Game: Here be Dragons
Genre: Adventure, Board Game, Puzzle, Strategy
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam)
Developers | Publishers: Red Zero Games
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US E10+
Price: EU €15,99 | US $17.99 | UK £14.39
Release Date: September 3rd 2020
Review code used, with many thanks to Red Zero Games
Here Be Dragons is a satirical turn-based strategy game featuring unique “living map” graphics, where you lead a group of crazed captains and eradicate legendary monsters in order to allow Christopher Columbus the discovery of the New World. That is what the blurb on the Nintendo game page says about Here Be Dragons, is it right? Well, let’s take a look at it and find out!
Ahoy Me Hearties
Here Be Dragons is a strategy broad-game, set in the age of exploration. The story is told by a barkeep narrator as you play a series of episodes with various captains and their ships. As the story goes, Columbus’s voyage in 1492 was to discover the New World. But did you know that before Columbus took sail there was a merry and quirky band of captains and their ships who set out on a mission to rid the Atlantic of its various monsters and creatures in Columbus path? As you can see the story isn’t serious by any means, and at least it is something different from the norm.
The gameplay focuses on the combat segments, with the story elements used to break up the combat. A tutorial shows you different aspects of the basics of the combat at sea as you progress, and there are new elements added to keep it fresh as you play through the game. The player is in control of a small group of ships and is tasked with facing down a wide array of terrifying mystical nautical beasts, including whales, hydras, and mermaids.
Shiver Me Timbers
Combat takes place on the map, you control a small group of ships in a turn-based battle. A cherub on a cloud floats in from the side of the screen and spits out one six-sided dice for each unit on the map.
Each side chooses one dice for each of their units, allocating these dice to special abilities such as healing a unit or dealing extra damage. Each ship and enemy has a set of abilities that can only be used by using the appropriately numbered dice.
Once everyone has chosen their dice, the Initiative cuts in and this is the added catch to combat. Whoever has the highest total in their pool of dice loses the initiative, meaning they go second in everything. That’s second to launch an attack, second to activate their ship’s abilities. So having the initiative can mean a big difference to whether you win or lose the battle. And believe me when I say losing the initiative in this game usually means losing everything, as It’s a difficult game. Not only will you lose many times but you will reply the same battle over and over too.
Walk the Plank
During the course of the battle, you will see bottles floating in the sea, be sure to pick them up as they contain ink! This can be used to alter and re-roll dice values in your favour but again it’s down to luck what dice you receive on the re-roll.
If you lose one of your ships during the battle but win the battle overall, you start again with a full ship as if nothing has happened. And if you lose the battle entirely you start over again.
Every time you play Here Be Dragons, you get assigned story-based ships and skills with each chapter, and each time, just as you start getting used to a layout or build, the chapter ends. You’re then given a new captain, ship, and series of skills.
This is a good way to prevent gameplay from getting too repetitive. Every time the game gives you a new captain you have to re-learn how to play with whatever abilities you’re presented with.
You can level up your ship a bit during play, but really what is the point? When you lose it all at the end of the chapter or if you die. This is niggle one I have with Here Be Dragons, let’s continue…
As the game is dice-based, a lot of the gameplay is basically down to luck and how the dice land as they are rolled. There is a little touch of strategy in the game, working out what monster to attack first and that sort of thing. But at the end of all the strategy, what really matters is the roll of the dice and what you pick from it. If the roll of the dice isn’t in your favour and you don’t succeed in claiming the initiative, more often than not it means you end up losing the game.
While I don’t mind a tough challenge, I don’t like having to replay the same level over and over again due to not having any luck with how the dice fall or in claiming the initiative….. niggle number two.
LIving Map Visual
Most of the game takes place on a “living map”, where all the animations give the feel the map is alive. And it does work quite well with the sea monsters and such on the map. It’s not overly detailed or cluttered. The ships themselves are detailed and look the part for the era the game is set in.
There is a diverse range of captains all with their own comic lines, the humour in the game is fun and it did bring a smile to my face during my playtime with it. The animation of the cherub blowing out the dice is hilarious even after I had seen it more than a dozen times.
Likewise, the soundtrack and the games sound effects are also well thought out, the music used in the background is fitting with the time period and its settings off ye oldie worldly and the sound effects work well to emphasize this throughout the combat.
While I have a couple of niggles as I stated above with Here Be Dragons, I do like what the game developers are trying to do. Though I think the game could do with some sort of sandbox mode, where you could tinker around and build up your ship’s skills.
When you get deeper into Here Be Dragons, it does offer an enjoyable slice of strategy, and fans of the board-game genre would probably find Here Be Dragons to be entertaining.
Final Verdict: I Like It