Kevin Lanzing


No. of Players:
1 - 6



Flash Point - Fire Rescue is a cooperative game for up to six players, but because of the automatic mechanics for the spreading of fire it can be enjoyed even as a solo game. The gameboard displays a house in which a fire is blazing, and so fire markers are distributed in some spaces at the beginning of the game. For the basic game these fire markers will be placed at fixed locations, but later on a random setup can be chosen so that the fire can come up in different locations. In addition to the fire, three point of interest (POI) markers also are distributed face down on the gameboard, and during the course of the game the players will have to find out whether these POI-markers are dummies or victims in need of rescue. Whenever a dummy is found or a victim is rescued, a new POI-marker is drawn and placed on the board, and the game is won when the players succeed in rescuing a total of seven victims. However, the maximum number of victims in a game is ten, and so the players will loose if four or more victims are killed by the fire.

The players start with their Fire-meeples outside the house, and during their turns they may act on a traditional action point mechanism. Thus, each player may spend a total of four action points, and these may be used for moving, carrying a victim, opening / closing doors, extinguishing fire and chopping down walls. While a normal move costs one action point, other actions like the carrying of a victim or the chopping of a wall consume two points, and even more tricky is the extinguishing of fire. It costs one action point to turn a fire marker from its fire side to the smoke side, but smoke markers are liable to re-ignite and so it's better to remove them by spending another action point. Following this straightforward approach, the players move through the house, trying to keep the fire at bay while at the same time exploring POI-markers and rescuing victims by carrying them outside the house.

After each player's turn, the "artificial fire intelligence" takes its turn by advancing the fire situation on the gameboard. Two dice are rolled to find a space with corresponding coordinates, and a new smoke marker is placed at that space. However, if the marker would be placed on top of an already existing smoke marker that marker will be turned to its fire side, and likewise the smoke will also ignite if it is placed next to an already existing fire marker. Even worse is the situation if the smoke would be placed atop an already existent fire marker, since now an explosion will take place, spreading fire on all four neighbouring spaces and possibly destroying walls and doors. After the fire has advanced in this phase, a final flashover takes place which means that all smoke markers neighbouring fire markers will ignite as well, and in this fashion the fire will slowly spread through all of the house unless the players can find a way to keep the fire at bay.

The rules introduced so far already line out the structure of the basic (family) version of the game, but things get much more interesting when the additional rules of the expert game are used. Now each of the firemen becomes a specialist with his own unique ability, and the players are forced to cooperate at a much higher level in order to use these abilities to their common success. So, the Fire Captain gets two extra action points which he may spent on moving other characters around, the Paramedic can treat victims so that they can be moved quicker, or the CAFS (=Compressed Air Foam System) Firefighter gets additional action points for extinguishing fires.

Quite interesting is also the role of the Driver / Operator, since he is very effective when the players want to use the newly introduced fire engine which is parked outside the house. The engine may park adjacent to any quarter of the house, and a fireman manning the engine may move it or fire it's deck gun, splashing a powerful gust of water on a random target space within the house's quarter and all adjacent spaces. As indicated, the Driver / Operator character is more effective here, since he may operate the engine at half the normal cost.

However, with these interesting options increasing the firefighters' effectiveness, the game's balancing needed some adjustment as well, and so the challenge is increased by some Hazardous Materials ("Hazmat") and Hot Spot markers which had been distributed at the beginning of the game. If the fire consumes Hazmat, an explosion takes place spreading fire in the usual manner into all adjacent spaces, and so the Hazmat either must be carried out of the building or removed from play by the Hazmat Technician specialist character. Hot Spots on the other hand may cause fire to come up in additional regions of the gameboard, and so the players need to be on their guard because a quickly spreading fire may endanger the structure of the whole building and cause it to collapse.

Considering the rules' mechanics Kevin Lanzing has chosen a very traditional approach for his game, since neither the action point mechanism nor the approach used for spreading fire seem to be an absolute novelty. However, sometimes known elements can be assembled into a new creation, and here kudos must be given to Kevin for his masterful creation of this challenging and captivating firefighting game. The straightforward character of the rules makes it very easy for all participating players to grab the basic concept of the game, and this easy accessibility is not lost even when the expert rules are used. Quite the opposite, the game gains momentum especially through the use of the different specialist firemen, since every player now gets the feeling that his character takes a very important, unique role in the joint efforts to solve the mission. Thus, playing depth is increased both in terms of strategy and atmosphere, and it can be assumed that players will quickly develop a clear preference for the expert game!

The year 2011 seems to be the first year in which game designers have resorted to fundraising via the website of Kickstarter.com on a major scale, and also the roots for Flash Point - Fire Rescue go back to Kickstarter-funding. However, this project differs considerable from some other projects concerning the funds level, since Travis Worthington found 845 backers for Flash Point - Fire Rescue, and together this group of people sponsored the amazing amount of $ 51,398! With this level of funding, the equipment and extras included with the game could be considerably increased, and so the game is now available with wooden Fire-meeples, an additional two-sided gameboard with two new buildings, a promo card and a scenario-book.

For my taste the story around Flash Point - Fire Rescue is a very good example how Kickstarter may be used to bring an excellent game to life. All backers who supported the initial project received the game plus all goodies at a reduced price in comparison to the final sales price, but INDIE BOARDS AND CARDS owner Travis Worthington did not induce people to join this project by promising all additional goodies to be "Kickstarter only". Thus, customers of the SPIEL convention could get the scenario book, the additional gameboard and the promo specialist for a surcharge, and so the exclusivity of these goodies is not used as a leverage to get more backers at Kickstarter.

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany