coins — unless, another player plays the special action cards that makes it so nobody wins and everybody loses the money they wagered.

Yes, there are special action cards that can be played at any time to screw with other players even more. Maybe they take extra fortitude damage, or the drink becomes stronger, or you get to split your drink with somebody else and share the alcohol increase. The options abound.

How to taste sweet, sweet victory: Players are eliminated from the game in one of two ways: Either they lose all their gold, or their fortitude level meets up with their alcohol level, leaving them too drizzunk to continue. Last player standing wins.

So, what makes this game awesome?

  • I've always thought of Red Dragon Inn as a more stable Munchkin. It shares the backstabbing adventure game type that Munchkin is, but because of the individual decks, there's more balance for each player and you're less likely to get hosed by the hand you get.
  • The individual decks also creates the ability for each player to form unique strategies based on the strengths and weaknesses of each character.
  • There's the ability to have a lot of surprises in this game. From what kind of drinks you drink, to being able to mess with what other players are doing while they're doing it, there's a lot of constant interaction going on between the players.
  • As I said before, the theme of the game is clever in that it riffs off of a familiar theme (adventuring RPG) with something else (adventuring RPG partying it up at the tavern).

Variety is the spice of life: As has been noted, there have been four full versions of the Red Dragon Inn created, which are all standalone games. But, each version has been designed to be compatable with the other full versions of Red Dragon Inn, allowing for some variation in either character choices for a standard 2 to 4 player game, or combining multiple sets for games with even more players. Also, there are separate expansions of individual characters allowing for further variation in the gameplay. In total, between the full games and character expansions, there are 20 different character decks available, making possible playing combinations go into the thousands.

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See it in action: Here's a great video tutorial on Red Dragon Inn, courtesy of Team Hypercube. (opens in a new tab)

Previous Board Games With OB:[Takenoko] [Snake Oil] [Tsuro] [Dixit] [The Resistance] [Hey, That's My Fish!] [Ticket To Ride] [Survive: Escape From Atlantis] [Castle Panic] [Small World] [Qwirkle] [Elder Sign] [Carcassonne] [Jaipur] [Tokaido] [Blokus] [Puerto Rico] [Love Letter] [Can't Stop]