Goldener Drache (Golden Dragon)

A board game for 2-5 players published by FX Schmid, Germany
This review copyright 1999 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated June 1, 1999

Goldener Drache is an interesting race game. The premise is a bit silly: up to five dragons racing across a volcanic area to be the first to dive into the golden volcano - the first dragon which does becomes a Golden Dragon, which is apparently better than a mundane dragon. Personally, I'd think they'd become a deep-fried dragon, myself ... But, hey, I've played games with more ridiculous themes.

The game has a board with seven volcanoes - six ordinary deadly ones (red) and one golden one - and a grid ten spaces long, ranging in width from four to ten spaces. The pieces are five dragons and six "windstones" per dragon in the game. There is also a windstone holder per player, and two each of Lightning and Wind cards. The components range from good looking to practical.

The four edges of the board are labelled with the cardinal compass points (N,W,S,O - Ost is East in German) and the Southwest and Southeast corners are also labelled SW and SO. Each player starts with six windstones, labelled N,W,SW,S,SO,O. One of them starts under the dragon, and the others in the windstone holder, which keeps their value hidden from the opponents and serves as a gravity feed as you remove the lowest windstone, moving all the others down one space. All windstones are identical from the back or when dragons are sitting on them.

The dragons start on a windstone at the northern edge of the board, and the golden volcano is in the center of the southern edge of the board.

Each turn, you may place three windstones and make three dragon moves. This involves removing the windstone on the extreme left of your holder (only - you can't skip a stone!) and placing it adjacent to a dragon (it doesn't have to be your own dragon) in the direction stated on the windstone. For example, if you place the "S" windstone adjacent to your own dragon, it must be directly to the south of its current location. You then move the dragon onto the new windstone, and pick up the windstone the dragon formerly occupied. Place that one in the right-hand (uppermost) side of your windstone holder, where it will gradually work its way to the left-hand side.

Since you're trying to race to the south, it behooves you to place the "S," "SW," and "SO" windstones on your own dragon as much as possible, and the "N" windstone on opponents' dragons as much as possible. (However, since a dragon can't move onto an ordinary volcano, off the board, or onto another dragon, you may have to place stones where you'd rather not - you have to place a stone if you can.) Since you'll be picking up whatever windstone they are sitting on, it also pays to watch carefully what dragon is sitting on which windstone. However, with more than two players, that quickly becomes an exercise in futility, unless you have a prodigious memory. If you do, you're better off learning chess openings and playing that game ...

A Wind card can be played at the start of your turn: it allows you to place five windstones in a single turn instead of three. A Lightning card is a veto - when someone plays a windstone to move your dragon, and you don't like it, you can veto the move. But you only have two of each of these cards, and when they're gone, they're gone.

Goldener Drache is a good but not great game. The more you can remember, the better you'll be at the game, but even when you get to my age and don't have such a sharp mind, it can still be fun. The object becomes then to work with what you have each turn, maximizing your forward movement and hindering the better of your opponents as much as possible. It might even be interesting to try to collect three "N" counters in a row in order to send an opponent back three spaces - or force them to use their vetoes early!

All in all, it's a fun change of pace, but it won't replace whatever your favorite games are. I'm not sorry I bought it, as I'm sure I'll be pulling it out regularly throughout the years.

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