Sharing a Dear Love: Red Dragon Inn


I. Friggin. Love. Board games. They're great. There's so many to choose from, so many with so much to offer. I'll probably talk about plenty more in the future, but for today, there's just one I want to talk about, and that game...is Red Dragon Inn.

I found Red Dragon Inn oh so many years ago. I had no idea what it was. It had 4 character decks for everyone playing to choose from. You get 1 token to measure your character's sobriety, one to measure their fortitude and a stack of gold. Each player takes turns playing cards from their deck to affect the game as a whole or go after the other people playing. In Red Dragon Inn, it's not the first to the finish line that wins. Rather, the game is focused solely on being the last person standing, and it's amazing.

In Red Dragon Inn, you take on one of the characters to choose from in the game. I currently own 31 different individuals to choose from and I don't even have them all yet! But I will, though. I will...ahem. Will you be the healing priestess? The tinkering goblin? The holy orc? The shapes-shifter? The blind navigator? The options are varied and amazing, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. I have my favorites, for sure. Witchdoctor Natyli is near and dear to my heart. Cursing your friends and inviting them to look forward to the curse ruining their next turn is a true delight.

Once you pick our your character, you take that specific deck, shuffle it and deal yourself a hand, placing your sobriety token on 0 on your game mat and your health token on 20. Everyone starts with the same amount of gold, the total of which is determined by number of people playing. Everyone also starts with a drink card to be dealt with when the time is right.

Then the game starts...

See, the brilliance of Red Dragon Inn isn't just restricted to its character design/balancing. It's not just how every game is a little different because you can choose any variety of characters that play completely differently off one another. It isn't down to the charming art or the not-so-subtle role-playing as you declare that you turn into a bear and maul the person who just threw a dagger at you. The game itself is designed ingenuously. Forget what's next on your turn? Just look down at your mat. Your turn order is right in front of you every time so you can't forget. Not sure what a card does? Read it. The answer is laid out beautifully under the comedic explanation. Even the rationale for losing has a fantastic in-universe explanation. Did you run out of money? Well? Guess who can't pay their bill any more and got tossed out into the street? Did you black out because your fortitude and sobriety finally met? Guess who's getting dragged upstairs to sleep it off?

See, Red Dragon Inn gives you not one, but two ways to lose. You can either run out of money or black-out. I can't tell you how intense rounds of in-game gambling have gotten because someone's last gold is in the pot and they either win by any means necessary or that's it. Personally, however, I prefer the other option for losing as the Inn takes half of the player's gold when they "pass out" and splits the other half among whoever's still in play. Taking someone out with a huge stack of gold can completely shift a game, turning everyone's plans upside down.

If you like games like Munchkin or other role-playing board games and have never played Red Dragon Inn, I cannot suggest it enough. While Munchkin is everyone on an adventure, first one to the end wins, in Red Dragon Inn, the adventure is over. The characters you're playing are back in town at the Inn, drinking and swapping stories, trying to out-drink and out-gamble each other until only one's left standing. If that's not fun, I don't know what is.

What are some board games you've played that you think I should know about? If you've played Red Dragon Inn, do you have a favorite characters? I'd love to hear all about it.

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