FLASH POINT: FIRE RESCUE, Indie Boards and Games, 2011
10+, 45 minutes, 1-6 players, Co-operative
The call comes in... "911, what is your emergency?" On the other end is a panicked response of "I need a simple yet fun cooperative game!" Moments later you grab the box and rush to the table for a fun game....
The essence of a cooperative game is that it's you (the players) against the game. In this particular game, you are firemen trying to rescue innocent civilians from a conflagration that keeps burning in a building that continually veers towards collapse. If you win, everyone wins, but if not, everyone loses. I had never heard of cooperative games until last year and I'm totally enthralled by them. Not all gamers are married to gamers, so marital bliss isn't often enhanced by the suggestion of whipping out a quick board game. I've even seen a married couple engage in a blazing row, including full board flip, over a game of Monopoly, although to be fair that might be because Monopoly is such a dreadful game. And yes, in case you're wondering, the phrase "blazing row" was deliberate here. But what if two loving partners with nothing better to do with their time were to engage on a fun bit of role-playing together? Not that kind, pervert. And that's what a game like this is - a bit of fun where people work together. I've even seen non-gaming spouses (spice?) converted to gaming by Flash Point.
|While waiting to be called to their next blaze, the firefighters|
re-enact a scene from The Breakfast Club.
The game play is very simple. In the basic game, you place victim, fire and door markers in locations as shown on the starting map. All doors start closed. Each player takes a nice firefighter model (all of which have been very well colour-coordinated so as to not confuse colourblind people) and places their firefighter outside the building near one of the external doors. The game then continues in three phases:1) Take Actions
2) Advance Fire
3) Replenish POI markers
Each firefighter gets 4 actions per turn. To move to an adjacent square costs 1 action, if it's on fire it costs 2 and to carry a victim costs 2. Opening a door costs 1, removing smoke from an adjacent square costs 1, turning fire into smoke costs 1 and removing fire entirely costs 2 (which makes sense because fire to smoke costs 1 and then removing smoke entirely costs another 1). Turning fire into smoke and leaving it is risky, though, because smoke can easily reignite and then you've just wasted actions. Certain situations demand chopping down walls, although you don't want to do that too often because the entire building collapses when all the wall damage markers (black cubes) are exhausted. Placing one damage marker on a wall costs 2AP, placing a second costs 4. Once there are two damage markers on a wall, you can freely move through it, but so can fire. If you don't use up all your actions in one turn, you can store them for the next turn. And here's where the game designers missed a trick, frankly. The tokens for this game are absolutely fine. The fire markers clearly look like fire, flip them over and they clearly look like smoke. The ambulance looks like an ambulance, and so on.
Phase 2 is advancing the fire. This is where things go wrong for you. The game comes with two dice - one six-sided and one eight-sided. At this point, you roll both dice and place a smoke marker on the corresponding grid square. If the square is empty and adjacent squares are empty or smoke-filled, nothing happens, other than more smoke filling the board. If the square is already smoke, it becomes fire. If an adjacent square is fire, then your smoke immediately becomes fire. If it's placed on an existing fire, then all hell breaks loose because you've got an explosion where walls and doors can be damaged, people can be injured and fire spreads like crazy. You also have to check for flashovers, which is where squares that have just started burning (e.g. as a result of an explosion) that might be adjacent to smoke markers will turn them all to fire as well. In the pictures below, for example, the yellow firefighter is dealing with a small blaze in one room while the blue firefighter has decided to turn fire into smoke wherever he goes, instead of putting it out. Silly blue firefighter. The dice are rolled and, with alarming accuracy, a fire token is placed right in the middle of the blue firefighter's room. That happens a lot, actually - the so-long-as-it-doesn't-set-that-particular-square-on-fire risk that goes wrong far more frequently that you would expect statistically. Every smoke token next to a fire token turns to fire, even going out of the door of the room.
|Yellow: "Blue! Put out that smoke!"|
Blue: "Nah, it's okay, I've got it."
|Yellow: "Blue! There's a fire starting in your room!"|
Blue: "Yeah, it's okay. I've got it."
The third phase is replenishing POIs - persons of interest. The point of the game is to rescue these people from the building before it collapses. If you've rescued one by taking them outside the building, this is the phase where you add another. You always add them face-down because you don't know if they're going to be a real person, a pet, or a blank marker. In the photos below, orange firefighter has bravely chopped her way through the wall to rescue the trapped POI.
|"Through dangers untold and hardship outnumbered, I have fought my way here to rescue you..."|
|"A CAT?!? Seriously?!?"|
(This game revealed to me the depths of my hatred for cats, by the way)
The game ends when one of three things happens:
i) The building collapses
ii) 7 POIs have been rescued (or 10 for the perfect game)
iii) 4 of the 10 POIs die (thereby making it impossible to get 7 out safely).
The more experienced game starts with explosions already in the building, as well as hazmats (hazardous material). Vehicles can be used, including a fire engine which drenches an entire quarter of the board. Instead of generic 4AP firefighters, players can also choose from a range of characters and cleverly using their combined skills you can save the day and still allow cats to crisp.
Before we get onto the rating, a quick word about the cat thing. If you've been reading this review and you've got upset about the cat thing, I'm sorry. For you. I've lost good firefighters trying to save a cat. If you rescue a dog (also possible in this game) then at least you know it's going to be happy to see you. Rescue a cat and it would probably claw you for picking it up. Or complain because you were removing it from the heat. Or go back into the flames in the hope that you might follow it and thus end up back in danger yourself, just because.
So, what do we say about this game?
Accessibility: 5/5 - This is an incredibly easy game to learn and not only is it a co-op game but it can also be played solo very easily.
Design: 3/5 - I rather like the models in this game - they're simple, brightly coloured and stand out against the flat game. The markers are particularly clear, and although it's a shame there aren't any carry-over action markers, that's not the worst thing. The board initially seems cluttered with dice pictures on each square, but you quickly get used to it. In terms of game balance, this is excellent - not too hard and not too easy.
Depth: 2/5 - There's not that much depth to this game. It's an ever-evolving puzzle so you have to keep your wits about you and balance certain risks and strategies ("No, you go for the victim and I'll put out the fire here before it spreads...").
Replayability: 3/5 - This game is fairly well written in terms of progression. First, there's the basic game and then there are three levels of experienced game - Recruit, Veteran, and Heroic. Moreover, because there are Specialists, there are many ways that you and your fellow gamers can approach even the same scenario. That said, there are only so many times you can go into the same board and put out the fires and rescue people (an issue which later expansions resolve).
Availability: 5/5 - Easily available online and in gaming stores, usually for a very fair price of $25-$30.
Final Score: Easy to learn, fun, increasing complexity, a strong sociable component, increasing complexity and a good basis for some excellent expansions affords Flash Point a very respectable 76%.