Another German children’s game, so far with no English edition and no attention whatsoever on BGG. The Finnish edition is called Junior Lancelot.
The game: Die kleinen Drachenritter by Marco Teubner, published by Huch & Friends in 2012.
Elevator pitch: A stacking game, where you try to climb a wall by piling cardboard objects on top of each other and against the wall. The first one to reach the top wins!
What’s in the box? The box is used as a base for the board, which is an A-shaped wall. Central divider splits the board in four sections, two on each side. Each player gets one wall section. There are lots of cardboard objects, which are large, colourful and funny. Each player also gets a small cardboard knight (or princess, but for the more adventurous girls, there’s fortunately also a girl knight).
What do you do in the game? Roll a die, choose an item that’s the same colour as what the die shows, place it on top of previous items against your wall. Leaning on the central divider is not allowed, but otherwise you can choose freely how to build your ladder. If you get unlucky and roll a grey symbol, your opponent is allowed to drop a wooden disc on your wall, possibly wreaking havoc on your ladder. Once you reach the top, you can place your knight on the ladder. If the eyes of your knight are visible to the other side of the wall and the knight stays on the ladder for five seconds, you win.
Lucky or skillful? There’s fairly little luck, particularly for a children’s game. The different colors are equivalent, so it doesn’t really matter which you roll. If you roll lots of greys, you can’t win, because even if your ladder stays intact, you’re losing turns, and the game is quickly over. Of course, being skill-heavy the game is very easy for adults. There’s fortunately a good variant rule, in which you roll the die, but your opponents choose which item you take. There are much harder items available… This is a good way to handicap the games between adults and children.
Abstract or thematic? The fantasy theme is funny and whimsical. It works quite well, even though the game could have pretty much any theme – in the end it’s abstract. But the game looks fun, that’s important and that’s well done.
Solitaire or interactive? Everybody builds their own tower, you can’t even see what your opponents are doing on the opposing side of the board.
Players: 2–4, should work with any number of players.
Who can play? Publisher age recommendation is 5+, which is pretty good. My four-year-old daughter plays the game well and can even win. The stacking isn’t particularly challenging (which might be the biggest problem for the game, actually). Once the kids are familiar with the rules, they should be able to play the game well without adult supervision.
Length: Usually the game takes about 10 minutes, sometimes it can take longer if everybody fumbles with the stacking.
What’s to like: Neat cardboard objects, the stacking is fun, watching someone else fail is fun.
What’s not to like: Bump the board and the ladders fall, the game is over too soon, the stacking isn’t particularly difficult.
My verdict: Die kleinen Drachenritter is not a bad choice at all. It looks great, is attractive and unusual. Game play is intuitive and the rules overhead is low. The game’s a bit easy, though, and the replay value might be limited. However, the game is unusual enough to make it worth buying; you should be get your money’s worth easily, and then you can pass the game on if it feels stale. The more difficult variant gives the game some extra life.
On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Die kleinen Drachenritter gets Suggest.