Resisting making terrible Doors music puns right now
So being acutely aware I have been pointing out a lot of Kickstarter games lately, I thought I would share my thoughts on a game currently making its way to me as I write this. Dragonfire, the Dungeons and Dragons deckbuilding game and essentially version 2 of the Shadowrun: Crossfire system, is currently crossing the ocean as I write this.
So why am I interested in Dragonfire? Well, deck building role play type games and I have a history. I have yet to find one that can be used as a gateway experience. In this, I mean it doesn’t have either a huge upfront time investment in initially learning the game or a large monetary investment in buying all the pieces for the game as expansions get expensive as games stop being published.
So without giving a mini-review of how to play Dragonfire, let me explain how others have let me down in the past, and how I hope that Dragonfire can be the mid-sized role play gateway I am looking for.
Shadowrun: Crossfire was a relatively new game coming out in 2014. It is not a game that is in my collection, but I did get to play it for a day early 2015. There was four of us in the game, and we played about 5 games over the course of a day. Three of us had played Shadowrun as an RPG, and we were all excited to play when the owner of the game (the one player that had no background in the game) invited us.
Short version – the reaction was mixed at best. We basically had a bad first game as the host didn’t learn the rules beforehand, and once this got sorted and we started playing ‘properly’ the slow character progression and difficulty just seemed like a hurdle rather than a challenge. This wasn’t the games fault – first impressions matter a lot. But as this was literally the only chance we would get to play Shadowrun: Crossfire as a group, my interest was basically sated and I accepted my opinion was tinged. I did have a look at reviews and forums after our playthrough, and there was a lot of people that echoed some of our concerns. The opinions varied greatly, such as some players loved the difficulty and others declaring it impossible. This by itself didn’t worry me – different people enjoy different levels of everything. But it was enough to make we comfortable with my final decision not hunt down my own copy, and left it at that.
Later that year, Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight games released Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game. I originally played Hero Quest years before, then graduated to Warhammer Quest, so again I was looking at a game I had some history with. I played Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card game with a friend from games night with a similar history, and we both enjoyed the new card game a lot.
While there were elements that we both thought could be tweaked, overall the card-based dungeon crawl type experience worked and seemed like it could only get better. Such elements as putting enemies from the first campaign story into future decks as a kind of nemesis system (but not called that, because of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor) was a great mechanic, and we couldn’t wait to keep playing as a campaign.
Then Games Workshop and Fantasy Flight parted ways, and that was all she wrote. Knowing that Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game was no longer going to be supported again the motivation to keep playing a fundamentally sound game simply evaporated.
This left me thinking that not much would fill this nice of gaming. I still had games like Space Hulk: Death Angel to play, but it was already all but impossible to get the expansions in Australia and again support had ended for it. There are some admittedly great games like the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, but while expansions are easily available the base set is much harder to track down. There were already epic games on the horizon such as The 7th Continent, but these were still Kickstarter announcements and things for the far future, not something I could grab now.
Then I got busy, and my gaming time took a terrible beating. Near the end of 2016, a friend of mine pointed me towards Arkham Horror: The Card Game. It had been out for a while, and he and others were having a great time with it. Unfortunately, I only got to play it recently, and with a games night kit rather than the base scenario. There were four of us, and we had all played many different types of games together. We all basically decided about halfway through the scenario that while there was plenty of potential for fun, four players is probably not the best way to play it.
Echoes of Shadowrun: Crossfire ran through my head, and I had been buying every expansion pack from the original box waiting for the chance to play it and banking on Fantasy Flight supporting Arkham Horror like they did Android: Netrunner.
Luckily, playing it again by myself now that I was familiar with the rules, I have been quite enjoying the occasional solo bout of Arkham Horror. I have run through the base campaign in the initial box a couple of times now, and will probably ask a second player to join me in the proper campaign. It’s when I can get at least through the main campaign and a couple of expansions I will be reviewing Arkham Horror: The Card Game properly.
But what does all this have to do with Dragonfire?
As you can see, I have had some ups and downs with a few games of this sort. I enjoy role play games, but they take a lot of time to create and run through which isn’t always possible. I have some miniature role play type adventures, and while they are also fun also require a large time investment in setup and teardown before and after the game.
I really do want a good middle ground, and card variants definitely seem to be where this will be. Quick to set up and put away, with a structured adventure that can change with random cards being drawn and expandable with different decks. While I don’t mind difficult games at times, easier games after a long week tend to get to the table more often. There is also the added benefit of more accessible games tend to make it easier to attract new players as well.
Now unfortunately from some of the initial information I have read and heard, while feedback from Shadowrun: Crossfire has been taken into account, looking at the rulebook there seems to be a pretty high jargon and technical level that may put off new players a bit, as there will be some lengthy rules explanations and it will probably take a couple of games before everyone will be comfortable with the terminology of the game.
One thing that has been taken into account is Dragonfire seems to be fairly forgiving with the experience provided for character progression compared to Shadowrun: Crossfire.
Another thing that I am hoping for is that this game will be good for 4-5 players. When Dragonfire was announced, it was originally designed to be played only with 3-5 players. This was increased from Shadowrun: Crossfire’s 1-4 player count and fans did what they did and voiced their concerns.
These concerns, as well as a couple of other factors, led to Dragonfires release being delayed until late 2017. This delay has allowed two player rules to be included. No solo play, but that can generally be accomplished by ‘two handing’ characters – the single player just playing more than one character at once, one in each hand.
I have enough solo and two-player games like this already, not including some yet to be tried including The 7th Continent and Gloomhaven. So instead, I am hoping that Dragonfire will be able to be played as an ongoing campaign for a small group of friends on a regular basis. There are already expansions announced which include well-known Dungeons and Dragons locations such as The Sword Coast and Waterdeep, so fingers crossed that Dragonfire lives up to what I am hoping it will be.
Hopefully in a few weeks, I will have had time to put Dragonfire through its paces and let you know my final thoughts on the base game at least.
Until next time,