The essence of a cooperative game is that it’s you (the players) against the game. In this particular game, you are firemen trying to rescue innocent civilians from a conflagration that keeps burning in a building that continually veers towards collapse. If you win, everyone wins, but if not, everyone loses. I had never heard of cooperative games until last year and I’m totally enthralled by them. Not all gamers are married to gamers, so marital bliss isn’t often enhanced by the suggestion of whipping out a quick board game. I’ve even seen a married couple engage in a blazing row, including full board flip, over a game of Monopoly, although to be fair that might be because Monopoly is such a dreadful game. And yes, in case you’re wondering, the phrase “blazing row” was deliberate here. But what if two loving partners with nothing better to do with their time were to engage on a fun bit of role-playing together? Not that kind, pervert. And that’s what a game like this is – a bit of fun where people work together. I’ve even seen non-gaming spouses (spice?) converted to gaming by Flash Point.
2) Advance Fire
3) Replenish POI markers
Phase 2 is advancing the fire. This is where things go wrong for you. The game comes with two dice – one six-sided and one eight-sided. At this point, you roll both dice and place a smoke marker on the corresponding grid square. If the square is empty and adjacent squares are empty or smoke-filled, nothing happens, other than more smoke filling the board. If the square is already smoke, it becomes fire. If an adjacent square is fire, then your smoke immediately becomes fire. If it’s placed on an existing fire, then all hell breaks loose because you’ve got an explosion where walls and doors can be damaged, people can be injured and fire spreads like crazy. You also have to check for flashovers, which is where squares that have just started burning (e.g. as a result of an explosion) that might be adjacent to smoke markers will turn them all to fire as well. In the pictures below, for example, the yellow firefighter is dealing with a small blaze in one room while the blue firefighter has decided to turn fire into smoke wherever he goes, instead of putting it out. Silly blue firefighter. The dice are rolled and, with alarming accuracy, a fire token is placed right in the middle of the blue firefighter’s room. That happens a lot, actually – the so-long-as-it-doesn’t-set-that-particular-square-on-fire risk that goes wrong far more frequently that you would expect statistically. Every smoke token next to a fire token turns to fire, even going out of the door of the room.
She rushes forward and flips the POI marker…
i) The building collapses
ii) 7 POIs have been rescued (or 10 for the perfect game)
iii) 4 of the 10 POIs die (thereby making it impossible to get 7 out safely).
So, what do we say about this game?
Accessibility: 5/5 – This is an incredibly easy game to learn and not only is it a co-op game but it can also be played solo very easily.
Design: 3/5 – I rather like the models in this game – they’re simple, brightly coloured and stand out against the flat game. The markers are particularly clear as well. The board initially seems cluttered with dice pictures on each square, but you quickly get used to it. In terms of game balance, this is excellent – not too hard and not too easy.
Depth: 2/5 – There’s not that much depth to this game. It’s an ever-evolving puzzle so you have to keep your wits about you and balance certain risks and strategies (“No, you go for the victim and I’ll put out the fire here before it spreads…”).
Replayability: 3/5 – This game is fairly well written in terms of progression. First, there’s the basic game and then there are three levels of experienced game – Recruit, Veteran, and Heroic. Moreover, because there are Specialists, there are many ways that you and your fellow gamers can approach even the same scenario. That said, there are only so many times you can go into the same board and put out the fires and rescue people (an issue which later expansions resolve).
Availability: 5/5 – Easily available online and in gaming stores, usually for a very fair price of $25-$30.
Summary: I like this game. I don’t love it, but I like it. Reviewing it has made me want to play it again. It’s a perfect intro game for non-gamers, for young gamers and also for those wishing to learn co-op games. More experienced gamers will find themselves challenged by more advanced scenarios, as well, so there’s something here for everyone. There is a random element throughout the game, as with many games, but it seems totally thematic here in the sense of a chaotic fire suddenly bursting into flames in one room and another. Some co-op games are all but impossible to win (I’m looking at you, Ghost Stories!) but this one is perfectly beatable with good teamwork, unless you’re really unlucky. It can be frustrating to flip over a POI tile only to find it’s blank, but I guess that reflects the hectic nature of fire rescue in that you think you see someone and go to investigate. Aiming for the perfect game makes it harder and while it can be exciting to get everyone out of the building with only moments to spare, you’re not going to be left with the same narrative and stories to tell as you might with other games… except for the time that I sacrificed my own firefighter so that my wife could get the last victim out just as the building collapsed, but that’s because I’m hero all over. I wouldn’t say that this is excellent but it’s certainly a good, solid game. It’s not too long, it’s easy to learn, it’s well priced, and there are a ridiculous number of expansions (to be reviewed separately another time). Most importantly, it gets you talking to others around the table, planning, howling when you roll badly and the fire spreads like… well, wildfire. Some games will be extremely cerebral and quiet but this is not that kind of game. It’s sociable, vocal and fun. It can also be played solo. You can even balance out the most common problem of co-op games, which is the dominating player, by making one of the quieter players the Fire Captain (thereby giving them the Command ability to move other players).
Final Score: Easy to learn, fun, increasing complexity, a strong sociable component, increasing complexity and a good basis for some excellent expansions affords Flash Point a very respectable 76%.