I like to think to think I’m an Epic gamer. Big boxes and stories. Adventures and world building and being able to completely customise your characters down to how they part their horns. The truth is that I honestly can’t be bothered with the up keep and maintenance. In videogames I’ve tried to get into Divinity: Original Sin II but I’m a cut scene skipper, a dialogue skimmer, and often end up lost and confused and stabbing the wrong NPC. That’s when all the work is done for you with the magic of prompts and programming. I know I would be excellent at running an RPG, just as long as someone else was making sure I was sticking to the rules. In short, I want the fun and adventure and I’m not fussed about the world building responsibilities. I watch those that play Oathsworn and Frosthaven with a slight jealous envy, as I would rather just be swinging my sword and getting ale bound. Kinfire starts with the normal expected word salad. “Play as one of six unique Seekers, sworn to protect the city of Din’Lux and help rebuild the world beyond. Armed with kinfire lanterns, you’ll brave the Starless Nights, battle the creatures that emerge, and guard each others’ backs against the malevolent forces trying to stop you.” and I’m intrigued and nervous at the same time.
Kinfire Chronicles: Night’s Fall arrives in a box that would easily hold 2.3 cats. Don’t ask why I know this. I’m instantly thinking epic. There’s boxes that need opened and boxes that tell you not to open them. There’s secret rewards and a cute cardboard box for putting spent tokens in. A lot of it sings there will be ‘stories and battles’, but I’m also fearing that there is going to be adventure housework as well. In this situation you really just have to dive in. First things first, there’s a magnetically sealed box as opposed to one that does the mother of all box farts when you close the lid. Secondly the box lid turns out to be the main player board. Someone has been been thorough and possibly even thoughtful. Unsurprisingly a spiral bound book sits on the top of the pile of contents within. And from nowhere the theme tune from Jaws starts to play. As if some kind of memory was triggered. You’ll not be surprised when I mention that there are character tuck boxes as well. Some games have a lot to answer for. Kinfire luckily brings along a whole pile of its own questions.
Firstly, the game looks great. As someone who only paints miniatures on an irregular basis, having fully coloured standees to play with is something I really appreciate. It’s one less thing I need to worry about and it adds that extra level of characterisation that matches all of the character art and none of them end up with big stupid blob eyes. The main characters come in an acrylic variety while the enemies are illustrated cardboard standees. In general as I said on the podcast, (https://www.werenotwizards.com/e/therighttobarearms/) the artwork reminds me of animated Dragon Prince series, with strong animation vibes and distinct characters. Card artwork is inventive and colourful and helps with the work building.
Kinfire is split into several main parts but mostly you’ll be dealing with a direct combat challenge followed up by an explore part. Exploration is on a choose you own adventure style, where you are giving limited places to explore and the decisions that you make will have repercussions in the future. Normally the choices aren’t overly complicated and are designed to be dealt with in shorter burst than the main combat. You’ll sometimes face challenges that require flipping the correct coloured cards in order to pass in shorter adventuring phases. In the most part, you’ll be facing opponents on the field.
Imitation is one of the highest forms of flattery and it’s not entirely surprising to see Kinfire use card based combat over more random dice chance. Gloomhaven has made card based combat a viable option because it works. It works because it makes sense that a character slowly runs out of moves they can carry out, as opposed to being amazing with one attack and shocking with the other. Kinfire switches things up even further by introducing interactivity and partnership whether you are defending or attacking. Whenever you take an action, other characters have the option to join in and back you up in enhancing your attempts to kill or stay alive. It bring in an interesting balance where you will need to make decisions on whether you want to burn cards or keep them for yourselves. With every character only ever running with eighteen cards in their deck and refreshes potentially causes other issues, combat can run to being close matches as opposed to easy walkovers.
Initiative is bag drawing randomness that I like more every time I use it. It creates a sense of back and forward in the battle and because there are limited character chits within the bag, you already know the odds and in doing so it helps to build a tension every time the bag is picked up. There are options to redraw and you can even go as far as using one off tokens to help mitigate potential damage, but the tension is always their like a coating of delicious frost. Enemies have moves based on the numbered chits pulled. So Number 1 to 3 will use one move, while 6 to 9 might use a different move based on their character card set up. This again has you playing a planned game of odds that intermixes with your ability to add status effects that will activate on the creature before they do. In the games that I played, combat ended up being an extremely close affair, as most enemies can have a second stage that requires you to rethink your strategy. The only thing I’m not entirely fussed on was the enemies ability to move before attacking, so often it was difficult to take a break to catch your breath and sometimes you can end up feeling like you are solving some kind of statistical puzzle in order to triumph. Look, there was a lot of muttering. A lot of muttering. Overall the combat in Kinfire has the feel of some kind of late 1990’s JRPG and I’m absolutely here for that.
Alongside the twenty one different quests there is a treasure trove of upgrades to hone your character, and as expected in adventures of this size, the learning path takes place over several introductory missions, which vastly reduces the requirements to have your nose in a tome of a rule book. Rules are broken down into piecemeal chewable parts and while there is the occasional hunt around for when you want to refresh yourself, overall the games lends itself to an easy learn. With something of this size there are the expected errors and omissions and hopefully this is sorted out for a second printing.
What I liked most about Kinfire was it gave me a slice of a world without the background administration. It plays more like an action game than a fully blown role playing affair. You can drop in and out of it with relative ease, and while there can be decisions and questions, often these are simply binary choices that allow you to get back into the heat of the battle. It proves that big box can mean big fun as well as big ideas. It is an epic experience with the small e, but that adventure is well crafted, measured, inventive and overall extremely great fun.
You can find out more by visiting https://kinfirechronicles.com/
Main Designer – Kevin Wilson
Head Artist – Katarzyna Redesiuk
This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid monetary compensation for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
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