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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.

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.

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.

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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