As a kinda geeky board game playing father of two preliterate children I am always on the lookout for a game that might be fun for us to play together. So, a few months back, I got “Minotaurus” hoping that my kids and I could have fun building the board and playing the game. Turns out my two and four year olds aren’t old enough to do the building LEGO “correctly” thing and the concept of moving the number of pegs they’d rolled seemed to incite pain in their little brains. It seems like it would probably be a lot more fun with older kids.
I’m not sure if the line isn’t doing well or if there is a new series coming soon so stores are dumping stock… but everywhere I go these LEGO® Games seem to be priced to move. Regardless of the reasons why, the other day I saw a copy of “Lava Dragon” for $10 and happened to have $10 in my pocket so figured I’d try again… worst case, daddy get’s more LEGO.
It actually worked out quite well. The model is a lot smaller than “Minotaurus” and it uses bigger pieces so the illusion that they were “helping daddy” was a lot easier to sell. Next, the game is a lot shorter than “Minotaurus” and, more importantly, you only ever move one peg at a time. While I was still doing a lot of “you need to move your guy here” at least now the kids could understand why they were moving there.
The basic idea is that you’ve got a Volcano made of lego with a dragon at the top, you roll the dice and move your knight up the mountain one step at a time. The first player to reach the top, and roll the correct face on the die, wins.
The coolest thing, to me, about Lava Dragon is the die mechanic. The whole line of LEGO® Games includes these blank dice with four pegs to a face and you get to put flat lego pieces on each face to “build” your die. In “Minotaurus”, and other LEGO® Games, there is sometimes an extra piece you can swap out for alternate rules but in “Lava Dragon” each turn the players get to put a one-peg square of their colour on the face they’ve rolled… and then if that face get’s rolled again, even on another player’s turn, they get to take a bonus move. This really helped move the game forward because it meant that there was more playing than rolling. It also helped hook them because, while they may have had trouble helping me assemble the board, sticking a single piece on a single peg was totally something they could do themselves… with a little encouragement.
Their second favourite part of the game was the “moving lava” part. When you roll a face with orange on it you get to move a “lava” LEGO to block another player. They both took great pleasure in hindering daddy’s advance. Again, one piece, one peg, and they felt like they were accomplishing something.
Their favourite part of the game, however… and I’m talking “90% of the enjoyment they derived from playing it” here… was riding the dragon. When you win the game, you get to put your microfig on the back of the dragon that sits atop the volcano. I’m not sure if it’s in the official rules, but based on the box art, at this point the winner get’s to pull the stick that the dragon sits on out of it’s place atop the volcano and run around flying it. So yeah…
I played once with my wife and she liked the modular die-face mechanic, grasped the strategy easily and said she’d play it again… if only to try to beat me. It’s a good, quick and simple game to pull out now and then, even for adult players. We’ve only played a few times so far because a two year old and a four year old apparently have better things to do most days than play board games with their dad. They do seem to enjoy it though. Even if sometimes I have to let them fly the dragon for me when I beat them.
The only minor complaint I have is that the game didn’t come with a “ground plate” to build everything on. The bottom row constantly falls apart if you try to move a microfig while playing on the carpet (Yes, being able to play a game on the carpet is a legitimate concern when playing a game with toddlers). That said, if you have ANY Lego in the house you can probably find a suitable base… or you could just play on top of the box.
More recently I picked up a couple discounted “Heroica” sets too… and it’s right back the the same problems we were having with “Minotaurus”. Too long and too tricky to put together, counting spaces confuses them and the games are too long… not to mention they don’t get to fly around on a dragon at the end.
I give LEGO® Games: Lava Dragon
out of five Two Year Olds
out of five Four Year Olds
out of five Gamer Dads
out of five Gamer Adjacent Moms