Tug of War Drafting Mechanism in Dung & Dragons

Shock of shocks, I'm actually working on Dung & Dragons again as a legit, no kidding, actually coming out game some time this spring. ("Dung & Dragons" is just a working title, remember.) Long-time readers know this has been my white whale for ages. Tip: When you start with a theme, but don't have a core play loop in mind yet, settle in for a long meandering series of half-starts and unpolished ideas.

But I've got a really cool mechaphor worked out for the game and I think it'll really do well as a light strategy card game with an interesting drafting mechanism.

You're each dragon ranchers luring wild dragons into your stables, in hopes of harvesting their valuable poop. See, dragons poop gold. Obviously.

For now, let's use standard playing cards as examples and assume you start with a hand of six cards.

On Your Turn...
On your turn, you may do one of the following actions:
  • Pulling a Dragon
  • Build New Stables
  • Feed Dragons
  • Shovel Poop

Pulling a Dragon
To get a dragon, you must lure it to you with its favorite food. This central lane lies between two players (or teams of players). It represents a clutch of baby dragons.

Aren't they adorable?

On your turn, you play a card from your hand matching the suit and/or rank of one or more dragons in the clutch.  Let's say you played a Jack of Hearts. That means the 2 of Hearts or Jack of Clubs matches that card.

Then you may "pull" dragon(s) in one of two ways. You may either:

Example of pulling two dragons.
 You may pull two eligible dragons one card length toward your side each. OR...

Example of pulling one dragon.

You may pull one eligible dragon two card lengths toward your side.

Then your played card is added to the outer end of the clutch, thus becoming available for future turns.

If you start your turn with a dragon two card lengths toward your side, rotate the card sideways. It is now your dragon, occupying one of your stables. Each player's starting ranch only has room for one stable.

Building New Stables
Once a stable is occupied, the current dragon must be released before a new dragon is to be placed there. Otherwise, you need to build new stables ahead of time. Building is a separate action, it must be done instead of any other action.

To build a new stable, discard a number of cards from your hand equal to the number of stables you already own. You may only build one stable at a time.

Feeding Dragons
Once you have a dragon (or more), you can spend your turn feeding it. Feeding is a separate action, it must be done instead of any other action.

You must feed cards of the dragon's preferred suit.

You may feed any or all of your dragons any number of cards from your hand. At certain quantities, a dragon will "level up" and in doing so make Victory Points available for you. But they don't automatically come to you. You have to shovel those points.

Shoveling Poop
Once you've fed a dragon, you must shovel the stables to earn your points. Shoveling is a separate action, it must be done instead of any other action.

At first level, a dragon requires four cards of its preferred suit to produce one victory point. Then it upgrades to second level. (So a "Diamond" dragon requires four diamond cards.)

At second level, a dragon requires three cards of its preferred suit to produce one victory point. Then it upgrades to third level.

At third level, a dragon requires two cards of its preferred suit to produce one victory point. Third level is the maximum age for a dragon.

End of Turn
At the end of your turn, draw two cards from the deck. You always draw two cards from the deck, regardless of your current hand size. Hand size is unlimited.

That's it for now. I need to settle on an endgame mechanic and any bonuses for endgame conditions, like most third-level dragons, or most well-fed dragons, or something like that.

I also want to writeup some Stable cards available for purchase in this manner, each offering unique bonuses and upgrades to their occupants.

Some dragons will also have special bonuses when they reach certain levels, affecting other dragons in your stables.

It would also be nice to have variable player powers.
  • Builder: It costs you one less to build a stable.
  • Feeder: Your dragons level-up with one fewer food.
  • Puller: You may pull up to three dragons by one length, or two by two lengths.
  • Shoveler: You get one extra point from second-level dragons and two extra from third-level dragons.

But for now, this is the simplest, most coherent outline for the game I've had in a long time. No fancy trick-taking mechanics or weird tech trees, just a clever little drafting mechanism.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.