Looking into The Dresden Files... with our game review
Updated: Apr 10
Players: 1-5 Ages: 13+ Game Time: 30 mins
The Dresden Files Co-operative Card Game (CCG) is a franchise-based game, so here is a little background information for those not familiar with the series.
The Dresden Files are a collection of books and short stories by author Jim Butcher (there has also been a short, and not very accurate to the source material, TV show). The stories follow the numerous adventures of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden (conjure by it at your own risk), Chicago’s only openly practicing wizard who works as a private investigator occasionally consulting for the local police.
“Magic. It can get a guy killed”
In the books, Harry solves an array of strange and wonderfully portrayed cases in a world where magic and many supernatural beings are very much real. Along the way he makes friends, allies and powerful enemies. The game does contain spoilers for the book series so if this sounds like something you’d like to read it is recommended to check out the books first. You can get details and sample chapters from: Dresden Files – Jim Butcher (jim-butcher.com) . Personally, it is a series that I can’t recommend enough.
In this game, the player(s) take on the roles of Harry and his friends and literally play through his adventures from the novels. You can build your own adventure using the “side jobs” deck which represents the short stories.
The base game supplies you with the first five ‘books’ or scenarios and five playable characters. After that, if players want to expand their game there are (currently) five expansions each containing two more ‘books’ and two characters. All these tend to be easy to acquire through normal retailers. However, there are two smaller expansions of one character each that are a bit harder to get hold of outside of the US.
Getting to grips with the rules, set up, and playing the game are all fairly straight forward.
Winning the game, however, is not easy. The challenging nature is indicative of the struggles faced in the novels. Indeed as the tag line for the series goes “Magic, it can get a guy killed.” well in this player's experience it happens a lot, so be prepared to lose.
This game can be played with 1 – 5 players, with there being some minor rules adjustments for solo and two-player modes. The game claims to be for ages 13 and over, which appears to be fair. However, in this reviewer's opinion, younger players may struggle with the strategy level and the win/lose ratio. Games typically take up to 30 minutes to complete, depending on experience.
Players take turns to use their character cards and unique abilities against the chosen scenario. To do this, they will need to fight foes, solve mysteries and manipulate the situation.
It is important to work effectively as a team.
The aim is to improve the odds for the end game as much as possible. However, there is a limited supply of fate points to fuel your actions. Additionally, this must be shared between players; so discarding cards to regain points for the team is essential for success. The win criteria for any book scenario is to end the game with more cases solved than foes left undefeated (some ‘books’ are harder than others).
Players will likely be able to remove some mysteries and foes from the board during the main game phase. However, any left when the final confrontation occurs are defeated by a roll of the dice, and the use of leftover fate points, to ultimately determine victory or defeat.
For fans of the series, this reviewer feels that this game is a must-have. However, it is impossible to ignore the sheer difficulty to complete without fully digesting the rules and building a sound strategy, especially with the final confrontation being decided more by dice roles than overall skill. This makes rage-quitting quite possible. However, this fan of both the series and the game can’t help but keep coming back again and again. It is also worth noting that fans will enjoy the ability to use characters in scenarios where they did not originally feature in the books, giving the game a ‘what if...’ element.
The production quality of this game is pretty good as all components are fairly durable. The box itself is fairly roomy and has clearly been designed to accommodate several expansions. However, if you are using card sleeves then the box gets a bit snug. There are ways around this such as using exact fit sleeves or buying/making new box dividers.
A digital edition of the game produced by Hidden Achievement LLC is also available and Evil Hat Productions do also have some other Dresden Files products including a traditional Role Play Game, check out their full range of games here: Evil Hat Productions | Turning Passion Into Great Games!
In the interest of fair play, it is best to offer a dual rating for this game...
For Dresden fans:
It's hard to master as any good cooperative game should be but as games from franchises go it's done well to have a solid game underneath. The franchise elements have been done well and really help make this game full of depth and carry off the theme really well.
Some images are taken from Evil Hat Production's website.