Reviewed by Kevin Whitmore
FIRE! (Stronghold Games/2F-Spiele, 1-2 players, ages 10 and up, 25 minutes; $19.95)
Fire! by Friedemann Friese is a one or two-player game, released in 2019 from 2F-Spiele and Stronghold Games. As with many of Friedemann’s smaller games, it comes in a small green box measuring about 5” square.
Fire! is a “Fable” game, this means that it has a preconstructed deck, as well as a rules manual. Players will slowly work their way through the deck as they play the game. This concept was first introduced in Friedemann’s 2017 game, Fabled Fruit (featured in the Wintger 2017 Gamers Alliance Report). It was seen again in his 2018 game, Fine Sand.
Friedemann is a busy game designer, and has also been releasing several other “Fable” games that have been presented as “Fast Forward” games. All of these games have been presented in the same small green box format mentioned. A “Fast Forward” game is a “Fable” game with no rules-manual. Instead, players slowly reveal the rules via game cards interspersed in the deck. To be clear, Fire! *does* contain a rulebook. Therefore, this game while packaged in a small green box, should not be confused with the “Fast Forward” games series.
Any “Fable” game is designed to slowly reveal itself to its players as the game progresses through the deck. This makes presenting a review a bit fraught. Commenting on specific features of a game is often highly desired in a review, while simultaneously risking an unwanted reveal to a potential owner of the game. If you just want my evaluation, sans specific game details, please jump down to the “Final Evaluation” section at the end of this review.
Fire!’s theme is pretty self-evident from the box cover. Basically, this is “Space Invaders: The Card Game”. I am of an age where I played a fair bit of Space Invaders as a youth. This nod to my youth is a welcomed theme and helps with the fun factor. Those old video games had crude 8-bit monsters and the artwork in the game reflects that. Well done! Old video games often had a progress bar and the artwork even incorporates this into the progression of the deck as the first level is 10% while the last level is 90%.
Initially, the player gets three weapons and a deck of battery cards. Above you are space invaders and your job is to shoot them down. After you shuffle the battery cards you turn them over one card at a time, assigning them to one of your weapons. Battery charges come in variable quantities, initially ranging from 1-5. Ideally, you want to achieve a charge of “14” by using as many battery cards as possible. Each weapon will discharge when it hits a charge of “10”. But damage is keyed to the amount of charge in excess of 10. Achieving a charge of 10 is basically a misfire, while a charge of 14 would generate 4 damage. But this is only half of the equation. Battery cards have crosshairs on them. Count up the number of crosshairs, total them, and then multiply that by the damage generated. This final result is how much damage you have to shoot with.
Example, a weapon has the following battery cards laid upon it: 2, 3, 4 and finally a 5. This adds up to 14. 14-10=4, so the charge has generated 4 damage. Each battery card has a crosshair on it, and a total of 4 cards were played. So, 4 damage X 4 crosshairs = 16. You can now destroy 16 points of space invaders.
The invaders have damage quantities printed on each side of the card. Once you destroy an edge you rotate it to the next edge. After hitting all four edges with enough damage, the invader is destroyed.
There are a few wrinkles that come as you progress through the game. But this is the thrust of the game. As you progress, the invaders will become tougher and more numerous. Each level will have you conducting the same sorts of game turns. You will learn that there is not much room for error. I find beating each progressive level to be increasingly tough. The luck of the shuffle is a factor in whether you can clear a level. Perhaps you will do better, but I resorted to devising mild “cheats” to help me clear levels. My criticism of the game is that it stopped feeling like a game at some point, and began to feel more like a puzzle to be solved.
I have only played the solitaire game. But I doubt my insights would be much different were I to play it as a two-player game. In fact, I would expect it to be a lower evaluation, as I see little to entice me in the two-player rules. I am finding myself hesitant to recommend this game. I have had some fun with it, to be sure. Fire! requires a lot of computations. Nothing is hard, the game features mild multiplication, addition and subtraction. Routine turns will have you counting cards, counting card values, summing, and multiplying according to a simple formula, and then decrementing from the total you generated. You constantly do these math operations in this game. If you don’t like math, you will not enjoy this game. One other concern is the shear amount of shuffling required. I expect I will start to see wear relatively quickly with this game. The card quality is fine, but the number of shuffles will surely take its toll. (I found the same to be true of FF’s other recent solitaire game, Finished.)
If you love recreational math or the space invaders theme really entices, I would say there is a chance you can enjoy Fire!. But my final evaluation is that Friday and Finished are superior solitaire games from Friedemann Friese. – – – – – – -Kevin Whitmore
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