I Am The God of Hellfire! - Flashpoint Fire Rescue Review

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. I expect that my first Top list will be based on Co-Op games due to them being the first game I will rush towards when deciding what to play on a gaming night.




Designer: Kevin Lanzing (2011)
Publisher(s): Indie Boards and Cards 
# of Players: 1-6
Ages: 10+
Play Time: 45 minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: #129/7.258
Dice Tower Peoples Choice Rank: 50
Category: Family Co-Operative Game

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-Op’s to get a bit of stick from non-gamers which is what I call “Alpha-Male” syndrome where by 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 to avoid both of these issues came in the form of Kickstarter which allowed Indie Boards & Cards to produce Flashpoint: Fire Rescue. I unfortunately missed out on the funding phase and didn’t have the pleasure of obtaining the special fire meeples and expansions for this game, however with a new expansion on the way, expect to see everything reprinted in late 2013.

General Overview

Flashpoint 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 7 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.

Players have a set number of action points for their character which are used to perform the following actions:
·         Move / escort survivor
·         Extinguish fire/smoke
·         Open doors
·         Chop through walls
·         Operate vehicles

Point of Interest (POI) tokens which can either be a survivor or a false alarm are scattered on the board for the firemen to investigate. They are face down to begin with and can only be flipped by reaching them or with a specialist role (explain later).

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.

The firemen win by escorting 7 out of the 10 available survivors out of the building, however should 4 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 the players lose.

Theme & Immersion

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, yeah 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 where by 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 though it speeds up the collapse of the building.

 "TIDDLES!!!"

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 may 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 Male.

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 (AP) available and provide a unique special ability which either allows a special action or grants bonus AP 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 (can scan POI’s to check for survivors) in attendance!

"8 roles are available in the base game, but more will be present in expansions"

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 too. However the building is one large detached property and you have to drive the vehicles around this building 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 2 streets away!

Gameplay & Components

The game is all about tactical thinking because the fire spreads randomly from turn to turn and explosions can devastate parts of the house and turn smoky rooms into raging infernos. Players have a range of options available each turn and they have to assess how much time they want to devote to rescuing victims and how much to putting out fires. One turn, everything might be in control, but it only takes one hazardous material to explode at the wrong time for fires and damage cubes to spawn in quantity!


"Yeah, good luck with that mate!"

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.

"A double sided board that's great to look at and intuitive as well"

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.

Verdict

You can tell I like this game and I cannot wait for Indie 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 (two different house setups), plentiful roles and varying difficulty levels. But the expansions add in multiple storeys, additional hazards and more roles/locations to boost it even further.

Some people criticise the randomness of the fire hoping for a more predictable way of implementing it almost like a puzzle, 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, but you should make your own opinion on this before buying this game.

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 both gamers and non-gamers. Kids will get a kick out of this game making it a perfect gateway game for families and at £25 from most online stockists it’s a good bargain.

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