My daughter turned 7 around the same time I started DMing a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. As she started getting interested in the world I was building and the characters I talked about, I knew it was time to start looking for fun fantasy games for us to play together. A couple quick searches led me to a few games, but the first one that caught my eye was Dragonwood. It looked like an easy game to play but I wanted it to hit on all the fun fantasy tropes that would resonate with a 7/8 year old. I am happy to report that it delivered! We mainly play just the two of us and it’s been a great way for us to get in some fun together.
You are an adventurer stomping around the woods. Your objective is to capture as many creatures as possible. Creatures are worth capture points and all you have to do is have more capture points than your opponent at the end of the game. Simple!
The setup couldn’t be easier. There is the landscape – Green Cards, and the adventure cards – Red Cards. All you have to do is set out the landscape, deal adventure cards to each player, and you are ready to go!
My daughter and I like to spice it up by picking out miniatures from the D&D game I run. It helps us bring in a more immersive role-playing element when we’re mainly looking at cards. Sometimes I pick a wizard or a knight while she likes to pick druids and barbarians. We like to make up voices for our characters and use them when we’re attempting to capture creatures.
There are 3 ways to capture a creature. You can Stomp them, Strike them, or Scream them. Each attack corresponds with a different card combination. The number of dice you roll equals the number of cards in your particular combination. The more cards you have in your combination, the more dice you roll, the greater the chance of a capture. Like I said, simple! I love it.
I enjoy simple games that use clever ways to add depth when I’m playing with my daughter. If the landscape was nothing but creatures to capture it would probably get a little boring for me and I’d start having Chutes and Ladders flashbacks. Dragonwood does a good job in avoiding this by adding events and items into the landscape. Occasionally an item will appear that you can capture. It might be something that will give you +2 to all Strike attempts. You might find a lightning bolt card that adds a one time +4 to a capture attempt. All of sudden you are balancing the need to capture creatures, with the desire to power up.
The dice were a stroke of genius as well. They are not typical 6-sided dice. On the six sides there is a 1, two 2’s, two 3’s and one 4. This makes calculating the probably of success easier for someone younger as the totals are more likely to fall within the average range. This is a great feature. Traditional 6-sided dice would add to much randomness to the captures.
I have to mention the art as well. The drawings are very well done and comical, but not so over the top they lose the “fantasy”. It’s just right for the 7-10 year old player. Also, the mechanics make sense for us older gamers who can’t help but care about that kind of thing. For instance, it’s much easier to Stomp the fire ants than to Strike them. It’s much harder to Scream the ghost, etc. This isn’t a huge deal in gameplay, but I think it’s little things like these in game design that let me know they were putting in the effort.
I really like this game. It’s something simple we can bust out that doesn’t take up too much time. If I ever get the “Dad I’m borrrred” I usually say, “Dragonwood?” We rush to pick out minis and start rolling dice! We’ve played over 10 times now and she’s really starting to understand the balance and timing of capturing the power ups versus saving them for the big bad guys.
I highly recommend Dragonwood to anyone looking for a fun fantasy themed game for younger kids.