Drags to Riches is currently live on Kickstarter. You can check the campaign here. A demo copy was sent to me for a preview after I met the team behind this game at UKGE 2022.
Drags 2 Riches is a deck-building game. Deck-building games are all about making what you start with better. A theme that translates well to what the world needs regarding certain attitudes! But, off politics and back to the game. Your goal is improve your personal deck of cards and win the game. It's been done many times, and perhaps most famously with the O.G. Dominion.
BUT! I have not seen deck-building used in a game about Drag Queens before. In fact, I have not seen any game using any mechanic themed around Drag Queens. Come to think of it, I have not really seen many games at all that represent people from any part of the LGBTQIA2S+ community at all! Search for "Drag" on BGG, and you will just get a load of Dragons!
As such, this game very much appealed to me. There are many things I love about the board game community. One of the things I love the most is the sense of inclusion it brings to all people. But we can only really say that when all people feel represented and included. As such, I think this game is very important. But is it any good? Well, I don't think that is as relevant as the question, it is important we support games like this? But for the sake of brevity, clarity, and as this is fundamentally a review website... yes, yes it's a lot of fun.
How to Play
In Drags 2 Riches, all players are looking to build up their collection of Hair, Heals, Make-Up, Outfit, and Accessories cards to become the most fierce Drag Queen around. All players begin the game with the same starting hand of level one attire and some money. On your turn, players will lay as many cards as they like using their cards for one of three things. Either as money to buy more cards from the shop. A special power as described on the card. Or as an addition to their wardrobe. You can lay one type of each card into your wardrobe to build up your characters overall score to compete for that rounds event.
Each round, the top event will be revealed from the 15 event cards in the event deck. This will mainly be a chance for all players to compete for points ranging from three to twelve. On two occasions, a shopping spree will trigger, where all players get to draw two extra cards to increase there chance of a good upgrade from the shop, with no event being played that round. Meaning all players can use all card to shop with rather than build up their wardrobe.
After everyone has had one turn, all players with then simultaneous vote with their thumbs after a count of three to show if they are competing for the event that round or not. Everyone who voting with a thumbs up must reveal all cards in their wardrobe. This will be between one and five cards depending on how full they have made it, and can only contain one card from each of the five categories. The player with the highest value wardrobe is deemed the winner that round and collects the event card. This will form their end game scoring. Everyone who had their thumbs up for this event must then discard their entire wardrobe, win or loose. And start building this up again in later rounds. This happens quicker than you first think, so it makes sense to compete for most events if you have at least a few cards down. Although of course this depends on how many cards other payers have down and your current strategy.
Each round, you will draw five new cards. You will find most rounds you can buy at least one card so your hand will get better and better. As you start with only eight cards, the improvement in your hand will be seen quickly. This is a crucial part of what makes good deck-builders fun for me. I don't like being forced to wait multiple rounds before I get to see my new cards again. In Drags 2 Riches, you will benefit from your newly acquired cards generally by round two or three. This is very satisfying.
I like the multiple use of cards too. Many cards can be used simply as money, or as an addition to your wardrobe to compete for the vents. But there are a lot of cards with some pretty cool powers too. Some incorporate the chance to negatively affect another players at the table using what this game describes as Shade. All cards with this affect have a sunglasses symbol on the bottom right to clearly identify it. When you play Shade cards these against other players, they can either take the affect such as being forced to give a card to you, or reveal their entire hand. Or, they can block it with any card with the hand symbol in the bottom right, or by playing the same Shade card to reverse the affect. You can also reverse a reverse, in a classic exchange of cards. "Nope!" "Nope!!" "NOPE!!!"
There are also some very minor asymmetrical powers used in Drags 2 Riches which I love but think could be made more impactful. At the start of the game, each player choses a character to play as. Each one shows a different drag queen. They all have their own powers such as the ability to block a shade card, or being able to take the highest value card from the shop for free. All these affects are one time only bonuses. In a game with 15 rounds, I found this to be a little light in affect. I would have preferred either much more powerful abilities, or the chance to use them more often.
When playing with my daughter Mya (six) she was disappointed that after choosing her character, she was not incentivised in trying to acquire the specific items her character was wearing. She liked the idea that she chose her character based on the outfit she liked best, and wanted to then try and buy each card that matched her characters clothes, hair and makeup. These cards are in the deck, so this could be done. You will recognise them as you play. But there is no incentive to do this, other than your own OCD or desire to dress your character in your preferred style.
This feels like a very cool opportunity for a variant/expansion to me! (Feel free to call it the Mya variant if you include this Drags 2 Riches team!) This would add a bit of jeopardy as certain cards come out into the shop. Whereas currently, if someone buys a high value or powerful card from the shop you had your eye on, then it will just get replaced by another card and by the time it is your turn again, there is bound to be something good there to chose instead. This is fine, and makes the game "nicer" but I think this variant will increase the tension and satisfaction.
Plus it adds some set-collection to the game. Perhaps the character cards could be double sided, and every time you get a card into your wardrobe that matches a part of your characters personal outfit then you can flip your character card and use your more powerful action? Or you can use your power one more time if making the cards double sided isn't possible at this late stage (they currently have some detail on the rule son the back).
Anyway, back to the review. It is a very simple game to learn and teach. My family all really enjoyed it. I felt it last a few rounds too many, but again, that is easily fixed by removing a few random event cards from the start. I liked how the event deck is built in a way where it generally improves as the game goes on, but not in a linear way as the event cards do not simply progress in points as you play. You could go from a level two card worth eight points to a level three event worth five one from turn to the next. So, you don't always know if it is best to go for an event and potentially miss a more powerful card afterwards as your wardrobe is now empty. Or, to go for the event in front of you now as the next one may not be necessarily better.
Some players may hold off the lower scoring events waiting for the highest scoring cards. Which can work as a strategy if you win lots of high scoring events. But you may find you can win more uncontested lower scoring cards, and win the game if lots of other players are holding off. So, with that said, it makes sense to have more events cards for this flow to happen. And perhaps the current number is the perfect amount to allow for this part of the game to have room to breathe. But it did feel three to four rounds too long to me. Seeing as each round was the same, there is no real variation round-to-round. And you build up your deck very quickly so you don't need that many rounds to build up your wardrobe before you can feel ready to compete for an event.
The game did not necessarily do anything new with the deck-building mechanic. But it certainly brings a fresh look with the them to the board game world. And I applaud the designers of this game for clearly putting so much effort into working with people from within this community to make sure they are representing them in the right way. A positive way. And using the correct language. Something I have tried to do in my writing. If I have missed the mark here or anywhere else, please do correct me. Playing this game has being very helpful for me. It has given me a platform to discuss something new with my children. The game represents the drag community in such as positive and fun way. All of that seems to be more important to me that the core games mechanics.
If you are interested in checking out the game or backing it, you can check the campaign here