Flash Point: Fire Rescue
Times played: 100+
What is it? Flash Point: Fire Rescue is a cooperative fire rescue game where players act as firemen. The core mechanics are dice rolling and an action point system (where you can save actions to a future turn).
How thematic is it? Games with a good theme that you can feel as you take your turn resonate with me the hardest. For all the love I have for cube pushers and resource gatherers, a game where I feel like I’m the character I’m playing make me want to play the game again and again. Flash Point: Fire Rescue has theme for days. It takes a profession that everyone knows (and many fantasized about growing up and joining) and puts the player in their own Personal Protective Equipment. Players will feel the tension in the air as the house closes in on them due to a fire breaking out near their location, they will have to make the risky decision of saving the victim this turn or making a new exit out of the wall now to hopefully save the victim next and players will be absolutely guilt stricken if they let the dog die. Just heartbroken.
Is it easy to play? Flash Point offers two different modes that allow for easier family-style gaming and more hobby based gaming and both are great. Flash Point could easily have been a very lightweight game that had easy decision making with some slight stress as the fire roars but it made the decision to provide that and a slightly more complex version that lets players feel more tension with their decision making. Both of these games reside in the same box! The premise remains the same for both versions and jumping from one mode to the other doesn’t require any leaps in knowledge. I recommend playing the basic game (family mode) at least once to get the hang of things but after that, players are well-versed enough to understand any of the rules. It’s definitely a game that would be good for new players to the hobby or children as you can introduce a streamlined version of the game and progress to the advanced scenario when you feel ready.
So what do you do exactly? Depending on the difficulty, players are looking to rescue seven to ten victims from a house fire. Players typically have four action points each turn (this may vary depending on the specialist role they take, which allows them unique actions to help fight the blaze each game) and will spend their turn using them to move, put fires out, grab victims, open doors, destroy walls and more. After player use their actions, the fire will spread based on a dice roll. The roll coincides with the grid system that is the board. Following the outcome of the fire roll, players will ensure that there are enough victims on the board to rescue. I do want to make note that the victims being rescued are randomized and hidden knowledge, so you may think you’re grabbing a person but in reality, it’s nothing.
How are the components? After over a hundred plays, Flash Point: Fire Rescue is still in just as good of a condition as it was the first time we played it (minus the box as I stepped on it). The board is bright with its colors but makes it easy to see and navigate the grid-based system the house uses. We never have an issue seeing the rows and columns needed for the dice rolls and the walls and doors are easy to see on the map. The miniatures are a nice quality and while all the same, offer the players the ability to paint them rather easily compared to other miniatures due to their size.
What about player size? Playing time? Flash Point can play up to six players and I think this game works well with every player count from solo to six. The only negatives about playing with more players is the downtime but even when playing with six, I never felt like I was too distanced from the game. The theme immersed me and I was invested in seeing how the fire was going in Alyssa’s hallway. I’ve never had a bad experience playing with big or small groups and while I prefer keeping the game to two, it’s only due to the fact that we can typically play it quicker and knock out two or three games as opposed to one. With two-players, we can routinely finish a game in the thirty-five minute mark with an additional five or six minutes added for each additional player. I also quite enjoy Flash Point as a solo game where you control two characters. The rules are relaxed enough that the record keeping is a breeze.
Is the randomness of the dice rolling ever problematic? You can’t talk about Flash Point: Fire Rescue without addressing the randomness that is the dice rolling. Dice rolling plays a large part in the appearance of smoke and fire that occurs in the home. I have no quarrels with this system as it helps mimic the absolute chaos that is a out of control blaze. I specifically want to address though the rolling that occurs for new victims that players need to locate. Far too many times have we pulled a victim from a bathroom only to learn that another victim is there awaiting our help (I guess they were hiding in the medicine cabinet). I wish the system was card based or used some other mechanic so I could clear a room (especially a small one) and not have to venture back to it. We can imagine that the smoke is too thick to see them or they moved from one room to another (but in that case, how did we learn of them?) but it feels cheap.
Just as easy as I complain about the randomness, I also want to praise it. No two games ever feel alike as the dice ensure that fires occur in random locations and no set guidelines are ever truly established. You could spend a round eliminating most of the fire from one room just to have the room engulfed in flames immediately but you could just as easily have the fire never return and the lone fire you failed to put out embers in the corner for the remainder of eternity. I do love the inclusion of blank point of interest tokens (the visualization of the victims). Spending two turns fighting your way to someone only to find out they’re nothing is infuriating but feels like something that should happen when rescuing people from a fire. You just won’t know until you get there.
How interactive is the game? You will be hard pressed to succeed at Flash Point without involving your teammates. The game is cooperative and will require players working in tandem to best save the potential victims.
Which is the best specialist? I honestly think they all have their place but I really like the Generalist (which sounds mad lame). Having an extra action point each turn is so valuable and to me, more beneficial than a bonus ability that is really helpful but only in certain situations. With that being said, I actually like most of the specialist and if we do a random draw, I’m never disappointed with the one I get as they all have their uses.
Does winning feel satisfying? Sometimes. Some games you will know well before the final turn if you’re going to win or not. The dice rolled in your favor and it just requires you to move for another round before notching the victory. That can feel anti-climatic. On the flip side, other games will be lost on the final turn as a fire erupts at your chosen exit and dooms you to a fiery fate. More often than not, I enjoy playing Flash Point for the experience as opposed to playing to win.
Do you need the expansions to flesh out the game or fix any broken mechanics? Flash Point: Fire Rescue has several expansions readily available and while they all offer different experiences (which I’ll touch on in different posts), none are necessary to enjoy the base game. Flash Point on its own is a polished product and more than enough game for many people.
Is this a good gateway game? Yes. I consider Flash Point an excellent gateway game for new players to the hobby, young or old.
Pandemic or Flash Point? Flash Point: Fire Rescue is not always my go-to when I want to play a cooperative game (Pandemic typically gets the nod). However, Flash Point still sees the table due to the much lighter weight of the game and the theme. Pandemic feels like a simulation where you play the odds that are the infection deck whereas Flash Point leaves players at the mercy of the dice roll. It creates a much simpler play style and visualizes the problems in front of you in a way that Pandemic cannot (unless your board is just riddled with infection cubes). Compared to Pandemic though, I would recommend Flash Point as a great introduction to cooperative games as not only is it simpler, it also creates an atmosphere that makes quarterbacking harder than usual (although it can still be present). The ever evolving fire makes distinct plans harder to cater to and there is less knowledge about what is coming so you won’t necessarily have players saying you need to go to Essen and clear the cubes or else the game will end. I also find that Flash Point tends to have more options available to the player compared to Pandemic. Players can make decisions (such as making a new exit) that could lead them to winning the game or being a total waste of time and result in a loss. You just don’t know whereas in Pandemic there is a clear path to optimal play and going out of the way to perform an action more often than not results in a negative consequence. The roles offered in Flash Point each feel distinctly different and important. Everyone has their specialty and it allows players to play to their strength. As I continue to compare this to Pandemic, Flash Point allows its players the ability to become experts in their field and that hurts someone trying to quarterback the team as they tell Matt to can it since they’re the better choice at extinguishing fires.
Would I recommend this game? Yes, if the theme interests you (or you just like thematic games), you like cooperative games or you want a lightweight cooperative game. If you’re looking for a true fire fighting simulation, want complex tasks or puzzles to solve or hate randomness, I would steer clear of Flash Point. Flash Point is one of my favorite games and still sees the table after being in my collection for almost a decade now. While I own several of the expansions, I still play the base game regularly which is a true testament to Flash Point’s brilliance.