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FEURIO!

Reviewed by Greg J. Schloesser

FEURIO! (Edition Erlkönig, 3-4 players, ages 10 and up, 30 minutes; about $20)

 

One of the joys of attending the Spiele Faire in Essen is discovering a game that flies under the radar. In other words, a game that is not being released by one of the major game manufacturers and isn’Feurioboxt receiving much fanfare, yet turns out to be a truly entertaining title. My biggest “find” of Spiel 2003 was a game of fighting forest fires in medieval times: Feurio!. Feurio! is designed by Heinrich Glumpler, who also created last year’s Fette Autos, and released under his Edition Erlkönig label.

I didn’t know much about Feurio! beyond the early descriptions found on a few websites. However, it was one of the games on my list to try during the convention. The opportunity arose late during the week, and I am so happy I Picture of ‘Feurio!’ didn’t miss it. It was one of my favorites of the convention.

Players send forth a team of firefighters into a forest in attempts to reach the hot spots and control the conflagration. The fire will spread and players must attempt to arrange their firefighters so that they are not cut-off from the edge of the forest and their water supply. Positioning of firefighters is of utmost importance and victory will go to the player who is able to get his fighters into the hottest areas.

The game is a quasi tile-laying game, as well as a piece positioning game. In that respect, it is similar to games such as Carcassonne. However, the similarities blur after this and the game has a unique and fresh feel.

During the course of the game, 36 tiles will be placed by the players. Each tile depicts from 1 – 6 fires burning in a lush forest. There are also from 1 – 3 spaces on each tile where firefighters may be positioned. The pawns themselves are very basic, not unlike you will find in many traditional American games. Functional, but not thematic.
After setting out four tiles to begin the game, the turn sequence is quite simple. Each turn, a player places a tile, then positions from 1 – 3 pawns onto any one tile.

The placement of the tile follows the rules (as far as I understand) of a real forest fire – the fire will spread most rapidly from the hottest spot. A tile must be placed adjacent to the tiles whose numbers have the greatest cumulative total. Once placed, the player then has the option of placing 1 – 3 pawns onto any one tile. This does not have to be the tile just placed, but rather any one tile. There is a restriction, however: a tile can only contain as manyFeurio! board firefighters as it has free exterior edges. Thus, if a tile only has one exterior edge, then it can only contain one firefighter. However, if a tile ultimately has its number of free edges reduced, existing firefighters on that tile are NOT removed.Feuriobrd

This placement rule allows for placements that will block opponents from placing onto a particular tile and may cut-off their contiguous fire lines … and perhaps even isolate their firefighters from the exterior of the forest. This will doom that group and yield zero points.

The game ends when all 36 tiles have been placed. At that point, each player may place any remaining firefighters if they are able. The forest areas are then scored to determine the victor.

The ultimate objective of the game is to form your firefighters into a contiguous grouping on as many tiles as possible. Ultimately, points will be scored for each area a player has firefighters on … provided the area also contains at least one tile located on the exterior of the forest and has at least one tile containing a lake. If these criteria are met, the area will score as follows:

Total the numbers on all of the tiles, then divide that number by the lowest number on the tiles. Example: An area contains the following tiles: 6, 4, 3, 3, 2. The total is 18/2 = 9 points. It is readily apparent that one of the key tactics is to attempt to incorporate at least one low-valued tile into a group containing several high-valued tiles. That is certainly easier said than done.

While attempting to extend a forest area and incorporate both high-value and at least one low-value tile, one must constantly keep an eye on the possibility of being cut-off from the exterior of the forest. This would render all of your efforts fruitless. So while you are seeking opportunities to advance your positions, you must also be wary of possibilities that could occur to foil your plans. Of course, you must also seek opportunities to interfere with your opponent’s aims and to cut them off at every opportunity. No doubt, there are lots of things to watch for in this brilliant little game.

But it doesn’t stop there. Several optional rules are included to add even further spark to the raging fire. One of these is the “Fire Line” option. The reverse side of each tile contains a firebreak with a value of zero. When placing a tile, the player has the option of placing it as normal, or placing it with the firebreak side face-up. This has the effect of “cooling” the hot spot and likely directing the fire in a different direction. This is one way to get the fire moving in a direction you may desire … or away from a direction that favors your opponents. The cost of doing this, however, is high. The player may not place any firefighters that turn and must discard one from his supply. Still, the advantages occasionally outweigh these costs.

I’ve played Feurio! numerous times and it is always exciting, tense and filled with options. An added bonus is that the game plays in 30 or so minutes, which practically insures that it will see regular playing time for a long, long time. Finding games such as this makes the Essen experience even sweeter. – – – – – – – – – – – – – Greg J. Schloesser


 

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