Unleash the Dragon – Havok & Hijinks review

In the words of philosopher and poet Jules Winnfield, personality goes a long way, and every once in a while you’ll get a game with a personality so charming that you can’t help but fall in love with it almost immediately. Recently, I’ve had my heart stolen by a couple of ridiculously cute games – the first, PigPen by Kevin Kulp, can be read about here. The second is currently on Kickstarter and has already hit its target with a month still left on the clock. It’s called Havok & Hijinks, and it’s just plain bloody lovely.

Here’s the story: you and up to three other players are little dragons that have been booted out of their homes to make their own way in the world. Of course, as everyone knows, dragons desire only one thing – treasure – so you’re all aiming to grab as much as you can. The first player to build up a treasure horde of fifteen points is declared victorious, but it’s not just a matter of sitting there waiting to accrue valuables. The game is called Havok & Hijinks after all, so you should expect a bit of madness and screwing over the plans of the others.

There are plenty of in-jokes for gamers and nerds and nerdy gamers. So, all of us, really.

There are plenty of in-jokes for gamers and nerds and nerdy gamers. So, all of us, really.

Two decks drive the game forward, curiously enough referred to as Havok and Hijinks. Havok cards are either going to be Events (which can be positive or negative, but must always be completed to the letter once revealed) or Treasure (which should all be placed face up when claimed to show precisely what your current score is). Hijinks are the tricks you’ll be looking to play on other dragons as well as the things you’ll need to protect yourself against such errant behaviour. These are split into Play elements that can only be used on your turn, or Crashes which function as interrupts.

Hijinks also have a wee logo on them showing an affinity, essentially a little bonus action that is only available for one of the four dragons that come with the game. At the start of play, everyone is randomly allocated a double-sided dragon card – either Obsidian, Pearl, Amber or Ruby – each of which comes with their own special (and pretty strong!) Play and Crash abilities. Starting play on the Ready side, these can be used at any time but the card should then be flipped to its Tired side. Your dragon can be ‘woken up’ by performing a special action, so there’s a lot of trying to meet the necessary requirements to get your power back.

Your four dragons!

Your four dragons! Each one more cute than the last!

Gameplay is quick – like, super quick. Play a card, follow the instructions, deal with anyone trying to Crash your plans, then move on to the next player until that hoard of yours hits the magic total of fifteen or more. Experienced gamers will be able to knock out a game in fifteen minutes easily, but really Havok & Hijinks isn’t aimed at that part of the market (though they’ll still get plenty of enjoyment out of it if they open themselves up to the charm and lightness).

No, this is very much a game for younger players or those who would be horrified at the prospect of sitting at a table for more than half an hour. While it’s a Words On Cards game (thanks to the Dice Hate Me podcast for that fine descriptor), it’s incredibly accessible. The language used on the cards is straightforward and simple enough for children to get to grips with, especially if there’s a helpful adult nearby. It’s a lovely little game to play, entertaining and simple… but there’s one thing that will bring everyone into Havok & Hijinks, and that’s the art.

There's more than one way to teach a dragon to behave, it seems.

There’s more than one way to teach a dragon to behave, it seems.

Even with the prototype decks that I’ve got my hands on, the imagery throughout is truly gorgeous. The four dragons each have their own personalities that shine through – seriously, I’d love an Amber Dragon as a real life pet – and though most of the pictures in my set are simple(ish) sketches, there’s humour and charm in bucketloads on every single card. Dragons getting sprayed with scale cleaner? It’s in there. Dragons setting fire to each other’s bottoms? Yup. My favourite thing in the whole game is a worthless Treasure called Helmet? which depicts two of the dragons sporting underwear on their heads. It’s that kind of game.

Not much strategy is required to play this game. It is as easy as using the Bitcoin Loophole in the cryptocurrency trading world. The main highlights of the game are that it is fast, low on strategy, depends less on luck, and a lot of fun to play. The game comes with four double-sided dragon cards in the form of Amber, Pearl, Obsidian, and Ruby, with 40 Hijinks and 40 Havok cards each, in addition to a rulebook. The game also has quite a few interesting and cute micro badges, which you can win playing.

Havok & Hijinks is very cute, very silly, very easy to play and very lovely indeed. Why wouldn’t you want to check it out?

Havok & Hijinks is designed by Adam Trzonkowski and is being published through Epic Slant Press. Currently on Kickstarter, the campaign is running until September 24, with the game having already hit and surpassed its $10,000 goal. A copy of the game can be yours for a pledge of $15, with international shipping coming in at an extra $8. Go have a look, and cheers to Adam for the preview deck!