Dragonfire – Review of Dungeons & Dragons Deck Building Game

Hello everyone, you are quite welcome today.  I have been quite fortunate in that my local hobby shop, Hadrian’s Hobbies, has loaned me their shop demonstration copy of Dragonfire.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t even aware this game existed until last weekend, and in case you are as uninformed as I turned out to be, it is a Deck Building Game based on Dungeons & Dragons intellectual property.

It is recommended that players do the jumpstart adventure, which is essentially the level 0 adventure.  Then players choose backgrounds in a similar fashion to D&D 5th Edition and begin adventuring.

Player Board and Upgrade Stickers for Dragonfire

There are a number of adventure cards in the box, as well as a campaign that the players can play which will take them up to “Level 5”.  During each adventure, the players will gain gold from defeating foes which can be used in game to buy upgrades from “The Market”.  Thematically, a Market doesn’t just pop up whilst you are in a dungeon, it represents players gaining abilities or gear that can help them in future turns.  These upgrades could be powerful spells, weapons or even armour.  When we played, I was desperate to buy the tower shield for my fighter.  I couldn’t afford the Tower Shield and was knocked out as a result.

The Marketplace where you can upgrade your deck in Dragonfire

There are a whole array of monsters arranged into differing types so that themed encounter decks form the basis for your adventure.  Each encounter is either a monster or a location, each of which has a variety of impacts on players, though the most frequent impact on players is, well, impacts.  They do damage.  Locations also make things a bit harder for people to use their special Assist abilities, which is quite dangerous as sometimes a monster that you have to fight is basically unbeatable without help.  Fortunately, there are various abilities that allow players to aid one another.

Creatures & Locations form the basis of Encounters in Dragonfire

When we had a go of the game, we had a lot of fun but didn’t do particularly well.  (We were playing it wrong…) The game states 3 to 6 players, however it is my assessment that 6 is actually the optimum number as when we increased party numbers we actually did better and the game flowed better.  I would say that the rules were a bit dense and difficult, at first, though after reading the jumpstart twice and then the core rules I basically get it.  There appeared to be a few misprints, in that the game designers referenced things that exist in DnD but that actually didn’t appear to exist in this core box, and there were a couple of things that were referred to incorrectly (The Deal Damage phase was referred to as Apply Damage for instance.  Not a huge thing but a bit sloppy in my view)  The one thing that was lacking that would have sped up understanding a bit was a component list.  There are a lot of tokens, including some I have currently found no use for, and a lot of cards.  I have done a series of videos about this game.  The first one, below, includes an overview of the basic components and some card anatomies.  (I also go through how combat works as well.  The video is quite long, and if you are eager to play, then jump to video two, but I gloss over a lot in video 2.  I recommend the videos in sequence).

Those were minor gripes, and they generally don’t detract from the game flow.  I would also mention that the damage markers that clip onto the sides of monster cards are a little bit too big for covering each level of damage as is instructed/suggested by the instructions, but again that is relatively minor.

Gameplay is relatively quick paced, or at least I felt it was and by our second attempt at the jumpstart we had got a better starting market and a better selection of monsters so we were able to survive a few turns, helping each other out.  Until the turn we got squished. (because we were playing it wrong…) Still it was fun.  The second video in my series is how to play the jumpstart adventure.

Of course, the real appeal of this game is playing the standard adventures not as level zero peasants but creating your characters and playing through the standard adventures, levelling your character up so they get new abilities, and gaining magic items that they can use in future games.  I should point out, it is a bit unclear if after you finish an adventure you keep all the stuff you bought in the market during that adventure or you go back to the starting hand.  Magic items and Class features persist.  I suspect that market items go back to the market for every future adventure or there would be nothing left  and your deck would be huge.  I couldn’t find explicit rules on that, but that seems to make sense.  Either way, here is the third video – in this case it is about the main adventure style of play.  Which includes Dragonfire cards.

And the thing that appeals to me most about this game is the campaign element.  Granted, with stickers there is an element of Legacy to this game which isn’t for everyone, but if you are ok with it then you can have a lot of fun building your character, making them into your version of a dwarven cleric.  Or your version of a Sun Elf Wizard.  And so on.  My final video is about the campaign/post game element and leveling up.

When I was loaned this game I thought it sounded cool but knew nothing about it.  I didn’t really entertain any notion of playing it in the future.  I certainly wasn’t in a place to be able to afford it now.  So, when we played through a couple of times and one of the players said they really liked it, I was incredibly pleased.  I am just a tiny bit disappointed that Drow and Rangers aren’t part of the core game.  I’d love playing not Drizzt in this game!

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11 thoughts on “Dragonfire – Review of Dungeons & Dragons Deck Building Game

  1. I had actually seen this game pop up somewhere on YouTube last week. As I am a huge fan of deckbuilding games in general my interest for it was certainly awakened. But as I saw it did not contain solo rules I eventually dismissed it. Despite some of the flaws and faults you mentioned it still sounds like it’s a great game. As usual I would have no one to play it with, so that’s one of the main reasons for not purchasing it right now. I’m glad you enjoyed it though, and I’m sure the Drizzt will probably pop up in an expansion somewhere along the way (right along with Captain Cold and Commander Flu of course, lol 😂). Great post!

    1. I suspect that Drow as a playable race will be there eventually. Pete, my friend who decided to get it, not only got the core set but all available expansions so I think a Ranger is on the cards for me. Thanks for reading! Do you like the blog new look (it has evolved a few times)

      1. I love the new look definitely! Not that it looked bad in the beginning mind you, but it looks even better now.
        Yeah probably the game will get loads of expansions. Look at Legendary, there are so many that it’s almost ridiculous. (That said I own them all 🙈🙈🙈😊). But it does look like a great game 😀

  2. I’m wondering if this would be a good game to ease future D&D players into. Our weekly D&D night has fizzled out with a group and we’re hoping to either host our own or see if we can get in someone else’s. We have several friends who have said they were curious but felt confused or overloaded by the amount of information and knowledge that takes place in D&D.

    Love the changes you’ve made by the way John! I also wanted to let you know I nominated your blog for an award! Feel free to participate. I just really enjoy reading your blog and wanted to share it with others. http://ageekygal.com/2017/12/12/the-mystery-blogger-award-tags/

    1. Yes, I suspect it would be a good entrypoint for someone unfamiliar with Dungeons & Dragons as all the creatures and classes are exactly what you would find in a DnD game which can mitigate for the folks feeling overwhelmed. Though, if folks are feeling overwhelmed as they are new to the setting then the storyteller could perhaps help in that respect by keeping the first story or two familiar. Working in a city for a lord, dealing with a human thieves guild or a bandit “army” in the region. The first suggestion keeps it simple and you can add some of the other races as folks you encounter along the way in the city. The bandit army suggestion is likely to be a bit more action oriented and would probably be a good opportunity for things like orcs and gnolls to be marauding around the countryside. If folks are genuinely interested you can definitely ease them into the world and then once they are used to fighting orcs chuck in an umber hulk and see what happens (one of them landed on my Dwarven Fighter. He got up and dusted himself off because Dwarven Fighter).
      I am glad you likethe changes, I had taken some other feedback this week and was looking through some of the other themes and playing around with them. I wanted to keep simple, but also visual with my social media easily visible. This theme worked the best so here it is.

      Thank you very much, I am glad you enjoy reading and I very much appreciate the nomination, and I will have a look at your link shortly.

      1. I’ve only been able to play through one D&D campaign. While the story was great, it was very long and detailed and there were so many names to remember. I think that has been what turned them off from joining in. I’ve never written my own story (and don’t have much desire to because I enjoy playing through the story), but perhaps I can write a short, simple one to get everyone in. Dealing with a thieves guild might be really fun since most of the would-be players enjoy Skyrim.

      2. yeah, there can be a lot to take in. Also, RPG can be as complex or as straightforward as everyone wants. Using stuff that is familiar might help somewhat. And a campaign can be a single session or two or four. It doesn’t need to run for 6 months +
        Meantime, Dragonfire isdefinitely worth a play

      3. That’s really good to know! This past campaign has been several months long (and is still not done). A single session game would be great for them to dip their toes in! Thank you for your help!

      4. no problem. My friend Chris recently did a 4 session campaign for us. It was his first time as DM, and his interview goes up on my blog this friday. Personally I prefer longer games as you get to see your character develop (longest campaign I have been, whch actually finish, was 2.5 years playing as a Marvel Superhero). I can’t recall – did I ever point out my Quest for the Perfect Game series to you? Might be of help planning a short game?

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