Saturday, February 24, 2024

Flamecraft Features Adorable Dragons and Excels in Flexible Gameplay

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This is a guest review of Flamecraft by Shivani Seth.

Game stores are a dangerous place to impulse buy some days but I have never been so satisfied by a random pick as I have been by my newest treasure, Flamecraft where players take on the role of Flamekeepers to enhance the shops in town.

From Cardboard Alchemy and Lucky Duck Games, with art by Sandra Tang and design by Manna Vega, I was immediately caught by the amazingly adorable illustrations of dragons on the box.

That, plus the possibility that it looked like a board game we could play in front of our son without having to answer a lot of questions about what plagues are, or why we were murdering some sentient creature made it a purchase.

My husband, a diehard Terraforming Mars player, wasn’t totally sold on the idea  but I managed to sway him on the sheer power of cute, both mine and the game. There’s a dragon named Potato in this game, y’all. It was formidable. 

What’s In The Box?
Flamecraft box contents
Flamecraft set up for play.

In the box, we’ve got an awesome neoprene town mat, 6 player tokens, 6 reputation markers, 8 player aid cards, 36 artisan dragon cards (+6 starter dragons), 36 fancy dragon cards, 28 shop cards, 36 enchantment cards, 7 companion cards, 210 good tokens, and 24 coin tokens. Flamecraft also includes bags to pack up the smaller pieces.

For those who love the zen of punching out pieces, you’re in luck. The box is well set up and feels sturdy, which is nice for gaming on the go. The dragon tokens and reputation tokens that represent individual players and their points are thick and wooden, which I definitely prefer to plastic tokens. Players can choose purple, red, dark blue, light blue,  green or mustard yellow for their representative dragon. 

How’s It Play?

Players start by setting up all the pieces so that there are six starter shops each with their own artisan dragon. Players take turns visiting a shop and then choose to either gather or enchant. At the end of each turn, players choose whether or not they’ll expand the Town.

For those who’ve played Agricola, the worker placement plus cards modality of this game will be familiar. Like Agricola, the cards and the randomness of what shops appear, as well as what dragons in the park make it so there are endless permutations of how the game can play out. Each shop has a given number of slots and each slot gives a different benefit, so that also adds to the possibilities. Enchanting the shops further adds options, so it’s really quite endless. 

I was very pleased to see that it wasn’t totally evident who was going to win, thanks to the mechanic of the Moon and Sun Dragons within the Fancy Dragons. Moon dragons aren’t counted until the end of the game and can be anything that racks up points, so there can be real surprises hidden there. Sun dragons have to be played on the players turn but as there is always notice for a last turn, the possibilities for a last round changeup are immense.

examples of cards in Flamecraft
Such unique art!

There’s also no one true winning strategy that we’ve discovered yet and some of the sun and moon cards reward generalizing, so if you have to change strategies mid game, you’re not automatically out of the running. Play mistakes also don’t destroy you, like some games, which is another thing that tips this over into a great game for families with smaller gamers as well.

Lastly, even though you can be edged out of placing in the shop you want or getting the enchantment you want, the game felt less intensely competitive than some similar games I’ve played. It was perfect for the more relaxing atmosphere we wanted, while still giving the hardcore board gamers who love to calculate points among us a good brain workout. Also, the rulebook is impressively thorough in explaining the different cards.

The Verdict?

We cracked it out for family game night, in the hopes that it wouldn’t be too arduous to learn for a bunch of folks up past their bedtimes and to our desperately happy surprise, it wasn’t! I’d recommend an hour and a half for first play through, as there is a lot of reading on the cards and some minutiae. 

While I haven’t tried the additional enchantment decks or alternate rules, I can guarantee that Flamecraft is one that will be featured on our game night rotation for a while and cooing at the cute art isn’t the only reason. The replayability and fun vibes combined with the possibility for more competitive play make it perfect for any group with a variety of skill levels or preferences. I also loved the neoprene mat!

And again, it has a dragon named Potato. Come on!

Flamecraft is available from the Lucky Duck Games website, Amazon, or your FLGS at an MSRP of $40.00. You can also pick up nicer components like metal coins, wooden resource tokens, and dragon standees here.

You can find Shivani on their website.

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Flamecraft is a fun replayable game with gorgeous art and interesting point mechanics.
Images courtesy of Lucky Duck Games

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