How To Play Dragonfire

A large swath of tabletop RPGs have long lists of equipment—gear, weapons, armor, you name it—that’s used to kit-out your character. And in some instances—I’m looking at you, Shadowrun—these lists are very expansive, even in the core rulebook. To try and ease players into building their characters and ultimately transition into game play quicker, games will often have ready-made kits of gear you can grab. In Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition, these are equipment packs. What’s more, you don’t even need to agonize over what will be more useful, a Dungeoneer’s, Explorer’s, or Scholar’s Pack. Instead, 5E ties the equipment pack to the Class you select.

My understanding is u have to play the common consume cards during your own play cards phase on your turn. But in the case of Bane, you play it on your turn but u can play it on any encounter u want. So whenever that “cursed” encounter makes its next save, whenever that might be, Bane goes off and u decide it’s result.

For those that may never have played Dungeons & Dragons but are interested in Dragonfire, your Class—or Character Class, as it is termed—is the primary definition of what your character can do—their calling, so to speak. Be it Wizard, Fighter, Rogue, or Cleric, your character’s Class defines who you were born to be, finding and embracing your calling as you accept the call to adventure.

In the original Shadowrun: Crossfire game, the idea of a “Class” for the characters doesn’t really exist. And that’s because in the Shadowrun tabletop RPG, base Character Classes like these don’t really exist. You have the same general idea, but it’s much more fluid and you can do a fair bit of mixing and matching, both during character creation, and during play. That was reflected in Shadowrun: Crossfire by the idea that you select your Runner card—basically a race card; there are five them in Crossfire—and then you grabbed one of four role cards for what you wanted to play that game.

  1. Pathfinder has more of an RPG feel with its different locations, henchmen, and bosses, while Dragonfire is the more strategic and tactical game, relying on smart card play and actual cooperation. Dragonfire also plays a lot quicker and is easier to set up on the table. On the downside, Dragonfire plays less well solo.
  2. In this teaching video, I will show you how to set up Dragonfire and then walk you through a few turns of combat. Enjoy, and please like and subscribe to my channel. Sample play begins at 11:11 In.

This worked very well, however, it also had a downside. The biggest one was that while we offered several different Runner cards for each race, the stats on each card were identical. They were really just illustrated differently. So it was only a Creative change we were offering, not an actual game play alternative.

That fluidity doesn’t really exist in the D&D RPG. Instead, you start by selecting your race and then you forever wed yourself to a given Character Class. I know, I know, I can hear it now: “But multiclassing!” And sure, even 5E has rules for working on multiple classes with a given character. But you pay a pretty hefty price to do so. And I personally don’t believe that really steps away from the core D&D philosophy that your Character Class defines who and what your character does throughout their adventuring career. (So, so many debates right there….)

With those key concepts in mind, when we started working on what would ultimately become the Dragonfire Character screens, we knew that the ability to switch up roles needed to go. Instead, a given screen would fuse race and Class into a single set of stats as your foundation for the character you would build across many adventures. (Dragonfire is a wonderful one-off game. But like the tabletop RPG, it really starts to sing when you play it across a campaign of inter-linked Adventures.)

I previously discussed this, but I’ll run over it again. Every Dragonfire character has four base stats that define them. Some of them also have a fifth stat. (Though technically they all have a sixth stat in Magic Item Limitations, but I’ll delve into that in a future post.)

The four stats all characters have are: Equipment Pack, starting hand, starting gold, and starting Hit Points. Then some characters also have an additional race ability on their card. This is often used both to balance the stats against other Character, as well as to bring out the Creative aspect of a given race.

Let’s take a look at the Shield Dwarf Cleric and the Sun Elf Wizard.

(As an aside, the Shield Dwarf Cleric is one of my all-time favorite D&D character illustrations, well…ever. Just makes me want to strap on armor, grab my hammer, and find a cave troll to take down. And then the Sun Elf Wizard show-cases an all-new D&D illustration. One of the wonderful aspects of working on Dragonfire is that we’ve had the chance to work with truly amazing artists—and the Wizards of the Coast team—to add all-new art to the magnificent D&D legacy. The Sun Elf Wizard is a great example of that.)

Okay, back to our comparison. The Sun Elf has a starting hand of 6 (the number of cards he draws at the start of the game), 3 gold, and 5 Hit Points; where he’ll place his clip along the Health Track at the top of the Character screen. For the Shield Dwarf Cleric, you’ve got a starting hand of 4, 4 gold, and 9 Hit Points. Pretty good and different spread of numbers.

You’ll also note that the Sun Elf has Keen Senses, a racial ability that helps to bring the Creative aspect out via an interesting tactical style of play.

Then we’ve got the Equipment Pack. The icons that make up the Equipment Pack are shorthand for the Basic Market cards you use to build the short stack of cards that will become your draw deck at the start of any game. Remember, this is a deckbuilding game.

You start out using Basic Market cards, which each have a very, well, basic ability. Then during game play, you purchase Market cards that have increased potency. Taking a look at the printed icons on the Shield Dwarf Cleric Character screen, you would select four Graces (Basic Devotion) for the green icons, two Glorys (Basic Martial) for the black icons, one Stealth (Basic Deception) for the red icon, and one Cantrip (Basic Arcane) for the blue icon, for a total of eight cards.

That all seems pretty straight forward, right? However, let’s start mixing that up some. First, let’s take a look at a Human Cleric. The stats change from 4, 4, 9 to 4, 3, and 8. And then for the Equipment Pack you drop a Glory, moving from 8 cards to 7. Now that’s only one card and two slight stat changes. Nevertheless, you’ll quickly discover that even just those mild tweaks create a different play experience. (You’ll also note that the Equipment Pack of the Human Cleric matches the Decker Role card from the top, even if the icons are different. One of the core touch-stones of the original engine as we then built upon that foundation.)

And just to show how it transitions across a given race, compare the Human Fighter to that Human Cleric. Obviously the Equipment Packs completely change to orient towards the Martial Type Fighter. But even looking at the stats you’re moving from 4, 3, 8 to 3, 2, and 10. That’s because, once again, the Class defines who and what you are. The human that becomes a Fighter absolutely is different in subtle ways to the human that becomes a Cleric, which leads to those great differences that ultimately bring altered game play to the table. Yet at the same time there are ties that bind all humans, just like all the races; in this instance, that regardless of Character Class or Class Type they only have 7 cards in their Equipment Packs, instead of the 8 (or more) of most of the other races.

Having run the numbers, there’s more than seven hundred combinations of Character screens we could publish! But of course we can’t possibly touch all that at the beginning. Instead, there are four Character Classes within the base game: Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard, touching upon just five races—human, half-orc, half-elf, Shield Dwarf, and Sun Elf. Because they’re the baseline that’s usually the easiest to learn how to play, there are two humans—male and female—for each of those Character Classes, with the rest being unique combinations of race and Class.

How To Play Dragonfire Mod

But because we know that’s not remotely enough Character Class/race combinations, simultaneously with the release of the base game, we’re also releasing the Heroes of the Swords Coast character pack. In addition to more Market cards and a slew of new Feature stickers (which I’ll cover in a future post) it includes thirty-two new Character screens. That includes four new race/gender combinations each for the Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard Character Classes from the base game. Additionally, it has sixteen new Character screens, introducing four new Character Classes in the Bard, Druid, Ranger and Warlock, along with additional races in the Lightfoot Halfing, Forest and Rock Gnomes, Gold Dwarf, Tiefling, and Wood Elf.

From that Heroes of the Sword Coast, take a look at the Forest Gnome Druid and you’ll see where we start to really push the design envelope. This character has the second lowest HP available at launch—a few of the Wizards push to 5 HP—and she starts with no gold. (Man that can be tough!) Additionally, she has 9 cards in her Equipment Pack, including “Color Spray,” a brand new Market Card for all Forest Gnomes. That pushing-of-the-envelope continues the pillars on which we built all the characters: trying to ensure balance between characters, making sure the Creative aspect is in full force every time, and crafting new game play experiences as you mix and match your party.

“What, no love for the Rogue?!” There’s still plenty to talk about concerning characters. Those Magic Item Limitations I mentioned. Those Feature Slots you see on the screens above. And so on. I’ll showcase the Rogue the next time as I delve into those details.

When we started this journey to create Dragonfire, we had no idea that character design would grow into a beast that would devour months of work as we hammered and hammered and hammered it out. But now, after all our designing and discussion and tinkering and retooling, I believe this may be one of the most exciting aspects of the game. I can see an endless series of debates coming soon that X or Y is obviously the best race in a given Class. (And don’t even think about knocking that Forest Gnome Druid…I’ve done some fantastic adventuring with her at the table!)

Until next time!


To watch an overview of this game and see a few sample turns, click here.

​What is this game about?

For those of you who have played Shadowrun: Crossfire, Dragonfire is a reskin of that game with a D&D theme and some rule tweaks. For those of you who haven't, Dragonfire is a cooperative deck building game in which 2–6 players work together to complete adventures, level up their characters, and play a longer campaign over time.
In Dragonfire, you complete adventures by choosing an adventure card and playing through a number of 'scenes,' during which you face challenges and eliminate encounter cards. Within your party, four different class types must be represented: Martial, Arcane, Devotion, and Deception. If you are playing with two characters, each will represent two classes for the purposes of the game. The classes more or less match up with the traditional D&D classes of fighter, wizard, cleric, and rogue. They have different symbols and colors, which also correspond to different damage types when fighting monsters or dealing with location cards. You need to defeat each encounter by dealing specific types of damage in a specific order, according to what is listed on the cards.
You will begin each adventure with an 'equipment pack' (i.e. deck of cards) that is tailored to your character. You use the same equipment pack each time you play a new adventure, no matter how far along you are in the game. Using these starting cards, you defeat monsters, collect gold after eliminating them, and use that gold to purchase better cards from the market. You don't draw new encounters until you handle the ones from the 'scene' you are currently playing, but don't waste too much time—every round, you draw a 'dragonfire' card that makes the game progressively harder as the dragonfire discard deck grows.
Dragonfire is truly cooperative. Encounters are placed in front of each character in the game, but you do not have to deal damage only to the encounter in front of your character. In fact, it is crucial that you attack the monsters confronting your companions, especially your wizard if you are playing with one. It also differs from a traditional deck building game, in that you are only able to draw two cards at a time, and the cards you purchase from the market are placed directly into your hand--not your discard pile. In fact, it is unlikely that you will cycle through your deck more than two or three times during a game.
How does it play solo?
To play Dragonfire, you need to control a minimum of two characters. You may, however, want to play with more—the game seems to be slightly easier with three or four. This is especially true for the quick start scenario, which is nearly impossible to beat with only two characters in play.

Dragonfire Deck Building Game


Dungeons And Dragons For Beginners

Both of these encounters are 'Level 1' monster cards from the most basic dungeon crawl adventure. Note the massive difference in difficulty.
Overall Thoughts
There is a lot to like about Dragonfire. There is definitely something about it that keeps me playing. I should warn you, however, that sometimes you are going to lose—badly—and there is nothing you can do about it. If you draw difficult-to-beat encounters right away, it can take several turns to defeat them, and in the meantime you'll have progressively fewer cards to work with (because you only draw two at a time) and no gold with which to draw new ones. Meanwhile, the dragonfire cards will pile up to make future encounters even more difficult. If you end up in this sort of situation, your party is probably doomed. There is no doubt that this game has a very swingy difficulty level, which can lead to a lot of frustration.
That said, I enjoy the puzzle that Dragonfire presents. Also, you can still give your characters at least some experience for failed adventures if you are playing a campaign. Over time, experience allows you to purchase upgrade stickers which you place on your character card. The early upgrades aren't all that great, but they definitely start to get better in the higher experience ranges—and the core set of Dragonfire only covers you up to level five. There may be more interesting buffs in the future as the level cap increases.
When you complete adventures, you also get a chance to acquire magical items for your deck. Some of these items are pretty cool, and there are even exclusive ones that you can pick up after successfully completing a Dragonfire adventure in your friendly local game store. I love that Catalyst seems to have big plans for the future of Dragonfire, and I want to see where this game is going to go.
Do I recommend this game?
Yes, if you know what you're getting into. Dragonfire can be very frustrating, and criticisms of its difficulty spikes and slow leveling system are legitimate. However, I can't help really liking this game. I know that I will keep coming back to it for some time, because I am enjoying it despite its flaws.
I may add a revision to this review in the future, after Dragonfire has had some more time to expand and develop.
Overall Rating: 3.5
Rating Scale:
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars— I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.