Well, I’m sure this comes as a surprise to many of you, but yes, the Dragon Slayer board game is a real thing and you can play it RIGHT NOW. How crazy is that?
Since this is really the first opportunity I’ve had to speak about the project publicly, let me give you a little background on the game itself and how we got here.
As some of you may or may not know, Dragon Slayer was Nihon Falcom’s first hit title. While not reaching the same heights of popularity as its successor, Xanadu, it still holds a hallowed place in Action RPG history and helped lay the groundwork for the company we know today.
If there’s one thing we learned in the 80’s, it’s that licensing is an incredible source of revenue; and this idea obviously wasn’t lost on Falcom’s then-president, Masayuki Kato, when he sold some licensing rights for Dragon Slayer to Japanese toy manufacturer Epoch.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Epoch were trying their best to capitalize on the video game boom. Along with producing toys and board games based on a number of popular titles, they even created their own cartridge-based game system called the Cassette Vision, which was quite similar in nature to something like the Colecovision or Atari 2600. This would eventually breed a successor called the Super Cassette Vision.
Their licensing deal with Falcom ended up including a number of projects based on Dragon Slayer, including a port to the Super Cassette Vision (see image above), two Gameboy games, and a board game.
The board game, which was released in July of 1986, retains many of the elements of the original, such as the magic spells, items, monsters, etc., but out of necessity, it also had to introduce the element of multiple players—making for a very unique experience.
In the overall history of Falcom, Epoch’s adaptation may seem like little more than a footnote, but it’s certainly an interesting one.
You might be thinking, “Okay, well, that’s neat and all, but what on earth possessed you to translate and release this?” That’s an excellent question. Let me try my best to explain…
Back in 2020, during the height of Covid, I was in a very weird place. I had been furloughed, and although much of my free time was spent working on other Geofront projects, I was also doing a lot of research into older Falcom titles. It was around this time that I stumbled on the Dragon Slayer Board Game. I started poking around Japanese auction sites, and before long, I managed to track down a like new copy of the game (albeit for a fairly hefty sum). Honestly, this was not the kind of purchase a financially savvy adult should ever make, but for better or worse, unique gaming memorabilia is my one major weaknesses, so I bit the bullet and paid for it.
So, now that I was in possession of this rare collector’s item, what would I do with it? I knew I wanted to play it for myself, but who would I play it with? With the entire game being in Japanese, having to explain the game at every step didn’t seem like a fun idea, and besides that, the only friends with even a passing interest in trying it out lived hundreds of miles away! It seemed clear that the only way for me to experience the game would be for me to translate it myself and rebuild it in Tabletop Simulator.
I took the game to a local stationary shop and got everything scanned just before I was scheduled to make a move across the country to start a new job. It was a fairly busy time for me, but once everything was digitized, I went straight to work on the translation, and before long all the text was pretty much ready for editing.
Unfortunately, the scans weren’t of the highest quality and would need plenty of work before they could be imported into Tabletop Simulator. Many of the images would have to be cleaned up significantly before they’d be appropriate to use as textures, and there was additional modeling work that would have to be done as well. These things were completely out of my wheelhouse, but the Geofront is fortunate enough to have a lot of very talented graphic artists, coders, and modelers who lent their efforts to the project.
Eventually, we reached a point where we were finally ready to play a full round of the game. We gave it a go and had a pretty good time, but as we reached the end we noticed a fairly major flaw… As it turns out, the original rules made the game unbearably punishing and practically unwinnable. We were all pretty shocked, honestly. None of us expected the game to disappoint so badly.
Still, we could tell that there was fun to be had if we could just tweak a few things, so we decided to make our own custom ruleset. Over the course of many months, and between our work on other projects, we would occasionally get together to play, make adjustments, and come up with ways to improve upon the experience. While your mileage may vary, I think we eventually developed a system that strikes a good balance between staying faithful to the original while also eliminating most of the frustration.
I should note that the original ruleset is also still available in the game for those who perhaps have a bit of a masochistic streak (or would simply like to experience the game in its unaltered form).
How to Get Started
So, now that you know how we got here, I’m sure you’re excited to try out the Dragon Slayer board game for yourself! But where to begin? Well, first thing’s first. You’ll need to obtain a copy of Tabletop Simulator from Steam. Here’s a link if you need it:
Next, once you’ve got the game installed, you’ll want to go to the “Workshop” page (see image below) and search for “Dragon Slayer”. Once you find it, hit the “+Subscribe” button and you should be good to go! If that’s a bit too much of a hassle, this link should take you there as well.
If you’ve never used Tabletop Simulator before, please note that learning to navigate the menus and controls may take a little while for those who aren’t accustomed to keyboard and mouse, but the basics are covered pretty well here if you’d like some help:
Finally, here’s a quick-start video, courtesy of myself and Choojermelon, that will help you jump in and start playing without having to read through the (somewhat lengthy) in-game manual.
We’re so pleased to be able to present this project to you after all this time. I truly hope you’ll end up appreciating it as much as we did. Happy gaming, everybody!
Project Lead and Translator: Shawnji
Editor and Texture Designer: Addaberry
Graphic Design: Sorcerian
3D Modeling: Rafinski (Instagram: rafetareig)
Video Editor: Choojermelon
Trailer Narration: Schtolteheim
Quick-Start Video Narration: Shawnji
Floofy, Graber, Matthew Finch, Choojermelon, and SlyGamer64
Lily – Designer of Kraken Table