Dresden Files Co-op Card Game review

Quick review: Fun, generally well done game engine, but really simple and may lack some thematic components for fans.

Experience: I’ve now played around 4 games, with 3 players in each game, as Harry Dresden every time.

Overview: Players each choose a character to play as with one of them required to be Harry Dresden.  Each character has 12 cards: 2 that represent them, and 10 that make up a deck.  The game board is filled in with 12 cards representing the opposition.  Clear as much of the board as you can to win the game.  Cards are color coordinated for ease (i.e. a red card in your hand will affect red cards on the board).  There is a common pool of resources (13 max) shared between all players (i.e. If there’s 10 resources in the pool and I play a card costing 3 then the next player has only 7 resources available.)  The game also comes with special dice.  Each them have 2 sides with a ‘+’, 2 sides with a ‘-‘ and 2 blank sides for a bit of randomness.

The Bad: This game is super simple.  See, I’m what you might call “dresden-curious.”  I haven’t read any of his stories yet but of everything I’ve heard he sounds right up my alley.  So I went into this game hoping it might give me some sense or experience about the world.  Yet with the game so simple, there is not much of the flavor of the source material left.  You could slap Supernatural or Buffy or Angel or Grimm or even The Wire onto this game engine and have it fit.  With the theme so weak, the gameplay itself doesn’t always give the proper experience.  Your brain can grasp the concept of green “investigate” cards adding “clues” to green “case” cards but it feels just like tossing a red attack card at the red enemy card to add damage.

This isn’t helped by the cards frequently having art in common.  Now I understand why this was done in the game (there is a LOT of art) but it has a blurring effect on the theme.  So for example, Harry Dresden’s deck has 3 attack cards in it.  All 3 have the same art.  So while each of the 3 have different effects, I don’t get any real sense of what makes “pyrofuego!” different from “fuego!” in the stories.

The Good: The game is super simple.  This means there is a wide base for the creators to build upon with possible new abilities and card effects.  It’s also a great gateway game for bringing friends and family from the simple “clue/risk/monopoly” era into the modern board game era*.  It also means that it could crossover with other properties quite easily and part of me does hope the company gets enough clout to bring in some other shows that could use some gaming love.

Set up for the game is pretty swift and doesn’t take longer than the actual game play – which is my standard for “is the game’s set up bad?”  I’d estimate that all total with set up until takedown you’re probably looking at an hour to hour-fifteen of time, meaning it makes a great game to warm up or cool down your night.

Now I have 1 major criteria for co-op games: how easy is it to cheat?  Well obviously one can cheat since there’s no such thing as game police, but what I mean is how easy is it for the players to unintentionally cheat while trying to play honestly.  So far, this is where Dresden Files excels.  I’ve played a lot of co-op games and very often we players will get so focused on what we need to do we end up forgetting vital rules and “cheating” without meaning to.  This game does not have that issue as there is little to remember and keep track of for “the enemy.”  Every victory we’ve had has always been by the skin of our teeth.

The packaging is perfect with a medium sized box that won’t take up too much space on your shelf with a tray allowing plenty of room for the game, expansions, and your tokens.

I’d also recommend this game to parents with preteen or teen kids as the key component making it a challenge is the very limited resource pool.  It would make for a great instruction and training on budgeting and making sacrifices to obtain a goal.

Final Verdict: The game itself is great fun and my pick for one of the best co-op experiences out there right now.  The biggest problem is that it’s not a great “Harry Dresden” experience out of the box.  You almost need to play this game with fans of the book and see if they can turn it into a role playing session with people referring to each other by character name and plan out their turns as if they were participating in the world.

You can learn how to play the game here.

You can check out how the expansions the game has had here.

And get a copy if you wish through the link below:

(click here if picture isn’t visible)

*I regularly meet up with friends to play board games and I don’t mean games like Risk or Monopoly, but games like Yedo (my favorite) or Legendary or Red Dragon Inn (yes, it is a game about drinking – yes it is stupid fun).  If I say “board game” and you think of stuff like that, then you’ll find this game incredibly simple.  If I say “board game” and you think of “roll a dice and move” then this game will be a novelty to you.

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