Mythical Cards and Magical Crystals

Another game I played in my youth, this time somewhat later than many of the others, is a 1981 card game called Dragonmaster. Essentially, the gameplay was a lot like Hearts. Each player plays a card, and whoever has the highest wins the trick. There are certain cards that you are penalized for taking, which ones depending on which hand you’re playing, and taking them means you have to pay the Dragonmaster. Each player serves as the Dragonmaster for five hands, choosing them in whichever order they want. If another player is dealt the Dragon Card (which, by the way, is also what the college identification at Drexel University is called), they can try a Power Play where they take all the normally forbidden cards. Anyone who succeeds at this becomes the new Dragonmaster. The winner is the person with the most money at the end of the game.

The game really isn’t as complicated as it might sound at first, but it’s a strange case where the instruction booklet makes it look even worse. I’ve talked before about old video games with intricate stories that really don’t affect the way you play them, and this is a card game that has one of those. It takes place in a land originally ruled by the Dragonlords, but conquered by a group of evil wizards. A sage teamed up with the Prince of Warriors to retrieve a sword from the Lizard People, then to use the weapon to tame the Sky Lizard and take the Staff of Power to overthrow the wizards. This ties in with the different hands, as one involves trying not to take the Prince of Warriors, another not to take any Dragonlords, and yet another not to take any wizards. The Staff of Power hand is basically a combination of all the others. The four suits are the tribes that live in the land: Dragonlords, Warriors, Nomads, and Druids.

The real draw to this game is the illustrations, provided by fantasy artist Bob Pepper, who also did a lot of book and album cover art. There’s a unique design for each character, and Pepper’s style combines traditional fantasy with psychedelica.

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