Base price: $40.
1 – 5 players.
Play time: ~60 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 2
Full disclosure: A review copy of Flamecraft was provided by Lucky Duck Games.
You know, after the first thousand reviews, writer’s block has really come back in force. Some days I just can’t really get myself motivated to write, and it’s extremely annoying. I remember entire weeks of just writing about Dominion and now I just end up dozing off on the couch in the middle of one of my housemates’ art restoration YouTube binges. I don’t know why they watch it, but it is interesting. And soothing. But some days I just … get back into the writing zone and I can bust out an entire review. Today seems to have been one of those days, so I’m hot off of a play of Flamecraft (from Lucky Duck Games and Cardboard Alchemy) and I have some opinions. The dream. So let’s hop right in and see!
In Flamecraft, players take on the roles of Flamekeepers in a world full of dragons of various types. Your job is working with Artisan Dragons, helping find shops for them to work and use their talents in to produce things for everyone’s benefit. I hope they have a union or something. As you do, your reputation around town improves. I mean, it should; you’re convincing dragons to help you make stuff. That’s reasonably impressive. Flamecraft is a worker placement game that tasks players with collecting resources, visiting shops, and creating enchantments. At every step of the way, you’ll have Artisan Dragons that you can send to shops for additional resources and bonus actions, and Fancy Dragons with special abilities that can earn you even more reputation, should you satisfy their expectations. As you acquire resources to cast these enchantments, your opponents will do the same, and the town’s success will cause other shops with additional effects to open up. There can be only one winner, though, so make sure you’re building up your reputation if you want to become the Master of Flamecraft. Will you be able to make a name for yourself among the dragons?
Overall: 7 / 10
Overall, I think Flamecraft is fun! It’s hard to talk about Flamecraft without talking about the obvious: it’s a very cute game. The dragons are delightful, the puns are fun, and the whole thing reminds me of a more worker-placement focused Tea Dragon Society, which is never a bad thing. The game is also pretty solidly approachable; it’s got a low barrier to entry (other than some slightly irritating setup, but that’s more a reflection of my preferences around sorting piles of cards than anything else) and players should be able to pick up most of the rules. Plus, again, the theme resonates with a lot of folks, I’ve found, so you shouldn’t have much trouble getting them to sit through a rules explanation. Everyone’s going to find a favorite Artisan Dragon (I believe mine is Hot Dog) and just emotionally identify with them for the entire game. Personally, I think that’s how you run a pretty successful Kickstarter campaign. You need to give the people what they want, and a lot of folks want cute stuff. I respect that.
As for Flamecraft itself, I found it to be a fun enough worker placement game. I appreciate that they opted for a friendly(ish) worker placement structure where you can go to the same location as another player, you just have to pay them a resource of your choice. It improves the approachability of these kinds of games, since you don’t usually have to worry about not being able to do the thing you want. In Flamecraft, in particular, you also see the number of locations gradually increase over the course of the game, so there’s even less contention for certain spots as the game progresses (though the older spots are often more lucrative). On the Enchantments side of the game, I like that Enchantments make their assigned location produce even more resources, and I’m particularly pleased that they opted to have a more challenging set of Enchantments for folks that want a tighter game. The tension then becomes trying to get a particular Enchantment before another player can beat you to it, but that’s any game where you’re fulfilling some kind of resource-to-contract thing.
My major gripe with Flamecraft is just that it tends to run a bit long for the level of complexity that I’m getting from it. I would normally posit that, say, new players just need a bit of time to get the game, but honestly, it’s not the most complex game I’ve played recently and my groups are fairly experienced, at this point. With teaching and setup, the game can take a hot minute, and even then, a game with a 60 minute on-the-box playtime is likely never going to move that quickly until everyone is experienced with it. And I think that that’s kind of where I land on Flamecraft; I think that 60 minutes is just a long time for this game’s particular level of complexity. It’s not bad and I enjoy playing, but I’d prefer a bit shorter game. I’m also not over the moon about the Fancy Dragons and the way they’re acquired, but that’s mostly because they feel a touch swingy. You just draw one from the deck (save for the start of the game, where you draw two and keep one), which means you’re stuck with whatever you get. Getting certain Fancy Dragons at certain times can net you far more points than other Fancy Dragons at the same time. It makes the game feel a bit more imprecise, which is odd, given how tight every other part of the game feels. Beyond that, though, I do wonder, given the game’s success, if we’ll see more games in the Flamecraft universe. I’d certainly hope so! The art is extremely pleasant. I think they were even selling plushes for a while! People (it’s me; I’m people) love that sort of thing. If you’re looking for an introductory worker placement experience, you enjoy a good punny shop name, or you just want to spend some time in a cozy world with some cute dragons, you might enjoy Flamecraft! I did.
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