(Erratic and terrifying)
It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.
What are they?
Not a species in the normal sense of the word, dragons are large, deadly creatures that terrify even the hardiest of adventurers. Coming in a variety of forms and colors, they can devastate an army in an instant if they are not handled with the utmost care. Let's dig in!
How do they work?
For every 24 points in your force size - rounded up - you must bring one dragon in your Summoning Pool. These dragons can be summoned by any player using the appropriate amount and color of magic.
At the start of each player's turn, if that player controls an army at a terrain with one or more dragons present, a Dragon Attack phase occurs. It does not matter who summoned the dragon(s), nor who owns them. If there is a dragon at the same place as your army when your turn starts, Dragon Attack happens.
For each dragon at that terrain, you'll need to determine if it attacks your army or another dragon - if there is only one dragon, it will attack your army. Dragons will attack other dragons that don't share their colors, outlined below. One dragon attacking another does not mean both dragons attack each other; determine for each dragon separately what it attacks. See page 17 of the Dragon Dice rules for more.
Elemental dragons will attack any dragon that isn't a matching elemental dragon, an ivory dragon, or a matching ivory-hybrid.
Hybrid dragons will attack all elemental dragons, hybrids that don't match both elements, ivory-hybrids that don't match at least one of the hybrid's elements, as well as white dragons.
Ivory and ivory-hybrid dragons will always attack the army, never another dragon.
White dragons will attack any dragon that isn't pure ivory or white.
The two forms
Dragons come in two distinct forms: the drake and the wyrm. The drake has powerful wings that carry it from place to place, while the land-based wyrm relies on legs for travel. Both are dangerous, and both have applications depending on the army bringing them.
The drake is easily identified by its left-facing head and two wing icons. Like all dragons, it also has four claws, two bellies, and a breath - in addition to the ID and two tail icons.
When it rolls a wing icon, it deals 5 damage, and then returns to its owner's Summoning Pool (as long as it survives the army's combination roll).
The wyrm is identified by its right-facing head and treasure icon. As with the drake, it has four claws, two bellies, a breath, and an ID, plus three tail icons in addition to the treasure.
While the treasure offers a chance for an army to promote a unit, the additional tail icon, which deals 3 damage and rolls again, certainly creates a risky encounter where massive damage is possible.
A Multitude of colors
While there are only two forms a dragon can take, there are 22 different colors (or combinations of colors) for each, giving us a total of 44 possible dragons for any given army to summon - or to face in battle.
The most common dragons an army might encounter in Esfah, these single-color beasts are rather straightforward but not to be underestimated. They bring just a single breath-effect, and can only be summoned with using magic that matches their element.
Pros: As they can only be summoned with one color of magic, it is less likely that an opposing army will be able to summon these dragons. They are also less-likely to interfere with the owner's Dragonkin.
Cons: As they are comprised of a single element, they only bring one breath effect to the army, where other dragons might have more powerful breaths.
Lacking any elemental color, these precocious creatures mirror the colors of other dragons, which means no other dragon will attack an ivory dragon, and ivory dragons will always attack the army.
Pros: As they contain no element of their own, they can be summoned with any one color of magic, and no dragon will attack them. They also cannot be summoned from a terrain, so once they move, they tend to stick around.
Cons: No Dragonkin will fight against these camouflaged dragons, and they offer no additional effect on their breath weapon. They are easier for opposing armies to summon, and as no dragon will attack them, they cannot be used to distract opposing dragons if necessary.
Comprised of two different elemental forces, there are ten different combinations of hybrid dragons, which bring to bear a dual-breath attack that blends the breath weapons of both elements they contain.
Pros: These deadly beasts have the benefits of two different breath effects, can be summoned by two different colors of magic, will bypass two colors of Dragonkin, and will fight most other dragons at the same terrain.
Cons: While easier for the owner to summon, their dual nature also means they can be summoned more easily by opposing forces. They also require a more precise strategy for use in an army, as they block two different Dragonkin from defending against them.
A blend of ivory dragon and elemental dragon, these scaled terrors bring some of the strengths and weakness of both to the battlefield. They can be brought from the Summoning Pool with any single color of magic, or they can be summoned from anywhere using magic matching their specific element.
Pros: Ivory-hybrid dragons can be easily summoned to a terrain, but less-easily moved from the terrain. No Dragonkin will fight against them, and they will always attack the army, even if other dragons attack them. They also allow armies easy access to breath weapons normally outside their colors.
Cons: As with ivory dragons, they are easy for opposing forces to summon, while the owner's Dragonkin will defend against them, and they only offer a single-color breath weapon compared to normal hybrid dragons.
These massive monstrosities are the rarest and most dangerous of all the dragons in Esfah. Comprised of all the elements blended together, their Terrain Empathy ability causes their breath weapon to manifest according to the terrain at which they are battling. They have twice the health of a normal dragon - plus their five automatic saves - and deal twice the damage.
Pros: Incredibly deadly and much harder for opposing forces to summon, they are also much harder for opponents to defeat and Dragonkin are no help.
Cons: White dragons will attack any other dragon they encounter - except ivory dragons and other white dragons - and there is no way to know before the game begins which terrains will be available for Terrain Empathy.
While dragons may be unpredictable and uncontrollable, there is still a good deal of strategy a skilled player can employ to get the most out of them.
This strategy begins well before the game begins - during force construction - so start by asking yourself a few questions to narrow down your options.
Do i plan to summon these myself?
Yes. Think about which breath weapons are going to help you the most. A slower army might benefit from a yellow dragon's breath, for example.
With enough mages, a white dragon can be devastating against an unprepared army as well.
No. It is best to select dragons that are less-likely to cause undue problems for your armies in the event an opponent summons them. A melee-focused build would do well to avoid a blue dragon, while an army full of archers is loathe to take a breath attack from a green dragon. Bringing two dragons of different colors prevents an opponent from summoning both on one army.
Can i kill them?
Yes. Perhaps a wyrm is a good fit for your strategy. Since they lack wings, they tend to stay at a terrain longer. With three tail icons, they have a better chance of rolling several tails in a row, leading to a massive damage spike. You might consider a Red dragon, as its breath can bury units and help win a war of attrition against a resilient opponent.
No. You might want a drake, in case it is summoned against you. The wing icons may deal a decent amount of damage, but they will also take the dragon away from your army and give you a moment to recover or retreat if necessary.
What dragonkin am i bringing?
Dragonkin are versatile and useful allies for any army, but one of the biggest drawbacks is their fear of dragons. They will not fight dragons containing their color, nor ivory or white dragons, so if you plan to use these units in your army, you will want to consider that during force construction. Perhaps your Goblins want 12 points of yellow Dragonkin and two black dragons. Or maybe you want to diversify and take 6 points of black and yellow Dragonkin and then one of each color dragon. In some cases, you won't worry about your Dragonkin doing the fighting, so this question may not matter.
Which dragons do i not want to fight?
If your army desperately doesn't want to face a specific color of dragon - your Swamp Stalker cavalry wouldn't want to see a yellow dragon breath for instance - then consider bringing dragons that will tie up opposing dragons you might encounter. A green dragon will do a good job fighting against a yellow dragon to buy you time.
When do I summon?
Now that you've pinned down which dragons will best fit into your strategy, you still need to know how to use them!
While throwing dragons left and right can make for a fun game, it can also backfire when your dragons are killed and your opponent gets several rounds of promotions to recover their armies.
You Should Summon
You Should Not Summon
A single dragon to a terrain with a small occupying army
Two dragons on a larger army, especially one with fewer dedicated melee or missile units
At a terrain you plan to abandon, if enemy units are present
One or more drakes to a terrain you want to eventually occupy
A single dragon to a large melee or missile force
Dragons to a terrain you plan to occupy soon, especially ivory
Dragons of mismatched colors against an opponent
If other spellcasting options are more urgent or directly beneficial - bringing back dead units, forcing terrains, etc.
While dragons are the least controllable and predictable dice used in any game of Dragon Dice, they are the namesake of the game and can be potent tools in any player's arsenal. They should not be taken lightly, nor taken for granted, and care should be seen when selecting the dragons to include in any given army.
Dragonkin of an appropriate color can provide a great defense against dragons, as can the Eldarim Champions who have the ability to control, tame, and slay dragons.
In the heat of battle it is easy overlook dragons, sitting idly in the Summoning Pool - biding their time - but one would be wise to always be prepared to face a dragon, as an untimely appearance can bring certain doom to careless warriors.
Let us know what you think of this primer and be sure to send any requests for future content to email@example.com