They came with loud beating of giant wings. Flapping feathers, huge bodies and intimidating beaks as their weapons. At first, I did not want to believe, that they really are true. But when I saw the smoldering fire in one’s mouth, I had to and I bow to the obvious truth. Dragons come to live among us. Do they want to rule us, fight or live in peace? Only time will tell. From now on our home will be known as the City of Dragons.
Simurgh is name the people called it and its also name of game created by Pierluca Zizzi (Arcanum, Asgard, Signoria, Hyperborea). He released his latest game surprisingly under new logo, NSKN Games. This is game created and published in 2015 and decorated with illustrations by Enggar Adirasa and Odysseas Stamoglou. Esdevium Games is in charge of its distribution.
Inside the box waits really big and solid game board, which after being unfolded creates a map of the dragon town. Besides maps, players will prepare supply of cardboard tiles and tokens representing dragons tasks, but also resources (wisdom or vegetation), tokens of dragon abilities and most figures for players. Board will contain shuffled tiles of tasks and on its left side also four new top action tiles, which will become part of the map as locations for visit.
Each player chooses a color, obtains its board and point marker (placed on zero). Participants are also equipped with two members for their team – one spearman and one dragon rider, together with starting sources. These are placed on the designated positions on their player boards. Each player will also receive one tile of power, production, research and exploration. Finally players are randomly assigned one dragon and get its tile.
Players in the game alternate in turns, when they always have chance to make one major action and add any number of supplement actions. But none of them can not be repeated. The most important action can have two forms – either a player selects one of the boxes and sends his warrior there or vice versa he pulls all of them (or part, according to his wishes) back. Its one or the other, nothing else.
Individual boxes on the map or additional tiles have a circular shape. Somewhere, there are multiple positions, while elsewhere one vassal can block all others. And here comes rule about first come, first served, in action. Some spaces can be occupied only by dragon riders. As a result of this placement, players get some advantages. Part of them is dedicated to exchange or gain of raw materials, which comes in lots of types (weapons, wood, stone, meat, vegetables, but also wisdom). Inside the city is safe to act and most activities except those mentioned are about recruiting new vassals or gaining new skills for dragons. Players can even get some new dragon from the hatchery. But more interesting are the task pieces – player may look on three of them, select one and put it on the open box on the board. For that, he needs to pay a prescribed number of raw materials. Reward for him is power (victory points), and he immediately moves his marker apropriately.
Action tiles on the left side are intended to be purchased by players. They, however, often buy them and use to occupy free space to the right of town. This area is called Wild and forms heart of the adventure, that can be experienced in the game. These standard action tiles can still expand range of possible actions and can eliminated by using weapon resources. Platelets also leaves the Wild, when all their spaces are filled up or vice versa, when they are inhabited by nobody. At that moment, it evaporates and becomes only rumors.
However, instead of regular tile, player may also get new exploration tile, which can be interpreted only in conjunction with figure of a dragon rider in top box of that space. There is a way leading downwards, that he should take as he embarks on his adventure. In their turns, even other adventurers may join him. Each round, players can move their dragon riders as a free event, but for every progress, they have to pay costs of upcoming position.
Game ends, when a prescribed number of tasks are visible or vice versa, when number of tiles in the Wild disappeared forever. Goal tiles are laid out during course of the game and their presence is really important, because it forces players to collect and upgrade their dragons. But always there will be only a certain type of dragons. They will compare strength of those, that are shown on goal tiles, when game ends. Players are receiving points according to order of their power. Thus, they gradually evaluate all tasks, plus receive more points for raw materials. Winner will be the one, who has successfully trained his dragons and thus earned most points.
Simurgh is another, and one of the newest additions, to long crowd of worker placement games, that are competing for your attention. And to grasp you with its gameplay, this mechanism needs something really special. Here, at first glance, it offers dragons. But theme is also not enough itself, so will we have fun playing with dragons and how does it actually feel to play this game?
If anything, this game is full of, it’s possibilities. Their number gets to really big number in later stages of the game. Sometimes you even feel, that there is too much. This is mainly because a lot of exposed spaces are similar. However, a second look at this feature is, that it provides chance to concentrate well on your own tactics and truly specialize. This conclusion is also supported by two different types of boxes, which further diversify interest – some spaces may be entered only by dragon riders.
Most important, however, is limited life of many tiles. In addition to locations in the city, that are fixed and used to gain resources, all remaining boxes are constantly changing and can be destroyed by you! Now thanks to this, development of the game becomes interesting. Players can influence, which tile is placed next.
Final scoring conditions are also not carved in stone. These also unfold gradually and players must adapt to it their flock of dragons. Large part of the game is about accumulation of resources, which may not suit everyone. Their large number clearly indicates, that it is impossible to collect them all. Oh, and these catches can be used later on exploration tiles to advance further.
Game will remind you of Lords of Waterdeep with its constant tile revelation. Feeling of choice and control is still priceless. It was through those piles of tiles and constantly changing conditions, when each game is a little different, than the previous one.
An integral part of every worker-placement is locking boxes and preventing others to get the action. It works here to a slightly lesser extent, than we are used to. There is always enough positions to choose from. But it is primarily about private impression. For the most important places, resources or exploration spaces, players will of course meet, fight and everything gets exciting.
Whole experience has longer playing time, which comes near to ninety minutes. In two, mentioned the problem of excessive space becomes really apparent. Players essentially feel no competition. In five players, game becomes too slow. If so you want to fight with dragons, then ideally with three or four players.
Simurgh is a solid game, but fails to stand out from the average. Although it has a beautiful dragon theme, as well as precious processing, it will not save overall gameplay impression. The market is filled of these games and there are definitely much better ones. This means, that Simurgh left us empty with a longing for something more.
Simurgh is not a game, that would succeed in being different enough. During unpacking, it all looks promising, reading the rules keep you in state of hope, but feel of the game is ultimately mediocre. There are good things (design, freedom), but there are also less successful elements (length, few contact) and combined together, they can not climb to heights of the best games out there. Simurgh is not bad. It will find some fans, especially dragon lovers, but it will not become a hit.