LIKE MANY GAMERS, I too felt the cancellation of this seasons gaming conventions was a bit disheartening. Not that I attend many gaming conventions; instead I look forward to all the new titles. Fortunately, Gen Con Online had a special storefront offering new titles. It was there that I picked up Dragomino (Blue Orange Games, 2020). This title has quickly become a favorite amongst the younger gamers associated with the RockyMountainNavy family. Just as importantly, Dragomino earned the highest approval of Mrs. RMN herself.
Dragomino bills itself as, “My First Kingdomino.” Kingdomino (Blue Orange Games, 2017) is a true RMN Family favorite. That easy to play, easy to teach, and just-the-right-challenge game proudly sits on our shelf. As a family have gifted around 10 copies of the game by now as it is the perfect gift for a family just starting hobby gaming, and especially if they have younger (elementary school-age) kids. Which made me a bit dubious; Kingdomino is already very playable by younger gamers. What could you do to make a “My First Kingdomino” game?
Dragonimo answers that question with a game that keeps the very traditional domino-tile terrain of Kingdomino but changes up the rules. Instead of a starting single-space territory, Dragomino players start with a two-space domino. The usual ‘draw four tiles and place them face-up’ stays, but the numbered backs are gone. Now, turn order is determined by who hold the “Mother Dragon.” Players take turns selecting one of the face-up tiles and adding it to their territory. Every edge that connects alike territories allows the player to draw an egg of that territory’s color. On the back of the egg is either a baby dragon or a cracked egg. Baby dragons are worth points at the end of the game; a cracked egg means you get the “Mother Dragon” and will be first player in the next turn.
Well, there is a bit more. Sharp-eyed parents will note that some territories have more eggs. The rules tell you that each color has seven baby dragons. The odds of finding a dragon are much better with the few red Lava tiles than with the numerous yellow Desert tiles. But that’s about as complex the hidden strategy gets.
We introduced Dragomino to Mrs. RMN’s students. They are all girls and range in age from 6 to 10 years old. The youngest liked the baby dragons and had to see each one drawn. Of the three, she had the hardest time to ‘grok’ the game but she is a good jigsaw puzzler and quickly caught on. The other two likewise loved the artwork and both also enjoyed the quick-play nature of the game which allows for multiple plays. Indeed, we couldn’t get the 8 year old to stop playing! Even RockyMountainNavy Jr. (a junior in High School and ‘King’ of Kingdomino in our house) expressed his pleasure from playing the game.
Most important though are the thoughts of Mrs. RMN. As an educator, she believes in the power of gaming for social growth in children. As a mother she has also seen good, and some not-so-good, games. Dragomino hits a real sweet spot for her needs; the artwork and theme draws the kids in, the rules are easy to teach, and gameplay is quick and simple. There is no reading required and end-game scoring calls for simple math (counting to less than 10 and easy use of “more than” or “less than” concepts). After a day filled with multiple Dragonimo games, I went to rate it on BoardGameGeek. I asked Mrs. RMN what she thought. Without hesitation she wanted to give it the highest rating. She strongly believes that there are actually few games out there really suitable for younger games, and Dragonimo is one of the best of those few. She added that, like RMN Jr., this is a game that adults will not tire of when playing with their kids.
So this weekend I had to order several additional copies of Dragonimo so Mrs. RMN can add them to her gaming gift kitty. I have a feeling that Dragonimo, like Kingdomino, is going to become a gaming gift staple for a good while to come.