Flamecraft – Straight Fire or Drag-on Along?
“Okay, I’m going to Draco Bell.
Patina goes down, so I get a Fancy Dragon,
and I’m going to fire Cutlet and place Deathfang…”
This might sound like a mishmash of cute and creepy, but it’s exactly the kind of thing you’ll hear when you play Flamecraft, an adorable game of artisan dragons for 1-5 Flamekeepers age 10 and up. Manny Vega designed this town building game, illustrated to perfection by Sandara Tang. It’s published by Cardboard Alchemy and Lucky Duck Games.
Roll out the town mat and place the six Starter Shops on any six shop spaces. Put the appropriate starter Artisan Dragon on the trumpet spot of each of these cards.
Create a Shop deck by shuffling together one shop card of each resource type and four of the shops with other icons.
Adjust the Artisan Dragon deck, depending on player count, then put five face-up on the Town Mat. Put both Artisan Dragon and Fancy Dragon decks on the mat in their places. Pick an Enchantment Deck (Gold or Purple) and shuffle it, then flip five Enchantments face-up and put the deck in its place on the mat as well.
Finally, give each player a Dragon Marker and put their matching Reputation Marker (a heart) on the score track. Deal each player three Artisan Dragons and two Fancy Dragons. Players will pick one Fancy Dragon to keep. At higher player counts, some players take resource tokens to start.
On a player’s turn, they move their Dragon marker to a shop in town. If any other player tokens are there, the active player must give each of the other players a resource token. We’re all friends and sharing, after all, right?
At the shop, the player will choose to Gather or Enchant.
When Gathering, a player takes the following steps in order:
- Gather Goods (required)
- Place a Dragon
- “Fire Up” a Dragon
- Use a Shop Ability
Each Shop has a Goods icon on the upper left. This, plus the icons on all dragons and any enchantments, create the resource pool a player gathers.
Place a Dragon
If the shop has any open slots, a player may place a dragon from their hand into a slot with a matching resource icon. Take the reward on that spot.
If a player fills the last spot on a Shop, they take the top Shop from the Shop Deck and put it face-down in an empty Shop location in the town.
Fire Up a Dragon
After gathering goods and optionally placing an Artisan dragon, the player may trigger the ability at the bottom of any one dragon in the shop.
Use a Shop Ability
Every non-starter Shop has a unique Shop Ability. After performing the other Gather tasks, the player may choose to use this Ability.
Players may have already Gathered plenty of resources, and may choose to Enchant when visiting a shop instead.
To Enchant, a player picks a face-up enchantment card from the Town mat that matches the symbol of the shop they are on. Then they pay the resources on the card to gain the reward. Players can spend Coins in place of other resources as long as the Enchantment doesn’t restrict doing so.
Tuck the card underneath the top of the shop so the icon is available for future Flamecrafters.
Then, the player may fire any or all the dragons on the shop, in any order.
Each shop can hold a maximum of three enchantments.
Ending the Turn
Once a player has finished Enchanting or Gathering, play passes to the left. But first, flip over any new Shop tiles. Discard down to a max of six Artisan Dragons and seven of each resource. Finally, refill the face-up Artisan Dragon and Enchantment spots.
Play continues around the table until the last card in either the Artisan Dragon or Enchantment Deck gets revealed. Then, everyone has one more turn before scoring.
Fancy Dragons are drawn at the beginning of the game and also as rewards for certain actions. These dragons may provide immediate bonuses for a cost (Sun Dragons), or end-game bonuses (Moon Dragons). These can be very helpful to swing the scales in your favor!
Ending the Game
Once everyone has taken their final turn, each player sums their current reputation score with their Moon Dragon bonuses. Finally, turn in coins for more points. Whoever has the highest “reputation” wins!
Flamecraft is an impressive blend of two things: a good game, and a cute game.
Flamecraft is a well-constructed resource management/set collection game that is easy to get into, with iconography that doesn’t skimp, but also doesn’t overwhelm. To this end, filling the town with only half the possible shops at the beginning of the game is a multi-level stroke of genius.
Artificially limiting the choices in town simplifies decision making for inexperienced Flamecrafters, especially in the early rounds of the game.
Second, this allows for variability from game to game. A player’s strategy may change over time as new shops are revealed which offer different kinds of bonuses.
Finally, having defined starter shops guarantees an even distribution between the dragon types at the beginning of the game. This is good game design: No player’s hidden goals are limited by the luck of the draw right at the outset.
Players have a lot of flexibility in Flamecraft, too. Some like to hide their points from everyone else by acquiring a lot of end-game scoring Fancy Dragons, while others like to get their resource planning out of the way by buying enchantments. Neither strategy is definitively superior; a sign of a well-designed game.
Make no bones about it, Flamecraft is adorable. It also just plain looks great on the table. The art and graphic design is top notch, from Sandara Tang’s incredible artwork to the fantastic puns, or just plain silly names for the dragons themselves.
The presentation is incredible, too, even for the standard edition of the game. The game board is a 3.5′ neoprene mat with spaces for everything: shops, dragons, enchantments, even the scoring track. The rulebook is well laid out, and the player aids clearly detail turn actions on one side and the meanings of all of the icons on the other.
Flamecraft‘s solo mode similarly offers replayability, this time through achievements. Cardboard Alchemy took mechanics established by previous games, and built upon them. In the solo mode, the Shop Deck and Fancy Dragon decks are pre-configured. By completing certain achievements, players unlock other shops and dragons to include when playing again later.
Flamecraft in solo mode uses something akin to a dummy player to fill the board and decrease the decks so the game keeps moving. In fact, I felt the board filled up and the decks depleted faster than in a normal game, since often the dummy player brought out both a new dragon and an enchantment on the same turn. This wasn’t my favorite way to play, but it worked.
Flamecraft sits in a unique position. Its different features appeal to different kinds of gamers, contributing to the strengths of the game as a whole.
We’ve played dragon-themed games with our dragon-loving daughter where the theme lost its luster half way through. Flamecraft doesn’t do that, because the gameplay was also given expert treatment. Similarly, while some gamers may be nonplussed by the cute dragon theme, the smart gameplay and scoring mechanics won’t leave them disappointed.
Flamecraft is currently available for preorder since its first printing sold out (it’s that good). You can preorder it directly from Lucky Duck Games, or wait until later this year when it will be available at Amazon or your friendly local game store.
We’re pretty fired up by Flamecraft and we bet you will be too.
Lucky Duck Games provided The Family Gamers with a promotional copy of Flamecraft for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Flamecraft - Straight Fire or Drag-on Along?
Age Range: 10+
Playtime: 60 minutes