Even On Water You Can Be Killed By Fire - Flashpoint Fire Rescue: Dangerous Waters Review


No sooner after I had acquired Extreme Danger from a retail store, then Dangerous Waters was revealed as the newest mini-expansion to hit the series in early 2014. Kickstarters had managed to get it sooner but I'm not a big Kickstarter fan having only one game in production that I've backed and I'm still waiting to see if that venture works out for me before I back anything else.

Dangerous Waters is a mini expansion, on par with previous offerings like 2nd Story and Urban Structures (one I'll get round to reviewing separately at some point). It doesn't add much in the way of new rules, in fact it only adds one, but the emphasis is on the two new maps both represented by two double sided boards that fit together. One portrays a merchant ship in dock and the other has a submarine. . . . . . . yeah interesting choices there, but let's see how they play out!

"The cover is misleading in a way - you don't get to go diving underwater in scuba gear" 

Designer: Lutz Pietschker (2014)
Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards
# of Players: 1-6
Ages: 10+
Play Time: 45+ minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: n/a/7.78
Dice Tower 2013 People’s Choice Rank: 58 (Base Game)
Category: Expansion to Base Game


20,000 Leagues Over And Under The Sea

First of all we have the Merchant Ship map. The points of note are the entry/exit points in each corner and the Diesel Engine in the centre. The Engine works in the same way as explosive objects in Extreme Danger in that they accumulate damage cubes and then explode, except in this expansion, they aren't just explosive objects, they are CRITICAL objects. If the engine blows up, the firefighters lose, end of! Other than that the ship has tightly condensed rooms which are a pain when explosions start occurring and the only new rule in the expansion, Bulkheads.

"One large area and lots of little small rooms, but don't let that engine get destroyed!"

Bulkheads represent walls that can't be damaged with cubes, but the flip side is that they transfer heat to the other side when explosions occur. If an explosion occurs next to a bulkhead (the green line), you resolve the explosion as normal, but instead of placing a cube on the bulkhead, you place a smoke marker on the other side. This in turn may cause fire to erupt or separate explosions to occur depending on what already occupied the space. The idea of this is that instead of hindering the players with cubes, it hinders you by spreading the fire that little bit quicker.

The Submarine map is the most unique map in the series to date. It's an elongated (long and thin) map with several tightly packed rooms and two medic bays. It contains bulkheads as mentioned before as well as THREE critical objects; the plotting table, the control panel and the engine. If any one of these explode, it's game over! The other twist is that unlike other maps where if you rescue a victim they magically disappear, with the medic bays the victims stay there until the game ends and can still be killed by fire.

"This map feels really claustrophobic"

A Change In Dynamic

What these maps don't add in terms of new rules, they add in terms of new experiences. The way these two maps play is very different from the maps from the previous boxes. On the ship you have a lot of small rooms with doors which turn into "cube central" when explosions start going off. But on the other side of the ship you have to keep the fire away from the main engine to avoid losing outright. I found the Rescue Dog to be very useful on this map given it's huge size providing you open up the doors. 

The submarine is incredibly claustrophobic and therefore being blocked by fire is a more common occurrence. But having 3 critical objects is your biggest concern, that's 3 extra ways you can lose on this map and it doesn't take much to blow them up. On top of that you will end up with a pile of victims sitting in your medic bay just waiting for a freak fire to start up and roast them all in a condensed sardine tin. Leaving them alone is a risky business in itself but you really can't afford to just sit somewhere in preparation, you really need to rush around here, but that makes this map feel very different from the others and the highlight of the two.

The Ship is nothing groundbreaking, but having an extra fail condition and those tightly packed rooms does offer a different experience from the standard houses. There are very few places on this board where an explosion doesn't result in a large drain of cubes. Last night was one of the most tense games of Flashpoint history where I was one cube from death and had to literally rush the last victim out over 3 whole rounds while the other two firefighters frantically took care of any piece of fire they could find to avoid a game-ending explosion. Fortunately for me, we succeeded, but that was just Veteran difficulty!

"Two role switches, one cube from death, two casualties, but VICTORY!

The critical objects are the best new feature in my opinion. I have never lost this game as a result of casualties, it's always been by collapsed buildings. Now all of a sudden there are legitimate new ways of failing and I speak from experience that in the Submarine I've had issues with control panels exploding. The feel of the game is changed without making it an entirely different game altogether.

The expansion is all about the maps though, because aside from the bulkheads which are fairly minor, there's nothing new here in the rules that you haven't already seen in Extreme Danger, but if for whatever reason you avoided that expansion (and why did you, I put that as No 4 in my Top 10 Essential Expansions list) then you can buy this one and not be worried about lots of confusing new rules so in effect it's got a lower barrier to entry then Extreme Danger has (no floor damage, no ladders, no extra floors, etc)

"Yeah I underestimated the difficulty of this map on my first try!"

Verdict

This is a cheap expansion (less than £11 on most online sites) that offers a nice fresh take on the map layouts. Each map changes the feel of the game dramatically, but doesn't take away the essence that was prevalent in the base game, working as a team to save victims and put out fires. If anything the co-operative nature of this game is increased because you really need to utilise your abilities and teamwork skills in that submarine.

The submarine is easily the highlight, but that's not to say the ship is bad, it's just nothing particularly exciting in comparison. But I'm glad it's there so as to make full use of a double sided board and you can never have too many maps.

Storing the game is easy too. I own the base game, Urban Structures and Extreme Danger as well and all of the map boards fit into the base game box with ease. Not sure if 2nd Story would as well if I had it, so bare that in mind, but if you had Extreme Danger, I'm sure you could fit it in there with all of the pieces and tokens. Indie Boards are using their common sense and realising that if they already have big boxes available, they don't need to bother with boxes for mini-expansions - they get chucked half the time anyway and bump up the price of the game.

So essentially it's a cool mini-expansion. Nothing drastically new is added, but the boards feel different and will add a bit of spice to an already Co-Op if like me you believe that variety is key to a good game. It's not essential by any means, that I save for Extreme Danger, but for that cheap price, chances are you're going to be getting this anyway, it's barely a dent in your gaming budget!

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