I really love when I get the chance to play Dragon Lairds (2007). It's a fun, colorful card game with lots of surprising and shifting strategies that requires real engagement. One of the bonuses playing locally is that both designers might be part of the game. We often make a point of playing it when both are available.
The description from Board Game Geek is as follows:
In this cousin of Saint Petersburg, each player represents a monarch dragon clan, and attempts to assert herself as the Dragon Monarch by game end, by securing the most Royals (victory points). In order to facilitate this process, players will use their Geld (money) to hire Dragon Lairds (aristocrats) and buy Resources (buildings) and Commoners (peasants). You can use precious Royals (your victory points) to acquire Dragon Havocs, which empower you to do anything from getting extra cash, to stealing things from your opponents. The Havocs tend to be one-shot little guys, however, and are always discarded to the bottom of the discard deck, as far out of reach as possible from those cards that pilfer the discard pile.
At the end of each round, you accumulate the Geld and Royals that your acquisitions generate for your clan. At the end of the game, you additionally receive any Finale Royals on cards as end-game victory points.
From the Margaret Weis web site:
Deep in the heart of an island continent, many years ago, was a long forgotten land of ancient Saureans… Dragons of all sizes and shapes, who had, through the generations tamed the foolish races of men, dwarves, and elves that lived among them. Over the centuries, they refined their techniques and now were trying to gain control over all the surrounding dragon countries. There could be only one Dragon Monarch, but who would it be?
At the start of the game, each player is given a dragon clan and chooses to play either the king or queen of that clan. The object is for your clan to score the most points in Royals by the end of the game and thus become the ruling Dragon Monarch.
I've had good luck with a myriad of strategies and paths to victory with this game and it always feels like anyone could win. I've even managed to win with the elusive all-one-color strategy, twice! However, I have also lost miserably attempting this strategy so it's not for the faint of heart. It's a safer route to lie in the weeds in second or a close third place and avoid making enemies with Havoc cards and stash a little more money away for the final turns. Also, avoid snapping up too many cards early, the cards that look good but can't be brought into play right away. Too many times I have seen those hand cards ruin a perfectly good final push. Watch out for the high value Resource cards. They seem like winners but too often become the targets of Havocs.
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