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Review: Flash Point: Dangerous Waters

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flashpointdangerouswaters_boxcover

Fire just gets everywhere, doesn’t it? First it burned down our houses. Then it got our two-story houses. Then it headed downtown to take care of business.

You thought you were smart, didn’t you, heading out to sea. Surrounded by the sea, you figured you’d be safe from the fire. But no, you were wrong. Not even in a submarine could you escape the flames, because this is Flash Point: Dangerous Waters.

How It Plays

Dangerous Waters retains all the core tenants of the original Flashpoint, so if you’re not familiar I recommend checking out our review of the base game. In summary: you’re firefighters, you’ve got to rescue people to win, and in the meantime fire is spreading and burning your house down.

Boats!
Boats!

This expansion adds two new maps and a few new mechanisms. Here’s a quick overview:

The two new maps are a commercial boat and a submarine. Neither map allows for the ambulance or fire engine, but have specific zones on the board for rescuing victims.

The submarine map is oriented differently: it’s 16×3 instead of 8×6. When playing on the Submarine, your victims are brought to a medical bay, but are not actually removed from play. This means even tokens considered rescued are still vulnerable if your med bay goes up in flames.

Both maps utilized these new features as well:

Hull walls can hold any number of damage cubes and are never destroyed.

Fire-resistant Bulkheads don’t take damage cubes at all and cannot be destroyed, but do transfer heat.

That's more than a foot long!
That’s more than a foot long!

Fire Proof Doors, when closed, have a 50% of blocking an explosion when it happens. The other 50% results in a jammed door, which must be cleared by chopping.

Special machinery on each map represents crucial parts to the ship or sub, such as the engine or navigation controls. These spaces never receive Smoke or Fire, but when hit with an explosion take Damage cubes. Each machine has a specific number of cubes it can handle (usually 4) and when it has that many cubes, you’re sunk. Literally. You lose the game.

Don't let the machinery die!
Don’t let the machinery die!

My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean

If you ever find yourself trapped on a submarine that is on fire in real life, you’re not going to have a whole lot of options. Chances are the fire was caused by an explosion or perhaps arson, and if you can’t surface and jump ship fairly quickly, you’re pretty much doomed.

Fortunately, this is Flash Point, and we don’t have to worry about all that realistic stuff like flooding or asphyxiation. Dangerous Waters, as unrealistic as it may be, provides new challenges to the game thanks to the unique settings.

Fortunately, the new maps provide more than a coat of paint. The layouts alone, even without the new mechanisms, cause fire to spread in different ways. That in and of itself creates some variation in gameplay. The submarine map totally throws everything you knew out the window with its lengthy orientation.

Caption!
Caption!

Without a vehicle to ride, it can actually take quite some time to reach the opposite end of the sub, so you’ve really got to watch out for those sneaky fires which can creep up on you quickly. The special machinery that you can’t let be destroyed ensures that any fire is a clear and present danger; otherwise, you might just be able to leave a fire burning at one end of the sub. It’s amazing how such a small change can really throw your play style out of whack, but it makes playing the sub radically different than, say, playing the Skyscraper or the original house map. No new rules this way, either – it’s simply naturally channeling the way fire spreads to create a different challenge. Well, okay, the special machinery rules are new, but they aren’t complicated.

Don't let the special machines burn!
Don’t let the special machines burn!

I actually really like special machinery and what it does to the game. Often I feel like your team can get the fire under control and then it’s just a matter of cleaning up the victims as they appear. The special machines make even a small fire deadly, so you’ve got to hop on that right away. The primary machines are big, too, but it’s not 4 damage per space – it’s 4 damage overall. There’s no way to repair it, either, so the pressure’s on early. In other words, watch your caboose, Dix.

Another cool change that only exists in the submarine map – the medical bays. Forcing players to leave victims in a vulnerable position is a bold choice, but it adds a whole lot of tension. Again, the length of the map comes into play here – you want to stretch out to the ends to fight fire, but you’ve got to keep an eye on the med bays closer to the center. One or two bad explosions can wipe out everything you’ve worked for and cause you to lose the game instantaneously. A new fire can send you scrambling, but it doesn’t feel unfair or cheap. It’s simply a new level of challenge, and that’s good. More challenge means more fun!

Not good for these people, but. You know.
Not fun for these people, but. You know.

Then we get to those  add in those new features, like those indestructible Hulls. Man, at first that seems like a good thing, and then all of a sudden you’ve got six cubes piled up on one Hull section and a wall of fire between you and it. Walls that burn down allow fire to spread more, but they also open up avenues to fight the fire. Indestructible walls work both for and against you; again, it’s not an extremely complicated rules addition, but it does change up the experience.

The most complex addition is with the fire-resistant Bulkheads. The whole “transfer heat” mechanism can be a little confusing at first, especially when it comes to explosions. You’ll want to keep the rulebook handy for a while until you get used to the new system, especially when you get multiple explosions going off. But it makes sense soon enough, and just like every little addition, it makes for new strategic approaches. You can’t smash your way through those walls, which can be bad just as well as it can be good.

All the jam you could want!
You’ve been jammed!

The fireproof doors are a neat addition in concept, although to be honest we didn’t use them a whole lot. My group tends to leave doors open to make moving around easier, and open fire doors don’t block fire. It’s there if you want it, I guess, but I think my group prefers to spend our actions fighting fire and getting into position rather than closing doors to maybe contain the fire. Since you’re just as likely to get a jammed door – which takes a whole grocery bag full of actions to get open again – we found it wasn’t worth it. It’s certainly not broken, though, and maybe your group favors the use of doors more.

Who needs closed doors when you can have awesome back-to-back firefighting!
Who needs closed doors when you can have awesome back-to-back firefighting!

Worth noting about pretty much all Flash Point expansions, including this one, is that each one is a separate entity. They don’t mix well. Pretty much the only thing you can carry over from expansion to expansion are the new Firefighter abilities – which do, at least, add some replay value to every map. But so far nothing has built on anything previously introduced. There are no “weak” walls, windows, or ladders except in 2nd Story. The massive fire truck ladder from Urban Structures doesn’t carry over. There’s no way to include the delicate machinery or fire-proof bulkheads on anything previously introduced (I suppose, technically, you could replace any of your normal doors with fire-proof doors, but that might feel odd). There aren’t even any new Firefighter abilities in this kit.

Same ol' blue guy
Same ol’ blue guy

On the one hand, that means none of these expansions requires or even suggests previous experience with other expansions. If you’re interested in saving the submarines, just buy Dangerous Waters. On the other hand, the sum of the parts is equal to the whole. You’ve got three or four silos, but none of them really combine. You can’t get new or surprising challenges out of a tasty mix.

That’s a very minor complaint, though, given the quality of the gameplay itself. The expansions, basically new boards shrink-wrapped inside a rules sheet, are very inexpensive, and each one has enough value on its own to be worth purchasing. It’s probably a good thing you can buy these in any order you choose, facing whatever challenge looks the most interesting to you or your group.

The other problem? Where to store all these boards once you’ve got them. This box is looking mighty crowded.

Something something fire explosion we're all doomed whatever
Something something fire explosion we’re all doomed whatever

To wrap things up: Flash Point is a great game. It has been since the core box, and the release of small expansions at a low cost is a boon to the game. Each new expansion, including this one, adds new maps and rules that change up the game enough to make it worth coming back, without dropping the bottom out of your bank account. If you enjoy Flash Point, give Dangerous Waters a try.

iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Indie Boards & Cards for providing a review copy of Flash Point: Dangerous Waters.

  • Rating 9.0
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Summary

Pros

New maps!
New mechanisms!
Very inexpensive
Nothing overcomplicated, but adds new challenges
Submarine map in particular is totally unique

Cons

Doesn't mix with other expansions

9.0 Excellent

Futurewolfie loves epic games, space, and epic games set in space. You’ll find him rolling fistfuls of dice, reveling in thematic goodness, and giving Farmerlenny a hard time for liking boring stuff.

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