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 series!
NOTE: This is a newly revised version as of August 2018. It incorporates the two recently released expansions, Dead Ends and Winter Schemes.
So, without further ado, we present…
The Mechanics & Meeples DFCO Strategy Guide, Section IX: Picking Your Characters
edited by Karen Twelves
So which of those characters do you use in your DFCO game? There are a few ways to pick.
IX-A. Picking by Stunts or Talents
One way to pick your characters is to look at their cards, Stunts, and Talents and see which would work best for the current book. In particular, if a book is Foe-heavy or Case-heavy, pick the stars in that suit.
|Billy & Georgia||+1 Hit to Furthest||Add Hits to Hit Foes||Attack|
|Butters||1 Hit → 2 Clues||Add Clues to Investigated Cases||Advantage/Investigate|
|Harry v1||Move Advantage or Obstacle||+4 Hits to Kill Foe||Investigate|
|Harry v2||Move Case or Foe||+5+2dF Hits to Kill Foe||Attack/Investigate|
|Kincaid||Store 1 Hit||+3 Hits to Hurt Foe & Swap||Attack|
|Luccio||+1 Clue or +1 Hit to Toughest||Attack|
|Michael||Ready for Range||+3 Hits to Unhit Foe & Push||Balanced|
|Mortimer||Store 1 Clue||+2 Clues to 2 Uninvestigated Cases & Swap||Investigate|
|Molly v1||Ready to Change 1 Die||Copy Unused Stunt||Advantage/Investigate|
|Molly v2||Ready to Eliminate – Dice||Copy Unplayed Stunt||Advantage/Attack|
|Mouse||Choose to Discard & Draw||Choose to Return a Used Stunt||Attack/Investigate|
|Murphy||+1 Clue to Furthest||Make Fate for Tokened Cards||Investigate|
|Ra||+1 Hit to Wounded||Take a Discarded Attack||Attack|
|Ramirez||1 Clue → 2 Hits||Return a Discarded Card||Attack/Overcome|
|Sanya||+1 Fate||+3 Clues to Uninvestigated Case & Pull||Attack/Investigate|
|Susan||+1 Clue to Nearest||Choose to Draw & Take Turn||Investigate|
|Thomas||+1 Hit to Nearest||Draw & Play||Attack|
IX-B. Picking by Combos
You can also pick characters that work well together. The following list is not meant to be all-inclusive, but instead offers fifteen ideas for sets of characters that are fun to play together.
Billy & Georgia + Butters: “Looking at Wolf Bites”. Billy & Georgia have a Talent that can be inefficient if their Hits on a distant Foe don’t ever kill it. If that’s the case, just have Butters translate those Hits into Clues somewhere closer.
Billy & Georgia + Luccio: “Concentrating the Wolf Bites”. Luccio can also help focus those distant wolf-bite Hits. She does it all in one fell swoop, with her Stunt.
Butters + Michael: “Thinking about Damage”. Because Michael needs an un-Hit Foe, it’s nice to have someone like Butters around, who turns Hits into Clues.
Butters + Ramirez: “Building a Pyramid Scheme”. Butters can turn 1 Hit to 2 Clues and Ramirez can turn 1 Clue to 2 Hits. Put them together and you have an ever-increasing token count with very precise control over where they go.
Kincaid + Michael. “Pushing Foes Around.” One of the big problems with Michael’s Stunt is that it moves a Foe to the back of its row. Kincaid can resolve that with his own Stunt, which swaps two Foes. It works best if Kincaid kills the Foe that he shoots with his “Isolate & Eliminate”, but it also works fine if he places enough Hits on that Foe to get him ready for the Showdown, before bringing Michael’s old target back to the front. Alternatively, these two can work together on a powerful long-range Foe who’s important to kill, and even if they fail to finish him off, they can hand him off to Harry for the killing blow, using his Stunt or one of his area-attack cards.
Luccio + Billy & Georgia or Butters or Murphy: “Peppering the Cards”. Luccio has two different cards (“Pyromantic Precision” and “Strategy”) that add tokens to all appropriate cards within Range 3. This works well with the three Stunts that benefit from having more cards with tokens — but be sure not to waste tokens on cards that will never finish!
Luccio + The Knights (Michael or Sanya) or Mortimer: “Restoring to Mint Condition”. Michael, Sanya, and Mortimer can accidentally end up with an unusable Stunt … but not if Luccio is around. She can clear all the tokens off of any one card.
Michael + Billy & Georgia: “Keeping at Arm’s Reach”. Michael’s Stunt allows him to deal damage to a Foe, but it knocks the Foe to the back of the row where he’s hard to hit. Billy & Georgia can help with that, because every time they use their Talent, they can apply another hit to that Foe. Their Stunt can also hit it.
Michael + Billy & Georgia + Ra: “Adding Insult to Injury”. Michael’s Stunt puts three Hits on that distant Foe, making Ra’s Talent immediately effective against the Foe at the farthest range. This also ensures there is a legal Foe at the farthest range for Billy & Georgia’s talent to hit. Together, Ra, Billy, and Georgia can whittle down a very powerful Foe over the course of the game just by using their Talents.
Molly v1 + Mouse: “Triple Stunting”. Molly can use someone else’s Stunt, Mouse can let them reuse it. Together that means that you can use a Stunt three times in a game! (Often, that means that you can use Harry’s Blasting Rod three times.) However, the two characters are even more complementary than that: Molly usually has to be careful, lest someone else use a Stunt before she does, but Mouse can just flip the Stunt back over, allowing Molly to use it. (The second version of Molly isn’t nearly as good for this particular combo, but they can still almost triple Stunt if she pulls a similar Stunt from out of the game; for example, Mouse could let Harry use his Blasting Rod twice, then Molly v2 could use Kincaid’s similar “Isolate & Eliminate” Stunt if he’s not in play.)
Molly v2 + Mouse: “Once More, with Feeling!” But the new Molly and Mouse can work together in a different way: as the game progresses, you can decide which out of game stunt is most useful, and use it twice!
Mortimer + Butters or Murphy: “Necromantic Peppering”. Mortimer gets to add Clues to two different Cases. This can also be helpful to the characters who benefit from multiple Cases having tokens, which means Butters and Murphy. The Butters and Mortimer combo is particularly interesting for a Case-heavy Book. Just be sure in either situation there are enough Cases in the Book to really support Mortimer.
Mouse + Sanya: “Weakly Lining Them Up”. Mouse has two cards (“Claw, Claw, Bite” and “The Nose Knows”) that allow him to swap any two cards at the same range. This nicely lines things up for Sanya (who can Hit all the Foes in a row with his “Grenades”), though it’s a pretty limited combo since it’s based on a single card.
Ramirez + Mortimer or Sanya: “Blowing Away Clues.” Because Mortimer and Sanya can get stuck if there aren’t enough Cases without Clues, it’s nice to have someone like Ramirez around who removes Clues with his Talent.
Sanya + Susan: “Keeping it Close”. This is the flip side of the Michael + Billy & Georgia combo. Sanya can Stunt to bring a Case in close and apply Clues, then Susan can keep adding to it every time she uses her Talent. It’s not quite as important, because it’s easy to add tokens to a nearby Case (whereas it’s hard to add tokens to a faraway Foe), but it’s still a nice bit of synergy.
Thomas + Mouse: “Balancing the Demon”. Thomas’ Stunt is hard to use well. One way to decrease its variability is to decrease the number of cards in Thomas’ deck, letting him have a better idea of what’s left. Mouse can cycle Thomas’ cards, causing him to discard and draw a few times, which will give him a pretty precise understanding of what’s left, particularly in a game with fewer players.
IX-C. Picking for Harry Combos
Harry must be in every game, so you’re never going to specifically choose to play him to create a great combo. But, you might choose other characters that work well with Harry in order to specifically address the challenges of a Book, and you should always watch for these combos once you’re playing. These combos also tend to work well for Harry v2, with some slight variations.
Kincaid + Harry: “Supporting Fire”. Harry benefits from getting a Foe exactly to 4 Hits remaining, so that he can use his Stunt. Kincaid’s Talent can help set this up by placing just the right number of Hits on a card.
The Knights (Michael or Sanya) + Harry: “Balancing the Deck”. Michael and Sanya can both benefit from having interwoven sets of Cases, Foes, Advantages, and Obstacles on the board. Harry can set this up by moving cards around in the rows.
Mouse + Harry: “Strongly Lining Them Up”. Mouse plays his “Claw, Claw, Bite” or “The Nose Knows” to line up Cases or Foes in specific rows, then Harry plays “Pyrofuego!”, “Consult with Bob”, “Infriga!”, or “The Za Lord’s Guard” to deal tokens to the appropriate cards in the row. This combo works better for Harry than for Sanya because he has two cards that can be used with Mouse, while Sanya only has one.
IX-D. Avoiding Bad Combos
A few combos are best avoided when you’re picking characters.
Molly v2 + Mouse: “Staying Apart”. Or maybe you don’t want the new Molly and Mouse to work together. Because the second version of Molly can use Stunts from characters out-of-play, it might be in her best interest to have Mouse out of play, because that increases the variability of her Stunt by letting her use Mouse’s Stunt to make any in-game Stunt reusable. Effectively, it means that Molly v2 can use any Stunt in the game, whether it’s in play or not. Sadly, it means that she can’t see Mouse any more.
Mortimer + Sanya: “Hogging the Cases”. Mortimer requires two Cases without Clues and Sanya requires one. Put them together and you need a minimum of three Cases in the Book —not every Book has that many. Even if there are at least three Cases, you’ll likely waste one of these Stunts.
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.)
And that’s it for the strategy guide! We’d like to thank Shannon for all of the excellent advice. The world will be safer from Denarians now.
But seriously, Shannon. Thank you.