Full disclosure: A review copy of Dragon’s Breath was provided by HABA.
Alright, we’re back with more HABA! As promised, and to the shock of nobody. There’s still, checking my schedule now, a lot coming down the pipeline, so, hope you like games with yellow boxes. I kid; I only have a few of those left (Valley of the Vikings might be it, honestly). After that, we dig back into the Game Night Approved line with Karuba: The Card Game (growing on me even more), Miyabi, and who knows after that? The sky’s the limit. Anyways, let’s not put the cart before the horse; Dragon’s Breath is here, so let’s talk about it.
In Dragon’s Breath, players take on the roles of dragon children seeking sparkling stones locked inside of a large ice block. Kid dragons can’t do much in the way of fire breath, but adult dragons totally can, so, call dad, get him over here, stat. He’s happy to melt the ice, but insists that you play nicely and divide up the gems as best as you can. So you bet on what’s going to come out when. Will you be able to build up your hoard? Or will you just end up frozen out?
Not much to do there. Take out the box, and if you haven’t already, put the divider in the bottom, and then place the board on top of it:
Give each player a Dragon Child, and have them slot them into one corner of the board:
Place the ice floe tile in the center of the game board, and stack 8 rings (9 if you’re playing a three-player game) on top:
Now, add the stones to the stack of rings:
If some don’t fit, just … put them into the center holes in the game board. Try to do it randomly, if possible. Give Dragon Dad to the first player, and set the sparkling stone tiles nearby:
You should be ready to start!
So, in Dragon’s Breath, you play as dragon children trying to collect treasure from this ice block. You … can’t, so you ask your dad to melt it with his fire breath. As dads do. As they fall out, you choose certain colors of gems to keep and bring them back to your caves. Once the ice is gone, the player with the most gems wins!
To start a round, draft the stone tiles starting with the player to the left of the first player. Draft until all players have a stone tile. In a two-player game, draft until both players have two tiles each.
Now, the player with Dragon Dad must lift the top ring off of the stack. If gems fall out, that’s fine, but you cannot touch other rings. You can apparently touch gems though, so, do with that what you will. Some stones may fall into the holes in the center; that’s also fine. Once the ring is removed, remove it completely from the game; it’s been completely melted.
Each player then takes the gems of their color(s) and moves them into their lair by lifting up their dragon child and sliding the gems behind them. If any gems are left unclaimed on the board, push them into the holes in the center. Finally, pass dragon dad to the next player and continue.
When the last ice ring is taken, the game ends! Divide the remaining gems that are not on the ice floe tile as you would normally, and then count your gems; the player with the most gems wins!
To play with younger players, just assign stone tiles at the start of the game and never change. For vaguely sneaky players, keep the stone tiles face-down so that no player knows what another player’s stone tile color is until it’s time to claim stones.
Player Count Differences
I mean, the primary difference is that you get more gems in a two-player game, since you’re pulling two colors. Beyond that, you really don’t want to let any colors other than yours fall off the ring, so, it’s not like the game changes a ton at various player counts. The one thing worth noting is that you play 4 rounds where you’re pulling the ring in a two-player game, 3 rounds where you’re pulling the ring in a three-player game, and 2 rounds where you’re pulling the ring in a four-player game. If agency’s your scene, then it may be worth just playing this one at two, since you get 50 – 100% more turns where you’re the lead player. Personally, I think I have a very slight preference for this one at two for that exact reason. But your mileage may vary!
- Try to see if you can take the tile with the most stones immediately visible. Naturally, if you’re the dragon dad, you’re pretty much going to get whatever’s left, but don’t despair! That might still be points, sometimes. Generally, though, the easier it is to get the stones to fall out, the more likely you’ll be able to get points.
- There are ways to shift the ice ring so that other players’ gems don’t spill out. If you can only drop your gems, that’s going to be pretty impressive, to be honest. So try to do it! Set a personal goal.
- If you want to be cruel, at least try to knock some of the other players’ gems into the central holes. If you do that when you’re removing the ring, you’ll potentially deny your opponents points they would have otherwise scored, which is awesome. That said, it’s difficult to do intentionally, so, this is much more of an art than a science.
- If you think you can’t do much, try to wrench the ring off so that every player scores about the same, if possible. It’s the rough equivalent of passing the round, but, hey, if you’re already in the lead, better to give everyone points than to give other players who aren’t you additional points. You’ve got to keep that lead locked down.
- Beyond that, it’s a kids game; try to have fun. Do some silly stuff when you’re pulling the rings off; try to maximize your overall enjoyment of the game and don’t focus necessarily on Pure Strategic Play. It’s not going to bring you a ton of joy, being real.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- It’s a very novel construction for a game. I like how everything is designed around the box and the presentation of it. It looks great on the table and it’s got a lot of appealing colors and shapes. I think it’s really a nice like, total package for a kids’ game.
- The pieces have a very nice texture. I really like the rings. They’re plastic-y, but in a very satisfying way. They also have a solid weight to them, which I also appreciate. Basically, it’s all good.
- It’s also fairly low-mess, as long as players don’t just throw the gems everywhere. I like that the gems, once collected, slide into the box where they cannot be further accessed. It’s a very clean solution to a very common board gaming problem.
- Decently portable. Since the game’s entirely played within the box, as long as you can take the box with you, you’re good to go. And it’s on the smaller end, which is also very nice.
- Relatively simple to learn. Draft gem tiles, remove a ring, collect the gems of your color that fall. There’s not much more to it than that, even strategically speaking. And that’s good! As it should be, for a game being aimed at the five-and-up crowd. Doesn’t need to be that complex.
- If you can make a particularly good play, it feels awesome. It’s just great when you score five points or something in a round and you successfully block all your opponent’s plays. Even better if that means that you get to pick first next and you can take a tile that’s going to drop a ton of gems in that round. It’s frustrating for them and good for you; the perfect strategic play.
- I wish the ring removal had more of a dexterity component to it. It would be nice to see something like you losing points for the wrong gems, or something. I suppose you have something similar to that in that you’re giving your opponents gems if you’re too hasty with the removal, but, even that doesn’t quite fully excite me.
- Lots of times it’s decently worth it just to wrench the top ring off and scatter a bunch of stones, which makes the game a bit unexciting. A lot of players do this, at first. You can tell them that it’s not particularly strategic and kind of just awards points at random, but … they don’t seem to care all that much, at times. If that happens, you’re essentially just playing randomly.
- Similarly, players tend to just take the stone tile that has the most gems immediately visible, which doesn’t feel like strategy as much as luck. Again, luck’s fine, but most players haven’t, in my experience, demonstrated the precision necessary to make that choice more than just luck.
Overall: 6.5 / 10
Overall, I think Dragon’s Breath is fine. It’s definitely a cute game for younger players, but I don’t see a lot of the appeal as an adult. This is to contrast it against games like Valley of the Vikings or ICECOOL where I feel like there’s a lot of fun still to be had with them (maybe that’s due to the dexterity component?). I wouldn’t say it’s bad; far from it, actually. I would just say that I don’t always feel like I have a ton of agency when I play beyond going after whatever I think will get me the most. The dexterity element is present but isn’t quite … whimsical? exciting? enough to really pull me in beyond thinking that it’s cool, and even that is likely due to the ice rings being super cool. I don’t personally have kids, but I think this might be a nicer game to test out in that space and see how they enjoy it (and that would make sense, since it did win the Kinderspiel a hot minute ago). Either way, if you’re looking for an award-winning kid’s game, this is definitely that, or if you like the idea of dragon dad melting the ice so that the gems inside come out, it’s also that. Personally, I’ve had fun when I’ve played it, as well, so if any of those things I mentioned apply or you want a quick and simple game, Dragon’s Breath might be for you?