I don’t get to play as many new games as I would like, but I played some exceptional games last year that were new to me and I really want to share them. These games may not have come out in 2012, but that’s when I first played them.
Up first, Flash Point: Fire Rescue by Indie Boards & Cards.
My wife and I first played this over Thanksgiving while in Colorado with our friends, Dave & Kris, they have both expansions. It immediately went on my Xmas list, and surprisingly, my wife bought it for me. It helps that she also likes the game. It is a cooperative game, similar to Pandemic, where everyone is a specialist firefighter trying to extinguish a blaze and save lives. The game is lost when four people die (called POIs, or Points of Interest) or you run out of structural damage cubes (black) where explosions have weakened walls and the building collapses.
The box says the game is rated for two to six players and 45 minutes, I think those are good estimates. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t play this game solo, just play two or three roles and be honest with the dice rolls. The game uses two dice, a d6 and a d8. The boards are divided to use the d6/d8 for coordinates for placing fires, POIs, smoke, etc. It is also fairly compact and can be played on a card table, though there can be a lot of fiddly bits.
Each player takes a specialist role card, and you can change it if you don’t like your role or the needs of the fire suggest a different role would be useful, it will cost you a turn to change roles. Some roles are: Fire Chief (gives extra movement to others), Engineer (repairs structural damage but cannot fight fires). Paramedic (throws bandages at POIs so they can move faster), Generalist (most movement and firefighting capability, but that’s all that role does), Compressed Air Firefighting System (AKA CAFS, amazing firefighting ability but doesn’t move fast), etc. One role allows you to use the water canon on the fire engine, a HazMat specialist, a Thermal Imaging Technician, etc. Text on the card explains what the role can do.
To set up a game, select a map and roll to place explosions, smoke, hot spots (which may cause more fires) and POIs (placed face-down). Depending on the scenario, you also may place HazMat. There are simple rules to relocate a POI or HazMat if the roll would put them directly in fire. Firefighter specialist roles are distributed or selected, then everyone chooses where they are entering from and who goes first. On your turn, you move (optional), perform an action (fight fire, rescue people, repair damage, whatever), then roll for more smoke. If you roll a location that is already smoke, it turns to fire and any adjacent smoke turns to fire. If you roll a location that’s fire, it explodes and the fire spreads and damages walls. After you roll smoke, you roll to replace any POIs that were rescued.
Every firefighter carries an axe and can chop through walls, it takes two actions and places two damage markers on the wall, which means fire can spread through the breech and that it cannot be repaired by the structural engineer, that role can only remove single damage tokens.
POIs die easily. If they’re on smoke and it turns to fire, they’re dead. If they’re next to an explosion and it hits them, they’re dead. Lose four POIs and you’ve lost the game. The tricky bit about POIs is that they’re placed face-down, and all you see is a question mark. You think there’s something there, and you’re going to have to go and check it out, but it might be blank, or it could be a pet. If a pet dies, it counts as one of the four deaths.
To save a POI, get them out of the building. You can carry them, which reduces your movement, or if the paramedic threw a bandage on them they can move with you. They cannot move by themselves. Get them out to the ambulance, and they’re saved.
To win the game, rescue seven real POIs, the blank ones are false alarms and don’t count for winning or losing.
Obviously the rules are a little more complicated than what I’ve described, but not seriously so. It’s a very quick game to learn and lots of fun, once you’re set up the rules aren’t needed much once you’re familiar with the game. Since it’s cooperative, table talk is encouraged to coordinate actions and make sure you don’t screw someone else up if you can avoid it, or to explain that someone’s planned action is a really bad idea or there’s a better way to do it.
The game plays at a brisk pace, which helps maintain a high level of interest. I’ve won games with three roles in play, I’ve won games with six, and I’ve lost them with any number: the number of players/roles makes little difference as to how tough the fire is. The more roles, you have more flexibility but more chances for the fire to spread massively before it’s your turn again. Fewer roles means faster action, but you might not have the role needed at the moment. Changing roles requires you to be at the fire truck and spend a turn. It’s not uncommon for the Imaging Technician to start on the truck, spend one round identifying POIs, then switching to another role.
You always want either the generalist or the CAFS in the game, if you have neither you’re in trouble and if you have both you’re either going to rock the fire or you might be weak for other needed functions.
HIGHLY recommended, this game is a blast. They also funded it and the expansions through Kickstarter, and had some great deals for getting previous releases.
The game is available at, in addition to hopefully your Friendly Local Game Store, at some Barnes & Noble and some Targets, and Amazon, natch.