It has been a long day in the mines. The village hired you and your party to investigate a series of digger disappearances in the deepest parts of the mine. Of course, once you found out that the mine served as the ancient entrance to a mind flayer lair, your contract obligated you to put a stop to the mind-eater’s machinations. Between the giant spiders and the inky darkness of the mines, it wasn’t an easy battle. In fact, the encounter with the flayer itself proved a struggle that nearly cost everyone their lives. In the end, you all managed to scrape by and return to the surface. The reward for this feat will surely bring in a pretty gold piece or two, but the real prize is the town’s inn, The Red Dragon Inn, the best place to laugh and drink possibly in all the land.
The Red Dragon Inn isn’t just a fantastical place for adventurers to kick back and relax, it’s also an insanely popular tabletop board game. Developed by SlugFest Games, The Red Dragon Inn tells the story of what happens when the quest has finished and the heroes have a chance to unwind. The open and simple design allows for players to get into the game on whatever level they’d like. This has enabled the game to reach a wide and enduring audience that has supported the many expansions to the base game through Kickstarter crowdfunding campaigns.
The rules of the game set up a scenario in which anywhere from 2-4 adventurers (expansions enable more people to play together) meet at the titular inn to have a good time and drink while spending their hard earned gold. The goal of the game is to be the last conscious player who still has gold. If your character becomes too drunk or loses all of their gold, they are out of the game.
Each player’s turn consists of a draw phase, where they maintain seven cards in their hand. Following this, the player has an opportunity to take an action using an action card from their hand to either help themselves or backstab a rival. After an action is either taken or passed, the player must give another player a drink and then resolving the effects of their own drink. Each player has a fortitude and drunkenness meter; if they ever end their turn with their drunkenness greater than or equal to their fortitude, they lose consciousness. If a player passes out, their gold is divided between the inn and the remaining players.
Other wrinkles to play also occur. For example, occasionally a player will play a card to initiate gambling. This causes normal play to halt until someone has won the pot with a good hand of cards or a dastardly cheat card. Some characters in the expansions also have their own unique mechanics that make gameplay even more interesting.
Each player must have a character deck from either the base game or one of its expansions. Each character in The Red Dragon Inn has their own sets of strengths and weaknesses that are brought to life through their personalized decks. The characterization of the character decks have become such a staple of the series that some fans enjoy roleplaying the characters while playing to create unforgettable game sessions. Alternatively, some players find a deck that corresponds to how their D&D roleplaying might act in a tavern setting and bring their own flavor of role-playing to the game.
In fact, due to the blending of social and fanciful elements in The Red Dragon Inn, players have invented all sorts of rule variants to make the experience more immersive. One of the most straight forward variants involves drinking actual alcohol along with the characters in the game. You can find the rules here, just be sure to be a responsible adventurer. Another variant involves giving the gold piece real money value to up the stakes for the rounds of gambling.
Of course, for players looking to mix things up in a more official capacity, there are numerous expansions. Each officially numbered expansion set can be played on its own and contains four completely different character decks. As mentioned before, each character has their own set of strengths and different styles of gameplay. This means that any time a new character or set is introduced into play, the dynamics of the game shift dramatically, especially if those additional decks mean that there are more players taking part in the game. Each of these expansions adds additional rules and events as well, so it’s definitely worth looking through all of them to find the stuff that you think would make for the most interesting sessions.
These numerous expansions have been made possible by the passionate community that has sprung up around the game. The series’ history of crowdfunding expansions dates back to 2013 and The Red Dragon Inn 4. Since then, there have been 9 different expansions, each shattering their fundraising goals. These include the fully numbered releases, duo hero deck expansions, and a spin-off game called The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport along with its expansions. Battle for Greyport sees the heroes from The Red Dragon Inn battling to defend the inn and town from dastardly villains and monsters – and you can try it for free if you find yourself inclined!
Without knowing the rules, I was able to get The Red Dragon Inn up and running about 10 minutes after opening the box for the first time. Whether you’re taking on the role of Zot the Wizard with his sullen familiar Pooky, Gerki the conniving rogue, Deirdre the snooty elven priestess, or Fiona the unpredictable barbarian, you’re sure to have a great time at The Red Dragon Inn.
If you think you might want to play The Red Dragon Inn while streaming during Extra Life 2019, you should reach out to SlugFest Games! They are currently running a promotional campaign to support Extra Life where they have developed a special card called Water of Life. If you reach out to them with your name, address, description of your livestreaming plans, and a link to your Extra Life fundraising page, they’ll send you a card of your own, as well as a number to distribute to stream viewers.
Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!