Sometimes board games can be educational. Take, for instance, Flash Point: Fire Rescue. I’ve learned from this game that the kitchen is the most dangerous place in your home. That’s where the first explosion always happens. Yes, explosion. And then, after two more explosions, things REALLY start to get bad.
It’s a good thing you, and the other players with you, are ace firefighters.
How It Plays
It all starts with three explosions; at least, that’s how you set up the game board to start. The house, which is represented by a gridded board, is on fire. You don’t have to save the house, but you do have to save the people in it.
On your turn, you have a certain number of Action Points – usually 4 – to spend on actions. Each action you do has a certain cost. Moving, for example, costs 1 AP, while moving into a space with Fire costs 2. Moving while carrying Victim or Hazardous materials also costs 2. You get the idea. You can move around and carry victims, extinguish fire and smoke, open and close doors, chop some walls down, drive the ambulance and/or fire truck (not at the same time), and of course use the fire truck’s highly powerful hose. Oh, and another thing you can do is save your action points for a future round, if you’d like.
After you run out of action points (or decide to save what you have left), you add fire. All you have to do is roll two dice, each of which represents a coordinate on the board, and add some SMOKE there. If there’s already SMOKE there, that SMOKE becomes a FIRE instead. If there’s FIRE there, there is an EXPLOSION! which sprays fire in all 4 directions, either adding another FIRE token in the next available empty space, or blowing a door to pieces, or damaging a wall – whichever comes first. As the game goes on, certain spots become “hot spots” which means if you roll them, you add fire and then roll AGAIN, and that cycle repeats if you keep rolling hot spots.
The goal of the game is to rescue 7 Victims, represented by blue POI markers, by carrying them to the Ambulance before 4 Victims are killed or the house burns down and collapses which, obviously, is bad.
Of course, the POI markers might be false alarms, meaning you just spent your valuable action points heroically diving through a wall of flame, only to find that what you THOUGHT was a human scream was actually… I dunno… more fire, or something? You’ll also have to contend with Hazardous Materials, which are items that EXPLODE as soon as fire touches them. Oh, and a Victim is lost instantly if FIRE ever ends up in their space, even if you were just carrying them. Firefighters, fortunately, do not die, they simply resurrect in the Ambulance.
Add on to this unique powers for each player and a range of difficulty levels, and you have… well, you have Flash Point: Fire Rescue.
Heroic Victory or Burnt to a Crisp?
Flash Point is a highly accessible game that is thematically immersive and built out of a very streamlined and functional game system, and….
I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore. Let me start over.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue is a blast. (Ha! See what I did there? PUNS)
I can’t remember the last time I played a game and immediately had so much fun. Tons of fun! Multiple tons.
Flash Point IS highly accessible. There are few actions you can perform, but enough that you can make choices and not just follow an obvious script to beat the game. Much like its big brother (or maybe second cousin) Pandemic, it’s all about containing a rapidly expanding system in the short term while also attempting to tackle long-term goals, that is, rescuing the Victims.
The system is designed to be challenging – and not in a “prevent you from using your abilities” kind of way that I rather dislike, but in that it creates an overwhelmingly deadly situation that you can only delay, not stop, and you have to USE all of your abilities, work together as a team, and make hard choices in order to succeed.
But again, nothing is over complicated. You generally have to choose between fighting fire or rescuing a victim. You may have to choose which room to fight the fire in, because you won’t have enough time to do it all at once. It is a choice that anyone can understand and make, without feeling like they have to be a “gamer” to be good at it. The mechanisms are simple; you have action points to spend. You have a few different things you can do; move, extinguish fire, and open doors or chop walls. Not a whole lot to remember and nothing hard to remember.
The theme really helps here. Even though the mechanisms are rather streamlined, the theme fits perfectly and gives an excellent connection to the players’ minds. It gives serious context to their in-game choices, making the game easy to not just learn the rules to play, but to understand what is going on. And the theme really uses the simple, general events to allow players to imagine the story of what’s happening. Like I said in the intro, the fire always starts somewhere in the kitchen, but the exact location that it starts can give a hint. Did the fire start because someone left their toast in the toaster? Did it start at the table when someone knocked over a candle? Did someone attempt to dispose of Gasoline by pouring it down the sink and then a spark from the disposal caused everything to go up in flames? The game offers cues, and lets you answer these questions yourself – which is pretty fun. In one game, my wife seemed to leave a cloud of smoke behind every time she moved her firefighter. Clearly, she let loose a bit of sliced cheese, if you know what I mean. In another, we found a dozen people strewn about the living room with “Hazardous Materials” on the floor. What kind of party did these people have last night? These minor details just add memorable moments to the game.
One element I love is that if you don’t spend all your Action Points, you can save them for next turn. In many times and places, and many games, I have had more actions to spend on a particular turn than I really know what to do with, and I’ve always wished I could save those actions for later when terrible, terrible things are happening. Well, in this game you can. You can save that action point for when it really matters (within limits).
Player roles are well done. Although a few of them are more useful in specific situations while others are generally more useful all the time (for example, the Paramedic is fairly lame with 2 players, but can be AWESOME in a larger group if they can run from POI to POI to treat victims while the other players rescue them), each role gives its player an awesome ability that is fun to use. It provides a clear sense of purpose, while allowing just enough leeway that players CAN make different choices if they need to.
The components here are pretty much perfect. Maybe not the BEST cardboard quality in the universe, but good enough that I have nothing bad to say about it. But token sizes are substantial, the smoke/fire tokens are clearly distinguishable and flip easy when one becomes the other. Plastic black damage cubes are phenomenal, the dice are very easy to read, the double-sided door tokens are clever and also easy to use. The Firefighters themselves are detailed plastic miniatures that stand up well, have distinguishable colors, and are easy to pick up and move around. The only thing that really stands out is that the art on the role cards is a drastically different style than everything else. Sure, you’re fighting fire and that’s scary and whatnot, but the board and most of the components are brightly colored and slightly cartoony (but not childish. It’s a professional level of cartoony), while the role card art is intense and realistic. It’s not much of a complaint, as it doesn’t affect the gameplay in any way whatsoever – and it’s not so intense or gritty that it makes it inappropriate for any particular audience. It’s just stylistically inconsistent. Oh well.
The closest thing I have to a con for this game is the randomness inherent in placing fire. Unlike Pandemic, which has a built-in mechanism to ensure that the same cities will get hit multiple times and cross into the danger zone, the nature of dice means you never know where fire will spring up next. In many ways this is actually a good thing – fire, by its nature, is rather unpredictable and you have to be ready for it to pop up anywhere.
However, if your dice never roll the same space twice, you’ll have a much easier time containing the fire than if a few spots are hit again and again, causing explosions and massive damage to the house. If you luckily avoid rolling Hot Spots, you’ll add much less fire overall throughout the game, but if you keep hitting them you not only add more fire but you add more chances of hitting more Hot Spots.
It’s not a big con though, because the swing isn’t all that drastic. You’ll have some easier games here and there, but not so easy that you can sit on your bum and whistle. And games that start out seemingly easy can suddenly explode, literally, out of control. In one game I had cleared out the entire house of fire – there were 2 smoke tokens left – using the Fire Truck. I went in the house to start rescuing victims more quickly, and suddenly within 3 turns half the house was up in flames again. I think the house ended up burning down on us before we could rescue our victims. It was crazy and exciting and it was fun. Playing on harder difficulties will also increase the danger and the likelihood of fire quickly getting out of control (but not so quickly that you lose instantaneously).
In general, the arc of the game is pretty solid. As more fire gets added, explosions are more likely, ramping up the tension. However, as walls get destroyed by fire, this not only decreases the likelihood of walls being destroyed by fire, it opens up new ways to move quickly around the house, so as the danger ramps up, so does your ability to fight it. Well done.
So, what else can I say? Flash Point is fun, thematic, easy to learn, accessible, and fantastic. The “Family Game” rules are easy enough for kids and great for non-gaming families, and the lack of text in that version could even mean including the younger kids, with a little help (which works since it is cooperative with no hidden information). The “experienced” game and the layers of difficulty added in to that make the game a little deeper, which is better for gamers. Sure, it won’t satisfy your hardcore itch, but it’s definitely a lunch game or a family game you won’t get bored with. Two sides to the board offer different options and challenges, adding more replay value. I can’t recommend it enough.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Indie Boards & Cards for providing a review copy of Flash Point: Fire Rescue.