Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad
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The iPad has proven more versatile than many originally thought. Magazines, books, music, movies and now board games can all be played from this one (I won't say "magical") device. As a board game fan, I'm excited to see many of my favorites, from Small World to an exceptional number of Reiner Knizia games, come to the iPad.
Now comes Journey of Fortune: Dragon's Fire - a game, that, honestly, I didn't know what to do with when I first clicked its icon. It looks like a pinball machine merged with a traditional board game and its flashy graphics are densely packed with information (maybe too much information). At its core, though, Dragon's Fire is a basic spin and play board game with an identity crisis: it's a bit too busy for younger players who might enjoy its basic mechanics, but it's too simple to play for board game veterans.
I'll admit to feeling overwhelmed when I first started trying to play Dragon's Fire. There isn't a help file or an overview of the game before you start; you're simply dropped into the game and have to figure things out for yourself. Take it from me: if you're interested in this game, read the description on iTunes. It gives probably the best overview of gameplay that I've seen. Why this is not included in the game proper is beyond me.
However daunted you might feel at the start, the feeling quickly erodes as you begin to play. There is nothing complicated or even really very challenging about Journey of Fortune: Dragon's Fire. You roll the dice (represented by spinning a wheel that contextually changes from dice rolls to combat to spell casting depending on what is needed at the moment - you'll get used to spinning this wheel a LOT), and the game moves your virtual token along the lighted path. Something like the old board game Dungeon!, Dragon's Fire presents you with various challenges depending on where you land. You might have to fend off hoards of rats or other, more dramatic adversaries. To perform combat, you can spend precious mana points to cast spells or do it the old fashioned way withe melee weapons. Each choice changes the main spinning wheel in the center of the board and the odds of getting a "hit" against your enemy. Like I said, it's basic. Your goal, if playing single player, is to arrive at the end point on the board safely. You can play against three other local opponents as well, attempting to be the first to arrive at the end point. There is no online multiplayer, but it would be great to see it added at some point in the future.
The game itself is repetitive: spin-move-spin-attack-spin-move. In essence, it's The Game of Life with a few RPG elements thrown in for fun. Where the game truly innovates is in its presentation. The glowing neon pinball look of the game board is absolutely novel and engaging. Though it is cramped and often difficult to interpret, the game board is fascinating. Too bad the same cannot be said for the gameplay.
Journey of Fortune: Dragon's Fire is an interesting first effort at bringing an original board game to the iPad. There is potential here, but the gameplay as it stands right now is strictly child's play.