This is great, but it also means that there’s a lot more to sift through when looking for just the right thing. But not to worry – there are always a few standout entries onto the list.
For last year, one of those standouts was the game Flamecraft.
The Story of Flamecraft
Flamecraft takes place in a magical fantasy world where tiny, adorable dragons play an integral part in everyday life. There are 8 types, 6 artisan and 2 fancy, each with their own special skills, which they lend to the citizens of your town. Artisan dragons, among which there are smiths, bakers, gardeners, jewelers, brewers, and chefs, lend their skills to local businesses, keeping the commerce of the city running smoothly. Fancy dragons, among which there are moon and sun types, mostly serve as companions and raise the cheer, as well as the magical atmosphere, of the city.
You and your fellow players play the game as Flamekeepers, people with a special affinity for dragons, who assist shopkeepers by bringing them the little helpers that they’ll need! Throughout the course of the day, you’ll compete with the other players to raise your reputation as the most effective Flamekeeper in your town.
While Flamecraft can be played on your own in solo mode, it’s primarily meant to be played competitively.
The first thing you’ll want to do is set up the board. This requires you to choose which enchantment deck you want to use, whether you’ll add in the dragon companions, and shuffling the deck of shops (in addition to the starting shops, which always stay the same) to create a much smaller stack of new shops for you to open throughout the game. Some combinations of cards complicate the game, or make it harder, so you’ll want to start by following the recommended setup, especially for your first game.
Then, during gameplay, you make your way to a shop and choose to either gather resources there (which allows you to collect goods, play dragons, use a single played dragon’s ability, and use the shop’s ability provided that it has one) or enchant it (which allows you to spend goods to cast an enchantment, and use any number of played dragons’ abilities there). Using dragon and shop abilities will allow you to do a variety of different things, such as draw more dragons (fancy or artisan), gather additional resources, raise your reputation, swap dragon places, or play more dragons down. Playing dragons usually nets you some reward as well.
Your primary goal in doing this is to raise your reputation. While you can sometimes gain this from playing dragons, you get a lot more by casting enchantments or fulfilling the abilities of fancy dragons, so you’ll spend most of your time gathering resources to take those actions.
Luck vs. Strategy
This is primarily a strategy game. There is a certain aspect of luck in that you cannot fully control which dragons you draw, but there is always a decent variety of pre-revealed dragons and enchantments for you to choose from. Choosing which shops to enchant, which dragons to “fire up” to use their abilities, and when to spend your goods is the primary aspect of the gameplay.
Number of Players
Flamecraft can be played with anywhere from 1 to 5 players. Rules for solo play are slightly different (you try to complete a variety of “achievements” rather than gain the maximum reputation), but still perfectly possible.
Multiplayer is definitely the intended way to play the game, with the more players the better. Like most multiplayer boardgames, 2 players can feel a bit repetitive, so 3 or more players is really the ideal number.
The Atmosphere of Flamecraft
While not exactly immersive, Flamecraft keeps a lighthearted, adorable atmosphere throughout the entire game. Even while you are competing, you don’t tend to directly “attack” other players, which keeps it from feeling aggressive or competitive. You really feel that you are trying to better your own Flamekeeper and dragons, rather than beating out others.
The art style of the whole game is bright, quaint, and fun. The whole thing leans into a sort of fantasy cottagecore aesthetic, and fulfills it exceedingly well. You can throw on some fun fantasy music (or maybe some happy music from the 50s), brew yourself some tea, and get right into the atmosphere of the game without any problem.
History and Availability
Flamecraft was funded as a Kickstarter, and released in 2022 to glowing reviews. Those who backed it as a Kickstarter campaign had the option to get the only current expansion for the game (a small pack with 2 extra shops), although some local shops might give it out as a promotional extra as well.
There are also supplemental coins, miniatures, and wooden tokens that can be bought separately. They don’t add anything to the game, but are generally higher quality, and very cute. Plus, plushies, pins, and bookmarks are available as well if you wind up loving the art so much that you want to fill your life with it – completely understandable.
Flamecraft is currently listed on Amazon for $119, but that’s at least double (and sometimes triple) what you’ll pay for it if you find it at your local gameshop. Other online sources place it at closer to $40, which is what you’ll likely play in person.
Our Personal Thoughts on Flamecraft
This game is perfect for a number of different people: fans of dragons, fans of fantasy, fans of cottagecore, and fans of resource management games. It particularly reminds me of Unico, Sanrio, and other children’s fantasy media.
It’s simple and cute enough for kids to play, which having enough going on that adults won’t find themselves bored or condescended by the game, too. So, if you’re looking for something colorful, fun, and well put-together, Flamecraft is a great option for you. Plus, it’s fairly cheap. I can easily see it becoming a family, or friend, favorite for any number of players.
Have you ever played Flamecraft? Did you enjoy it? Did you have any home rules that you thought improved the game? Let us know in the comments below!