A Review of Flamecraft: A game that’s not cooperative but it does have a solo mode, so you can play it cooperatively

Flamecraft is a competitive, worker placement game where players compete to get the most victory points. Players each play as a dragon helping out a local village.

IMG_3033

You might be wondering “Why are you reviewing a competitive game on your cooperative games blog?” For two reasons:

  1. Solo Mode: Flamecraft does have a solo mode, and we take a look at a lot of solo games here at Co-op Gestalt: we have looked at Batman: The Dark Knight Returns here and Nemo’s War here, just to name a few.
  2. Implied Cooperative Mode: If a game does have a solo mode, we can frequently derive a cooperative mode for it.  We did this for Canvas (the Converse of Saunders’ Law, see here) and something similar happened for Elia and Something Shiny (see here).  We’ll talk about this more in the Cooperative Mode section below.

IMG_3031

Flamecraft is an incredibly cute game: the version (above) is the deluxe Kickstarter version, with a pin, bookmarks, and extra cards.

Unboxing and Components

IMG_3035

The deluxe version of Flamecraft is chock-full of gorgeous components.

The cards are linen finished, and the art is top notch.  If you only get the regular version of Flamecraft, you will still get the same super cute art, if not all the deluxe wooden bits and mats.

IMG_3060

Rulebook

IMG_3036

This was one of the better rulebooks I have read in a while. The rules were well-written, easy to understand, and had a lot of pictures annotating the examples.

IMG_3037

The game is just so cute. The components pages might have been overkill!

IMG_3038

There’s not THAT many components, and they take up two pages! But it’s nice to see everything well annotated.

IMG_3039

The set-up pages were fantastic: see above.

IMG_3040

You can see from the example above, there were lots of pictures, lots of annotations, and large, easy-to-read text.

IMG_3079

One of my favorite parts of the rulebook is that they use the special “!!” section to note a rule that is an “expert clarifications” (see above).  This is a rule you won’t read or understand the first time through the rulebook, but after you understand the game better and are looking for exceptions/clarifications, it’s easy to find them.  (We saw something like this in Tokyo Sidekick, except they used red text to show these “expert clarifications”: see our review of Tokyo Sidekick here).

IMG_3064

You will have no trouble getting through this rulebook. It was fantastic.

Gameplay

IMG_3087

This is a pretty simple worker placement game: the box tells us we can play 1-5 Players at ages 10+.

IMG_3056

Each player gets their own summary code: see above.  The game is actually quite simple!  On your turn, you move your dragon to a new shop in the village:

IMG_3086

If there are other dragons there, you have to give them each one resource: this is the penalty for going to a popular shop!

Once on a village space, you choose one of two paths: Gather or Enchant.

IMG_3093

In Gather mode, you collect as many resources are in the location!  For example, for the Draco Bell above you would get 6 meats (3 for enchantments, 1 for base location, 2 for artisan dragons already there), and 1 diamond (from the diamond artisan dragon).   If you have some artisan dragons and the shop has space (Draco Bell doesn’t have any openings), you can place it and get a reward.  Finally, then you can activate one artisan dragon:

IMG_3058

Pan (above) allows you to draw one more artisan dragon into your hand.

If you choose the Enchant mode, you will be enchanting the location, which adds resources to a location and (typically and more importantly) gives you victory points!  See three different enchantments below.

For example, if you pay 2 leaves and 3 meat for the Fairy’s Jubilee Enchantment, you  get 4 victory points and new artisanal dragon!  (And you place the enchantment on a Bread shop to make it more productive!)  One of the best parts of casting an enchantment is that you then activate ALL artisanal dragons on that location!!!

And that’s pretty much the main idea of the game!   Move, Gather or Enchant, repeat!!! There are also other rules about new locations, Fancy Dragons, and a few other mechanisms (coins are special), but that’s the main idea!

IMG_3130

Players play until they run out of Artisanal Dragons OR Enchantments!  Whoever has the most victory points wins!

Solo Mode

IMG_3070

The solo mode is covered in two pages at the very back of the rulebook.  I admit, the rules for solo look daunting at first, but it really doesn’t change the game that much.  The solo player will play a single dragon trying to get 75 victory points using the normal mechanisms in the game. To simulate other players on the board, there will be a very simple AI moving the other dragons around the board: so you may still have to pay resource to go to a space you really want!  The AI also casts enchantments as well, so it’s as if another bunch of players are playing.

IMG_3088

The goal of the solo game is to get as many victory points as you can: it’s not considered a win unless you get at least 75 victory points! See the victory point track above, early in the game I am at 24 victory points.

IMG_3091

Flamecraft works fine, if not great, as a solo mode. It is a really good way to learn the game. The AI operating the other dragons is simple enough, so you aren’t overwhelmed by lots of upkeep. The game also moves quickly and is fun. The only reason I say this is “fine, if not great” is that the game is a little light: however, I think that’s the point of this game (see our Conclusion). This is meant to be a lighter worker placement game.

There is a fair amount of set-up and tear-down to the game, but once you get into the solo game, it moves quickly and is fun. It is also great way to learn the game so you can teach your friends.

Competitive Mode

IMG_3127

In the base game, the game is competitive: each player plays a dragon, moves around the village collecting resources to help generate victory points. Whomever has the most points at game end wins.

IMG_3135

The competitive mode works very well. It’s simple to explain, play moves quickly, and there’s not a lot of take-that: the only take that is really that you have to give all other players resources if you go to their village location (and that’s pretty mild).

Cooperative Mode

IMG_9943

Elia and Something Shiny is a multiplayer game we reviewed a little while ago (see here). It’s a cooperative game where the players are all working together to play “one creature” (Elia). The players all have to come to consensus as to what Elia will do on her turn. As a group, they operate one character.

IMG_3090

For Flamecraft, we can do the same kind of thing to get a cooperative mode! Players collectively operate one dragon in solo mode, much like all players operating Elia in Elia and Something Shiny. A cooperative group will simply play one dragon in solo mode, trying to amass the needed 75 victory points for a win!

IMG_8198

You might remember that we also suggested a similar cooperative mode for Canvas: in that review, we called this inferred cooperative mode Saunders’ Law Converse:

The converse of Saunders’ Law would say “If a game has a solo mode, designers should really put in a viable cooperative mode“.

In the case of Canvas, Elia and Something Shiny, and Flamecraft, this inferred cooperative mode is dirt simple to try out: just play the solo mode with multiple people.  

IMG_3139

One of the reasons I think this implied cooperative mode works is that these are ALL LIGHTWEIGHT FAMILY GAMES: I can very easily see playing all of these games with a younger child operating the main character (dragon, Elia, etc), with Mom and Dad “helping” like a cooperative game. If you wanted to get Flamecraft, but were wary you couldn’t play it cooperatively, worry no more! You can!! I will say that this implied cooperative mode probably isn’t the best way to play: Flamecraft was meant to be a game with multiple players and it works best as a competitive game … but honestly, there’s not that much “take-that” in the game if you were worried about a super competitive game.

Sense of Humor

So this game has a little bit of a sense of humor. The Enchantments all have silly names (I think Hobbichino, above, is my favorite).

IMG_3074

The names of the locations in the village are silly. Draco Bell? Like Taco Bell?

Honestly, this sense of humor didn’t detract from the game for us: it lightened the mood and made the game that much more fun.

Conclusion

IMG_3138

Flamecraft is a beautiful game with gorgeous art. The gameplay is really straight-forward, it’s easy to teach, and players will always feel like they are doing something on their turn. There’s not really a lot of getting in each other’s way other way, so if you don’t like super-competitive games, Flamecraft will be up your alley.

IMG_3074

The art style is a very much an indicator of what the game is like: if you don’t like the art, you may not like the game. This is a simpler worker placement game: it may not be the first game you want to teach a new gamer, but Flamecraft would be very good as a next-step game. It’s a little more complicated than some intro games (like Forbidden Island, Splendor, Century Spice), but not too much more complicated.

The solo mode is great for learning the game, and pretty good for ongoing play. The implied cooperative mode also gives players another play option if they want to play Flamecraft cooperatively: this cooperative mode might be best for a family playing together … but it’s probably not the best way to play! Honestly, the competitive mode with multiple players is probably the best way to play, but the extra modes give the game more variety.

Flamecraft is a great “lighter “worker placement game: it’s super cute aesthetics, gorgeous components, and sense of humor will attract a lot of players. And it’s pretty fun. One of my friends wanted to order this immediately after playing it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s