25 November 2022
The much hyped Flamecraft arrived on our desks with some preconceptions. We’d heard it is very good. We’d seen that most of the online discussion was about whether to upgrade components or get a plushie or enamel pin of the extremely cute dragons that make up the art and theme of the game. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but when there’s so much discussion around the production of the game a reviewer can become concerned.
But I needn’t have been. Flamecraft is a simple, smooth, and interesting game. While I’m not sure if it’s a masterpiece, it has all the qualities of a game done so well that yes, anyone and everyone should at least try it.
The production, unsurprisingly is amazing. A long ‘table runner’ neoprene board-mat is rolled out. Large cards are placed at the starting shops. A number of mini cards with dragons on are placed in their starting locations, others splashed out for a market. It has a similar production value to something like Oath in terms of its table presence. Except it’s all about dragons working in idyllic cottage industries alongside humans. And the dragons are all called things like ‘Creme Brûlée’, ‘Brisket’, ‘Loaf’ and ‘Fondue’.
And yet, it’s a simple game. It could have been done with a small box, a row of location cards and a market. The production does so much to our impression of the game that we kept checking the rulebook for something more, some heavy crunch amongst the lovely dragon meeples and simple choices between actions.
Those actions are straight forward, you move your meeple to a location and then decide whether to gather (get all the materials listed on the shop location, dragons and enchantments before activating one dragon power) or enchant (add a card from the market you’ve bought with gathered materials, gain its reward, then activate every dragon on the location). Congratulations, you know most of how to play the game now. Those dragon powers can generate card draw, rearrange the board (dragon swap), get more resources. Because they are free activations (the only thing you really pay for is enchantment cards), the game feels fast, easy, and dare we say… kind?
That kindness is at the heart of the game’s scoring too. There are options to give others around the table a gift in exchange for points. Those gifts are usually materials, which are cheap enough to come by, but obviously you don’t want to give someone exactly what they want to gain a ton of points, right? Or maybe you do. While you could make Flamecraft a brutal clash of resource management, you’re probably going to have as much fun building small collections of dragons running a bakery. The other source of points are the fancy dragons (the actual term in the game not this reviewer forgetting what they’re called). These are either sun or moon suit dragons – sun scores when you play it during the game, the moon scores at the end of the game. As you play you’ll gather more of these point scoring opportunities which will lead your strategy as you go.
But like all of Flamecraft this is gentle entry into the deeper strategy of the game. In later games it was obvious we were able to optimise for the most points, lean into certain positions and see our opponent’s strategies – but the first game was an easy teach because of the opening up of this win-condition curve.
Sometimes a game isn’t about its innovation or its challenge, it’s about its way it does everything so effortlessly well. Flamecraft is one of those games. A game that will reward you repeatedly and deserves to stay in your game night rotation for a very long time.
Christopher John Eggett
PLAY IT? MUST-PLAY
Have a brilliant time with these cute and amusingly named dragons. It’ll be the smoothest time in retail you’ve experienced for a while.
TRY IF YOU LIKE… LOST RUINS OF ARNAK...
While there’s not the smorgasbord of various mechanics present in Flamecraft as there is in Arnak, it sits next to it as a perfect companion for relaxed games nights, or evenings where you’re introducing someone new to the hobby.
Designer: Manny Vega
Publisher: Lucky Duck
Time: 60 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 6 Player tokens (dragons)
- 6 Reputation markers
- Town mat
- 8 Player aids
- 28 Shop cards
- 6 Starter shops
- 36 Artisan dragons cards
- 6 Starter dragon cards
- 36 Enchantment cards (two decks)
- 36 Fancy dragon cards
- 7 Companion cards
- 24 Coin tokens
- 210 Goods tokens
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