It’s been a long, hard day of adventuring in the wild places and ancient dungeons of the world. Now, like every adventurer, it’s time to return to something resembling civilization so that you can rest. But you’re not going to just fall into bed the moment you arrive. No, you’re an adventurer, and you and your party have victories to celebrate and loot to spend! What better way to do so than with a night of drinking, gambling, roughhousing, and chaos at the (in)famous Red Dragon Inn! Oh, just try not to pass out or end up sleeping in the stables.
Red Dragon Inn from SlugFest Games follows the interesting but simple premise presented above: what happens once the adventurers return to the local tavern with heavy coin purses and mighty thirsts? Each player is a member of the adventuring party who has sidled up to the table for a night of drinking and gambling that may, quite often, get more rowdy than the adventuring that preceded it. If you run out of money you have to sleep in the stables. If you pass out from too much drinking or too many bar stools broken over your head, the Inn takes their cut and tosses you into a room. The last adventurer standing, with both gold in hand and drink under control, wins the game.
General gameplay is pretty simple. Every player gets a character deck specific to the character of their choice. They start with a hand of seven cards drawn from their character deck, ten gold coins, a Fortitude of 20 and an Alcohol Content of 0, and a single Drink card in their Drink Me! pile. At the start of a character’s turn they can discard and draw up to seven cards, play an Action card, ‘buy someone a Drink’ by pulling from the Drink Deck and adding to someone else’s Drink Me! pile, and then draw from their own Drink Me! pile and knock one back.
If Fortitude and Alcohol Content ever meet (Fortitude being reduced to 10 and A.C. increasing to 10, for example), then the character passes out. Half of their remaining gold goes to the Inn to pay for their room, while the other half is divided between the remaining players. If a character ends a round without any gold, they’re kicked out of the Inn and have to spend the night in the stables.
The simplicity gets turned into chaotic fun by the diversity of the characters and all the different actions that can be taken throughout the course of the game. Each character has a pretty developed feel that you can get an understanding for from the types of cards in their deck, their flavor text, and what they’re best at. A character might be the second officer on a ship, for example, and thus have abilities that center on maintaining discipline and stepping in to punish cheaters and brawlers. Another character is a druid whose focus is on shifting between her different forms as quickly as possible so that she can always present her strengths and avoid others taking advantage of a single form’s weaknesses. With Sometimes and Anytimes cards (which have conditions for use and are self-explanatory, respectively) any given turn can go wacky quickly as fights break out, adventurers try to fiddle with the drinks, spells and gadgets go awry, money is tossed around, and the local Wench lays down the law.
Red Dragon Inn was originally made in 2007, but at this point is actually more of a series, and that is where the game truly gains its depth. The ‘main’ games now number 5, while a total of 9 ‘Allies’ packs have added individual character decks to the series, bringing the total number of RDI characters to 29 as of this writing. So, while any main version of the game is technically for 2-4 players, it’s possible and actually quite fun to have more than that. While I can’t think of a table that would actually manage all 29, since every character deck can be played amongst any of the others larger games definitely give you the sense of a crowded adventuring tavern full of rowdy (but mostly happy) heroes. The just-released-this-year Red Dragon Inn 5 is particularly notable for being a large enough box that, even with its four new characters, has enough room for the other twenty-five character decks and more to spare, which can make the idea of collecting everything much more palatable.
Some of the numbered boxes have introduced new rules, such as adventures or events that the party can choose to experience, and many characters have unique abilities that make them a little more complicated than the original characters are. The kobold has gizmos that can do all sorts of things, for instance, including go awry and explode in his face if he’s unlucky. The priest has prayers with impressive results that are powered by tokens he gains over the course of play, usually by self-sacrificing or holding back. This adds to the frantic fun and diversity of the game, but it does result in a bunch of different learning curves if a player keeps trying out new characters. Thankfully none of those curves are particularly steep, and I’ve found RDI an easy game to introduce to newcomers, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Finally, for those who like a little bit of roleplaying in their board and card games, Red Dragon Inn seems naturally conducive to doing so. While it’s definitely not part of the rules and by no means required, every character is defined well enough by their abilities and card art that it’s very possible to play ‘in-character’. As an example, a friend of mine has a tendency to play Pooky, the crazed ‘rabbit’ familiar of an original RDI character who eventually got an Allies deck of his own. This player brings some extra fun to the table by acting all sorts of nice, particularly when the Wench is involved, so long as Pooky remains calm. When the rabbit gets agitated, however, the player quickly turns on whoever hurt Pooky or took the rabbit’s gold, and as soon as he can unleashes a storm of nasty, pointy teeth on the unfortunate adventurer. That rabbit is insane, I tell you.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-learn and play game of partying, gambling, and brawling adventurers down at the local inn, then give Red Dragon Inn a try. I’ve found it to be a lot of fun, particularly as you add more characters. After all, you might learn what an adventurer can do in the field, but you can learn who they are over a tankard of ale (followed by a chaser of ogre brew, a shot of rum, and a punch to the face).
You can find RDI at the usual online vendors and perhaps a Friendly Local Gaming Store, but you can also order (and read up on) the various versions and Allies packs at SlugFest Games‘ own site. While I haven’t played or read them myself, RDI also has spin-offs: a gambling-centric game called Gambling? I’m In! that can potentially be integrated into RDI and a Guide to Inns and Taverns sourcebook that is Pathfinder compatible. Might be worth checking out.
Oh, and remember: always, always respect the Wench.
Originally posted 12/16/15 on the Mad Adventurers Society!