Theme and What is it?
You’re a group of adventurers who just come in from slaying monsters and taking their loot. The Red Tavern offers you a warm fire, food, drink, and a chance to relax before heading back out in the morning. Knowing your party members all too well, you know that they can’t *always* be trusted when it comes to sticking to their fair share of the loot and keeping their sticky fingers off your stash. So you do what you do best and go on the offensive to steal from them first.
The Red Dragon Inn is a card game for 2-4 players, ages 13+. Each player takes on a persona of the adventuring group, using a pre-made deck specific to that character’s strengths in manipulating the rest of the group to get them too drunk to continue or get them to gamble away their gold before they get the best of you.
Be the last player standing with all the gold or last one not passed out from drinking too much (Alcohol Content equal to or exceeds your Fortitude) by which means you end up with all the gold *wink*.
Setup consists of each player taking a Player Mat, a white crystal (denotes Alcohol Content), a red crystal (denotes Fortitude), a Character Deck, and 10 gold coins. The Character Deck is shuffled and placed on the “Deck” space of the Player Mat, the red crystal on the “20” mark, the white crystal on the “0” mark, and pile of gold (“Stash”) off to the side. The remaining pile of gold (“Inn”) is placed within reach of the players. The Drink Deck is shuffled and placed between the players as well. Each player then takes one card from the Drink Deck and puts it face down on the Drink Me! spot of the Player Mat to seed the Drink Me! Pile. Finally, each player draws 7 cards from their Character Deck for their hand. The group is free to determine who goes first in any manner they see fit.
There are 4 phases of play: Discard and Draw, Action, Order a Drink, and Drink.
Discard and Draw is pretty self-explanatory. You may discard any number of cards from your hand to your Discard Pile on your Player Mat that you may have remaining from your previous turn, but you must always draw up to 7 cards. If you start your turn with 7 or more cards, you don’t have to discard any and/or draw new cards.
The Action phase allows you to play cards from your hand, which will go to your Discard Pile on your Player Mat. You read aloud the card, describing the effects to the other players. Card effects range from affecting players’ Fortitude and Alcohol Content to beginning a round of Gambling. Gambling, while part of the Action Phase, is a mini game within the phase. During this mini game, players push their luck like in any game of chance by playing cards to stay in or leave while trying to force other players out to with the pot of gold you bet.
The Order a Drink phase is quick – take a card from the Drink Deck and put it in another player’s Drink Me! Pile. Every time this deck runs out, each player still in the game pays the Inn to stay in the game.
Finally to the Drink phase. Turn over the top card of your Drink Me! Pile and do what the card says. If you don’t have any cards in your Drink Me! Pile, reduce your Alcohol Content by 1.
Play moves to the left.
I wasn’t sure about a game with decks for a specific character. I thought it’d play more like a CCG with one of those pre-made decks used as an intro to the game. As we played the game though, the characters took over and you could see how each of them was different with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Game Build Quality
The cards are of standard playing card quality, standing up to typical shuffling. The Player Mats are of a thinner cardboard stock than the coins, but both are sturdy. The crystals are the same you’d find in other games, decorative plants, or fishbowls. The box is standard square and the plastic form inside allows for easy storage and retrieval of cards and components.
The game art and theme remind you of Munchkin, light-hearted fantasy poking fun the tropes of the genre with its own in-game story jokes. The Player Mat is simple in design but functional for a game that doesn’t have or require much complexity, giving enough space for the different decks, the Fortitude/Alcohol Content meter, and list of the phases of a turn. Each card has its own unique art to it which is well done for the theme. The coin art is of a moderately detailed gold coin.
Having been a fantasy gamer for quite some time and always looking for a laugh, this game is a hoot. Gambling and drinking in a fantasy tavern, what’s not to love? I really like the game for what it is. Initial impression one might think it was a deck-building game but there are only pre-made decks in this base game; I don’t know how the expansions fit in or expand the game yet. Even with the pre-made decks, the games are different enough to keep up the fun with the shuffling randomness and moreso if you play with different combinations of character decks.
Age Range & Weight
The box suggests 13+ and that’s likely to do with the references to drinking and gambling, typically a more mature subject for parents but the mechanics could be understood by younger players if married with a more age appropriate theme. As always it takes a round or two to get a feel for the game and to understand its mechanics. A couple of times we had to refer back to the instructions to get what some of the symbols meant. Game time is estimated at 30-60 minutes which is about right being shorter with fewer players, longer with more.
My gaming group and I right off the bat couldn’t help but get “into character” while playing the game as if we were Fiona, Dierdre, Zot and Pooky, or Gerki. I dare you to not to pretend to be a snooty elf, battle-crazed warrior, sneaky thief, and a devious wizard with a maniacal familiar while playing this game. Just picking up the game at GenCon, my game group has played this few times and it looks like it has some staying power with us. As this game is now 11 years old, it has several expansions that my group has more than hinted at wanting to try.