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Brand new baby dragon! The news spreads like wildfire! And everyone knows what this means: the mother dragon must have acquired a large hoard of gold and gems for the nest of her brood. All knights in the area want a chance at the treasure and race to her mountain. To protect her young, the mother dragon is looking for those who would attack her baby and her new hoard. If she catches a knight, he will spend the rest of his life polishing gold and then finish by feeding the baby dragon. Those knights that can avoid the mother dragon will carry off their share of gold and gems!
Rare is the board game that takes only 30 minutes to play, yet contains neat decisions, good tactics, and can keep a gamer happy. Emerald does all that and more.
Players each have a team of adventurers headed into the dragon's cave to get treasure -- both gems and gold, and try and make it out of the cave without getting eaten by big momma dragon. The artwork in this game draws you into the there as it is of the highest excellence with rich tones, beautiful illustrations, and a wonderful mood that feels like a storybook. It is perhaps the best artwork I have yet seen in a game.
Players will travel counterclockwise from the start point to the bonus spots at the end (if they are lucky enough to make it that far, that is.) The first 8 or so spaces on the track are set in the grassy plains, but the rest of the spaces are in the belly of the earth, filled with gems and gold -- and dragons. At each space in the dragon cave, there is a gem card and a gold card to choose from, the gem cards come in four different colors, the gold card come in different values. When a player lands on a space, he must choose either the gem card or the gold card. Gold cards are worth between 1 and 5 victory points, while gems are only worth 1 point each. However, there are 4 point majority bonus for each of the colors of gems, which can make them more attractive for pickup.
But players must beware of the dragon. The dragon has a unique movement method: she is contained in a track that is 4 spaces long and will range back and forth on that track by a die roll from 1-3. She moves anytime someone lands in her 4 space range. Every time she is 'triggered', her 4-space movement track moves right one space until she gets to the end of her cave, where she will range back and forth for the rest of the game. She does this so that no adventurer can outrun her to the end of the cave. For, at the end of the cave, for the first 4 adventurers to get that far, and 5 point bonus cards!
And here is where the game begins to get interesting. When she lands on a space with one or more pawns, she attacks a pawn of the active players choice. The player is doomed! That is, doomed unless he pays a bribe of one gold card to the dragon! But that's not all!
I haven't covered how the players move yet, and herein lie the tactics. A player may move up to 2 pawns, but once he takes a card, his turn is over. When a player wants to move a pawn, whatever place that pawn moves from, the number of spaces you move must be exactly the same as the number of pawns on that space. So if you leave from a space with 4 pawns, you must move exactly 4 spaces. What this means is that you can help dictate your opponents' options. If, on their next turn, they have a chance to move a pawn to a space with a 5 gold card, try and find a way to move one of your pawns to the space with their pawn, and now they would be forced to overshoot it by one space. The same way you can setup opponents options, you can help set up your own. And even the strategies are interesting and player balance getting good gold cards while trying to get leads in certain gem colors.
All of this make for a competitive, tactical game that is interactive, fairly quick, and a very satisfying game. The big plus here is that kids seem to love this game. It may take them a game or two to start to understand have to use the movement rules, and learn some of the tricks (like 'hiding' from a dragon by moving on to a danger space with an opponent's pawn), but thoroughly enjoyable.
Did I mention the graphics? =)
Ive found that most games that are for two to five players are best with five players. There are exceptions to this rule, and Emerald (Abacus Spiele- Rio Grande, 2002 Ruediger Dorn) is one of them. I didnt know much about Emerald when I bought it, only knowing there was a dragon on the cover of the box (and Im such a sucker for that.)
Was Emerald worth my time? The answer is that Emerald is an extremely good, fun, light, tactical game with three players. Five players is too random, but still a lot of fun for kids. Two and four player games fall somewhere in between. Its an interesting filler, however, and I think it will hit the table more often than not. Let me tell you a little about how the game plays.
A board is placed in the middle of the table, depicting the dragons lair. There is a track, starting with five castle spaces (the start spaces), six field spaces, nine cave spaces, and the treasure chamber. There are two spaces for cards that correspond with each cave space. On one space are placed two or three gem cards, one face up, the other(s) face down. The gem cards are rubies, emerald, garnet and turquoise. On the other space are placed two or three gold cards, one face up, the other(s) face down. The gold cards have a value from one to five. Four treasure cards (worth five points) are placed in the treasure chamber. A wooden dragon token is placed in the fourth cave space. A wooden rod (the dragon track) is laid down next to the first four cave spaces. Five bonus cards are placed face up in the middle of the table. Each player takes a certain amount of wooden knight pawns (depending how many players are playing) and place one in each of the starting castle spaces. One player starts the game, and each player then takes a turn, in clockwise order.
On a turn, a player must move at least one of their knights, but may move two if they desire. A knight must move forward an amount of spaces equal to the number of knights currently in their space. So, if there are five knights in a space, the first knight to leave must move five spaces. If a knight lands in a cave space, they must take one of the face up cards. Only one card may be taken by a player on a turn, so if they move only one knight, and take a card, their turn is over. When a card is taken, the topmost card underneath it (if any) is turned face up to replace it.
If a player lands on the dragon, or any space that is in the dragon track, they must roll a die (with numbers on it from one to three). The dragon then moves that amount of spaces (only within the dragon track, however reversing its direction if it reaches the end of the dragon track.) If the dragon ends its movement in the same space as a knight, that knight is eaten, and removed from the game. If there is more than one knight in the space, the player moving the dragon decides who is eaten. The attacked player can discard a gold card and bribe the dragon, keeping his knight alive. After the dragon moves, the dragon track is moved one space towards the end of the cave spaces. When it reaches the last four spaces, it remains there the rest of the game.
The first player to get a one jewel of each type gets a bonus card worth four points immediately. Each player who lands in the treasure chamber gets a treasure card with five points. The knight who lands there is out of the game. When all four treasure cards are gone, or when one player only has one knight left the game ends. Scoring then commences.
The player who has the most jewels of each type gets a bonus card worth four points. Each gem card is also worth one point. All the points are added up (gem cards, treasure cards, gold cards, and bonus cards), and the player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game:
1.) Components: The components to this game are excellent. Im glad they included a six-sided die with the numbers 1-3 on it, rather than a three sided die, as I find it easier to roll. The knight tokens and dragon token are very nice wooden tokens, and easy to handle. The dragon track looks like a wooden pointer, but it works well, and slides easily on the board. The cards are small, about half the size of a normal playing card, and have some very sharp graphics on them. Two cards with pigs on them are included with the game, to be used as replacement cards (I think). Im not sure why they have pigs on them, but its reinforcing my opinion that pigs are popular gaming devices. The board is absolutely beautiful, with stunning artistry on it. Its one of the nicest looking boards I have for any of my games. The box holds all the pieces well and is sturdy. I have to say, its one of the thinner games I own; but with limited shelf space, thats never a bad thing.
2.) Rules: The rules are well written on four full-colored pages. There are pictures and a listing of all contents and several illustrated examples. The game is very simple and easy to teach and learn.
3.) Tactics: Even though the game is very simple, there are many strategic choices to be made. What should a player take, jewels or gold? Should a player spend points to keep a knight alive? Should a player risk getting eaten by the dragon? There is a smidgen of luck, with the rolling of the dice, but overall, the tactical choices out way this luck. I will admit that there arent many choices; however, so that people looking for deep strategies should look elsewhere.
4.) Theme and Fun Factor: The theme is there, and works for the game, although another theme could easily be transposed onto the mechanics. Seeing other players getting eaten by the dragon is quite fun! Moving a knight into a space to mess up the carefully construed plans of that player is even more fun. Doing both on the same turn is the best!
5.) Players: The game works with two and four players, but is really good with four. Children will enjoy a five-player game, but adults will get frustrated by it, because too much happens between turns to really plan any kind of strategy. Its an excellent family game, however, with a little backstabbing, but not too much.
So I recommend Emerald. It plays quite quickly, looks really good on the table, and is actually quite fun and full of small tactical decisions. The theme doesnt detract from the game, but rather adds a little to it. Its an excellent filler and a game of choice when there are only three players. Pick it up, give it a try, and see what I mean!
This is a lovely little game. Lots of strategy, with luck playing just enough part to make it interesting. Very easy to learn, but given the varied strategies that may be employed, there is surprising depth. The excellent art work enhances the game play. This game should definitely be part of your collection. Looking for gamers in my area!
The graphics make it look kind of silly, but I was surprised at how deep the gameplay was. Still a lot of luck involved, which makes it easier for the kids, but there's a lot to think about on any move, some that's obvious but diverse, some of which is more statistical, which makes it interesting for the kids and adults. Plays in half an hour to fourty five minutes, which keeps the kids from getting ansy. I'm not sure I'd pick it for all-adult play, but I'm not sure I wouldn't either! But for a family game, it's a new favorite of the entire family.
At first glance Emerald could be easily dismissed as a childs game. However, similar to another favorite game of mine Cartagena, there is an extra layer of strategy that elevates the game from purely appealing to children to a good light strategy game that appeals to adults.
The mechanics are solid with a good blend of strategy and luck. The components are good and the artwork and theme work very nice. The box is thin so this game takes up very little real estate on your shelf.
I prefer Emerald to Cartagena because it is slightly more complex, but yet still a light game. Emerald also plays quick and my wife and I are always up for another game.
I would highly recommend Emerald to introduce children and adults into modern gaming as well as for gamers looking for a quick and fun game to start or end an evening of gaming. For those gamers that are considering purchasing Transamerica, you may want to look here first.
Given that you can only cram in so many epic tactical struggles in a day, I'm always glad to find new quick, elegant, fuss-free games that still provide a strategic challenge. Carcassonne remains my personal favourite of the 'simple-yet-subtle' genre, which also includes Manhattan, Through the Desert, and now, Emerald.
The mechanics of the game are quite ingenious. The movement of knights is simple, but comes with a whole ream of consequences, some obvious and some not so much. For instance, moving a knight from (or into) a group changes where the others can move to. And since knights never move backwards, there is the trouble of pacing your progress; not rushing ahead or getting stuck way behind.
The gold vs. gems dilemma is clever: for example, if lots of good gold cards are showing, do you scramble to get at them, or let the others do that while you clean up on gems?
The dragon counter adds just enough unpredictability without making the game seem too random. You can always calculate the risk of being eaten and weigh that against the reward. And it's also nice that it is always, ultimately, your decision whether knights get eaten, because you could always choose to bribe the dragon instead. But as the game goes on, it can be strategically wiser to lose knights instead of gold.
Some have complained about the theme, but it makes sense to me: knights are trying to sneak around getting the best treasure, without getting caught and eaten. Though the box says 10 and up, I can easily imagine kids of 7 or 8 enjoying it also, if they had older folks around to help set up the cards and such.
Emerald is a fine game for those who want something light-hearted, low-stress, and quick that still has enough depth to be interesting. Plus the dragon piece could make a nifty pendant if you drilled a teeny hole in it.
Here's an example of what is basically a fulfillingly light abstract strategy game with an unrelated theme slapped on for appeal.
Our family enjoys the challenge of the unique movement system and the forced choice of gold vs. gem cards (gold=immediate reward + dragon insurance vs. gem=possible larger later rewards and ability to block opponents from scoring points) but finds the 'knights visiting baby dragon' theme kind of silly and obtuse. The combination of game mechanics/phases here really works and forces you to apply different strategies at different times (even younger players see this). There are definitely beginning, middle, and end games at play and you are simultaneously forming alliances and trying to block opponents at the same time.
Emerald loses a point for the weird theme, and if possible, I'd knock off a half point because it's at least that far behind the ultimate family game, Carcassonne.
Easy to learn, a bit of a pain to set up (lots of tiny cards and pieces that get knocked about by younger players), and quick enough to play a couple very satisfying rounds and move on to something else on game night.
Such chivalrous companionship! A knight moves exactly as far as the total number of knights on its starting space. When one of your knights lands in the dragon's cave, choose a faceup card from one of the two piles adjacent to the knight's space. Gold cards offer up to five points. Gems (four kinds) earn one point each, with bonuses for collecting the most of a kind. Landing adjacent to the prowling dragon forces a die roll to move it, but woe to the knight on whom the dragon lands, for he must leave the game unless his owner discards a gold card. Make it through the dangerous cave and you'll get a five-point reward card. Play ends when all rewards have been collected, or when someone is left with only one knight. Most points wins. This beguiling little gem, rich in intriguing challenges, will enthrall the entire family.
This is one of the recent Nuremberg releases and is another at the lighter end of game complexity. It revolves around a set of heroes raiding a dragon's cave for treasure, with the winner being determined by the hero who accumulates the most. The game board and pleasant components - cards, hero pieces, and red dragon marker - arrive in a game box the same size as an earlier Abacus classic, Medici -- the flat box type.
The colourful game board has 16 spaces on which the heroes travel (5 each in a game for 4 players, different numbers when there are different numbers of players). The first 6 spaces show a path leading from the city where players start, to the edge of the cave in which the dragon lives. Heroes move a distance according to the number of players on their starting space and players may move two heroes during their turn.
The dragon starts near the middle of the cave and has a patrol zone of 4 squares, indicated by a piece of wood that is the length of four cave squares. Every time a player finishes in the dragon patrol zone or on the dragon, the dragon will move 1-3 squares according to a die roll. If the dragon reaches the end of the patrol zone, she turns round and moves in the opposite direction. The final act of the dragon movement is that the wooden patrol zone piece is moved one square to the right. As the game proceeds, the dragon movement zone gradually moves right until it reaches the extreme right hand side of the cave nearest the treasure chamber, where it stays for the rest of the game. It's a neat mechanism that provides some uncertainty about where the dragon will move and simulates the dragon defending the cave as the heroes penetrate further into it.
The heroes are trying to collect treasure, which is available in the cave and the treasure chamber one square beyond the cave. It's pretty easy to get - all you have to do is move a hero into the cave. Once you do this, the hero has a choice of treasure: either a gold card (value 1 to 5) or a gem in one of four colours - red rubies, green emeralds, blue turquoises or yellow garnets. The gems are shown in a pile above each cave space while the gold cards are below each cave space. The top card of each pile (gems and gold) is visible and allows for the choice.
If the dragon lands on the hero, the hero dies unless a gold card is surrendered. The choice of card is any one of the gold cards, as this persuades the dragon to ignore the hero for the bribe. Since the value of gold cards is how the game is won, it is a good idea to have cheap cards available for bribing the dragon.
The gems are worth one gold at the end of the game, with a bonus of 4 gold for the player having the highest number of each type of gem. This is easy to see as all gems are visible throughout the game (unlike gold), but this bonus is lost if more than one player ties for the most of that type of gem. A further one-off bonus of 4 gold is available for the player who first collects one gem of each type.
The final scoring opportunity takes place when a player reaches the square beyond the cave. This is where the treasure chamber is located and each hero receives a card worth 5 gold. There are only four of these and when the last is taken the game ends. It can also end when one player has only one hero remaining.
Overall, the game sounds pretty simple, with not much to it. Move to the cave, take your chances with the dragon and compare gold at the end. However, the game proceeds in a very tactical way. You can plan where your heroes will move to, so you know whether you can reach a particular square in the cave. So do your opponents, so there is some jockeying to reach the gold squares that have the high value gold cards. When this occurs, you tend to bring up your other heroes, which is a good idea anyway as it provides more movement options and avoids leaving heroes behind who may reach the cave too slowly. It's usually a good idea to land on the dragon square as she tends to move onto other squares -- hopefully where someone else's hero is located. You also have to decide whether to concentrate on gold or gems or a mixture of both. If you could take a gold worth 2 or a gem, what do you take? If it's the third of four gems, you may get the 4 bonus for collecting all gems. On the other hand, the 2 gold may save your hero later when you are nearing the treasure chamber and it's not much of a sacrifice. The decisions are not always clear and since each cave square has either 2 gold and three gems or 2 gems and three gold, and these are not replenished, you may not get a choice when the later waves of hero move through.
So far in the games I have played, the game has ended with the last treasure card being taken. But if you are in the lead, it is quite possible to attempt to sacrifice your heroes and end the game early, though this does require the dragon to land on them and of course that cannot be guaranteed.
The game's neat touches - the movement of the dragon, the choices of reward and the options about movement are enough to warrant further play. The game is not difficult to understand and nor are the decisions onerous, so it makes a good end of evening game, when brainpower may be in short supply. Pleasant and non-draining.