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Review: 3838 Lava Dragon Game

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A few months ago it finally got cold here in Ohio. When I got out my coat, I found several gift cards to Toys R Us in the pocket. Time to go shopping! The cards were actually significant value, so I ordered Emerald Night and this game.

Name: Lava Dragon

Set Number: 3838

Pieces: 131

Price: $14.99 / £9.99 / €12.99

Ages: 7+

Minifigs: 4 (microfigs)

Theme: Games

Year of Release: 2009

Links: Bricklink Peeron Brickset

The Box

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The front of Lego Games 3838 Lava Dragon - it's attractive to kids, but a bit overkill. Sorry, but there's not actually any flames in the game. Also, the box shows regular minifigs playing the game, but it only comes with microfigs. Oh, and my box is a little squashed thanks to Toys R Us deciding to ship it in just an envelope rather than a box.

The Box Back

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The back of the box shows the actual game realistically, but like all the Lego games the description is minimal. As a buyer, I'd really like more information about the gameplay when deciding what to buy.

The Contents

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Inside the box are two books, two bags, and the die. One book is the build instructions and the other is the game instructions. I assume they separate them so that the instructions can remain free of words. The game instructions have many languages in that one book, since the rules only take a couple pages.

The Inside of the Box

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Inside the box on both long sides is this diagram, showing how to take the pyramid apart partially to fit it back into the box.

The Rulebook

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The rules have a page of the standard rules for the game, plus a page of modifications you can use depending on the ability and desire of the players.

The Manual

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Here's a sample page from the manual. Even though there are no partlists given for each step, it's still easy to follow since there's so few parts in the set.

The Interesting Parts

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In this set you get 10 each of the 1x1 tiles in red, yellow, white, and blue. There are also a pair of wrenches, a pair of the smaller wrench-like "bar with clip" parts, some small red horns, some trans-orange cones, a pair of 1x1 blocks with studs on 4 sides, a pair of the 1x1 tiles with tooth, and of course, a Lego die.

More Interesting Parts

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This game also comes with a black lance, a black tail, and a pair of black wings. The knight microfigs are the only parts unique to this set.

Building - The Dragon Head

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First you get to build the dragon. It begins with the head.

Building - The Dragon Body

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Next you add the body of the dragon. It's simple but effective, since it's hardly noticeable in the finished dragon.

Building - The Dragon

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Here is the finished dragon. The wings are positionable, and it is quite a decent looking dragon for such a small part count.

Building - The Pyramid

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Building the pyramid is so simple it doesn't deserve to be shown. It's just stacking bricks up in alternating brown and grey layers. Add the orange cones - sorry, lava - and a dragon on top and you're ready to play.

The Leftover Parts

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After building the game, you have these left. Like normal for Lego, there are spares of the small pieces. That's especially appreciated here since kids will be likely to lose the colored tiles from the die (when removing them, they tend to fly off). The 1x2 brown tile is for an alternate rule in the game, and the two wrenches are included to help you pry the tiles off the die.

The Gameplay

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A game in progress... On each roll you add your color tile to the top of the die (if there's space left) and every color shown gets to move. Rolling the orange lets you move one of the orange "lava cones" to block an opponent. As an alternate rule, the orange tile lets you use the axle with red handle to knock a player off the other side. Here, yellow is about to get sent back to start.

The Conclusion

This is a pretty simple game - the play is as basic as the build. In a nutshell, when your color comes up on the die, you get to move towards the top of the pyramid. Rolls showing the orange tile let the roller move the "lava" cone to block opponents. First to the top wins. That makes it easy enough for kids, but a little dull for adults. Also, the parts are pretty small for adults to handle. There's a big improvement they should have made. A baseplate would have helped a ton - in playing, we kept knocking off the bottom bricks when we took off figs or cones. That would also have made a nice compartment in the bottom of the pyramid for storing the pieces.

The Ratings

Value: 9/10 - It's under 10 cents a part and at just $15 it's a decent deal, especially if you want the dragon parts. Outside the US, where the cost is higher, I wouldn't think it as good of a deal.

Design: 6/10 - The dragon is nice, but the pyramid is boring.

Playability: 8/10 - As a game for kids, it's decent. I think the 7+ is a bit high on the age though - it seems more fitting (difficulty-wise) for my 4 and 6 year old kids. This is a game for the Candy Land players, not the Monopoly players.

Parts: 6/10 - A few nice dragon parts, but most of the set is boring grey and brown bricks.

Overall: 7/10 - For the target audience of kids, it's a decent set and inexpensive. For adults, the only attraction is the dragon.

My Flickr set for this set (to see the images larger)

Edited by WhiteFang
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The reason you don't have flames is because they want you to use your IMAGINATION :tongue:

The only reason I bought this set several times was to build a microfig army and get that cute little dragon.

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Thanks for the review! I already have this set, though I never actually built it. I'm just wondering, though, as an obsessive Games collector, what other languages are in the rulebook? I can already spot differences; the Union Jack has been replaced by the Stars and Stripes. The European rulebooks also contain German, French and Italian.

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Nice review and fantastic pictures! They're so crystal clear, I can see your fingerprint on one of the Lego pieces :grin:

I played this once with my nephews, but yeah, even they (aged 9) found it rather dull after one or two games.

Thanks for the review! I already have this set, though I never actually built it. I'm just wondering, though, as an obsessive Games collector, what other languages are in the rulebook? I can already spot differences; the Union Jack has been replaced by the Stars and Stripes. The European rulebooks also contain German, French and Italian.

From the back of the box it seems they are in italian, (canadian) french and (american) english. On european boxes the four languages you mentioned are on the back of the box too, so that may just be the same in the U.S.

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Nice review and fantastic pictures! They're so crystal clear, I can see your fingerprint on one of the Lego pieces :grin:

I played this once with my nephews, but yeah, even they (aged 9) found it rather dull after one or two games.

From the back of the box it seems they are in italian, (canadian) french and (american) english. On european boxes the four languages you mentioned are on the back of the box too, so that may just be the same in the U.S.

Oh yeah, good spot. That's the Mexican flag, though, so it'd be Spanish rather than Italian.

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