Wednesday, April 20, 2016

FUEGO! - A first impression of The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game

If you like wizards and magic along with all the fun that comes with people of that ilk, odds are you've read about the wizarding adventures of Harry Dresden in Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files series.  These books have become iconic in the modern fiction world and rightfully so.  Harry and his band of cohorts and enemies are part of a rich world that's easy to get lost in, the mark of any good book series.  When I found out that a game was coming out, I was excited.  And when I found that it was Evil Hat Publishing putting out an Eric Vogel design, my excitement went through the roof.

We just played our first two games and we wanted to get out some first impressions while the Kickstarter is running to help inform people of whether they should back the game or not.  We played with 3 characters mocking a 3-player game.  We'll try playing the official 2-player rules tomorrow and report back.

Rules - The rulebook is laid out very well.  It was easy to understand and get up and running.  I did read the rulebook in advance, but this thing is so clear you could easily sit down and be playing within half an hour.  It's clear and concise.

Short play time - Both of our games played in about 30 minutes which is perfect.  That means you can play this game at lunches or when you have a short window of time.  Part of me wishes it was longer, but it's actually sort of perfect.  The way the cards are laid out means the game will almost always fall in this timeframe.  It's nice to know you can count on the length.

Player interaction - There's a lot of it here.  This game requires serious teamwork.  You'll all have to make sacrifices of cards you really want which eliminates the alpha-player problem.  I like that everyone has to do things they don't want to do to keep the game going.  There's a lot of discussion required to optimize your strategy and the cards in each player's hand will change the plan from moment to moment.

Cards - Speaking of cards, I love the fact that you really won't see your whole deck every game.  Most times you get a draw or two which means there's a lot of cards that you just don't get.  This really adds to the player interaction because you will need to find ways to make the cards you have work.  You can't count on the cards you want to be available so you need to make it work.

Book cards - We loved that the same story is arranged differently every time.  This will keep it from getting stale when you beat a Book.  Just shuffle up and lay them out again and you'll have a different puzzle to solve.  We've only played Storm Front so far so I can't speak to variety, but I love how different cards become your target based on the layout.  That will make sure your strategy adapts every game.

Artwork - The artwork is great.  Once they get the individual pieces for all the Book cards, it will be even better.  This game is going to shine with all the cards tying in to what they are in the stories.  Fans of the Dresden Files world will love seeing their stories come to life.  It's awesome already and the individual artwork will make it even better.

Less is more - The game is very minimalistic and that's a great thing.  It makes the experience very clean.  There's really nothing fiddly here at all, just a solid design that allows the players to work the game.  That's the mark of a good game.  When the game gets out of the way and the player interaction shines, you've got a great design.

Luck of the dice - The Fate system works awesome here in that it takes some certainties and adds just a touch of random.  It's just enough to make you work around it and I like that.  You have plenty of chances to mitigate the luck so good play seems like it will prevail the majority of the time.  I'm sure there will be a time that dumb luck makes me lose, but that will make for a great story at least.  Also, the fact that the Showdown can trigger at inopportune times due to a dice roll adds some great tension in key moments.

Resource management - There's definitely a focus on resource management with the limited number of cards.  These are basically your currency because you have to use them for everything.  Managing how you use them feels a lot like a puzzle.  It's interesting to see how far you can stretch your possibilities.

Characters - We played with harry, Susan Rodriguez, and Michael Carpenter.  It felt like each character had separate strengths and that felt thematic.  The Talents and Stunts really felt like they matched the characters perfectly.  It added a wonderful connection to the stories and made the game pop.

Something for everyone - The game is easy enough to teach non-gamers but there's enough decisions to make gamers happy.  The game skews to the lighter side, but there's plenty to like for gamers of every skill level.  Also, if you aren't a fan of the books you can still like the game.  Liking the books will just make it better.

Cooperative - Lest I forget to mention, this is a co-op boardgame. That gives it advantages and disadvantages which depend on your taste in games.  I personally like co-ops.  If you do, then this is an excellent one to add to your collection.  If you don't this won't change your mind unless you are a die-hard Dresden Files fan.   That said, the cooperative element here is wonderfully executed. 

Naturally, there's bound to be something I don't like.  I really wish the endgame was better.  I don't love it, but I do like that you've got a chance to come from behind with some lucky rolls.  I wish there was some sort of climax, a fight or battle.  Just something to work towards that would add one more layer to the design and really tie it together.

We're just a couple plays in but so far it feels like this is a perfect fit.  It's thematic, it plays wonderfully, the design is clean, and the player interaction is highlighted.  The stories are highly replayable due to the randomness in the card layout and player deck draws.  There's huge amounts of room for expansion and various levels of customization.  The game length is consistent and fits in a perfect slot.  The integration with the books makes the entire package shine in a way that alleviated my worst fears.  This game is a lot more than just okay.  It's great.  And it's got even more potential for greatness.  I can't wait to play this thing more.




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