Firelight: The Questing Card Game Review (HobbyHorse Games, LLC)


Firelight is a cooperative adventure for 2 to 4 players, with one player acting as the gamemaster. Players select their characters and are then thrust into one of 20 unique quests, which they'll need to resolve through skill checks, battles, and good old-fashioned roleplaying. Firelight promises to be a "questing card game," and while that much is true, it feels as though it's answering a question that no one ever asked. That question is: How do you play a roleplaying game without actually playing a roleplaying game?

Firelight Card Game Details

Players: 2 to 4

Game Time: 60 to 90 Minutes

Age: 12+

Genre: Cooperative / Storytelling

How is Firelight Played?

As a cooperative game, Firelight begins with players choosing the campaign that they want to run. Each campaign has a brief preamble and then a sequence of five "phases," each phase being a scene that the players will experience. Once the campaign or quest has been selected, each player chooses one of the eight included characters. These characters are well-known roleplaying archetypes, each with their own stats and special abilities. Players in Firelight are able to "customize" their characters by choosing two traits from a set of five, which can include things such as "romantic" or "polymorphed." These traits have no specific impact on the game, but are intended to help players roleplay. 

And then -- well, things happen. 

Firelight actually bills itself as both "The Questing Card Game" and "a new tabletop RPG." It's both of these things, but also neither of those things. It's hard to have a Questing Card Game that is almost entirely improvisation, and it's hard to have a new tabletop RPG kit that doesn't even come with a GM's guide (you need to buy it separately for more than half the cost of the game itself). 

How Does the GM Play Firelight?

With great difficulty. A GM is given a handful of cards, which represent the major enemies in the game. They have access to the quest card, which includes a synopsis of the quest and a few critical scenes. Apart from this, the GM has to come up with nearly everything else on-the-fly. The kit only gives the GM information about enemies and treasure, so it's anyone's guess as to what will happen if the players actually start roleplaying. You could have paid an additional $20 to get the gamemaster's handbook, which, by all reports, didn't have as much information as players expected.

My troubadour was a "jokester" "cult leader."

Skill checks are a simple D6 roll + stat bonuses, while combat involves both attack and defensive rolls based on the enemy's card. And that's if you actually get to an enemy. A critical problem in the game is that it is entirely linear. Players must move from scene to scene and they know exactly which scenes they are going to need to move through.

There's no cohesion between scenes, so it's simply a game of the players figuring out how they are going to get to the next phase, and the GM trying desperately to make it entertaining. As an example, in the murder mystery plot, the players can't decide that the best way to resolve the murder quest is to go to the victim's house, because they already know the next required scene is at the police station. Or, rather, they could -- but some joy is sucked out of knowing that it's not the correct option.

Is Firelight a Good Game?

Firelight is essentially a roleplaying system with training wheels. Unfortunately, that strips out most of the interesting aspects of roleplaying, and instead leaves behind a lot of the fumbling. Characters in Firelight cannot be customized. Your stats are your stats and your abilities are your abilities. GMs have a few minutes with which to figure out an interesting story to tell, and all they really have access to are a few snippets of flavor text and enemies. Some GMs are better at this type of improvisation than others, but others need to prepare; being able to improvise something out of whole cloth is an admirable skill, but also, not a common one. 

There are a number of interesting quests in Firelight, but they each consist of a small amount of flavor text and 5 preset scenarios.

There just really isn't a lot of game here. In fact, it's best to call Firelight a very minimalistic RPG system. It does have the advantage of attractive art, and the content that is there appears to be solid and well-polished. There just isn't a lot of it, and it can really leave players floundering. 

And then there's the Kickstarter issues. Many of the premium add-ons simply never materialized, with cheap staple-bound map books being sent out rather than spiral-bound copies, and backers receiving a single die instead of the six premium dice they had paid for. The base game, on the other hand, appears to be in relatively good condition.

There are 8 characters to choose from, ranging from Archer to Trickster.

Is Firelight a good game? It's a decent system for running a prefabricated one-shot, but it has to be approached with that in mind. There are better systems for one-shots, and ones that let you create your own characters at that. With the amount of creativity that has to go into sketching out a story from the barebones outlines Firelight offers, one might as well go all the way with an actual roleplaying system.

Firelight Card Game Details
  • PRO: A decent introduction to roleplaying for those who are unfamiliar with roleplaying. Trick your friends into a new addiction!
  • CON: Not a game so much as a barebones roleplaying system with some "suggested" plot outlines.