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Flash Point: Fire Rescue» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A GFBR Review: Tense and Engaging rss

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GeekInsight
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This week, we take a look at Flash Point: Fire Rescue - a cooperative game where the players take on the roles of firemen trying to save injured people from a burning building. This game is dripping with theme, has tons of strategic choices, but also incorporates a fair bit of uncertainty through dice and random draws. Combining these elements together leads to a fun, intense, and often exciting experience with every play.

The Basics. Each player acts as a fireman running into the flames. The goal is to get seven people out of the burning building before they are consumed by fire and before the building collapses. Each player gets four action points to use on their turn. Movement costs one point, cutting into a wall will cost two, launching the fire engine’s deck gun can cost all four, etc. And, each player also gets to take on a specific role with special powers. The extinguisher gets extra actions to extinguish fires, the hazmat technician can remove hazardous materials without taking them outside, etc.

The players will also have fifteen Points of Interest (POI) markers. They put three on the board at one time. Each is a potential victim to be found and rescued. But the trick is that a third of the markers are blank. When the fireman arrives, the POI is flipped over and revealed to either be a person in need of saving, or a false alarm. If the fire encroaches on a POI, it gets removed from the game - possibly resulting in the untimely death of one of the residents.

But the most interesting part of the game is the fire. The fire advances at the conclusion of each turn. The board is laid out like a grid and two dice are rolled to determine the exact location where a smolder or flame erupts. If there is nothing there, then the space only starts to smoke. But if there was already smoke, it turns to fire. And, if it was already fire, then there is an explosion as the flames reach something volatile. An explosion results in damage to the building and fire in all directions.

Also great fun is the fact that if smoke is ever next to a flame, then the smoke ignites. In this way, a whole room might fill up with smoke, but not be an immediate threat. Then a roll of the dice changes one to a fire and suddenly the whole room is engulfed in flame. Add to that hazardous materials throughout the house which cause immediate explosions and hot spots that allow the fire to spread faster. The players must work quickly to save the fire victims before things go from bad to worse.

The Feel. Flash Point always feels tense and exciting. At the end of every turn, you just never know what the dice are going to do to you. Sometimes, you’ll get a lucky roll that places smoke in an insignificant corner of the house. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief and the next player moves. But, sometimes the dice come up on the worst possible spot, leading to explosions, hot spots, huge flames, and significant structural damage.

In all of my plays, the fire just spreads and spreads faster than it can be handled. So, while sometimes putting certain flames out may be the best approach, the game isn’t just about fighting fire. You need to use actions finding and rescuing the victims. And, of course, by rescuing victims instead of fighting the fire, the situation only gets worse. Flash Point feels like a race - a constant struggle to both meet the winning conditions and to buy yourself enough time to do so.

Despite the die roll element, very few games of Flash Point come down to random luck. Sure, any given roll is luck, but the more you let the fire rage, the greater the odds that the next roll will make the situation even worse. The players definitely have the ability to mitigate the dice and make calculated decisions based on the odds. But those who fear the dice and the randomness they impose should be forewarned that good and bad rolls do occur.

Flash Point has been compared (both favorably and unfavorably) with Pandemic. And, while its is superficially similar, the games feel completely different. They are superficially similar. They both use action points as a mechanic, they are both cooperative, and they both give the players special roles. But, other than that, they are very dissimilar.

Pandemic will appeal to people who like puzzles. By putting infection cards back on top of the draw deck, and knowing that there is only one card per city, players can make choices knowing that a certain city will not receive a cube in a turn. This allows the Pandemic player to focus their actions on more likely threats - and they know which cities are off limits.

By contrast, there are no off limit spaces in Flash Point. The same square could (theoretically) be rolled every turn. While players can make decisions on probability, there is no way to know for sure whether a square is safe or dangerous. As such, every roll in Flash Point is tense. There is a moment of hushed breath to see the location indicated by the dice. And that silence is followed by sighs of relief or groans of despair. Flash Point feels more like a rush or a race against time – and therefore it really supports the fire theme. Flash Point and Pandemic just play so differently, and result in such disparate gaming experiences, that I don’t think you can draw much correlation between the two.

On the negative side of things, if you don’t like dice and randomness, then Flash Point may be hard to take. Poor rolls can really make a bad situation worse. And good rolls can let the players get away with some less than optimal play. Also, as with many co-op games, there is the potential for a dominant player problem. I think this is more of a problem with the player than with the game, but your mileage may vary.

Also, since firefighters and victims can be consumed by the flames, some gamers (especially very young ones) may find it a little dark. That said, the victims are faceless cartoons and the firemen are wooden firemeeples so it isn’t at all graphic and can probably be safely handled by anyone even in Elementary school.

Components: 5 of 5. I really just love the pieces. The board is double sided to give you two different encounters to run through. The firemeeples (or pawns in the basic, non-Kickstarted version) are solid wood and all of the components are thick and sturdy. In fact, you get an extra token or two of just about everything, which is always appreciated. But the colors are what really make things stand out. Everything is vibrant and exciting. And, even though it is just cardboard tokens on a playing board, watching the fire grow, or flipping smoke to the flame side, really feels intimidating.

Strategy/Luck Balance: 3.5 of 5. Dice determine the location of an increasing fire and of new POIs. New POIs are drawn randomly with a third being false alarms. On the one hand, this definitely helps the game to have an "anything can happen" feel that is greatly appreciated. On the other, sometimes a bad roll can really be irksome. Still, there are forty-eight spaces on the board, so getting that one most awful roll is pretty rare. Players are certainly capable of playing the odds and moving to mitigate any bad luck that may be permeating the air.

Mechanics: 4.5 of 5. Flash Point’s mechanics are great! I don’t tend to be a big dice fan, but I love it here because of the uncertainty and randomness it provides and its congruence with the theme. Also, players can save up unspent action points for use on later turns. This eliminates the problem of having one extra action and nothing to do. That action can be saved for the next turn. The only negative is that some of the jobs have regular actions and "free" actions. Free actions cannot be saved. So, sometimes there is some memory needed to determine whether the unspent action is a free one or a regular in order to determine if it can be saved.

Replayability: 4.5 of 5. Oh man, oh man. This game comes with three difficulty levels (and can easily be customized for more), a randomized set up, different jobs for the players, two different houses to charge into, and a fire mechanic that results in completely new plays each time. If you like Flash Point, if you aren’t turned off by the dice, then this will see play after play without any worry of becoming old or tired.

Spite: 0 of 5. As a co-op game, all players either win together or lose together. There is no spite in this game at all.

Overall: 4.5 of 5. Fun, fun, fun. This game has gone over well with my "heavy euro" group, as well as with the Wife and casual gamers. In fact, one three year old watched us play an entire game (he wasn’t allowed to touch) and was completely enthralled the entire time. The game oozes tension and every roll of the dice can spell doom or respite for the players. While the most vociferous dice haters may prefer another game, it completely won me over. The dice don’t decide winners and losers, instead they provide a communal challenge - and always one that is unexpected. I think Flash Point would be a good addition to just about any collection.

(A special thanks to Indie Boards and Games for providing a review copy of Flash Point: Fire Rescue)

(Originally posted, with pictures, at the Giant Fire Breathing Robot)
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Matt Leach
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Knock another point off also for the fact that GFBR's username indicates a inherent thematic bias towards fire based games.
 
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GeekInsight
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mattxboard wrote:
Knock another point off also for the fact that GFBR's username indicates a inherent thematic bias towards fire based games.


Lol.

Hey Josh! Thanks for your comments. I can tell you that I endeavor to provide honest opinions whether I get a game for free or not. I really do have that much fun with Flash Point.

Different people have definitions of "filler" and Flash Point wouldn't count for me. It's engaging and lasts a good 45 minutes most of the time. To me, a filler is something that plays in 20 minutes or less while you wait for the rest of your game group to arrive.

As for the artwork, I think its just a matter of taste. I like the minimalist style that the components use. And the high color pallette is enjoyable for me. But, to each their own. In my review on the blog, I also include pictures so readers can judge for themselves whether the colors seem good to them.
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ketigid ketigid
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MyParadox wrote:

Different people have definitions of "filler" and Flash Point wouldn't count for me. It's engaging and lasts a good 45 minutes most of the time. To me, a filler is something that plays in 20 minutes or less while you wait for the rest of your game group to arrive.


Agreed. I, too, can't see Flash Point as a filler. It is definitely the main event of my gaming night.

On the other hand, just to open a can of worms, I think 7 Wonders make a great filler while waiting for the rest to arrive.
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