DriveThruRPG Review – Drakar

A sci-fi micro-RPG that takes place entirely on a giant colony ship, and uses dominoes instead of dice.

This review has been sponsored by the publisher. Find more tabletop RPG reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: JVC Parry

The Earth is lost (no shocker there). Our only chance for survival is aboard a massive colony ship called the Drakar. As a member of NORSE (the Nordic Office for Research into Space Exploration), your job is to help the ship, and the remnants of humanity, survive whatever problems may arise as you make your way to the promised planet of Valhalla in this micro-RPG that uses a set of dominoes instead of dice.

Drakar is a 50-page micro-RPG that’s incredibly easy to teach and play, with the actual rules taking up less than 10 pages. All you need are a 28-set of dominoes (PnP dominoes are also provided) and a single d6 to generate player and ship stats.

Using the d6, each player rolls two stats and divides by half (rounding up) to determine their Power and Prowess. Power represents their innate will and strength, while Prowess is for knowledge and skills. Each player character can then choose one of five ship roles to further boost their stats, though none of them can go above a five.

Next the game master generates the three ship stats, Bridge, Hull, and Systems, using the exact same method (minus the ship role). These stats act as modifiers for when a player character wants to use one of their two stats, which should fit into one of those three categories.

The Hull, for example, includes shields, shuttlecraft, and weapons. Using your computer skills to fix the shields would add your Prowess plus the ship’s Hull, while charging enemies with a gun Han Solo-style would involve Power + Hull.

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The game is played out with a series of troubles that befall your ship on its way to Valhalla. Troubles come in one of four different categories using two different variables: internal or external, and living or nonliving. An Internal, Living threat could involve a terrorist plot, a rampant disease, or an alien monster.

Thirteen troubles are detailed for each category over 30 pages, for over 50 total troubles. Each trouble is well-written and interesting, with a paragraph that you could either read directly or adapt into your own style, along with success and failure outcomes.

To determine a trouble, draw three dominoes. Check the first two to see if they’re odd or even to determine if the trouble is internal or external and living or nonliving. The third domino’s total value then determines which event occurs from the d12 table (including 0 for the blank domino).

Each trouble is a skill challenge (to use a D&D term), where multiple players will need to succeed at various skills. Not all troubles are equally challenging. Lower valued dominoes are much harder to complete, requiring six or seven successes and only allowing one or even zero failures before failing.

A player is given full freedom on how and what they want to do to overcome the event, whether it’s piloting spacecraft, intimidating a cultist, or deciphering an alien language. The only limit is having to decide which of the player’s two stats to use, and which of the three ship stats to combine it with. That number represents the goal. The player then draws a tile, hoping to get a value equal to or less than the goal to count as a success.

If the players accrue the required number of successes, the trouble is successfully completed, and everyone has a chance to raise their stats (including the ship). Failure results in the ship losing stats and the possibility for character death. If all the ship’s stats are reduced to 0, the ship explodes and everybody dies. Great job, jerks!

Every completed trouble earns that domino tile that can be used to complete the Odal rune, a specific 6-domino configuration. Each domino number must match its neighbor to complete the rune. Once completed, the ship goes into overdrive and arrives at Valhalla, and the players win. It will take at least six completed troubles, but probably several more, to complete the game successfully.

Using dominoes in place of dice is a really fun concept, even if it doesn’t feel that much different than rolling dice when trying to succeed at a trouble. Matching numbers to make the Odal Rune is thematically fun, though I wish the designer had taken the domino tile-matching a bit further. Perhaps having each player with their own set of dominoes they need to match to unlock a special power – something to to help make the domino play more unique and memorable.

Drakar succeeds on its breadth of troubles. With over 50 troubles you could play through a full game several times without any repeat events. They draw from familiar and fun sci-fi tropes, like rogue AI, alien beasts, wormholes, riots, and various parts of the ship breaking down in dramatic fashion. There’s enough story seeds here to craft a memorable adventure, though some sample NPCs would’ve certainly helped. The RPG also includes a helpful glossary of genre terms, as well as several d6 tables of ship parts, weapons, planets, and technobabble.

Pros:

  • Easy to learn micro-RPG that uses dominoes instead of dice.
  • Over 50 fun and detailed problems for players to tackle.
  • D6 tables for aliens, ship parts, weapons, and planets, as well as a glossary of genre terms.

Cons:

  • Plain, black and white presentation with very little art.

The Verdict: Drakar effectively Combines D&D skill challenges with dominoes along with dozens of compelling events and encounters to create a satisfying little adventure through the stars.

This review has been sponsored by the publisher Find more tabletop RPG reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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