Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition by Stronghold Games Review

Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition by Stronghold Games Review 1
Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition by Stronghold Games Review 2

Theme and What is it?

Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition transports us to a world of long ago, back when dragons were still rumored to have roamed the earth. The occasional adventurer would come to the tavern and tell tales of the dragons he had seen, and if you were lucky, he’d show you a fistful of the coveted Dragonstones, powerful magic amulets that the wealthy nobility fought — and died — for. If the adventurer challenges you to a bidding game, can you bring home the Dragonstones?

Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition by Stronghold Games Review 3
The lovely introductory story on the rulebook cover.

Gameplay Mechanics

The basic mechanism here is blind bidding at auctions for character cards. Some of the characters, like the Witch, are up for bid at every round of auctions. At the beginning of a round of auctions, three new special character cards are shuffled into the pile. At the end of the round, these three are replaced by a new group of three. The regular and special characters have individual abilities that allow you to gain coins, Dragonstones, points, or in some instances, something a little more special.

Each player is given a screen to hide his or her coins with. You’re given 9 Fairy Gold, 2 Common Gold, and 5 Common Silver coins to begin. When used, Common coins go back into the draw pile in the center of the table, but Fairy coins go in front of your screen. You are allowed to take the Fairy Coins back at the end of a round of auctions, so spend wisely!

A card is drawn from the pile and players bid Gold coins (Common and Fairy) for the card. Don’t want the card? Bluff a bid with an empty fist. Really, really want a red Dragonstone? There’s a Red Dragon up for grabs. Bid high, but hide it in your fist. Once all players have extended their hand for the bid, open your hands and see who won. Ties are broken with Silver (Common or Fairy). If another tie occurs, the card is discarded. ALL coins that you bid are considered spent, even if you don’t win the bid!

Manage your collection of Dragonstones and score the right character cards to win points, which are tracked by an elongated die. The first player to three points wins.

Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition by Stronghold Games Review 4
Components.

Initial Impressions

The medieval theme really drew me into this game. I’ve always had a thing for dragons. Even when I was a kid, I’d devour Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books. The components looked great on the table, and though I’d never played a closed-fist bidding game before, I was intrigued. The box says ages 8+, so I knew it would be good for the nine-year-old, and I liked that the time was estimated at less than an hour. Sounded good to me!

Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition by Stronghold Games Review 5
Game setup. View: center of the table.

Game Build Quality

When you first open the box, you see, right on top, the rulebook. That’s pretty standard, but what I wasn’t expecting was a beautifully rendered scroll with a story written out. The narrative of the game was spelled out for me on the whole front cover of the rulebook, and it really helped place me in the world of the game. My son (a big reader) also thought that was a really cool way to literally open the game. It was surprising, and very attention-grabbing. I loved it!

The wooden coins are fairly standard, for the most part, but the fairy coins have a bit of glitter in the paint so they really shine. It’s a nice touch. The cards feel good in your hand and shuffle really nicely. The player screens are designed very thoughtfully. From the outside looking at you, players simply see the tavern scene depicted on the box. From your perspective, you see a quick overview of the rules, so you’re not constantly dragging out the whole rulebook.

My son, of course, loved the Dragonstone components, which are bits of colored glass with a bit of sheen to them. He’s all about the shiny stuff. I mean, Mama is too, but I prefer my Shiny Stuff to be a little more precious than glass… but I digress.

Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition by Stronghold Games Review 6
Game setup. View: what only you can see.

Artistic Direction

The game box art invites you into the tavern where the adventurers are sitting, waiting to tell their stories. Your hand is shown too, full of glittering coins that you’re ready to wager. The character cards are all wonderful little works of art themselves. Featuring witches, gnomes, and other fantasy creatures, it’s sure to capture your imagination.

Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition by Stronghold Games Review 7
Game setup. View: what others see when they look at you.

Fun Factor

We had such a good time playing this! No one got upset or frustrated, no one needed a time-out in his room (nine-year-old, not Cute Husband), and no one wanted to rage quit. We were super relaxed, laughing, and oftentimes surprised at what the other players bid high on and what went past with no bids at all. It made for a fun after-dinner treat for all three of us.

Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition by Stronghold Games Review 8
Scoring dice. Start with zero dots face up, aim to get three!

Age Range & Weight

The box suggests ages 8+, and I think that’s fairly accurate. A six or seven-year-old who’s a pro at boardgaming would love this. A moderate helping of literacy will go a long way in this game, but players who have difficulty reading (like people with dyslexia, for example) can easily play by having other players read the cards and rules aloud, which is good practice in this game anyway.

Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition by Stronghold Games Review 9
A sampling of special character cards.

Conclusions

One thing I couldn’t find clarification on in the rulebook — and it’s quite possible that I missed it — is whether or not the four white dragonstones are included in the draw bag when players first blindly draw out their first four dragonstones. I assumed they were not to be included, and kept them separate, much like the magic coins are a special case, triggered only by certain cards. That’s my only real problem with gameplay.

I wish that the box insert was sturdier. It’s nice that it has two sections for the components and cards, and it safely lifts up the rulebook and player screens so they don’t get ruined when the game box is moved around. Except the compartments inside can slide left and right, which isn’t a huge problem, but seems like one that could be easily solved by adjusting the cardboard insert’s design.

My family and I loved this game. It’s a little too lengthy to call it “before bed” but it’s just right for “after dinner” on a school night, or in the afternoon on weekends when the baby’s napping. We’re very excited to add this game to our collection and I highly recommend that you add it to yours, too!

Fist of Dragonstones: The Tavern Edition by Stronghold Games Review 10
The nine-year-old's favorite component: the Dragonstones!