Daggers High Review

Daggers High Box
Box

Overview

The game is played over 16 turns split up over 4 “years”. Players compete with one another for teacher influence as well as passing classes, joining clubs, writing essays, and taking the FUN (a play on the ACT) to earn victory points called Resume Points. The game theme is both a parody of school as a learning institution as well as an attempt to show the challenges students have in high school balancing academics and having a life (friends).

Daggers High Event Cards
Event Cards

Each year a set of Event Cards is drafted until each player has three cards. These cards have a number in the upper left corner representing the number of actions a player can perform and a consequence. The higher numbered cards have more negative consequences, whereas the lower valued cards have positive consequences. The cards can influence you and/or other players. The cards also have very nice flavor text and theming. The card art was met with a mixed reception although personally, I enjoyed the style a lot.

Daggers High Player Board
Player Board

Each player receives an individual board where action points are spent. The main part of the board is a list of classes separated into columns by grade (Freshman, Sophmore, Junior, Senior) with each row corresponding to a different subject (Math, English, History, Science)

Players may spend action points from their cards on the following actions:

  • Study: add a cube to the stats pool for a subject area
  • Chat: add 2 influence cubes to a teacher
  • Socialize: add 2 friend cubes to the friend pool
  • Relax: remove 3 stress
  • Test: spend cubes from the stats pool to pass a class
Daggers High Teacher Board
Teacher Board

In the center of the table is a teacher mat with each of the 8 different teachers (2 per subject area). Each teacher has an influence threshold. Once a player has influence equal to the threshold, they can gain victory points and prevent other players from scoring for that teacher. This is the primary blocking mechanic in the game. Influence cubes can also be spent to change aspects of the game. One teacher converts 3 influence markers into 2 Math stats. Another teacher gives you happiness (explained more below).

Passing classes give you victory points and teacher influence with the instructor for that class. Harder classes provide more influence and more victory points. To pass a class, you must have enough stats cubes in the subject area row for the class you are trying to pass. Typically, this is 2-5 cubes depending on the type of class. You must then perform the test action to flip the little F tile to an A. There is also a bonus for getting straight As. Typicaly, passing a class will take 3-5 actions per turn. It is usually not possible to pass all your classes and spend action points in other ways.

Daggers High Club Cards
Club Cards

Clubs are cards with immediate and end-of-year bonuses. To gain a club, you spend friend cubes. The better clubs require more cubes. You can steal a club from another player by paying 2 more friend cubes, but you do not gain the immediate benefit. Clubs are also worth victory points at the end of the game. Gaining clubs does not cost an action. Clubs only come out at the beginning of the game or because of specific instructions on other cards. We didn’t find them to be lacking, but they could be scarce in some games.

Daggers High Essay Cards
Essay Cards

Players receive 2 Essay cards at the beginning of the game. These will automatically score at the end of the game. Some are negative. To gain more Essay cards and/or to gain benefits/remove a penalty players must satisfy the condition on the card which then causes the card to be face up, sometimes in front of another player. Often, satisfying the Essay condition will allow you to draw an additional Essay card which usually gives you more victory points. You do not spend action points when resolving Essay cards.

Daggers High Influence Cards

Influence cards are drawn in response to action cards, essays or teacher influence. When an influence card is drawn it is put in the center of the table. These cards can be very powerful and very expensive. They do not require an action to purchase.

There are three meters on the player board: Stress, Integrity & Happiness. Integrity starts at 10 and once lost can never be regained. At the end of the game, each level is worth one point. Indeed, all players start at 10 points because of this. Happiness also starts at 10. It is possible to gain happiness, but it takes effort. Different levels of happiness cause additional stress to accumulate at the end of each year. Stress is something that needs to be watched. If a player’s stress level is ever 10, it is reset to 0 and a detention cube is placed on the player board. Each detention cube is worth -5 points at the end of the game. Detention cubes can be removed if the player opts to skip their turn

Review

The game is long. Too long. Two hours would be a short game. We weren’t sure what could be done to reduce the duration. Our two play-throughs were with four players each.

Everything uses the same little cubes and these cubes tend to travel around a lot on a players turn. This creates more possibilities to spend those cubes in various ways. Ideally, this puzzle of where the cubes are and where they will end up would be the best part of the game. For some reason, it just isn’t that satisfying. There isn’t a sense that the player is really building anything despite the strong theme. It might be because it wasn’t that hard to get any specific thing done.

The sense of humor in the game is great. Each card was very fun to read and short in length. Drafting was actually one of the fastest parts of the game because of this and a lot of fun. The theme is well chosen and unique. Choosing which cards to play first or last during a year was often the deepest part of the strategy.

I believe the game has to make the player feel proud of their progress. The length of the game might be the primary culprit as typically halfway through, players started to not care as much about their turns. It would make the main puzzle more interesting and lower player interaction also more satisfying as players would be making hard choices on their turn.

Another thought would be to have the teachers grant players unique abilities when claiming that teacher. It would make vying for a particular teacher more valuable especially since there are cheaper and more expensive teachers. Getting locked out of less expensive options would really create a lot of tension and make the game harder overall.

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