Princes of the Dragon Throne, designed by Fred Mackenzie and published by Clever Mojo Game, is a fun mash-up of deck building and area control mechanics. It’s got tons of dragons, is seeping with theme, and has top quality components.
“The very first spark of an idea [for Princes of the Dragon Throne] was simply me saying to myself that I want to make a game about dragons,” Mackenzie said. “That thought made me remember a poem my brother wrote about the birth, life and death of a certain dragon. I wanted to make a game that also went through that progression. Princes of the Dragon Throne is not that game. My dragon game, which was called Dragon Frenzy, started out similar to the poem’s premise, but quickly changed direction as my idea required 125 dice. This was pre-Quarriors and I knew there was no way anybody would publish a game with that many dice.”
In the world of Princes of the Dragon Throne, the Dragon King has died and his sons, the princes, are vying for control of the kingdom. They do so by recruiting powerful supporters, controlling regions on the map, and by earning favors from guilds. At the end of the game the prince with the most prestige becomes the new king.
“As a kid, I read a lot of fantasy novels,” Mackenzie said. “I first read The Hobbit in 1980 and from that point on I always had a book in my hand. I just never got into reading sci-fi. So fantasy is what I love and what I wanted to make a game about.”
While in development, Princes of the Dragon Throne went through several variations using different mechanics, including role selection, set collection, and even rock/paper/scissors, but nothing clicked. It wasn’t until Mackenzie discovered deck building that Princes finally started to take shape.
“Once I decided upon deck building I also discovered that the mechanic was quickly becoming a favorite among designers,” Mackenzie said. “It seemed like everybody had a deck building game they were either developing or publishing. We play tested a version of the game that was only deck building for several weeks. It had its own personality and wasn’t just a Dominion clone, but it still didn’t seem to me like it would stand out in a crowded genre. One day it just hit me that the game needed to change once again. I wanted the deck building to cause you to do something on a board, a map of a fantasy land. I used the same card characters we had already, six races of peoples running six types of guilds and made a map with six kingdoms, with each one of them containing one of each of the six guilds. In the center was the dragon kingdom. The mechanisms employed in the dragon kingdom changed a few times during play testing, but for the most part the rest of the map stayed the same. Once I had a game that didn’t involve dragons fighting, but instead would have a more political approach to becoming king, it didn’t make sense to call it Dragon Frenzy anymore. David [Mackenzie] suggested Princes of the Dragon Throne and it stuck.”
The heart of Princes of the Dragon Throne is area control. Players do their best to make sure that they have the most units in a certain region or with a certain guild. This scores them points and favors. The deck building comes into play because the cards that players buy give them resources but also determine where on the map a player may place a unit.
When deck-building in the game there are a lot of meaningful choices that a player must make. Should they buy a card that gives them more resources? Should they focus on controlling a specific region? Or should they be playing more aggressively and buying cards just so another player doesn’t have access to a certain guild or region?
“Princes of the Dragon Throne resembles the earliest version of the final iteration pretty closely,” Mackenzie said. “The look, and function, of the dragon kingdom changed a few times. The six race kingdoms are basically the same. The prototype used a hex based board and looked very abstract. The final version is made to look more like an actual map. It really is a shame that we had to cover up so much of the beautiful map artwork with all those busy icons. But those icons are vital to game play so sacrifices have to be made…. Don Aguillo did an amazing amount of work in an amazingly short time and I couldn’t be happier with his work. As I said, I just wish we didn’t have to cover so much of it up.”
Princes of the Dragon Throne is currently on sale from Game Salute!