Monday, February 20, 2017

Playing with fire...

How many times have you been told that, growing up?

"You're playing with fire, kid, ya better stop before you get burned." 


Of course "fire" could be, well, actual fire, or it could be more figurative, such as misbehaving in front of the relatives or teasing the dog. I must admit, that growing up I did play with fire, both the actual hot "product of rapid oxidation" as well as the occasional bouts of misbehaving. I would never tease a dog, though, that's just uncool. I don't think it caused any permanent harm, though. I turned out to be a well adjusted adult, doing adult things like getting married and holding down a job. 

Can I let you in on a little secret? I never stopped playing with fire, and I still play with fire today! And I'm talkin' about the hot stuff here, not the figurative stuff. No kidding! Well, as you'll read a bit later, maybe the hot stuff is actually a figurative type of hot stuff.

OK, who in the background just coughed and muttered "pyromaniac?" Don't think I didn't hear that!

For several years, starting late in my high school days through my time in Colorado, I was a volunteer firefighter.  Yes, I'd like to think I did this to serve my fellow man and give back to the community. For the most part, that's true. If I'm going to be totally honest, though, I did enjoy the "adrenaline junkie" part of it as well. There's just something about heading into a rip-roarin' fire with your team and facing the beast head on. So, now you'll see how my last blog got its name. This is the "flaming" part. The "zombie" part will be another blog talking about the game Dead of Winter, kinda like I did with my Pandemic blog. I covered the "bowl" part already, so off we go!


Does anyone feel hot?


I took the above photo during a training burn when I was with the Eagle Volunteer Fire Department wayyyy back in the early 90's. I still remember that day, and how much fun we had. There are times I miss being a volunteer firefighter, but with all the other activities in my life, and yes, I have to admit, I'm no youngster anymore, I have to indulge my firefighting passion in another form. 

As I've found with pretty much every contemporary board game, I was late to the party finding Flash Point: Fire Rescue. The "base game" first appeared in 2011, yet I didn't discover this gem until sometime last year......in 2016.......five years after the fact. Of course. Much like Pandemic, Flash Point is a fully cooperative game. Everyone plays as a team, and you win or lose as a team. The objective is to rescue seven victims before the building collapses. These "victims" aren't all people, either. This game includes dogs, cats and even a goldfish as a "victim."

Saving the actual structure is not required to win the game. Of course, if the structure collapses, or if four or more victims are lost, game over! The collapse part of the game comes from damage cubes that are placed as the result of explosions or chopping (to gain access) walls. There are 24 cubes, and once all of this "damage" occurs, the structure collapses, killing all of those inside. Sorta like Pandemic, huh? You don't want to run out of disease cubes in that game or, yep, you lose!

Flash Point "base game" box


From Flash Point's official website, Indie Boards & Cards, and BoardGameGeek.com ("BGG"). I've been able to place the expansions in a reasonably accurate timeline. Thanks to my lovely wife, we have all the expansions to date for this awesome game. If I have any of these dates wrong, please let me know and I'll correct them. Let's take a look at game, shall we?

Base Game: Released in 2011, the base game board has two sides, representing two different structures. Flash Point includes two sets of rules: a family set and an "experienced" set. The "experienced" rules build on the family rules. Adding to the variety, there are three different levels one can play at: "Recruit," "Veteran" and "Heroic." Each of these levels adds a little more complexity and difficulty to the previous level. Not only is there more fire to deal with, but also more hazardous material, or "Hazmat." 

As in real life, a responding fire company may or may not know who or what is in a burning building. Flash Point addresses this by having Points of Interest ("POI") that are placed randomly on the board. These POI are represented by tokens with a "?" initially. Part of your job is to identify these POIs and rescue them if they are an actual victim and not just a "false alarm" (a blank token). This can happen by occupying the same location as the POI or having the Imaging Technician identify it. Per the rules, there should always be 3 POIs on the board during play.

Note: The family rules use a general purpose firefighter for each role. In the experienced rules, and with the expansions, specialist roles make their appearance. Each specialist has its own strengths and weaknesses. What I really like about this game, compared to Pandemic, is that one can choose which role they wish to play, and even change roles throughout the game as needed! Finding the best mix of specialists is part of the fun, and based on how the initial setup goes, one mix might work better than another. I'll introduce all of the specialists at once, even though some are expansion specific. I won't go into detail for each role, as one can find this in several places, such as the game's website, BGG, etc.


Flash Point "cast"

Fire Captain: Functions much like the Dispatcher in Pandemic.
Imaging Technician: Identify a POI anywhere on the board.
Generalist: One of my fave roles to play.
Rescue Specialist: Gets to carry a chainsaw!
Hazmat Technician: What is that stuff you are handling?
Driver/Operator: I wanna use the BIG nozzle on the engine!
Structural Engineer: Can repair a building (and save those cubes!).
Rescue Dog: How ironic if the rescue dog rescues....a cat!
Veteran: Cindy really likes this role.
CAFS Firefighter: Compressed Air Foam System. Check it out here.
Paramedic: Can treat a victim which makes them easier to rescue.

Knowing I'd be writing a blog about this game, as well as Dead of Winter, I had a little free time and took many photos of each game board, set up for play. For full disclosure, I haven't had a chance to play every board/scenario yet, especially some of the more specialized boards. With that in mind, those of you who have played may notice a few discrepancies with my photos versus "real" play. Please point them out and I'd be happy to correct it.


Base game in play

Just click on the photo to enlarge it, and you'll be able to see more detail. Notice that of the 3 POIs on the board, one has been identified. The "?" has been flipped over to reveal a person. Our Generalist is heading towards him to rescue this poor soul. Look at the bottom right of the board. Two victims have already been rescued, a lady and a cat. We are halfway to winning! The little flame tokens, by the way, are "hot spots," which are part of the experienced rule set. These hot spots have a nasty habit of causing other problems, and only the Structural Engineer can remove them. The large flame tokens are actual fire.


Here I come!

Here's a dramatic closeup of our Generalist racing to the rescue. He'll have to carry this man out of the building, which will slow him down by half. That's where the optimal mix of specialists comes in. If the Paramedic treats this person, then he can be led out of the building instead of being carried. There are always pros and cons attached, and if this victim is close to an exit, it might be best to just carry him out rather than tying up two firefighters.


Urban Structures (2011): Urban Structures adds the Structural Engineer role and two new structures: a Brownstone duplex apartment and a high rise office building. 

A blazin' Brownstone!

Notice all of the damage cubes in the room in the bottom left corner? Lots of fire and damage due to an explosion in a previous round. The Driver/Operator on the engine in the bottom left has done a good job extinguishing fire in that room. 


It's NOT what it looks like

At first glance, you'd think this poor lady is about to get whacked by a lunatic with a chainsaw. Nope, that's just our Rescue Specialist coming to the rescue. Notice the open door to the right of them. It will be a short carry to get the victim outside. Luckily that hazmat token will be easy to get outside as well, reducing the chance of it causing an explosion if flames reach it.



High rise office building

We have one of the upper floors of the high rise office building. Rescuing victims is a little easier in this scenario compared to the others in that they only need to be carried or led down to the lobby. This is accomplished by using the elevator to move them. Now wait, before anyone starts getting agitated about using an elevator in a fire, the game specifically addresses this issue. Some may not know that the fire department, in real life, often has a special key to control the elevator in a fire. This is left up to the experts in the fire department. For the sake of this game, the elevators are considered safe by the fire department and are therefore used. 

For game mechanics, a closed door indicates the elevator is at the lobby level, and an open door represents the elevator at the "fire floor." In the photo above, the elevator bank is to the right, just above where the cubicles are burning. The door on the left is open, indicating the elevator is ready for use on that floor. The door on the right is closed, indicating that elevator is at the lobby. Cue the theme from The Towering Inferno!


2nd Story (2012): 2nd Story adds another two game boards, a hotel and a villa, that represent the ground and second floor of their respective structures. While the publisher describes one set of boards as a "hotel," I'd say it's more of a "bed an breakfast" than an actual hotel. I get that making a game board accurate for a hotel would entail a huge game board to accommodate all the rooms. I just struck me as a bit humorous to see just a few rooms in this "hotel." I'm totally cool with it, though. Don't get me wrong. This expansion also includes ladders as a game component and introduces stairwells. The difficulty here is visualizing each game board as a separate floor of the same building. 


A quaint hotel

Imagine the board marked B2 (look in the upper right corner) hovering magically above board B1. B1 represents the hotel's lobby on the ground floor, and B2 represents the second floor. Notice the yellow ladder on the left side of the board, near the top. As in real life, this is an extension ladder. The bottom portion of the ladder, naturally, is on the ground. The smaller ladder segment is the extended portion, or "fly section,' at the window. Our Rescue Specialist is perched on the ladder, trying to identify the POI in front of him.


Hotel lobby

A closeup look at the lobby shows our intrepid Generalist in the bottom left corner approaching a POI. Will this be a real victim or just a false alarm? If it's a real victim, rescue is just outside the door at the ambulance.


Villa


Here is a villa (a fancy word for a ha-YUGE house) set up for play. Let's get to work, and rescue our victims!



Closeup of Villa's 2nd floor


Another "vertical component" is the hydraulic platform. (That link will take you to a Google image search of fire apparatus with this feature.) Look on board A2, the second floor, top right. Our CAFS Firefighter used the platform to enter the window and start extinguishing fire in the bedroom. The Veteran used a ladder on the left side of the board to check out the POI in the middle of the room. 


Extreme Danger (2013): Bored with just "regular" structures? Need a little more challenge? Hey, no problem! Extreme Danger introduces a laboratory and mechanic's garage, as well as an attic and basement game board. These optional basement and attic boards can be used with either the lab, garage or the other expansions. This means your scenario can now have three levels! It also adds several new components such as chemical spills, fire doors and damaged floor markers. You said you wanted more challenge, didn't you?


What are they making in this lab?

The lab is another structure with two levels. It's up to you if you want to add an attic or basement. Perhaps you've noticed that I set all of these scenarios up as a four player game. We typically play with four, so it was only natural that I set up the games this way.


Hazmat Tech going to work

Since this lab apparently contains many nasty chemicals, our Hazmat Tech will focus on removing them from the building before they cause any more problems. That smoke to the right of the hazmat token could turn into flame, and things would then turn ugly very quickly.


How much for an oil change?

The mechanic's garage is all on the ground level, but that doesn't make it any easier. See the black car in the center of the board? There's a POI just above it. Notice a black cube on the car. What makes this scenario a challenge is that if the car acquires four damage cubes, it causes an explosion that radiates in SIX different directions, instead of four. Yeah, you might want to focus on protecting the car. Just sayin'.....


Dangerous Waters (2013): About 75% of the earth is covered with some form of water. So far, all of our game boards feature land based structures. In Dangerous Waters, we are faced with a fire on a merchant ship or a submarine. I haven't played either of these scenarios yet, but from what I've heard, these are the two most difficult to win. There's limited access and this makes rescuing victims very hard. The submarine board is laid end to end, so it was difficult to get a good photo of it.

Ship

In addition to difficult access (basically, the two sets of stairs on the bottom left and right of the board), there is a "special machinery" space that can only acquire four damage cubes. Once it receives four damage cubes, the ship is lost and your team loses. That space in on the top half of the board, with two smoke tokens on it. One of our firefighters is making his way there. 


Honor & Duty (2014): The latest expansion, Honor & Duty, features a subway station (underground trains, not the sandwich shop) and an airplane. These boards introduce "difficult terrain," which costs double to move, a sprinkler system for the subway and foam for the aircraft scenario. Since a subway station, by nature, is typically underground, firefighters can't use the engine mounted nozzle to help extinguish fire. That's where the sprinkler system comes in. Likewise, in an aircraft incident, most airport firefighting apparatus are equipped with a foam system. The foam not only extinguishes fire, but also helps prevent spread of fire. The game mechanics take this into account nicely.

Emergency at the airport!

Our firefighting team made an initial attack and gained access to the fuselage. The victim in the middle of the fuselage is in immediate danger with all of the flames nearby, but is about to be rescued. Will he make it out in time? I hope so!

I hope you enjoyed this blog on Flash Point and all the expansions. There are several other expansion sets that have unique POIs that were offered via promotional activities on Kickstarter. I hope to acquire some of these to add to the variety of the game. Some of these POIs require even more effort to move, or require treatment before being moved. 

Have you played this game? Did you like it? Please let me know in the comments below.

Coming up is an in depth discussion on Dead of Winter (and its expansion The Long Night), Caroline Picard's interview and a few other topics you may find interesting.


Until next time.........

carpe cerevisi