A to Z Gaming: Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game

We tried solving crimes in a modern day world of wizards and magic in the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game, the latest in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
Players: 1-5
Time: 30 minutes
Designer: Eric B. Vogel
Artist: Fred Hicks, Chris McGrath, Tyler Walpole
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions


In Dresden Files The Cooperative Card Game, players work together to solve cases and take out foes drawn directly from the Dresden Files books while taking on the roles of characters from the books.

The game comes with a number of character and book decks. Each game is played against one of the 12-card book decks.  The book cards – a mix of cases, foes, obstacles and advantages – are shuffled and laid out in two rows of six cards.

Each player takes a deck corresponding to a character (or two characters in the 2-player game), shuffles the cards and deals themselves a hand of cards. The number of cards depends on the number of players – more cards with fewer players. These are essentially the only cards they get throughout the game (there are a couple of ways to get additional cards, but usually what you’re dealt is what you’ve got!). Those cards allow players to investigate (to collect clues for cases), attack (to add damage to foes), overcome obstacles, or take advantages.

On their turn, players have the choice of several actions.

  • Play a card for the card’s ability (investigate, attack, overcome, or take advantage), paying the indicated “fate” cost from a finite pool of fate. The fate cost, range, and effectiveness of the actions can be variable, requiring players to roll “fate dice” to add or subtract from the base cost/range/effectiveness.
  • Play a card to replenish some fate in the fate pool – and when they do, they can activate their character’s talent (Harry’s talent is to move an advantage or obstacle one space closer or further on the board).
  • Activate their character’s one-time stunt – for example, Harry can add 4 hits to any one foe that would be taken out with 1-4 hits.
  • Pass, paying one fate point
  • Decide, with the rest of the players to enter the final showdown

The final showdown is triggered when either all players decide it’s time to do it or if someone plays a card but there is not enough fate in the pool to pay for it. The final showdown gives players one last chance to solve each unsolved case that has at least one clue and defeat each undefeated foe that has at least one hit. This is done with fate dice…and usually doesn’t end well.

Players win the game if there are more cases solved than foes left on the board. They lose ties, since…well…Harry isn’t that lucky!

I Kickstarted this game a couple of years ago based mostly on the theme – I’ve been a Dresden fan for a while now. It’s a bonus that I enjoy the game.

I’ve played with one, two, three and four players, and it works well at all player counts. The game is scaled for the various player counts by the number of cards each player starts with. In the solo game, you play three characters, cycling through each, one at a time. With two players, you take the decks for two different characters and have the talents and stunts for each available. At the higher player counts, each player has one character, but draws fewer cards the more players there are.

Players are not allowed to give the other players perfect information – for example, you can’t tell the others exactly how much fate you need to pull off the move you’d like to make; but you can tell them you would like “a lot of fate” or “a little fate” to be left in the pool for you.

There are a lot of great decisions that need to be made throughout the game. When the fate pool is low, you need to discard for fate, but usually the cards you actually want to discard only give 1 or 2 fate, which isn’t enough for others to do much with. At some point you’ll need to sacrifice your good cards to help others get the job done, and it hurts.

We lost the game many times before we started winning – lately we’ve either gotten better or more lucky. The books tell you how many of each kind of card are in the deck, so we started tailoring our characters to match the balance of cases to foes, and that’s maybe been one of the secrets. We’ve managed to win the first several books – and we’re looking forward to see if we can make it through the rest!

 How is it as a 2-player game? The Dresden Files Cooperative Card game works well for two players. The game play is the same, but each player takes on the role of two characters with cards from each of their decks (unless they shuffle poorly), the choice of either of their talents when discarding for fate, and both of their talents to use throughout the game.

How about the art and component quality? The art is great – and one of the game artists has done cover art for the books, so it all feels right for the world of Dresden. The cards have iconography that clearly and quickly conveys information. The cards and chits are sturdy. I don’t usually mention the box insert, but the one for this is great! Each book and character comes with a divider card that fits neatly in the box, with the decks between in a nice filing system.

Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely – if nothing else, I need to play through the rest of the books! They also recently released two new expansions with new books and characters. Oh, and I didn’t even mention the Side Jobs – these are additional cases, foes, obstacles, and advantages that can be stitched together into additional games. I haven’t tried any of those yet, either. There is a lot of replay value in the box.

One Reply to “A to Z Gaming: Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game”

  1. I think one key strategy for this game is that you can’t expect to defeat all the foes and solve all the cases. You just don’t start with enough cards to do that, and drawing more cards is rare in this game. Instead you have to complete a few of the foes and cases, make as much progress as you can on the remaining ones, then stock up on fate and enter the showdown, hoping to spend that fate on improving your dice rolls. I think we started doing better when we figured this out.

    This game design is a bit disappointing — you work hard to rearrange cards and solve them while managing your fate points, and then the whole game comes down to a few die rolls that succeed or fail. Also, sometimes you get a dreadful hand of cards and initial layout, with no Overcome or Advantage cards or with a painful Obstacle dealt into column 6, and then there’s effectivey no way to win. I still like the game, but it’s really unforgiving.

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