#109 – Dragoon: The Rogue and Barbarian [Expansion] [Preview]

Base price: $30 for the standard, $40 for the Gold Edition.
2 – 6 players.
Play time: ~60 minutes. Increases a bit with player count.
BGG Link
Check it out on Kickstarter!

Note: A preview copy of this expansion was provided by Lay Waste Games. Some art will likely change before the final release and some rules might be tweaked, somewhat.

Speaking of games I’ve been trying to get to, let’s talk about the recent expansion to Dragoon, from Lay Waste Games. In The Rogue and Barbarian expansion, two humans have decided that they wanna get into the mix with these dragons and live out their Skyrim dreams. The Rogue seeks to do so through intrigue, equippable items, and tunnels, and the Barbarian is just gonna take his ship and take the fight to them, maybe even getting some help from the other humans (if he can pay). Will these new contenders be able to fend off the dragons?

Contents

Setup

So, the game diverges a bit if you’re playing with the Dragons as well as the Rogue and Barbarian. If you are, complete setup as normal for the base game, this is a pure expansion, so no changes there.

For the Rogue, you’re going to have to take all their Roguey things:

Rogue Stuff

The cards can either go in the Rogue’s hand or face-down in front of them, their choice.

The Barbarian goes next, with their cards:

Barbarian Stuff

He draws three cards from the Barbarian deck and starts at Level 1.

As with the base game, all players put their skulls on 0 along with the Thief’s, but the Rogue and Barbarian do not start on the board. They will arrive on their first turn.

Once you’ve done all that, you should be ready to start:

Setup

Gameplay

So it probably makes sense to split these up into two parts – Rogue Gameplay and Barbarian Gameplay. Let’s do that.

Before that, though, generally, not much changes for the Dragons. They still do exactly what they do in the base game, though some of their card effects change (and I’ll discuss those changes further down). Populate, Action, and Tribute still occur, and the player in last decides who goes first in each Action Phase. These are all still constants.

Rogue Gameplay

So, the Rogue is a sneaky type. So sneaky, in fact, that they start the game invisibly off the map somewhere. They arrive on the island once their turn starts by picking a row or column, and then rolling a die. They arrive on that space within the row or column they initially picked. It’s kinda fun. You can even arrive in a Dragon’s cave (even if they’re home!), that’s how sneaky you are. You can also forego this by just arriving on an existing tunnel, even if another player is on it. You dug those tunnels for a reason, after all.

As you might guess, if you’re already on the map you start your turn from wherever you currently are. This is not news.

Now, to begin your turn, you have equipment:

Equipment

You can (optionally) either activate one or swap an active one for an inactive one. You can only activate one equipment item a turn and you don’t have to activate any, if you don’t want to.

As with all characters, you have three action points, and you can spend them however you’d like:

  • (1) Move one space. You can only move one space orthogonally, not diagonally (just like everyone else).
  • (1) Move between tunnels. You can move from one tunnel space to any other tunnel space. You can also move from the current tunnel … back to the current tunnel. As you do.
  • (1) Rob a population tile. You just straight up do a thieving from this tile. Unlike destroying the tile, however, this tile stays on the map to get robbed again… next turn. You can only rob a tile once per turn. Gotta give them time to re-accumulate wealth before you redistribute it.
    • Villages give 2, and Cities give gold. As expected.
  • (1) Steal from the Thief’s Treasure. Guess it’s the Rogue’s Treasure now, though that’s not nearly as alliterative. Either way, roll a die, and transfer that many gold from the Thief’s Treasure to your coffers. If they don’t have that much, take all they have and then remove the Thief’s Treasure from the board, as with every other role.
  • (1) Sink the Barbarian’s Ship. Hilariously spiteful, but totally possible. Unfortunately, they left 3 gold on that ship, so they also lose 3 gold. You don’t get it, however; it legally belongs to Poseidon, now.
  • Other actions. Some actions are enabled / disabled by equipment, so I’ll go through those, now:
    • Shovel: This allows you to spend 1 action point to place a tunnel on your current location (if there isn’t already one). Then you can either move to any existing tunnel or move to an adjacent space (even diagonally!) and place another tunnel there. You can use this to tunnel into a Dragon’s Cave, even if they’re in it. Again, you’re sneaky.
    • Pick Pocket: You can, at any point, unequip this card to steal 3 gold from another player who you’re sharing a space with, for free. You cannot, however, pick a dragon’s pocket if they’re currently in their cave. Unclear why, but them’s the rules.
    • Grappling Hook: This one’s entertaining. When equipped, you move 2 spaces in a given direction for a Move action instead of 1, hopping over the first space on your way to the second (so you skip interacting with it). You can still move 1 space if you either unequip Grappling Hook or use the Shovel. Note that you cannot move fewer than two spaces, this waySo if you’re a space away from the edge of the board, you can’t move in that direction. You would just swing into the ocean and look extra foolish.
    • Poison the Well: Just like Final Fantasy 4, you can go a bit beyond robbing and just do an entire population tile up a murder. This replaces your Rob Population Tile action with Destroy Population Tile, and you collect the standard destruction bonus. You monster.
    • Pawn Shop: While this is equipped, you may unequip other equipment to gain 1 additional action point on your turn. Neat!
    • Poison Dagger: Gain the ability to fight back in combat.

Now, you might have read that last one and said “wait, the Rogue can’t fight?”, to which I would say “have you read anything about Rogue Combat before now?”. Imagine I did say that, actually. Anyways, no, normally, if the Rogue finishes their turn on another player’s space (or vice-versa), they normally automatically lose combat and are removed from the board. (They keep all their equipment, though!) The exception to this is Lay Waste / Warpath — the Rogue is removed, but they lose no gold.

So, tunnels. Tunnels are the Rogue’s primary way of getting around and scoring points. Like Claim Tokens for Dragons, these are how the Rogue scores during the Tribute Phase. Unlike Claim Tokens, they’re perfectly fine sharing. You can have tunnels on any space, including a dragon’s cave. However, these tunnels aren’t super structurally sound. If an opponent is standing on a space with a tunnel that isn’t on a Population Tile, they may spend a free action to Stomp the tunnel and remove it from the board. They then gain one of two possible benefits:

  1. Steal 1 Gold from the Rogue;
  2. Discard a card and draw a card.

Note that Rogues cannot stomp their own tunnels. If they were eligible to do so (perhaps by poisoning a Population Tile), simply remove the tunnel from the map.

Lastly, Tribute Phase. It works … exactly the same as for Dragons. Roll a die:

  • 1: Remove a tunnel from a Population Tile (or cave) with no players on it.
  • 2: No tribute.
  • 3 / 4 / 5: 1 Gold from Villages, 3 Gold from Cities, Steal 1 Gold from a Dragon’s Cave.
  • 6: 2 Gold from Villages, 4 Gold from Cities, Steal 2 Gold from a Dragon’s Cave.

As usual, if a player is standing on your tunnel, it doesn’t pay out, and if you’re standing on a tunnel, you act as though you rolled a 3 / 4 / 5 for that tunnel, regardless of your actual roll.

Play continues until the game ends, as it does in Dragoon.

Barbarian Gameplay

Oh, the Barbarian. You’re just a person who wants to fight dragons, which seems like a weird thing to be in this world. But hey, you do you.

You also start off the map, like the Rogue, but unlike the Rogue you have a sweet boat:

Boat

Since it’s a boat, though, this means you have to start on one of the outside edges of the board and then roll a die, placing your ship on the outer edge of that space. It’s fine, you parked it, left three gold on the ship; what’s the worst that could happen?

You’ll also have a bunch of cards:

Barbarian Cards

So, you start every turn by drawing a card, and then you move on to your Actions:

  • (1) Move one space. Cannot be diagonal, just like every other Move action.
  • (1) Claim a Population Tile. This will be useful in Tribute. You must be standing on the tile to claim it, as you might guess.
  • (1) Destroy a Population Tile. Why are you destroying tiles when you’re also people? Nobody knows. It’s a mystery. That’s why you’re a Barbarian and not a Friendbarian. Probably. You earn standard destruction value as gold (2 for Villages; 4 for Cities).
  • (1) Smash 3 gold in a Dragon’s cave. Not content to just steal gold, you actually destroy it when you see it in a Dragon’s cave. Now nobody gets it. Nice going, you jerk.
  •  (1) Steal from the Thief’s Treasure. For some reason you don’t feel a compulsive need to smash this one. Roll a die, and transfer that many gold from the Thief’s Treasure to you. If they don’t have that much, take all they have and then remove the Thief’s Treasure from the board, as with every other role.
  • (1) Set sail on your ship. If you’re on the same space as your ship (or on the space you parked your ship nearby), you can get on it and sail to another edge of the board, following the same rules (pick a side of the board, roll a die, arrive on that space).
  • (1) Discard a card and draw a new card. Just like a Dragon.
  • (2) Draw a card. Just like a Dragon.
  • (0) Recruit. This is a special ability for the Barbarian. If you’re on a claimed Population Tile, you can spend 1 gold to gain one level as a free action. You can keep spending gold to keep gaining levels, if you want.
  • (0) Stomp a tunnel. If you want to smack down that Rogue, you can stomp a tunnel if it’s not on a Population Tile. You gain the benefits I mentioned earlier.

So I mentioned levels earlier, right? Well, the Barbarian has levels:

Barbarian Stuff

And that determines which cards they can play (Nomad, for instance, can only be played at Level 1).

You can raise your level by either taking the Recruit action or by earning gold. Whenever you earn gold, you gain one level in addition to the gold gainedSo if you earn 3 gold at Level 3, you hit Level 5 and you still get the 3 gold. What a time to be alive.

However, you can also lose levels, primarily by losing combat. I mean, who would believe a Level 5 Barbarian lost to a dragon? Nobody. If you lose Combat, you are knocked off the map (along with your ship) and you go back to Level 1. If you still have more actions to take this turn, you can re-place yourself on the board, following the rules for entering the map.

As I mentioned earlier, you have the nice ship that you can ride around, but if anyone is in the space next to where you parked it, they can spend 1 action point to sink it. You lose three gold when that happens, and your insurance rates go up, which is just the worst. Note that Dragons that are Laying Waste do not automatically destroy the ship; they still have to spend an action.

Tribute works the same way as it does for the Dragons; just remember to gain your levels.

Other Changes

So in addition to those changes, the Dragons get some new actions:

  • (1) Sink Barbarian’s Ship: If the Dragon is in the space where the Barbarian parked their ship, they can spend one action to sink it. The Barbarian loses 3 gold.
  • (0) Stomp Rogue’s Tunnel: If the Dragon is on a space with a tunnel that is not a Population Tile, they can stomp the tunnel for free and then gain one of the following benefits:
    1. Steal 1 Gold from the Rogue;
    2. Discard a card and draw a card.

There are also changes to / additional information for the cards’ effects:

  • Booby Trap: This can only target dragons.
  • Benevolent Master: This does not remove Tunnels.
  • Critical Strike: Can be used against the Rogue and Barbarian
  • Creature Comfort: This initiates Combat if it moves to a space where the Barbarian is.
  • Envoy: This does not remove Tunnels; only Claim Tokens.
  • Fair Wind: If you end up on the same space as the Barbarian, initiate Combat.
  • Fireball: This can be used to Stomp a Tunnel (if targeting a tunnel not on a Population Tile) or Sink the Barbarian’s Ship (if directly adjacent to the ship).
  • Lay Waste: Destroy Tunnels (and gain Tunnel-stomping benefit), remove the Rogue and Barbarian from the map if encountered (and reduce the Barbarian’s level to 1).
  • Menacing Roar: This does not remove Tunnels; only Claim Tokens.
  • Riot: Cannot be used if the Rogue is robbing a Population Tile or placing a Tunnel.
  • Thief:
    • Rogue loses 3 gold to the Thief or unequips an equipment card – Dragon’s choice.
    • Barbarian loses 3 gold to the Thief or discards a card randomly and the Dragon draws a card.

As always, game ends the same way it does in Dragoon.

Player Count Differences

I actually think this expansion fixes a major issue I had with 3-player games in that if you add the Rogue and Barbarian it’s different enough that there aren’t weird player standoff situations like there are in the 3-player base game. I still would likely avoid having only the Dragons and Barbarian in play at 3, but adding in the Rogue is different enough that it keeps it interesting. 5- or 6-player Dragoon takes too long for my tastes, though. There’s just a lot going on and a LOT of turns.

Strategy

There’s a fair bit. I’ll mark if it’s Rogue- or Barbarian-specific.

  • (Dragons) Targeting the Barbarian with Thief seems better than the Rogue, unless you need to stop one of their cards. You get a random card for Thiefing the Barbarian. For the Rogue, you get nothing. Sad.
  • (Rogue) Make as many tunnels as possible. The more tunnels you have, the more money you can make during the Tribute Phase. This means you should be setting down tunnels like crazy. Most players in their first game will just let you put down tunnels anyways, since it doesn’t bother them to have them. Or at least it doesn’t until you gain 24 gold in one turn on a lucky roll…
  • (Rogue) Pick Pocket doesn’t seem that useful. I end up equipping it to keep people away from me more than anything else, and then I just unequip it later. I suppose it’s a useful deterrent.
  • (Rogue) Just use Pawn Shop to set up a megaturn. If you have all your equipment at the ready and unequip everything except Pawn Shop, you suddenly have an 8-Action point megaturn on your hands. Great way to place a lot of tunnels or quickly get far away from everyone else.
  • (Dragons + Barbarian) Destroy more Population Tiles. You can’t let the Rogue get too many tunnels down or they’re going to be tough to beat. If you destroy Population Tiles, they can’t put down Tunnels, and if you stomp Tunnels you can get benefits. So, do that.
  • (Barbarian) Get to Level 5 ASAP. You have the most options, even if Nomads is still a pretty good card. You just wanna power to it as soon as possible. That said:
  • (Barbarian) I don’t know if Recruit is that good of an action. I suppose if you have a Level 5 card you really want to play this turn, it’s fine, but it seems not-that-helpful if you can just wait until the Tribute Phase and gain gold / levels then. Although, all bets are off if you roll a 1 or 2…
  • (Barbarian) I don’t know if smashing a Dragon’s gold is that useful either. It’s kind of obnoxious that you don’t get it, but I imagine that’s to prevent you from leveling up in a Dragon’s cave.
  • I haven’t seen a lot of situations where it’s anything other than petty or spiteful to sink the Barbarian’s Ship. Strategically speaking, it doesn’t seem to have a ton of value. It is pretty funny, though, so if you’re feeling up to it, it might be worth it.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • The component quality remains almost stupidly high-quality. It’s a lot to handle.
  • I think the Rogue is awesome. It’s very different from playing as a Dragon, which I think is a breath of fresh air for the game. It emphasizes a bit more stealth / cooperation, which is super interesting, but keeps a few of the mechanics similar enough that it’s an easy transition. It’s not pushing up against Vast in terms of asymmetry, but it’s a nice thing, for sure. I would probably not play without the Rogue when I play Dragoon, now — I enjoyed it that much.
  • Feels advanced. I like the intricacies of the new roles and how they match up against the old Dragons. There’s definitely a good amount of content, here.
  • Makes a 3-player game much more viable. I mentioned that in the Player Count Differences section, but now if you have 3 Dragons and even one of these roles (or 3 players, but one player is one or two of these roles) the game feels a lot less weird than it does with just 3 Dragons in the base game. That’s a super huge improvement, since a lot of games I play tend to be 3-player.

Mehs

  • The Barbarian seems like a slightly-modified Dragon. I would love to see more Rogue-type characters (characters that break significantly from traditional rules) before I see more Barbarian-type characters. That said, the Barbarian isn’t bad, just kinda samey. The leveling system is kinda nice, though.
  • The Barbarian smashing a Dragon’s gold rather than stealing it is a very easy rule to mess up. Keep an eye on that one.
  • 6-player games are looooooong. It’s just something I would avoid, as I mentioned earlier. Unless you all play really fast.
  • Difficult to parallelize. It’d be nice if there were a way to speed up parts of the game like the Tribute Phase, since it happens fairly independently, but with only two dice that’s a bit difficult to make happen.

Cons

  • Doesn’t do a lot to address the randomness of the first game. Honestly, I’ll chalk it up to a “different strokes, different folks” sort of thing, but I think it’d be nice to have an expansion that has potentially fewer random dice-chucking elements. The Rogue is a bit nice in that sense since they always have their equipment available, but with the Barbarian you have to manage levels in addition to your cards, which means that you’re often incapable of playing cards in your hand because you aren’t at the right level, which can be frustrating.

Overall: 7.25 / 10

In Progress

Overall, I like The Rogue and Barbarian expansion! I think the Rogue is my personal favorite, as it feels like a reimagining of what roles characters in the Dragoon universe can have, and I really like the bold direction of it! I’d love to see the Dragoon team take this idea further in future expansions and try to make the game play with a fair bit more asymmetry — maybe characters that don’t use the Tribute Phase at all? The Barbarian is fairly close to a Dragon in my mind, but is still an interesting departure (feels like an advanced Dragon, I suppose). I think Dragoon’s making a cool expansion with some great production value, and I’d love to see where they go next with this!

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