Three Ring Circus: Stop Arson About!

Hi, my name is Neil and I live in the North of England.  Normally I play my games with my wife, and son aged 11.  We don’t have a name for our game group, because I would be made to call it the “Rabbit Gaming Group”, or something equally daft.

Way back in my school days I played a few Avalon Hill and Games Workshop games.  For a long time, Gran Turismo and Pro Evo soccer had my heart, but having a family changed my gaming priorities away from Playstation and Xbox.   Four years ago I picked up a copy of Carcassonne, followed by a copy of Dominion, Dominion: Intrigue, Ticket to Ride and…and suddenly I was a card toting lover of cardboard.

In this column I’m going to be talking about the games we play and particularly how they work for the three of us.

Flash Point – Fire Rescue

Put your foot to the floor and lean on the siren, we have lives to save!

Flash Point: Fire Rescue is a cooperative game for 2 to 6 people.  Your goal: to rescue 7 people from a fire that threatens to destroy their home.  You will find yourself tackling fires, dealing with explosive objects and carrying survivors out to safety. With only so many actions to use per turn, there are interesting decisions to make. Should you douse that piano, chop through a wall to deal with a potential explosion, or press on and investigate that human size bundle on the floor?


Play takes place on a double sided board, with an aerial view of a house or an apartment.  The board is delightfully detailed and really adds to the feel of being there. Setting up the board involves a bit of arson as you start fires in the building and place markers for the various points of interest, (hazardous materials, hot-spots and victims).  Once complete, players choose one of 8 starting jobs.  Each role offers something different, for example the rescue specialist travels light and can move twice as far as the heavily loaded CAFS fire fighter, but his foam system gives him an edge in tackling fires.

full team.JPG

Burning Down The House

The fire is the real star of Flash Point. After each player has moved, two dice are rolled to work out what the fire is going to do next.  It can turn up anywhere, flashing across smouldering corridors, or returning to rooms previously cleared.  At its worst there will be explosions that blow out doors and damage walls.  As if that wasn’t enough, there are the hotspots to deal with.  Landing on one of these little beauties means another roll of the dice to place more smoke and another hotspot.  This gradual addition of hot spots increases the chance of a game-ending chain reaction that brings the house down on top of you. In the last game I played, we suffered a thunderous triple explosion that left the house shaking on its foundations.  We thought the game was over, but the house stayed standing .



The Seventh Victim

In all the excitement of the fire, I forgot about the victims.  In the game that really isn’t a good idea.  You need to save 7 by carrying them out of the house and into the waiting ambulance.  There are 15 victim markers, five are false alarms. Until your reach the spot and flip it, you don’t know whether it is a victim or not.  If you lose 4 people to the fire, the game ends.  I imagine that this will lead to a future expansion, simulating a fire department disciplinary hearing.

Hot in the kitchen.

How easy is it to teach the game?

Flash Point’s rules are a well written, with a good step-through of the set up process.  Teaching the game is easy enough.  You can handle the complexities of action points and explosions, leaving players to work out what they want to do, (fight fires and rescue people).  As the game progresses, you can feed in the rules and pass on responsibilities.  The game says suitable for age 10+, I would say 8+.  My son, (an 11 year old grizzled Flashpoint veteran), has taught the game to his friends.

Can complexity be scaled?

Can it just.  There are family rules leaving out the specialist roles, hot-spots, hazardous materials, ambulance and fire engine.  You can add these in gradually and make the starting position harder, with a bigger fire and other hazards. Eventually you will be tackling the equivalent of a domestic napalm storage facility, with one hand tied behind your back.

Can you handicap other players? Do you need to?

It is a cooperative game and it’s more about scaling the complexity.

How likely is your child to flip the table half way through?

Your table is safe.  In a three, or four,  player game the turns come around quickly.  In a six player game, keeping interest levels up could be a problem, but allowing players to drop in and out can help without spoiling the mood. Think of it as a crew change.

For us there have been no tears over lost victims.  The tokens are stylised enough to not generate a lot of empathy. Losing is a shared tragedy and a chance to try again.

Beyond the game

Making a team of Lego fire fighters for the game was an inevitability.  We have a frightening amount of bricks, and an afternoon trawling through it to equip the specialists was well worth while.  They bring an extra dimension to the game.  In a perfect world, Lego would licence this and make a modular version.  I am saving up for the Lego multi-storey special edition already.

Cafs Fire Captain

What do I think

Flashpoint is my favourite cooperative game. It is more family friendly than Pandemic and feels like it offers a broader challenge than Forbidden Island or Desert.  The house fire setting is immediately gripping, as is the evolution of the fire that can change the situation from “mopping up” to “fire fight” in a dice roll.

I have played some co-op games where I was just doing what I was told.  This is rare in Flashpoint, perhaps because putting out fires and rescuing people is an easy concept to grasp.  It’s a game where you can feel the teamwork, where tactics are discussed as priorities change, and players act out their roles to best effect.  The game tells stories like the day I rocked the deck gun to save the day, and the time 6 victims turned up in the toilet, (food poisoning?).

If you want a smoking hot game, this is it!

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