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Tales from the Red Dragon Inn

You've met the heroes on their downtime in The Red Dragon Inn. Now it's time for them to put down those tankards and go adventuring!

Coming soon to Kickstarter, Tales from the Red Dragon Inn is a dungeon crawler that is played over multiple chapters, which are in turn each broken down into multiple scenarios. Heroes gain powers and new cards and share items between scenarios as more complex abilities and mechanics are introduced into the game alongside tougher enemies.

Gameplay

Each scenario shows you how to set up the map. Often the scenario will be broken into parts, with each part showing what enemies spawn as you reach that section or any special rules for moving onto the next part of the scenario. Every scenario has its own win or loss conditions. Often, having a hero defeated will lose the scenario and players will be forced to play it again if they want to progress with the story.

At the start of the scenario each player picks a hero to play. Each hero comes with a double-sided hero mat, a set of hero cards (which can evolve over the course of multiple scenarios), and a figurine. Each player may also choose a major and a minor item to take with them out of the communal item pool that players have collected. The hero mat has a fresh and wounded side, each with a set number of fortitude points (the game's health system), and different abilities listed on either side. You start with the fresh side face-up, but when you have collected damage tokens equal to or exceeding the fresh side's hit points, you flip it to the wounded side. You may not be cured back to fresh during the scenario, and if you receive damage equal to or exceeding the hit points of the wounded side, then your character is defeated.

Each round consists of a set number of phases. During the ready phase, you roll one die for each enemy type that is on the board. The result you roll determines how the enemies will act on their turn as determined by their individual scheme blocks which are part of the scenario's map. You then move onto the combat phase. During the combat phase, you draw initiative tokens out of the initiative bag. Each time you draw one you resolve that character's turn before drawing the next one. You keep drawing until all players and any enemies on the board have acted.

On a player's turn they may perform up to two abilities marked as actions and one marked shenanigan. You may also replace one or both actions with shenanigans. Your abilities are marked on your hero cards, player mat, and items. Some abilities may only be used a certain number of times in a scenario, while others need a cool down before you can use them again. Actions allow you to move around the board, perform melee or ranged attacks, or even move opponents. Many abilities will list multiple effects, and you must perform them in the order given. Melee attacks are performed on adjacent targets, while ranged attacks are performed on targets a certain number of spaces away. When determining what targets are in range, you simply count the hexes on the board, moving around corners and impassible objects or walls. Some attacks are blasts, which affect multiple hexes as shown by a grid next to the ability's text.

When you attack an opponent, sometimes you will deal a base number of damage, other times you will roll one or more damage dice. These results can show a hit, a critical hit, two hits, or a hit and inspiration. Each hit counts as one point of damage. A critical hit counts as one point of damage and then you get to roll that die again. When you roll inspiration, you count up all the inspiration icons you rolled and if the number exceeds the number of epic dice in the epic pool you get to add one die to it (so long as you didn't roll any epic dice in the attack). You may spend an epic die when attacking to add it to your roll. You can also spend one to reduce damage an enemy would deal. If an enemy is dealt damage equal to or above its health, it is defeated.

In a one-to-two player game, each player also has a bonus imitative token in the initiative bag. When one of these is drawn, that player may perform one action OR one shenanigan ability.

When an enemy token is drawn, then all the enemies of that enemy type activate, performing the ability dictated by their die that was rolled at the start of the round. These abilities will often involve moving and/or attacking, and their scheme block will determine who they're targeting.

There are a few other possible abilities and effects you can encounter in the game, such as shields (which add tokens onto a character that are later removed to reduce damage dealt), invigorate (which removes countdown tokens), and heal.

The different maps will often have different terrain features, such as traps that cause damage if you move onto them, or objects that require extra movement points to move through.

After all characters have taken their action, you check if the current objective of the scenario has been completed. Completing some objectives will move you forward in the scenario while others will complete it.

Tales from the Red Dragon Inn components

Review

Tales from the Red Dragon Inn is a mix of accessible gameplay and epic campaign driven adventures. While we played through the first two scenarios, we also got to look at a more complex one set later in the game where the heroes are more advanced and the story feels bigger, with higher stakes. There does seem to be a really nice range of win and loss conditions throughout the scenarios and objectives, adding nice variety.

The combat is accessible, and we particularly appreciated how streamlined the ranged attacks are. There's no trying to draw a line of sight, trying to figure out if that wall is cutting off your view or not. You simply count the hexes. It's short, simple, and sweet. Having all your abilities spread out across your cards is also a nice touch. You have all your information right there. It's visually appealing and easy to take in at a glance.

The simplicity of the die rolling to determine the action each enemy type will take is also nice. This also adds more room for strategizing, as players know at the start of the round exactly what the enemy will do and can plan accordingly, while the unpredictability of the initiative token draw ensures that at times you'll be dealt an unexpected blow. We liked that you never know who will act next until a turn is resolved and the next token is drawn.

Set in the world of Red Dragon Inn, you would expect the game to have a really fun flair to it, and it absolutely does. There are lots of fun names used on the cards, the artwork is enjoyable, and the story spread throughout each scenario is enjoyable. Not only is there a nice hunk of story put at the beginning and end of each scenario, but there's often a little bit of flavor inserted between objectives. There's a fun, light humorous tone often used and the game succeeds nicely in giving a character to its heroes and setting.

There was a section of gameplay that we were not given access to in preview format: the power tree, a mechanism that allows you to further customize your hero in each scenario. We can't vouch for it, but there was sufficient evidence throughout the preview that there are plenty of ways to make each hero your own when you play them. However, you don't always have to play the same hero. Hero cards unlock for each character as you progress through the campaign, whether you played them or not, meaning that you can always hop characters and are in fact encouraged to do so. This should add some nice variety as you try out different characters and learn how best to play each one.

Even with the combat as accessible as it is, there are a lot of rules to learn and the campaign is ambitious and extended, making this game a real time investment. This may be daunting for many casual gamers.

If you're interested in something a little heftier that is not going to be too difficult to learn, Tales from the Red Dragon Inn is shaping up to be an excellent dungeon crawler, set in a really fun world. It strikes a nice complexity balance for its genre, features some really bright and colorful artwork, a clever combat system, and an interesting story. Coming soon to Kickstarter — check out the campaign and try the preview on Tabletop Simulator for yourself.

Pros: Fun and interesting story, combat system, ability to switch heroes between scenarios

Cons: Complex rules for casual gamers, high time commitment for the full campaign

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.