Time for a guest reviewer to stick their two pence in! Luke Hector has taken a look at Flash Point: Fire Rescue to see whether it’s hot stuff or a damp squib… (apologies for the terrible pun…)
Anybody who knows me at a games club will testify that I am a big fan of co-op games. I love the atmosphere that is built up from a group of gamers working together to a common goal with the game as your adversary. One aspect that defines a good co-op game for me is the theme. A team game with no theme is just dull and boring – you’re almost willing to just hit the team suicide button and let the game win just to end the misery. You also have to be careful with an issue that cause some co-ops to get a bit of stick from non-gamers thanks to the Alpha Gamer syndrome where one person takes the leader role a bit too far and starts to dictate everything that the other players should be doing. It’s not fun and doesn’t embrace the element of co-operation between people.
My salvation, helping me to avoid both of these issues, came in the form of Indie Boards & Cards’ Flash Point: Fire Rescue. I unfortunately missed out on the last Kickstarter and didn’t get the special fire meeples and expansions for this game, but with a new expansion on the way you can expect to see everything reprinted in late 2013. Flash Point is a co-operative game for 1-6 players in which you take one of many roles in a squad of firemen and seek to rescue seven survivors from a burning house. The players must work together to keep the raging fire under control whilst locating the survivors and escorting them out of the building.
Characters have a set number of action points which are used to perform a range of actions. Moving yourself / escorting a survivor and extinguishing fire and smoke are the most regularly used, but you can also choose to open doors, chop through walls and even operate vehicles. Point of Interest (POI) tokens are scattered on the board for the firemen to investigate, all of which are face down to begin with. They can only be flipped by reaching them or using a specialist role, but often what you think could be a survivor ends up being a false reading.
At the end of every player turn, a dice roll applied to a grid system dictates how the flames spread as well as where potential survivors might be located, and the team wins by escorting those seven (out of the ten available) survivors out of the building. However should four survivors die from the fire, the players immediately lose. In addition to this, if all 24 damage cubes (used to represent broken walls that have been blown away by explosions or chopped down by firemen) are placed on the board, the house collapses killing everyone inside. And guess what? Yes, you all lose.
Possibly the best feature of this game is just how much it oozes theme when you squeeze the box. Fighting fires and rescuing people is what they make movies about and some kids dream of being a fireman and playing with the siren far too much! Story wise, the game writes itself. The brave firemen rush in and beat back the fire risking their lives to rescue helpless victims… (and pets because apparently they carry equal weighting to humans in this game). The fire is random which adds to the mounting tension and creates a “push your luck” aspect to the game whereby you don’t know whether to leave that room full of smoke in the hope it doesn’t ignite into flame or whether to take a shortcut and hack your way through the walls – even if it speeds up the collapse of the building.
The mechanics in the game make sense and feel right to how the theme is implemented. I’m not a fireman (obviously) so maybe there could be some creative license being involved, but the designer obviously did his research. The game is also very intuitive allowing for people to pick up the rules very quickly and make their own decisions, minimising the risk of an Alpha Gamer seizing control. In the Experienced game (a Family variant is included for outright beginners) players can choose from a plentiful selection of roles which vary the amount of action points available and provide a unique special ability which either allows a special action or grants bonus actions for specific tasks such as putting out fires. All of these roles are very useful and again, thematic, though in the UK I don’t see many imaging technicians (who can scan POI’s to check for survivors) in attendance!
The only minor nit-pick on the theme is the vehicles. Players can command the fire engine to attempt to extinguish fires on a larger scale and the ambulance represents the point where the players have to escort the survivors to. However the building is one large detached property and you have to drive the vehicles around it to reach other areas or victims, which to me seemed a bit weird. I mean, who designed this property anyway? It must be like a mansion or something! You could argue, however, that in real life victims aren’t expected to make their own way to the emergency services, the ambulance comes to them – they don’t park two streets away!
The game is all about tactical thinking because as the fire spreads randomly from turn to turn. Explosions can devastate parts of the house, turning smoky rooms into raging infernos. Each turn sees players having to assess how much time they want to devote to rescuing victims against how much should be spent putting out fires. Everything might be fine on one turn but it only takes one hazardous material to explode at the wrong time for fires and damage cubes to spawn in quantity!
When comparing strategy to tactics, I prefer a game that revolves around the latter as it forces you to think on the fly and make quick decisions. When combined with the theme in this game, the tension is constant and you can’t let your guard down. Beating the game is very rewarding as you pull that last victim to safety. Components are of high quality and are very colourful with pleasant artwork on the board and the role cards. A fully laid out board always draws a passing eye and helps to add to the theme and immersion of the game. The game can be wrapped up in less than an hour easily and there is very little downtime as the game plays out at a fast pace with a lot of player interaction.
You can tell I like this game and I cannot wait for Indie Boards and Cards to reprint the expansions later this year so I can get my fire gloves on them. The base game already has good replay value due to the double sided board (depicting two different house setups), plentiful roles and varying difficulty levels. The expansions add in multiple storeys, additional hazards and more roles/locations to boost it even further. Some people have criticised the randomness of the fire hoping for a more predictable way of implementing it in an almost puzzle style, but I honestly don’t favour that at all. A real life fire is random. You can’t predict the spread or speed of a blazing inferno; this is why firemen are at huge risk in these situations. The randomness adds to the tension and fits with the theme perfectly.
Components are of high quality and are very colourful with pleasant artwork on the board and the role cards. A fully laid out board always draws a passing eye and helps to add to the theme and immersion of the game. If you like co-operative games I highly recommend giving this one a try for all levels of players.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue was designed by Kevin Lansing and was originally published through Indie Boards and Cards back in 2011. Between one and six players can get involved, with games taking around 45 minutes to an hour. Copies can be picked up for around £25 from Gameslore. Thanks to Luke for the write up!