The Dresden Files (Co-op Card Game)

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Attention wizards, cooperative game fans, and Dresden Files fans! Play Harry Dresden and his friends as they take on the cases from Jim Butcher’s bestselling Dresden Files novels in the ultimate what-if scenario—what if Harry was on the scene with allies who weren’t there in the books? This core game includes Harry, Murphy, Susan, Michael, and the Alphas. As those heroes, you …
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SKU ZBG-EHP0022 Availability 3+ in stock
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Attention wizards, cooperative game fans, and Dresden Files fans! Play Harry Dresden and his friends as they take on the cases from Jim Butcher’s bestselling Dresden Files novels in the ultimate what-if scenario—what if Harry was on the scene with allies who weren’t there in the books? This core game includes Harry, Murphy, Susan, Michael, and the Alphas. As those heroes, you will play through the first five novels as well as Side Jobs, a random scenario generator based on the short story collection of the same name. Use your shared pool of Fate points to take actions. Discard to generate more Fate points for the group and to activate your hero’s support abilities. Solve more cases than there are foes remaining on the board to win! The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game. Make your stand against the darkness—together!

The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game by Evil Hat Games does exactly what it says on the tin. Players take on the roles of characters in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files universe and work together to defeat the foes and solve the cases from the book series.

The Setup

Layout the game board in the middle of the table, select a Book Deck or create a random scenario using the customisable Side Jobs deck. Then place the Showdown card on its place on the board. Shuffle the remaining 12 cards then place them face up along the two rows, ensuring there are no Obstacle or Advantage cards on Range 6.

Furthermore, place the Attack and Investigate chips in their relevant slots. Place as many Fate Points in the Available area as stated by your chosen difficulty, placing any remaining in the Spent area. Each player selects a character, one player MUST choose Harry Dresden. (In a two-player game, each player chooses two characters.)

Place your chosen character's Talent and Stunt cards in front of you, then shuffle the remaining cards. (In a two-player game, shuffle both characters' decks together.) Finally, draw as many cards as indicated by the player count.

The Game

Have a look at all of the Book cards in play along both rows and apply any and all ongoing effects. The player who chose Harry Dresden decides who plays first. On their turn, players can do one of four things, play a card, discard a card, use their stunt or pass.

To play a card in The Dresden Files, move the number of Fate Points from the Available area to the Spent area as indicated by the card, then apply its effect. Some cards will add hits to foes or clues to cases, while others will overcome obstacles or take advantage. Each card has an indicated range and can only be applied to Book cards within that range, 6 being the farthest.

When discarding, players gain Fate Points by moving the amount indicated on the card from the Spent to the Available area. They may then apply the effect of their character's Talent card.

Once per game, players can activate their character's Stunt card by flipping it over. Stunts are potentially game-changing abilities with various uses; some will apply hits for free, while others allow cards to be drawn. Clever use of Stunts is essential for victory.

Players can also choose to spend one Fate Point to skip their turn if they feel they cannot help the current situation but do not want to risk wasting a card.

How To Win

The team must work together to ensure that there are more Case cards in the Solved area of the board than there are Foes remaining in play by the end of the final turn. The final turn is when either all cards have been played, or somebody has to spend more Fate Points than are available. However, this is not the end of the game. If the game is not won by the final turn, the Showdown is activated.

During the Showdown, the team gets one final chance to defeat foes and solve cases by rolling dice. The odds will be stacked heavily against the team during this phase, but if they have prepared properly, they can snatch victory from certain defeat.

The Review

For the uninitiated, The Dresden Files is a sprawling book series following the adventures of the titular Harry Dresden, a private investigator who also happens to be a wizard. This is not a review of the books, but let it be said. It is an excellent urban fantasy series that is more than worth investing the time to read.

Although it helps, you don't have to be a super fan of the books in order to appreciate this game. It's a fun puzzle that can appear almost insurmountable at times, but once you start to whittle away at it, it can be thoroughly engaging.

One way in which it emulates the series it is based on well is found in its difficulty. Very often, games will go all the way down to the last few cards before the scenario is won and regularly ends up being resolved by the Showdown. The Showdown is a desperate throw of the dice where victory is virtually impossible without proper planning and preparation. Even if the team has prepared as best, they can, winning requires overcoming the odds as the game very much has the upper hand. It does an excellent job of making each win feel like it was truly earned through grit and guile, just like in the books.

Of course, steep difficulty curves can be as off-putting to some as they are inviting to others. A lot of the difficulty in this game comes from the level of communication allowed between players. As standard, players must keep their cards hidden and can only talk about what they have in a general sense, never stating how many of each type of card they have or exactly how powerful (or expensive) they are. Concrete plans are tricky to form this way; there is always an element of luck involved. However, it also reduces the likelihood of a more experienced player taking over the game and dictating everybody else's moves, a particular blight of the cooperative genre.

The Rules

They can be relaxed for players who want a less punishing experience, however, allowing full communication with cards displayed if that's what they prefer. The Dresden Files is still fun this way and is still a good challenge, but the sense of endeavour that comes with throwing caution to the wind and hoping your loose plan is enough to see you through will be lost. I played a lot of our early games this way while getting used to the game, and it was still an experience I would recommend. Players can always up the ante when they feel ready.

The Fate Point (FP) system is another tricky aspect of the game. All cards cost FP to play, and the most reliable way to earn it back is to discard cards. This is rarely a wasted turn however because doing so allows players to activate their character's Talent, which can move cards along the track to make them easier to reach or place hits and clues on cards for free. Smart use of Talents is required to win the game.

The problem with this system arises when players selfishly play cards just because they can, which can leave one player constantly having to discard their most powerful cards because they have no other option. If the team does not communicate effectively, the punishment can easily be that one player has a bad time. This is an issue so likely that the rulebook specifically discusses avoiding it.

Another interesting rule is that one player must choose to play Harry Dresden. Being the main protagonist, it makes plenty of sense that he would be present in every campaign, and his Talent and Stunt are pretty much required to be able to win. Also, most Book decks contain cards with rules pertaining to him specifically, making the game slightly different for the Harry player than for the others.

This is great for the sense of immersion this game creates, as it often makes Harry feel like a protagonist. However, it does have limitations; it negatively affects the level of variation with characters as the same one must be present every time. It also can make whoever chose to use Harry seem more important than everybody else.

The Game Design

The Dresden Files does a good job of limiting this asymmetry by making any special rules relatively minor; in the base game, no effects pertaining to him are particularly game-changing. There are a few expansions Book decks that lean into this asymmetry more heavily, however, so an argument could be made that it actually increases the variety this game can offer.

As long as players take turns representing Harry Dresden rather than forcing him upon one person, this is not a limitation. I personally find it helps the game feel more like the stories they try to emulate.

The base game comes with five Book decks, corresponding to the first five books in the series, along with five Character decks. There is also a Side Jobs deck, named for the short story collection of the same name, which allows for a randomised game. Expansions are also available for those who really like the game, each one containing two more Book and Character decks. The capacity for variation is near limitless, especially because (as of writing) there are still more books to come.

The Verdict

If you are a fan of The Dresden Flies series, this game is a must-have, no questions asked. The way it creates the level of jeopardy experienced in the books is very impressive, with every game going down to the wire. The Book decks do a good job of emulating their respective story too, so it is a perfect accompaniment for the series.

Even if you have never heard of the series, this game is a crunchy and delightful puzzle that will keep you coming back for more. While its difficulty curve may be steep, it is also a very rewarding experience.