Pevans's Perspective

This was the title of my board games column in Flagship magazine, so I thought I'd resurrect it, 8 years after Flagship's demise. The idea is to get down my musings in a more contemporaneous way - expect things to appear later in To Win Just Once (www.pevans.co.uk/TWJO) in a more considered form. Now, can I manage a less formal style?

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Paul Evans
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After putting my review of Fire! on this blog last week, I thought I should add it to the Reviews forum on the game's page. However, I didn't see the need to post the whole thing again. Which is when I discovered that a paragraph of introduction plus a link to the full review doesn't count as a review as far as GeekMod is concerned. My entry was rejected as lacking in structure/content and possibly being spam (that link!). Okay, I can see that.

The 'correct' way to handle this, I'm told, is to put the full review in the game's Reviews forum and then link to this from my blog. Too late for Fire!, which is why that review is posted in two places.

Board Game: Lux Aeterna
All of which is a long-winded explanation of why this isn't a review of Lux Aeterna. To set the scene, it's a solitaire card game with a science fiction theme. The idea is that you’re sitting comfortably in your spaceship, observing a black hole, when suddenly things go wrong. Very wrong. Now it’s a race against time to repair the ship before your component atoms are smeared across the event horizon.

In game terms, you're playing cards to try to repair the ship's systems (more cards) while making sure your ship marker doesn't reach the end of its track. All against the clock. However, the only reason I can see to play it again is to beat your previous score, which just doesn't motivate me. Lux Aeterna gets 5/10 on my highly subjective scale.

You'll find the full review in the 'right' place: Lux Aeterna review. Or you can check out its original publication in issue 206 of To Win Just Once. You'll find PDFs of the 'zine at www.pevans.co.uk/TWJO.
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Sat Aug 15, 2020 8:56 pm
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Paul Evans
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Board Game: Fire!
Pevans reviews Fire!

Space Invaders is a game I do recognise – and played, back when a games console was something you sat at in the pub. Hence I know what Friedemann Friese’s Fire! (published in English by Stronghold Games) is all about. Yes, you’re firing your guns to eliminate the alien spaceships – complete with crude blocky graphics. But it’s designed by Friedemann, so there’s some tricky stuff going on here.

The square box contains a deck of square cards which you do not shuffle. To begin with, the game is divided into levels, with each level introducing new cards and/or mechanisms (I assume, I’m only on level 2 and am not spoiling the surprises). The idea is, of course, that you progress to the next level once you’re competent at (or have at least won) the previous level. Hence I’ll start with – and stick to – level 1.

Five of the level 1 cards are aliens, which you set out in a line with their highest strength (on the edges of the card) towards you. Then you have three laser guns to set out below the nasties. In order to fire, the lasers need enough power. The remaining deck of cards are batteries of varying strengths that you’ll add to your guns. (There are also some cards for the two-player team game, which I haven’t tried and are put aside for the solitaire game.)

So, you shuffle your deck of cards and draw them one at a time, adding the card to one of your lasers. When the total value of the cards in one line reaches or passes ten (there’s a very useful ‘5’ card), that gun automatically fires. Yippee! Except that the amount of damage it does is the total value minus 10. Oops! And then multiplied by the number of crosshair icons on the cards. Thus a total 12 in five cards with icons gets you (12 - 10) x 5 = 10. However, this figure only damages an alien if it’s at least the card’s current strength. Most start at 12…
From gallery of Pevans

Did I mention there’s some tricky stuff here? I am suspicious that there are cards with multiple, or no, crosshair icons on them, but at level 1 each card has one. Thus, you’re trying to get as many cards down as possible before you go over 10 – and then exceed 10 by as much as possible. That ‘5’ card is looking very useful about now – I have managed a 28-point shot by playing the ‘5’ as the seventh card to make 14 in card values. Now, when you damage an alien, you rotate its card to the next highest strength (and remove it when you get the last hit). A good thing is that you can damage the same alien several times with one shot. Hence that 28-pointer takes out the 12, 9 and 6 sides, leaving its strength at three (easy!). The photo above shows a 20-point hit - just enough to take out the weaker alien in the middle.

The problem you have as the player is that every time you fire a laser, one of the battery cards you used goes out of the game. (The others go into a discard pile which is shuffled to make a new deck when you need more cards.) This means you’ll gradually run out of cards until you can’t fire any more. And the aliens win! It also means you’ve got a tricky decision: which card to get rid of? My first impulse was to get rid of those pesky ‘1’s. Except each ‘1’ is also a crosshair icon… My current strategy is dumping the middle values. And here I am about to start level 2!
From gallery of Pevans

The other issue you have as the player is that your cards are coming out in a random order. You’d really like the ‘5’ to be the last card onto a laser, but if you draw it with no cards in play (or five points on each laser), it’s a lot less useful. As always with a solitaire game, you’re doing the best you can with the cards you’re dealt. And, just like Patience (aka Solitaire), sometimes it doesn’t work out.

The comparison with Patience is deliberate as this is how I think of the game. However, zapping alien spacecraft is a lot more exciting than putting the red ‘10’ on the black jack… And you are, in effect, constantly tuning your deck of cards rather than just recycling the same sequence. The other thing that’s keeping me playing Fire! is to find out what tweak Friedemann has added to the game with each new level and how this changes the challenge. Like the other games in his ‘Fable’ series, the game is constantly evolving as you work through it.

There are plenty of clever things about Fire!, but I’m not sure that I’ll get any more out of it once I’ve achieved the final level. Mind you, that’s going to take me quite a while. And there’s always the option of trying the two-player ‘team’ game – the need to communicate effectively should add another layer of complexity to the game.

Fire! was designed by Friedemann Friese (as part of his ‘Fable’ series) and is published by 2F-Spiele (in German) and Stronghold Games (in English). It is a card game for 1-2 players, aged 10+, and takes 25 minutes to play. It gets 6/10 on my highly subjective scale. My thanks to Stephen Buonocore at Stronghold for providing a review copy.

This review was first published in
To Win Just Once issue 206, July 2020. (You'll find the PDF edition of the 'zine at https://www.pevans.co.uk/TWJO/index.html#Top)
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Fri Aug 7, 2020 3:27 pm
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