PC/Mac, Coming Soon to iOS/Android •
I was late to the Dresden Files but made up for it by reading all of the books in just over a year. Jim Butcher‘s alternate reality where magic, vampires, werewolves, faeries, and all manner of things that go bump in the night are not only real, but also looking for a late night snack of human, is a great setting. I think I’d actually prefer living in it over the rather mundane real world. Sure, there’s a chance of being torn apart by a werewolf, but the ability to shoot fire from my fingertips would be pretty sweet. I knew there was a cooperative tabletop card game out there where you could play through the events of the series as its characters, but don’t have enough friends interested in a Dresden Files game pull off a game session. When I learned Hidden Achievement was taking the game digital, I saw my chance to finally get the card game to the virtual table.
The Dresden Files Card Game is a card and dice game where you assemble a team of characters from the Dresden Files books and work together to solve cases and take down bad guys. You can play solo, controlling either three or four characters, or play online with friends. The base game allows you to play as Karrin Murphy, Michael Carpenter, and Harry Dresden himself and you can choose different scenarios based on the first five books: Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, Summer Knight, and Death Masks. Each scenario uses a different deck of cards that represent the cases to solve, foes to dispatch, advantages to acquire, and obstacles to overcome.
Each character has a deck of cards that represent their ability to maneuver through these various challenges. Cards come in four primary flavors, those that attack and deal damage, those that contribute to an investigation, those that help nab advantage cards, and those that pitch in overcoming obstacles. A player’s turn consists of playing a card which costs fate. Fate is a shared pool of, for lack of a better word, mana, and there is only so much to go around in any given game. Fate is gained by discarding cards, but your deck is also limited each case, so you get the picture. Cases are solved by meeting their clue requirement, while bad guys are defeated by scoring enough hits to take them down. You win if you can solve more cases than there are foes remaining on the board at the end of the game.
In addition to a deck of cards, each character has both a talent and a stunt. A talent is an always-active ability that triggers whenever a condition is met. When Harry discards to gain fate, for example, he gets to move an obstacle or advantage card forward or backward. When Karrin discards she adds one clue to the case at the longest range. A stunt is a limited-use power that does not cost fate and can have a pretty big effect on the game board. For example, Michael Carpenter can use Amoracchius, his holy sword [It’s a little pretentious. I call my holy sword “Bob” -ed.], to add three hits to an untouched foe and push it to the furthest position in its row.
The interaction of character cards, talents, and stunts form the backbone of your strategy for winning The Dresden Files. There’s a good amount of strategy involved, including who goes first as you can look to grab an early advantage card or take an obstacle off the board. Hand management is a key consideration; what cards to hold on to and which to discard to gain more Fate. It’s a challenging game to be sure, especially if you are controlling all the characters yourself. There’s a lot to keep track of and it will take a few games of fumbling around before you build a strong understanding of how best to proceed. There’s more than a passing resemblance to Sentinels of the Multiverse in the game’s combos and strategy between characters. Winning is hard and, in some cases, seemingly impossible if you get a particularly rough board layout. Card layout is a key factor in The Dresden Files Card Game, and obstacle cards further to the right can have a big negative effect on everything you do but remain out of reach, which can be more than a little frustrating.
The theme of the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game is great and will appeal to fans of the series. Each deck pays homage to the major events and characters of the book it represents. The artwork is great as well and I found it especially fun comparing my vision of what each character looks like with how they were rendered by the artist. This abundant flavor comes with a downside, however, and there are spoilers. If you haven’t read the books and think you might want to, keep that in mind when choosing which deck you want to tackle.
The Dresden Files is an attractive game, though graphics and UI are more than a little awkward on a larger monitor and while playing with a mouse. It seems like Hidden Achievement built the game for tablets but happened to be able to get the Steam version out first. I suspect the game will feel considerably more natural on a tablet’s touchscreen and I’d certainly be more likely to fire the game up reclining on the couch with my iPad than in front of my computer monitor or laptop screen.
I mostly played the single-player mode but there is an online multiplayer option as well. The catch is that it’s a manual process. Somebody must host a game and send out the server address and password to other participants. It’s not prohibitively difficult, but it certainly isn’t an intuitive and seamless experience. You also need to find your own team, there’s no matchmaking option. I could see this being fun for a group that can’t meet up in person, especially if you use a third-party app to talk while you play. I suspect this part will be much easier on mobile devices.
If you’re a fan of both the Dresden Files and challenging card games, The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game is well worth consideration. The base game has a lot of options and there are DLC packages that allow you to pick up additional characters and books to play through. This wealth of options means there’s quite a bit of replay value on offer here as well. If you’re not a fan of the series, but do like difficult card games this game is still worth a look, though if you’re a mobile gamer I’d suggest waiting for the iOS or Android version.