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Dresden Files Review

Background

A couple of years ago I found the first book of Dresden in a Barnes and Nobles. In those years, I used to spend most of my Sundays, either drinking coffee or reading. It was my lull time after a hard week. All Sundays ended up with a movie that made me ready to begin a new week. I loved the book. Time passed, got married and so forth. My wife also loves reading, and Dresden was one of our favorites. One thing that I liked about Dresden is that he did not take himself too seriously. Compare him to Anita Blake, he is a good cup of coffee, while Anita is a shot of tequila. Then the TV series came out, great show. Don’t really know why they did not continue. The acting was good, I think. But well, it went on the Firefly side. All in all, you can pick a book of Butcher and have fun, its entertaining and good. When I saw the game pop-up in Kickstarter, I jumped, insta-buy. I got the game a few weeks ago. Played it for the first time with my wife (I did some homework, watched some play through videos before we jumped in). She enjoyed it. Then I played like 5 times solo. Again, played yesterday with her. Following is our review.

The Components

The game components are great. Not spectacular, but good. I like the board and the cards. I think the tokens could be better. Graphic design is intuitive and straight forward.
The rule book is good and to the point. I would have loved to have a little bit of the flavor that was used in the Kickstarter in the rulebook. The bickering and back-and-fourth of Fred and Dresden. Maybe make Fred the narrator of the rule book. Good pictures and good examples. I found that some of the people that played the game in YouTube either knew something I did not, or missed some of the rules, for example, somebody said that if you discard a card for fate, and there are fate dice to roll you should not roll the dice, but I’m pretty sure the rule book tells you to do so. I’m expecting a FAQ for this later.

The board is really good, it seems it will last. The only problem here is that it seems that the space for the tokens is not large enough, either the tokens are too big, or the area needs to be bigger, especially for damage and investigation tokens (like the joke of the chicken and the egg, but that’s for another time…). Not a biggie. To mitigate, what we normally do is to group the 5ers and stack them beside the board. That makes the management of the tokens easier.

The cards. The stock is good, although I like the Lord of the Rings LCG stock better. It seems more durable and less prone to fingerprints. A couple of issues here: There is no way of differentiating the cards from one expansion to the next. And YES, I understand that there is “no need’ to differentiate them. I like to differentiate the components of my game, call me OCD, but I like to put things in order and to know exactly what I have. I can do that with most of my games. A tiny number in one side of the card, even a tiny icon might make a difference. To be honest, it bothers me more than it should, but like I said, I’m one that orders all his magic cards (Lord of the rings cards too), by edition, by type and in alphabetical order. So, not having these drives me nuts. Also, not having the complete list of cards, also drives me nuts, what happens if a card get lost, how do I identify these. What if the print run missed one, how would I know.. AARRRGGGHHH. Yes, OCD ++, but that’s me.

Another thing, yes I tell u OCD, I like sleeving (My wife makes fun of me due to this). Sometimes I spend more money on sleeves that in games. The box has a good insert, but sleeve cards will not fit. I know that the game does not require much shuffling, but since the cards are not sleeved, I hesitate to bring it out. All those crumbs and potato chip grease… And the Chicken… ohh no!!!.

Yes, I tell you, my OCD it’s almost medical. But one of the reasons I like board games is that I have control. Not being able to have it stresses me. I’ll live, , not the first rodeo, and will deal with it. My recommendation, if you can mitigate this by either making the insert a little bit bigger and adding the small numbers or icons, it will be greatly appreciated. Details, details, details.

Summary: Overall, the game components are good. The card stock is good (I like the one in LoR LCG better). The box is good (sleeeeeves!!!), the dice are good, the tokens are good. The game all-in-all has very good components. 8.5/10 (sleeeeeeeeves!!!! And icons!!!!)

The Game

There are four main draws on the game for us: One is the theme, Dresden, the other is the gameplay, the third is the game time and the last is Dresden (did I just said that!!! ). Sadly, the main draw is also our main low point, but I’ll skip that to the last. Good first.

The gameplay is solid and fun. A puzzle with good randomization. At first we though that not drawing was going to make it very difficult, and it does, but not impossible. Each character deck has its own flavor (have not gone through all of them). Dresden’s deck feels good, his stunt and talent is very thematic. In the books Dresden role is to try to overcome obstacles and advantages, having the ability to reposition them is very thematic, and then permitting other people to discard and re draw seems to be something around Dresden influencing other characters removing constraints and providing them with the ability to re-define their actions. Good and good. The game time helps not bog down into analysis paralysis. It gives you the opportunity to fail and try again. Cases feel thematic too, and very tight. More than once I felt like Dresden, walking in a very thin like of success and failure. I love the gameplay, and how it is packed tightly into the game play, set-up is fast, set-down is also fast. Kudos here, I bet there are a ton of games out there that would learn a ton from you guys.

The low point. Theme. Yes the mechanics are good. But I think, and my wife concurs, that there is a huge, and I mean huge missed opportunity in the game. A little flavor text, maybe a quick description of the scenario would make the game from very good, to fantastic. We read the books a long time ago. We don’t remember the specifics, so most of the obstacles and cases nuisance get lost. And we read the books, for somebody that did not read the books, it will be totally lost. The mechanics are there, just-a-little-bit-more will make all the difference. Who is Michael, who is Mouse, who is Tom and why he is a vampire. Little flavor text to each card, one or two sentences, build the mood, describe the mythos, shine the luster. Such a beautiful game, and I believe without the flavor, most of the people that would play it will get bogged down into how many hits I need? How many tokens are required? How can I maximize my hand? Again, take in account MTG (who really understands the whole story), but each card pulls you into a story, a narrative, just a little bit. Also look at LoR LCG. It could be sooooooooo muuuucccchhhh better. Hopefully you guys don’t take this personal. The game is really good, but it would be fantastic (I say FANTASTIC!!!) with a little bit of flavor text. (this is the main reason I wanted to write this review btw). 9/10

Summary

The gameplay is solid, the theme is really good, the chicken crossed the road and came back. Pretty much, if you like puzzles, you’ll love the game. If you like Dresden you’ll love the game. Is it worth it, definitely. Would I buy it again, yes (and if they come up with a 2nd edition with flavor text, I’ll buy the deluxe version). Will I play it again, yes and more than once, each chapter with each character. Will I read the books again, yes ????. Does this deserve Kudos to the designer and publisher, yes of course. Could it be better… well… yes, because perfection is a journey not a destination. 9/10
So, there you go, with chicken and everything. Hope you guys enjoy the game.
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Scott Everts
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We played it for the first time tonight and really enjoyed it. We played the first 2 books (won 1st book, lost 2nd book).

Two of us have read the books, the others had no idea. We tried to explain the series but I agree that no flavor text made each character less interesting. The two of us that read the books really enjoyed it since we knew all the facts about the characters. I haven't read the books in several years so the story details were lost but I remembered some here and there.

I will say that those that didn't know the material liked the puzzle like challenge so that's a good sign the game can be enjoyed by those that don't know the books.

As for sleeving, I'm a big sleever myself but the game requires very little shuffling so I can live without doing it.
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either drinking coffee or reading

Wait what? You sure meant drinking coffee ánd reading...
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Then the TV series came out, great show. Don’t really know why they did not continue

I still want to see this, but I can't find it anywhere

I received the game just before we were moving, so it's in a moving box somewhere in my new gaming room and I haven;t seen it yet Too bad it doesn't have flavour text, I love flavour! And it really would fit these stories. But other than that it's good to read it's still a good game in itself! Can't wait to play it!
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Scott Bender
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Though I would not say the theme is non-existent, I will say it is thin and completely irrelevant. I agree some flavor text would help. I'm also disappointed that the art is so generic. The fact that each "type" of card in a given deck always has the same art is both disappointing and very anti-thematic. Now I understand that art is a significant cost in game production, but this feels like a real missed opportunity to really nail theme to this game.
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Andy Hunsucker
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I'd agree that flavor text would help, but my friend who knows nothing about The Dresden files loved the actual gameplay. So I think that's a big point in the game's favor. People who know the books can get into it on another level, but the underlying gameplay is really solid.
 
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Andres Montanes-Lleras
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spbtc wrote:
Though I would not say the theme is non-existent, I will say it is thin and completely irrelevant. I agree some flavor text would help. I'm also disappointed that the art is so generic. The fact that each "type" of card in a given deck always has the same art is both disappointing and very anti-thematic. Now I understand that art is a significant cost in game production, but this feels like a real missed opportunity to really nail theme to this game.


Though I might be a little biased, since I have been re-reading the books in preparation for the game, I do not agree with the theme being either thin or completely irrelevant.

While there are some cards in which this comes clearer than others, the machanics in general are very consistent with the structure, characters and overall feeling of the books. From the four types of cards, which correspond with the kind of things that Harry and his friends do in the books (I particularly like the mix of investigation and fighting) to the way you ultimately exhaust your resurces by the end of the game, just like Harry and his allies (especially Harry) usually end up exhausted and hurt by the end of each novel.

I agree, however, regarding the art. Though I am very happy with the way the game looks, and the fact that the kickstarter support allowed for the art to be different for each book and each villain, it would definetively have been better, in terms of immersion and theme (though probably not in terms of costs and time, or even the viability of the project), if each card had a completely different illustration.
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Fred Hicks
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spbtc wrote:
Though I would not say the theme is non-existent, I will say it is thin and completely irrelevant. I agree some flavor text would help. I'm also disappointed that the art is so generic. The fact that each "type" of card in a given deck always has the same art is both disappointing and very anti-thematic. Now I understand that art is a significant cost in game production, but this feels like a real missed opportunity to really nail theme to this game.


We already spent $40,000 on the art for this game. Individual art for all cards would've put it at nearly triple that and you'd probably still be waiting for the game in 2018. We made the tactical, fundable choices we could there!
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fredhicks wrote:
spbtc wrote:
Though I would not say the theme is non-existent, I will say it is thin and completely irrelevant. I agree some flavor text would help. I'm also disappointed that the art is so generic. The fact that each "type" of card in a given deck always has the same art is both disappointing and very anti-thematic. Now I understand that art is a significant cost in game production, but this feels like a real missed opportunity to really nail theme to this game.


We already spent $40,000 on the art for this game. Individual art for all cards would've put it at nearly triple that and you'd probably still be waiting for the game in 2018. We made the tactical, fundable choices we could there!


That's crazy! Yes though that is my one biggest flaw is lack of artwork. Though at least this time the blue beetle isn't blue like in the rpg

I will also say the theme is not thin, it's really strong, but you need to know the source material.
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Bernardo Gonzalez
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I just realized it is not Fred and Dresden, but Bob and Dresden, my bad


fredhicks wrote:
spbtc wrote:
Though I would not say the theme is non-existent, I will say it is thin and completely irrelevant. I agree some flavor text would help. I'm also disappointed that the art is so generic. The fact that each "type" of card in a given deck always has the same art is both disappointing and very anti-thematic. Now I understand that art is a significant cost in game production, but this feels like a real missed opportunity to really nail theme to this game.


We already spent $40,000 on the art for this game. Individual art for all cards would've put it at nearly triple that and you'd probably still be waiting for the game in 2018. We made the tactical, fundable choices we could there!
 
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Scott Bender
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fredhicks wrote:

We already spent $40,000 on the art for this game. Individual art for all cards would've put it at nearly triple that and you'd probably still be waiting for the game in 2018. We made the tactical, fundable choices we could there!


I expected that was the case. I know good art is really expensive.

Mahuloq wrote:

I will also say the theme is not thin, it's really strong, but you need to know the source material.


I've read all of the books, some of them several times. I've read the graphic novels for Storm Front and Fool Moon within the last year. I've only played Storm Front and used Harry, Karrin and Micheal in solo mode. I really enjoyed the puzzle-y nature of the game play and liked the fact that the different characters were so different. I could occasionally narrate my actions in character terms but not as a general rule. Perhaps a few more plays will illuminate the theme more, but after my first play my feeling is great mechanics and meh theme.
 
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Fred Hicks
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For me, and granted, I'm biased, the theme expresses most strongly in terms of the emotional journey of play, which to me "reads" a lot like a Dresden Files novel. Start of play, there's that "I don't know how we can win this, but maybe if we start here..." vibe, and somewhere in the middle I can rocket between "we can do this!" and "this is hopeless!" a fair bit. Eventually it feels like the end is in sight but it'll be a tough fight if we're going to have a chance, and then there's the thready terror of will we win/will we not in the Showdown. Pretty Dresden-y for me.

On top of that we took a careful look at the tempo of each character to get it to line up on a gameplay level with the tempo of the character in the series, to the extent that was possible. Harry spends a lot of time getting beaten up and trying to find an advantage early on (discard for Fate is strongest for him early on), before he starts seriously throwing down and clearing stuff off the board (stunt and card plays later on bring the fuego). Michael alternates between doing stuff that's supportive (priming his talent) and then suddenly showing up and being really effective where he's most needed (using his talent). And so on.
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John Peregrim
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The repetition of the artwork on each card of the same type - Attack, Investigate, Obstacle, etc. - makes the game flow quickly since each type of card in each character's deck and each book's deck are instantly identifiable. It's a form of coding that mirrors and enhances the cards' color coding. That works quite well for me in terms of game play. I don't think they were trying to create a complete graphic novel on cards, but a series of individualized decks that have their own internal uniformity of card type. This allows the players to quickly assess their hand's current abilities (and the game board's card tableau) without bogging down play with trying to see past every card's artwork if every card had been unique.
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ghostbear wrote:
The repetition of the artwork on each card of the same type - Attack, Investigate, Obstacle, etc. - makes the game flow quickly since each type of card in each character's deck and each book's deck are instantly identifiable. It's a form of coding that mirrors and enhances the cards' color coding. That works quite well for me in terms of game play. I don't think they were trying to create a complete graphic novel on cards, but a series of individualized decks that have their own internal uniformity of card type. This allows the players to quickly assess their hand's current abilities (and the game board's card tableau) without bogging down play with trying to see past every card's artwork if every card had been unique.


I think the clear, vivid colour-bars are sufficient to distinguish the cards - and when looking at someone else's cards, you need to rely on the colour-coding not the image anyway...
 
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ghostbear wrote:
The repetition of the artwork on each card of the same type - Attack, Investigate, Obstacle, etc. - makes the game flow quickly since each type of card in each character's deck and each book's deck are instantly identifiable. It's a form of coding that mirrors and enhances the cards' color coding. That works quite well for me in terms of game play. I don't think they were trying to create a complete graphic novel on cards, but a series of individualized decks that have their own internal uniformity of card type. This allows the players to quickly assess their hand's current abilities (and the game board's card tableau) without bogging down play with trying to see past every card's artwork if every card had been unique.


That's exactly right.

It had the knock-on additional benefit of not increasing the game's art budget by another $40-60,000. (We spent around $47k on the art as it is, IIRC.) Which would have also made this a game with potentially a higher pricepoint and taking another 6-12 months to deliver. (As said above)
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Mahuloq wrote:
I will also say the theme is not thin, it's really strong, but you need to know the source material.


This. This times a million. What I love most about this game is how well the the theme is done. Right down to the interplay between cases, foes, obstacles and advantages. It really is phenomenally well done. But you do have to be truly intimate with the source material. Those of you who are and still feel like the game is thematically weak, allow me to suggest pulling out your game when you aren't about to play it and just laying out a book and really looking at the interactions and effects. You have to be able to see it.
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