I was very excited to play Flamecraft from Cardboard Alchemy and Lucky Duck Games because it features adorable dragons moving around cute shops and swapping gems, potions and toast for fancy dragons and enchantments. Manny Vega's game design is largely based on resource management and worker placement as you pop to different shops, collect resources and enchant the shops to make them more resource rich.
Flamecraft takes 2-5 players, plus there's a solitaire option. There are plenty of resources to go around and there's no backstabbing between players; in fact, to score points you pretty much have to help everyone else out. The game escalates really quickly and you're soon resource rich with a multitude of options on how to get richer. The trade off for this is that once you get a few rounds in there ends up being a lot of things to do in your turn, which lands you with a lot to remember and can make optimising your decision making a bit of a lengthy process.
Other feel-good factors include the aesthetics, which are beautiful. The art is by Sandara Tang and the game comes with lovely dragon meeples and a fancy neoprene mat. The writing on the cards is on the small side for the sprawl of the game but it's colour-blind friendly, using distinguishing symbols rather than just relying on the colours on the cards.
The game is based on the concept of dragons helping out a village by using their dragon abilities to do things like bake bread and sear steak with their fire breathing. I really like the concept but I didn't feel the narrative actually flowed through into the game. I'm not sure you would know that that is what you are doing if you hadn't read the description.
I love a feel-good game with a simple concept and I really wanted to like this game. The problem I had is that I'm not entirely sure who I can play it with. I generally like the games I own to sit in one of two categories: either they are pretty and simple so that I can easily teach them to my non-boardgamer friends and convince my game-reluctant partner that the rules explanation won't last longer than 5 minutes, or they are complex and strategic, demanding that you employ lots of different strategies to try to 'crack' the game. Flamecraft doesn't really fit into either of those categories... There are end-game scoring cards and resource management (with the associated maths) which arguably stop the game being quick to learn and easy to teach to non-gamers. On the other hand, Flamecraft doesn't have quite the depth of strategy demanded by more seasoned board gamers. The wonderful feel-good factor of rolling in resources and not causing negative player interaction meant that, even when playing with others, I felt like I was playing a solo game where I had to wait for everyone else to finish their turn before making my next move.
Flamecraft is beautiful and the components are marvelous but I think it's a bit too complex for a simple game and a bit too limited for a complex game. Oh my tho', it's cute!
(Review by Becca Warr)