We’re going to be honest here—the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game is delightfully difficult. Just like Harry Dresden’s default setting in the novels, the game is designed to be a nail-biter all the way until the end, where winning and losing is often decided by a throw of the dice. The game includes three difficulty levels, and we strongly suggest that you start on the Apprentice setting while you’re learning how to play. But what if you’ve done that and are still netting far more losses than wins? Shannon Appelcline of Designers & Dragons and Mechanics & Meeples is here to give you some advice, clarify some rules, and tell you what you need to succeed in this epic 14-part series!
So, without further ado, we present…
The Mechanics & Meeples DFCO Strategy Guide, Section I: The Three Resources
The core to successfully winning The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game is to understand the three resources that form the heart of the game.
Turns Are the First Most Valuable Resource
In any game of DFCO, your team of players has a limited number of turns: usually a bit more than 24 total. That’s one turn for the players to spend each of their four to seven cards, then one turn to use their Stunts. You might get a few more turns from Advantage-based card draws or from special powers, but that’s it.
In those limited turns your team must remove enough Book cards from the game board to achieve a winning score. If you were trying to defeat all twelve Book cards, then you’d need to remove a Book card every other turn. Given that you’ll be making Fate with half of the Player cards, you would actually need to beat one Book card every action-turn.
If you think that sounds impossible, you’re right, but fortunately your team doesn’t actually need to beat every Book card to win. You just need to take down enough Foes and to solve enough Cases. However you can’t lollygag either. Harry would never lollygag. You’ll barely have enough turns to do what’s necessary—if you’re lucky. So, you have to appreciate the value of every single turn and make the most of each one.
Corollary #1: Never waste a turn. Obviously, you should never waste a turn. If you successfully played a Player card or used a Stunt, that’s great. If you generated Fate, that’s great, especially if you used your Talent too. However, if you took an action, and it didn’t do anything, that’s no good. If you took an action and it didn’t advance you toward victory, that’s no good too. Heck, it’s even bad if you made Fate that your team can’t use!
Corollary #2: Use your turns efficiently. Less obviously, you should never take turns that are inefficient—unless that’s the only option. Don’t play cards that are less efficient because they are being hampered by Obstacles. Don’t waste the benefits of advantageous Book card interactions. Don’t overfill the Fate pool when you discard. Every couple of wasted Fate, Clues, or Hits is the equivalent of a lost turn.
Player Cards Are the Second Most Valuable Resource
You have a limited hand of Player cards. They’re the main timer for the game, but they’re also your resource pool—both determining what actions you can take in the game and how you can power those actions. Without your cards, you are nothing.
The card draw certainly introduces randomness into the game. If you get all of your low-power cards, you’re more likely to lose, and if you get all of your high-power cards, you’re more likely to win. However, even if you’re dealt a truly bad hand, you can sometimes make a go of it. You just need to know your cards—to understand which cards are good and more importantly, how to use them optimally.
Corollary #1: Be aware of your Player deck. It’s worth skimming through your Player deck before you play, so that you know what’s in it. The character dividers help with this overview and are worth keeping out. If you know your deck (or at least can reference it from your divider), you’ll know whether you got a good hand or a bad hand. More importantly, you’ll know what you didn’t draw and what you’re likely to get if a draw effect occurs.
Corollary #2: Never take the chance of wasting your Player cards. Some Player cards have variable Range. You do not want to use them if there’s any chance (no matter how small) that you could roll such a low Range that the card would be entirely wasted. If a bad roll might result in a card being used in a less efficient way, that’s probably OK; that’s the type of uncertainty you have to face in a co-op. However if a card might be unplayable, that’s no good. So don’t play Harry’s “Private Investigator” card (Range: 3+1dF) when all the Cases are at Range 3 or more. There’s one exception to this rule: if you’re in a desperate situation, and you would probably lose otherwise, give it a try, but recognize that this is a desperation play!
Corollary #3: Use your Player cards efficiently. As with everything, you want to use your Player cards efficiently. That means don’t play a card that has a higher Range than you need, that generates more Hits than you need, or that places more Clues than you need—unless it’s absolutely necessary. Those unneeded higher values all cost more Fate, and you’re effectively burning a turn for every couple of Fate you waste.
Fate is the Third Most Valuable Resource
The third key resource in DFCO is Fate, because it’s what allows you to play cards and to take turns. Most of the strategic principles governing Fate management have been discussed in the sections on turns and cards, but Fate is so central to the DFCO game that it will also be covered in a later segment “Managing Your Fate.”
Corollary #1: Never waste your Fate. Don’t spend Fate on turns that you don’t need to take.
Corollary #2: Use your Fate efficiently. Don’t spend Fate on Player cards that are more powerful than necessary.
Missed some of the other articles in the series, or looking for advice on a particular gameplay element? Go here for the full list of articles and Bob’s top ten favorite romance novels. (We’re kidding about that last one. It’s probably for the best.)
Stay tuned to this space for the next section on Planning Your Actions, which will go live on Wednesday, July 12!