Play Time: 45 Mins / Players: 2-6 / Complexity: Low / Age: 10+ / Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards / Designer: Kevin Lanzig
Flash Point Fire Rescue Ratings and Summary
Kids rating from our daughter (9 )
Teen rating from our son (15).
Flash Point Fire Rescue is a very thematic coop with plenty of tense moments and surprises to contend with. It is easy to learn and should provide a nice challenge. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t a hit with our kids. They thought there was a little too much luck involved, making it feel a little out of their control at times.
- Very thematic
- Simple to learn
- Different roles are interesting and add some nice variation
- Two different board layouts and various difficulty levels allow you to ramp up difficulty as you get more experienced.
- Fair amount of luck and sometimes feels like a bit too much luck
- We think family mode strips out too much and is less fun.
What You Will Find in Our Flash Point Fire Rescue Review
Cooperative games have generally been well received in our household. Forbidden Island, Pandemic and more recently Mysterium have all been hits for us. One cooperative game I have wanted to try for a while is Flash Point Fire Rescue by designer Kevin Lanzig. A firefighting themed cooperative game that seemed to be very highly regarded. Well, my opportunity came when I noticed our local library had a copy, so we snapped it up to give it a try. Unique firefighting characters, an unpredictable spreading fire, plenty of tension, it sounded like Flash Point Fire Rescue would have all the ingredients for a tense and action-packed coop. But it didn’t work out the way I expected, read on and I’ll explain why.
How to Play Flash Point Fire Rescue
There’s a building on fire, people trapped, and things are escalating quickly. You and your team of firefighters have to rescue 7 victims trapped in the blaze before the building collapses or 4 victims succumb to the flames. The problem is this fire is unpredictable, the blaze can spread anywhere at any time.
To set up Flash Point Fire Rescue each player will select one of the unique firefighting characters and then set up the board according to the desired difficulty level. There are 8 unique characters to choose from and they include a Paramedic who can treat victims on the spot so they can escape quicker, a Hazmat Technician that can dispose of hazardous and highly flammable material, and a Driver/Operator that is more efficient at operating the fire engines deck mounted water gun to name just a few. You need to balance the demands of keeping the blaze under control with the goal of getting victims out so picking a balanced team is important.
Depending on the difficulty level the game will begin with a number of explosions that have already set fire to parts of the building and created damage of some sort. There are also a number of different spaces where hazardous material is present and threatens to explode if the fire advances to those spots. In amongst all of this there are three points of interest tokens that could represent trapped victims or simply nothing at all, you won’t know until you check them out. To add another curve ball to the mix there are hot spots placed on the board which can accelerate the spread of the fire if they are struck with a dice roll when the fire spreads.
If you have played Pandemic or any of the Forbidden series of cooperative games, then Flash Point will seem familiar. On your turn you will get 4 action points to spend on any actions of your choice. You can move through the building, put out sections of the fire, open or close doors, hack apart walls to get to other rooms or move either the fire engine or ambulance.
As I mentioned earlier, the game is a bit of a balancing act, you ultimately want to get the victims out as quickly as possible, but you can’t let the blaze go unchecked as it will quickly overwhelm you if it gets out of control. Thankfully, there is one other tool at your disposal I haven’t mentioned yet and that is the fire engine’s water gun which you can use to douse large sections of the building and get the fire under control. The catch is this gun is so powerful it takes all 4 of your actions points to use it unless you happen to be the Driver/Operator. The other thing to watch out for is that you can only target the quarter of the building your fire engine is outside of and where you ultimately strike with your water cannon is at the mercy of a dice roll. So, it isn’t always going to hit the mark.
To get victims out of the house you need to travel to one of the three points of interest tokens on the board. When you do you can flip them and determine whether it’s a victim or simply nothing. The fire can disorient fire fighters and I imagine a blank token is like a random noise being interpreted as a cry for help when in reality it was made by the building as it burns. If you do happen to find a victim, you must carry them out of the building and to the ambulance to save them. Unfortunately, this is tiring work and consumes 2 action points per move instead of the usual 1 action point.
So, while you are busy running around the building, investigating what you believe are potential victims and firing the water cannon with reckless abandon the fire will do what fires do and spread. At the end of each player’s turn two dice are rolled to determine a point on the board. If that part of the board has no fire or smoke, a smoke token is placed there, if smoke exists then it turns to fire, if fire is there then it explodes in each direction expanding the blaze and potentially causing damage to the walls represented by damage tokens. If that part of the board also happens to have a hot spot, it then requires an additional roll and a repeat of the above process.
Explosions will make the fire spread much quicker and an explosion is also triggered if you are unlucky enough to have rolled for a space with hazardous material. If enough damage to the building is caused to exhaust your supply of damage tokens, then you lose the game. The other thing that can happen at this phase is fire can engulf a point of interest or a firefighter. If a point of interest is engulfed it will kill the victim unless it happens to be blank, if four victims succumb to the fire its game over. If a fire fighter is engulfed in flame during this phase, then they are sent back to the ambulance outside the building wasting precious time.
The part which may be a bit odd for some people is that when a point of interest is removed from the board it is then replaced by way of a random dice roll so there are always 3 on the board at each time. This means there is potential for a point of interest to appear in a room you just rescued someone from. I can’t explain how this fits thematically but it’s just the way it is.
So that’s it in a nutshell, beat back the flames, find victims, rescue them, and hope the building doesn’t collapse or too many victims succumb to the flames.
There is also a family mode for Flash Point fire rescue, which strips out the unique characters, hot spots, fire engine, ambulance, essentially the fun stuff. It is a far easier mode to learn and might be a good option for very young kids or anyone who hasn’t played cooperative games like this before.
Flash Point Fire Rescue Gameplay Experience
Both my son (15) and youngest daughter (9) are big fans of Pandemic, and on playing Flash Point Fire Rescue I can see elements here that remind me of the older classic. 4 action points to be spent per turn, unique characters, a threat that grows by expanding on the board space, it all kind of reminds me of Pandemic. It made me think that Flash Point would be well received too. But while Pandemic is a big hit in our house, Flash Point kind of missed the mark for my kids. Although I personally don’t like it as much as Pandemic, I still enjoyed it a lot more than my kids did. I’ll start with what I liked and then explain why they weren’t that keen on it.
The thing I like the most about Flash Point is that the game design fits the theme quite nicely, it does feel like I can do pretty much what I would expect to be able to do as a firefighter. Put out fires, fire a water cannon, rescue victims it’s all there. I can even use my trusty axe to break down walls and barge through to another room, how cool is that?
I also like the fact that even when you feel like you have the fire under control it can escalate again very quickly. If some hazmat catches fire or a hot spot flares up the game can change, and the tension can ratchet up pretty quickly. The tension also mounts as you see your supply of damage tokens start to dwindle, which is kind of a visual cue for how close the building is to collapse.
I think the core gameplay is pretty easy to grasp after a few turns which would make the game accessible even for people who don’t play board games much. Everything you need to know is on the player aids so there are nice prompts to assist players.
But as I mentioned my kids didn’t enjoy Flash Point Fire Rescue. The main reason I think is because of the luck factor. The dice rolls can really turn the game on occasion. Lucky breaks can make the game seem easier, for example lucky rolls can result in smoke appearing in rooms that are not under threat, or new points of interest appearing right next to fire fighters making it easy for them to investigate and possibly save a victim. On the other hand, an unlucky roll can trigger an explosion near a victim or even two victims at a critical point in the game. On frequent occasions a point of interest has appeared in a room that is surrounded by fire and very hard to get to. These sorts of moments put my kids off the game a bit.
Linked to the luck factor is the possibility of retrieving a victim from a room and then finding that the roll of the dice requires you to place another point of interest in the same room. This can happen multiple times requiring players to circle back to where they just where to retrieve another victim. It’s rare but sometimes the new victim may even be on the exact same space in the room. This is the part my daughter in particular felt made the game feel a bit repetitive at times.
By now you might be saying, ‘hold on, you’re pointing out Flash Point has a lot of luck but isn’t there luck in Pandemic too and you like that?’. Yes, there is. But the difference in my view is that in Pandemic a lot of the luck around the disease spread isn’t totally random like a dice roll. Often you are aware of what is already in the discard pile which allows you to make informed decisions. In Flash Point the fire can spread literally anywhere, regardless of where it spread the prior turn.
The last thing I will mention about the gameplay is that I personally thought the family mode was stripped back too much. Without unique characters or vehicles, the game feels a bit bland, even for me. I made the mistake of introducing my daughter to the game first with family mode and she almost didn’t try the full mode because she felt it wasn’t interesting enough. If you have kids who are familiar with cooperative games like the Forbidden series or Pandemic then I would suggest launching straight into the experienced mode instead of family mode.
I think the components overall are nicely done in Flash Point Fire Rescue. The fire tokens are nice and thick and the damage markers are nice and chunky. The artwork on the fire fighter cards is also quite nice. Overall, the components do the job nicely and the player aids are well laid out. One thing I would say is that setting up the game can feel a little fiddly requiring a few dice rolls and explosions to be resolved along with various other tokens to be laid out, but it’s not that bad once you get used to it.
The theme is where we had very different perspectives. My wife and both daughters find the thought of a house fire quite terrifying. While my youngest daughter was still willing to try the game my wife and oldest daughter weren’t interested in trying Flash Point at all. My son just doesn’t find the firefighting theme that interesting.
I was in the minority in my household, for me the theme is the strongest part of Flash Point. I love the idea of a firefighting themed coop game. I think it’s also implemented so well. I have covered some of the thematic touches I enjoyed earlier but I do feel as though the design choices here have really made the theme shine. You can pretty much do just about anything you would expect a firefighter to do, complete with using a cool fire engine water cannon to beat back the flames. The only thing missing maybe is the ability to use a large ladder to get to a second floor area maybe but that’s nit picking.
I also feel as though the random nature of the way fire spreads throughout the building is consistent with the theme even though it may not appeal to people who aren’t fans of luck in their games.
The one thing I struggle to explain thematically, is the fact that when you rescue a victim from a room another could possibly appear near the same spot you were just at. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but I guess if all the points of interest were laid out at the beginning of the game it may make it too easy and reduce the tension.
Final Thoughts on Flash Point Fire Rescue
Flash Point Fire Rescue does a great job of creating a very thematic cooperative experience. There are plenty of tense moments and surprises to contend with here and overall, I enjoyed it. But I still prefer a game like Pandemic which I feel is a little more strategic and doesn’t have quite as much luck.
Unfortunately, my son and youngest daughter weren’t fans of Flash Point, they just thought there was too much luck here.
My wife and oldest daughter find the thought of a house fire a little too terrifying so weren’t interested at all in trying Flash Point Fire Rescue, for that reason they didn’t contribute to the ratings for this review.
So, who might enjoy Flash Point Fire Rescue? Well, if you don’t mind a bit of luck in your games and want a thematic coop which is simple enough for the whole family to enjoy, I think this is worth a try. In particular if you have kids that find firefighting or fire engines cool. But if like me you have people in your family that are a little terrified of fires, then they may get a bit put off by the theme in this game.
Is Flash Point Fire Rescue easy to learn? Yes, the family mode is very easy to grasp but strips out maybe too much. I would suggest starting with the full mode unless your kids haven’t tried any similar cooperative games.
What will Flash Point Fire Rescue teach my kids? Much like other coops this is about team work!
What age is appropriate for Flash Point Fire Rescue? The box says 10+, but I think 8+ would be fine, especially for the family mode.
Does Flash Point Fire Rescue have good replay value? I think given the variety of difficulty levels and two board layouts replay value should be fine.
We hope you enjoyed our Flash Point Fire Rescue review. If you have any more questions or just want to share your thoughts on this game please leave a comment below, or get in touch through our contact page.
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- Focus on getting the fire under control early. The less fire there is on the board the slower it will spread because there is less risk of explosions and damage to walls
- Avoid damaging walls. Damaging walls will accelerate the collapse of the building so avoid breaking walls unless it is absolutely necessary
- Balance rescuing people with keeping blaze under control. We find once the fire is under control it can quickly get out of hand if neglected for too long so make sure you balance rescuing with keeping the blaze in check. I have found assigning one player to rescue and another to focus on the fire can be effective
- Balance your team. Linked to the point above it is useful to balance your team between roles that are good at fighting the fire and those that are good at rescuing.
- Closed doors are better at containing the fire. Closed doors prevent the fire from breaching the room and don’t cost damage points when destroyed. They are usually better off closed, when open they won’t take the brunt of an explosion or prevent the fire from spreading beyond the room.