It was a Sunday morning. My partner and I had been out on a date the night before, enjoying one too many specialty cocktails, and my brain was moving two steps behind my body. Of course, my children are awake before 6am, because this is the time of life where we cannot have nice things. Stumbling to the couch, I reach for the television remote, going through the motions of starting a Paw Patrol episode in the hopes of claiming an extra 15 minutes of sleep before the first fight of the day breaks out. Suddenly, the voice of my youngest child says something magical, that slows time and briefly relieves my hangover…
“DADDY, I DON’T WANT PAW PATROL.
I WANT TO PLAY SAVE THE DRAGON!”
Oh, my blessed child. I will grant you this wish. My attempts to reclaim a brief moment of sleep will come later.
Save the Dragon is a new game from Blue Orange Games, for 2 to 4 players ages 5 and up, with a play time of about 15 minutes. Let’s attempt to find out what dark power the creative team stuffed into the box to break the spell of Ryder and his puppy minions … at least for one morning.
WHO MADE THIS GAME?
The game design comes from Fréderic Moyersoen, who has dozens of previous design credits, including the ever-popular Saboteur, and the highly underrated Batt’l Kha’os. Artwork and graphic design comes from Stivo, who has worked on nearly 30 games, mostly for Blue Orange and Cocktail Games.
THE GAME : HOW TO PLAY?
A trio of baddies have captured your dragon friend, and it’s up to us to save them! However, only one can gain the glory by climbing to the top steps of the sinful saboteurs. Each turn consists of rolling a smaller die, numbered 1 to 3, allowing them to navigate the staircase by that many spaces. With a result of 1 or 2, a larger event die is rolled, which will allow players to adjust the position of the door and shield tokens, or potentially send a boulder tumbling down from the top of the steps. Anyone struck by the boulder receives a coin, which can be used to boost later rolls by 1 space per coin. Whichever hero first reaches the top step and then enters the castle window saves the dragon and wins the game!
WHAT’S GREAT ABOUT IT?
Any game that uses the box as part of the experience wins a little piece of my heart, and Save the Dragon scores big points for its table presence and functionality. Tumbling boulders in a board game are such a delight, and the one here is no exception. The game is quick to play, and the staircase only has 8 steps. Even if the rolling rock knocks a player down repeatedly, each game is only a few minutes away from ending, and then it can all begin again. Despite the absolute simplicity, it’s wonderful that the game offers small tactical decisions that may take young gamers several plays to grasp.
COMPONENTS : HOW ARE THEY?
The staircase and castle wall are made of sturdy cardboard, and the way they are anchored to the box is a joy to behold. Although this staircase is durable, adults will want to handle the assembly and breakdown of the game, as there is the potential for damage where the slots connect. All of the other cardboard elements are adequately thick, the pawns are an assortment of lovely pastels, and the dice are chunky and colourful. Excellent quality overall!
LITTLE THUMBS : HOW IS IT FOR KIDS?
As you might guess from my earlier story, my two beans (ages 3 and 5) absolutely LOVE this game. We’ve been playing almost daily since it arrived, and their excitement for the game is showing no signs of diminishing. Big Bean is invested in the game’s narrative of a joint adventure, to the point of making deliberate choices to avoid anyone being hit by the boulder! Little Bean, on the other hand, is vicious. She wants to win at all costs, and will happily send her fellow heroes tumbling down the stairs over and over again. Both of my girls are able to explain the basics of the game without adult guidance, which might be a first for Little Bean! The box recommends the game for ages 5 and up, but a focused 3 year old should be able to enjoy the game.
BIG THUMBS : HOW IS IT FOR ADULTS?
Blue Orange has a wide selection of games that will appeal for adult game nights (Photosynthesis, Slide Quest, and Piece of Pie just to name a few). Save the Dragon probably isn’t in that category. As a simple roll-and-move game with limited impactful decisions, adults will likely be leaving this on the shelf after the little ones are asleep. Of course, watching your friends get tackled by a runaway boulder is always good for a laugh at any age, so your mileage may vary!
Save the Dragon is a game we can easily recommend for younger players. It looks fantastic on the table, and has an undeniable fun factor. We’d put the target age range approximately between 3 and 7 years old – if you have little ones at your table regularly, you can safely put Save the Dragon to the top on your wishlist. Without the playful spirit of those bunnies, older children might return to it less often, and adults will probably tire of it quickly. Our family has already logged nearly 20 plays for this game, with dozens more to come, which makes for a more popular game than most in our children’s collection!
VERDICT : TWO LITTLE THUMBS UP!
Little Thumbs, Big Thumbs thanks Blue Orange Games for sending us a media copy of this game for review purposes.