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Flash Point: Fire Rescue

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Indie Boards & Cards, 2-6 players, ages 10 and up, 45 minutes; $39.99)

 

flashpointEven as a child, I always had respect for those among us who had the incredible courage to not only face danger but put themselves in harm’s way to save others. Firefighters are part of that select group. Instead of running from a burning building, they run towards it, using their skills and training against a primeval force of nature. Gamers can vicariously experience that sense of danger as they combine talents to rescue potential victims of a raging fire in the new cooperative game by Kevin Lanzing: Flash Point: Fire Rescue.

Flash Point: Fire Rescue comes with tokens (representing firefighters), loads of counters (standing for fire, smoke, doors, vehicles, potential victims and more), a pair of dice (a six-sider and an eight-sider) as well as a two-sided board, each side depicting a cutaway view of a building. (One side has easier egress for the firefighters as it has more doorways leading in – and out.) There is a grid so that each space in the building corresponds to a grid coordinate. The north and south perimeters of the building are divided into 8 areas (matching the eight-sided die) while the eastern and western perimeters are divided into six areas (to match the six-sider). When both dice are rolled, the resulting number indicates the precise location of the triggered event.

Two levels of play are possible: Family and Experienced (and there are three levels of difficulty to the Experienced game). But set up is similar in each.

Door markers (on their closed side) are placed on the doorways on the board with the matching icons. Fire markers are placed in three areas of the board to indicate the start of the crisis. There are 18 Person of Interest (POI) markers, 12 of them potential victims of the flames and 6 merely blanks. Two victims and one blank are removed from play and the rest randomly mixed with three placed on the board (on pre-determined spaces in the Family game or by die rolls in the Experienced game). Each player gets a token (his firefighter) and places it near one of the outside doors, poised for action.

Every player has 4 Action Points (APs) to spend each turn on a variety of actions, specifically:

Move – A player may move his token horizontally or vertically (never diagonally). Movement generally costs 1 AP per space unless you move into a space with a fire token (that costs 2 and you can’t end your turn there) or if you’re carrying a victim (in which case, you are doing double duty and each space costs 2 APs).

Open or Close a Door – For 1 AP

Extinguish – Remove a smoke marker from the board (for 1 AP), flip a fire marker to its smoke side (for 1 AP) or remove a fire token (2 APs).

Chop – Break down a wall. Each “break” costs 2 AP. This damage is marked by placing a black cube on the damaged wall. With a second “break”, another black cube is placed and that wall is broken. A player may pass through that wall as if it was never there.

A player need not spend all his APs on a turn. He can save them (up to a total of 4) for use on a future turn. Once a player has completed his actions, the fire gets a turn to spread.

Now the dice are rolled and the Target space determined. If no fire is present in that space, a smoke marker is placed there. If a smoke marker is already there, that marker is flipped to its fire side. If the new smoke marker is adjacent (and adjacent in game terms, as with movement, means horizontally and vertically but never diagonally), then that marker is flipped to its fire side immediately. But if the Target space already has a fire in it, then an explosion occurs!

Explosions spread fire. Each adjacent space gets a fire marker. If a fire marker is already present, then a “shockwave” occurs. In that case, the fire moves like a wave and results in a smoke marker placed in an empty space OR a smoke filled space turned into fire OR damage to a wall OR destruction of a door (in which case the door token is removed from the board). Any firefighter caught in a space with a fire token is considered knocked down and is removed from the building. He must then re-enter the building on his next turn. If that firefighter was carrying a victim, that victim does not survive.

flashpointpcsThe final thing to do is to check to see if there are any POI tokens left on the board. If there are less than three, additional POI tokens are placed to get the number up to three, with the needed tokens placed in the Target spaces determined by die rolls. (The designer must be an animal lover as two POI tokens represent a cat and a dog and they are worth the same as humans rescued from the burning building when determining winning or losing.)

The game ends when either 7 victims have been successfully removed from the building (in which case ALL players win) OR when 4 victims are lost (in which case EVERYBODY loses). If all 24 damage cubes have been placed, then the building has suffered so much damage that it collapses! Again, everybody loses.

Requirements for victory (and defeat) are the same in the Experienced game but this version of Flash Point expands on the Family game and offers additional considerations for the more serious gamer by bringing vehicles, hazardous material (hazmat), “hot spots” and roles into play.

Two vehicles make their appearance here: the fire engine and the ambulance. A firefighter is able to drive a fire engine to different locations around the building (for 2 AP to the next engine space, 4 AP to the other side of the building) and then, fire the “deck gun” (for another 4 APs). The deck gun fires into the particular quadrant where the engine is parked and hits the Targeted space (via die roll) to extinguish any fire in that space and in all adjacent spaces. (This can be extremely helpful in controlling a fire on the verge of being out of control. Of course, since you are depending on a die roll – and using a lot of APs, it’s best to save this method of attack for a quadrant that is truly a conflagration to avoid missing the fire altogether!)

Hazmat tokens represent inflammable material improperly stored in the building. They can be removed from the building just like victims – and it’s good to remove them if you can. Any Hazmat token in a space with fire causes yet another explosion. Exploded hazmat tokens are replaced by “hot spot” tokens. When a “fire” roll results in a token placed where a hot spot is already located, a “flare up” occurs which results in another fire roll simulating just how easy fire can spread. But the most interesting addition to the Experience game is the introduction of roles.

There are 8 different roles (aka “specialists”) available for play, each with their own advantages (and disadvantages). The Paramedic, for example, can “revive” a victim so that it costs no additional APs to move that victim but it costs him twice as much in APs to remove fire or smoke. The Rescue Specialist gets THREE additional APs each turn and can chop through walls at half the cost but has to pay double to extinguish fire or smoke. The Fire Captain has 2 additional APs to use in moving OTHER firefighters. The Imaging Technician can flip ANY POI token on the board (for 1 AP) to save players from going after blank tokens and wasting valuable time and so on. Players may change roles with any role not currently in play if they are located in the same space as the Engine (but spend 2 APs to do it).

The mechanisms used in Flash Point ably capture the semi-predictability of fire and its ability to appear almost out of nowhere in the blink of an eye. It also encourages the use of roles – and using them in full cooperation – to maximize their benefits as is fitting with a cooperative game. It also provides some flexibility in your firefight. It should be mentioned that the graphic presentation is of extremely high quality, even more impressive when you consider this is from a relatively new and small company. Particularly noteworthy is the dynamic box art and role cards artwork which are exceptionally good (credit Luis Francisco, George Patsouras and Hervoje Cop for that). And, as long as we’re talking about artwork, the stylized representations of potential victims makes “losing” them to the fire less “painful” or disturbing, a thoughtful consideration in a family game. But, unlike many family games, Flash Point plays well at both Family and Experienced levels with the degree of difficulty easily tweaked so that the game works with all different levels of gamers. (Need even more variability? An expansion pack containing another double-sided board and another role [Structural Engineer who can repair wall damage but is totally useless in combating smoke and fire] is also available.)

Flash Point: Fire Rescue takes game players into an infernal inferno that is hot and happening, a game that, truly, is suitable, challenging and fun for all ages.

 


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