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The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game: Harry Dresden Guide

Introduction: The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game and Harry Dresden

The Dresden Files (by Jim Butcher) is an incredible series of books. It is an urban fantasy series in which a professional wizard, Harry Dresden, solves mysteries and protects the world we know from supernatural threats. It is a series in which Harry, and his allies, must work together to defeat foes from mobsters to vampires to demons to the fey.

There are currently 15 books in The Dresden Files series, with (I believe) a plan for 20 books in total. Off the back of those 15 books however, game designer Eric Vogel and game producers Evil Hat have teamed together to give us Dresden fans something to sink our teeth into.

What they produced is one of the best homages to a book series to be transferred to the tabletop medium. It is a simple yet effective game of working together to defeat both fate and the evil forces of darkness.

In the game players play the parts of Harry and his allies. Each player has a deck of 12 cards. They will start the game with a handful of cards, and use those cards to defeat the various books of The Dresden Files. Each book is split into 13 cards, which are placed on two tracks of 6 (with each position labelled ranges 1-6, and one card being a Showdown card). These comprise of Foes, Obstacles, Cases, and Advantages. Foes need to be defeated with Attacks. Cases get defeated by Investigations (which add Clues). Obstacles get beaten by Overcome, and Advantages can be taken Advantage of.

The goal at the end is to solve more Cases than there are Foes left on the board when the players either (a) run out of cards or (b) run out of Fate Points (FP). Fate Points are needed to play cards. Cards can only affect Foes, Obstacles, Cases, or Advantages at certain Ranges.

So, for instance, Harry’s Attack “Fuego!” has a cost of 5 and a range of 3. This means it costs 5 FP whilst being able to affect any Foe in positions 1, 2, or 3. It could not affect a Foe in position 4, 5, or 6. It would then do four Hits to that Foe.

Sometimes Cost, Range, Attack damage, or Investigation effectiveness can be affected by Fate Dice. At which point you need to roll a dice that has two blank sides, two minuses, and two pluses. You add the result to whatever you rolled. As an example, Harry’s Overcome card “Reflettum” has a Range of 2, but one Fate die also needs to be rolled. If it is a “+” then the range will be 3, and if it is a “-” the range will be 1. On a blank it will remain as 2.

It is a wonderfully smooth system with a couple of really nice mechanics. You can read a full review here.

Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game: Harry Dresden and his Overview

Harry Dresden and his Overview

Harry Dresden and His Cards

As mentioned before, Harry Dresden is the primary character in The Dresden Files and is one of the core characters in the base set. There are five characters that come with the game (the others being Karrin Murphy, Susan Rodriguez, Billy and Georgia, and Michael Carpenter). Each character has 12 cards. These are 10 basic cards, 1 Talent and 1 Stunt.

Harry has:

  • Attack
    • Fuego!
      • Cost 5
      • Range 3
      • Attack 4 + 1 Fate Dice
    • Pyrofuego!
      • Cost 4
      • Range Infinite (Max 6)
      • Does 2 Hits to all Foes in one row
    • Forzare!
      • Cost 2 + 1 Fate Dice
      • Range 1
      • Attack 2
  • Investigate
    • Consult with Bob
      • Cost 4
      • Range Infinite (Max 6)
      • Adds 2 Clues to all Cases in one row
    • Private Investigator
      • Cost 3
      • Range 3 + 1 Fate Dice
      • Adds 2 Clues
    • Soulgaze
      • Cost 5
      • Range 1
      • Adds 5 Clues
  • Overcome
    • The Blue Beetle
      • Cost 3
      • Range 3
      • Overcome 1
    • It’s Not My Fault
      • Cost 1
      • Range 1
      • Overcome 1
  • Advantage
    • Ventas Servitas
      • Cost 1
      • Range 1
      • Take Advantage 1
    • Reflettum
      • Cost 2 + 1 Fate Die
      • Range 2
      • Take Advantage 1
Examples of Harry Dresden cards

Cards.

Harry then, like all characters, gets two Specials that are abilities he can use once in the game. In this case he gets:

Talent

  • Wizard PI
    • Allows Harry to move 1 Obstacle or Advantage forward or backwards 1 space when he discards for FP.

Stunt

  • Blasting Rod
    • Allows Harry to deal 4 hits to any singular enemy (anywhere on the board) who will defeated by 4 hits or less.
IMG_20180819_013825-1587x1190.jpg

The Wording on Harry’s Specials

He is, for want of a better word, an absolutely amazing character, and that is true of Harry Dresden in both the books and the game. His character is also the most well rounded in the base set, having an even split equivalent to the early books (the base set comes with the first 5 books as kind of levels as well). His split works out like this –

Harry Dresden Divide of Cards (Including Stunts)

What that graph shows is the breakdown of the effects of cards. For instance, Harry has 4 major attack cards – “Fuego!”, “Pyrofuego!”, “Fozare!”, and his Stunt of “Blasting Rod”. His Talent of “Wizard P.I.” can affect either Obstacle or Advantage cards, and so counts as being a card that can affect both. As you can see, Harry Dresden is a well balanced character, and that “Wizard P.I.” Talent gives him a lot of scope.

This becomes even more obvious when we look at how balanced Harry is based on his cards and what their average values are. This is almost certainly why the rule book suggests using Harry as one of the characters in every single game. You know…as well as being thematic…

Harry Dresden Average Card Value

Put together, Harry Dresden is just as good, on a card by card basis, at violence as he is at investigating (which feels very thematic at this point). All Investigate and Overcome cards have the same value. They always affect one card each. That being said, Harry is a fairly decent hitter and a decent investigator.

When we break down his card a bit further, we can see the average value each card type can do when we look at adding them together. Where the above graph looks at the average value across the individual cards, for this we look at the average minimum value of each set of cards per type.

Harry Dresden Total Card Value

So, for the Attack cards, for instance, we have “Fuego!”, “Pyrofuego!”, “Fozare!”, and Harry’s Stunt of “Blasting Rod” again. These do, in order; 4 Hits (minimum), 2 Hits (minimum), 2 Hits and 4 Hits. Where “Fuego!” and “Pyrofuego!” can do more damage, they will only be used if they can do some damage and that minimum is (in theory) 4 and 2. The maximum for each, again in theory, is 5 and 12. This is done with “Fuego!” rolling a “+” on its Fate Dice, and through “Pyrofuego!” striking 6 enemies in a row, dealing 2 Hits to each.

The same mentality can be used when looking at the Investigation card “Consult with Bob”. As it can be seen, looking at the minimum average values of the cards, we can see that Harry is actually more violence based. This is because, although he does the same average Clues and Hits with his Attack and Investigate cards, he has his Blasting Rod which gives him an additional attack.

Using this mentality we can also work out the maximum for Harry in each category.

Harry Dresden Maximum Value

It’s still pretty close, but attacking takes Harry by an absolute hair. He is slightly better at attacking than he is at solving Cases.

Looking at Harry Dresden’s Abilities

One of the interesting things to do is break down the number of abilities Harry Dresden has and see which categories of cards they affect. Abilities, in this case, include Stunts and Talents, but they also include all the cards with small print in the game.

Harry has 4 cards that have special rules –

  • Pyrofuego! (Attack)
  • Consult with Bob (Investigate)
  • Wizard P.I. (Overcome and Advantage)
  • Blasting Rod (Attack)

This gives us a split like the below because “Wizard P.I.” can affect two different types of card, and it is up to the player to choose which one.

Harry Dresden Specials

This again shows that Harry is a strong character when it comes to attacking.

Average Fate Cost and Average Range

Finally, we will look at one more graph set in this part of the Harry Dresden guide, and that is the Average Fate Cost and Average Range. This was something I conducted when analysing all five of the base characters because it is really interesting to see how they would vary. Are there some characters who have more range than others? Are there other characters who are more expensive?

Harry Dresden Average Fate and Range

The above doesn’t add a huge amount of context unless we look at the other base characters so, although I plan an article on this in the future, we may as well look at that graph now.

Average Fate Cost and Range per Character

As it can be seen, Harry’s cards are about average, and yet his Range is superior. This is due to cards Harry Dresden has like “Consult with Bob”, “Pyrofuego!”, and “Blasting Rod” which, in theory, have unlimited range. Unlimited range has a realistic maximum of 6, so it has been counted as 6 in the spreadsheets, resulting in that graph.

Harry Dresden Strategy

Core Concept

Harry Dresden is a very good character at spreading Hits or Clues amongst Foes and Cases. He is also good at finishing Foes off. This makes him a strong early and late game character, however, he needs to be paired up with heavy hitters to help whittle Cases or Foes down.

Card Strategy

When thinking about the strategy of The Dresden Files, the card strategy is pretty simple. In the game there are very few cards that require specific strategies other than “play then when they are most opportune”.

That being said, there are a few of the special cards worth thinking about. Firstly, use “Consult with Bob” and “Pyrofuego!” early on if you can. Depending on the number of players, you may not have a huge number of cards in your hand. As such, you may only have one of those two. Still, play them early whilst they can be afforded. They are relatively costly, but in the Showdown phase at the end of the game you can roll for any Case with a Clue on it and any Foe with Hits. Thus, it is worth putting them out whilst you can.

The other cards worth noting is the Talent. Think very carefully about using “Wizard P.I.” on Obstacles rather than Advantages. Obstacles often make the game far more difficult, so unless you can use an Advantage to get rid of an Obstacle, it is worth considering moving distant Obstacles close to destroy them using a longer distant Overcome card (like “The Blue Beetle”). As you bring Obstacles forward remember that you can’t solve anything beyond them, so be ready as you bring them forward for them to be quickly put down.

Alternatively, if an Advantage card gives cards to everyone, that can be worth bringing forward to give you all another round in the game.

Finally, don’t use “Blasting Rod” unless you have to. If you can use a card like “Forzare!” instead, dealing only 2 damage, you can save the Blasting Rod for bigger foes.

Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game: Harry Dresden Guide

Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game: Harry Dresden Guide

Pairings and Partnerships: Which Characters Should Harry Pair With?

As mentioned before, Harry is good at dealing Clues and Hits out, but not overly good at dealing them out in heavy concentration. He has a few potentially heavy hitting cards (“Fuego!” and “Soulgaze”) however, he needs to be partnered with the right kind of character to really make the most out of them. Before we look at that, we need to look at the average value of cards of all the five main characters in the game. This is using the same mentality as the Maximum Value graph above; however, with cards that have special effects that affect entire groups of Foes or Cases they can sometimes be averaged out. As an example, “Pyrofuego!” can affect 6 cards, or it can affect 1, so it averages out at around 3. This is not an exact science, but more an an idea.

Average Value Of Card Per Character

As it can be seen, Harry is a pretty strong character in the game.

The game however, can be broken down into two distinct ways of winning. Solve one or more Cases and defeat all the Foes, or defeat one or more Foes and solve all the Cases. This means there are two distinct strategies.

Firstly, if the game is with 5 players then it doesn’t matter who Harry is paired with. If you are only playing with the base set, all the characters will be in play.

With 4 players (or 2 players) however, you will need to drop one character. Although Susan Rodriguez has some neat abilities regarding aiding the rest of the team (like Timely Assist) she is probably the weakest character in the base game. This is because she has a large amount of investigation as a base, but not a lot else. It makes her more of a one trick pony.

Minimum Total Value

The above graph shows the non-modified base for each character on regards to the cards they can affect and how. Susan is guaranteed to, card drawing aside, have the most investigation skill; however, she is arguably the least balanced. Michael Carpenter is the most balanced, whilst also being one of the weakest on the field due to high numbers of Overcome and Advantage cards. This includes his abilities which include flipping a card for additional range (any ambiguous card like that, which adds a benefit whilst not directly relating to the four types of action – Investigate, Attack, Overcome or Advantage – I have classed for this sake as Advantage).

With three players (or one player) it becomes more of a struggle, and then it becomes about what type of game you want to play. If you want to solve Cases then your ideal team is probably Harry Dresden, Karrin Murphy, and Susan Rodriguez. That would be heavy on the very investigations side.

If you want to play a violent game however, and look to deal as many Hits as possible, then we need to look not so much at the average value of cards, but just the sheer number of cards Characters have to cause Hits.

Card Split Per Character

When we take number of cards into account, so more enemies can be targeted, and when we take the value of those cards into account, the violent (Hit dealing) team seems to be Harry Dresden, Billy and Georgia, and Michael Carpenter. That way they have 13 attack cards between them, which is enough to make a fair dent in any enemy force.

Conclusion: The Harry Dresden Strategy

One of the great things about The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game is that, underneath it all, it is an incredibly balanced game and, no matter who you put together, the game will be thematic and fun. Harry is an interesting characters because he is the poster boy for the series. This gives him a certain obligation to be awesome. Other than that though it is important to remember to use his cards optimally.

Have fun with finding the right combos. I have suggested a few in this article by what makes sense from a numbers perspective, but there is a thematic way of playing the game as well. Try different combos and see what sticks for you.

As you can probably tell, I have already analysed the other characters in the base game and will write up that analysis over time. This may not be the best way of doing or presenting that analysis, so if you have any notes on this analysis and strategy (and how it can be improved) please let me know in the comments. I love this game and look forward to writing more about it moving forward.

So, have you read the Dresden Files or played the game? Who is your favourite character? Let me know in the comments below.

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