Full disclosure: A review copy of Fireworks was provided by Renegade Game Studios.
It’s Gen Con season! Given how many games are coming out at Gen Con, it’s going to be Gen Con season until it’s BGG.CON season until it’s the holidays, but this is my life, now. Let’s check out one of Renegade Game Studios’s Gen Con releases, Fireworks! From the same designer as Cat Tower, Circus Puppy, and many more! (I’m still hoping they’ll pick up Bubble Tea, one of these days.)
In Fireworks, you are cities hosting a group of cats (and one dog) looking across the world to see spectacular sights and giant fireballs and all sorts of wondrous displays. Naturally, you’ll prefer the best one, so you’re trying to find that. Will your city emerge the grandest of them all?
Pretty simple game to set up. Take the Starter Tiles, give each player two random tiles such that they don’t match each other:
These are the core of your big fireworks display! Set them on your player boards:
There’s one for Tokyo, Taipei, New York, and London, if you recognize the landmarks. Now, deal each player one of the cats (or dog):
These friends are traveling across the cities to try and see the best fireworks display, and they’ll offer you bonus points if you manage to truly impress them.
Add the tiles face-down to the box bottom:
That will form the very-exciting-to-look-at starry sky!
Now, choose what kind of game you’re playing:
- Simple: Use only the Action Cards marked 2 – 4.
- Advanced: Use all of the Action Cards
- Speed: Flip all the tiles in the Starry Sky face-up. (I opted not to try this variant, but it exists).
Either way, shuffle the Action Cards (or don’t, I suppose):
Add the Fireworks Die to the Fireworks Tube:
And you’re ready to start! Choose a player to go first.
Alright, so the basic game (I’ll describe the speed variant later) works as follows. On your turn, you need to launch the fireworks die into the Starry Sky, hoping to flip some of the face-down tiles face-up. If you flip at least one currently face-down tile face-up, you may take. You take the number of tiles equal to the value of the die – generally 1, 2, or 3. (If you roll a Firework, take 1 tile and then take another turn.) You then add them to your player board to form fireworks.
Some fireworks are Saturns:
Some are Kaleidoscopes:
Some are Small Flowers:
Some are Big Fireworks:
And some are just Special:
The neat thing is, unlike most tile-laying games, once you place a tile, you may freely rearrange it until the end of the game. That’s good! So that’s how your turn goes. There are, however, some differences between the Basic and Advanced Games:
- Basic Game: Use the Fireworks Tube to launch the die. If you do not flip any over, reveal an Action Card and then try again (just once more).
- Advanced Game: Reveal an Action Card and then launch the die. If you do not flip any over, well, your turn ends.
Both of these reference the Action Cards mentioned earlier. These are … “fun” new ways to help you more creatively launch a die! You’ll want to emulate the scene on the card, whether you’re throwing your head back to become the Arrogant Queen or you’re putting a die between your head and someone else’s for a Staring Contest. Regardless, you’ll want to launch the die from at least about 18 inches above the box, so standing up might help. If you need another player for the challenge, you may choose which player you want. If it’s a 2 – 4 card, that’s just “all players participate”, so this really only applies for a 2-player card. However, in exchange for their help, you must also share the spoils! Instead of just taking the number of tiles depicted on the die, every involved player gets to take that many. You take one, then the next player, then the third player, then you, and so on (assuming you have three players and all were involved).
There are also some Function Tiles:
These tiles activate at the end of your turn, provided they’re face-up.
- Heavy Rain: Return one tile, face-down, to the Starry Sky.
- Gale: All players simultaneously choose one tile from their boards and pass it to the player on their left.
- Fireworks: You get an extra turn (this stacks with the Fireworks side of the die!).
If two of the same one are revealed, only activate one of them. If multiple different ones were revealed, activate all of them.
Play continues until one player has filled out their entire board. Once that’s happened, finish the round (and give players a bit of extra time to organize their player boards; no need to be aggro about it). Then, score the boards as follows!
- Big Fireworks:
- All tiles are the same color and shape: 10 points
- All tiles are the same color: 7 points
- All tiles are the same shape: 6 points
- Incomplete: 1 point
- Both tiles are the same color: 3 points
- Both tiles are different colors: 2 points
- Incomplete: 0 points
- Both tiles are the same color: 2 points
- Both tiles are different colors: 3 points
- Incomplete: 0 points
- Little Flowers:
- Complete: 1 point
- Incomplete: 0 points
- Special Tiles:
- 1 Unique: 1 point
- 2 Unique: 2 points
- 3 Unique: 3 points
- 4 Unique: 4 points
- 5+ Unique: 10 points
The player with the most points wins!
For this one, turn all the tiles in the Starry Sky face-up and let players just kinda go at it. They can take any tile they want (we’ve been saying they’re not allowed to return any and they can only hold one at a time, to reduce someone just grabbing all of them) and add it to their player board.
The game ends when one player has their board completed, and then score as normal.
Player Count Differences
The major difference at various player counts in the actual games are that you need to be a bit smart about choosing which player to get help from. Naturally, if you really don’t want another player to score on a turn (at some cost to yourself), you can attempt to negatively influence the way the die falls, but that seems … slightly monstrous? I mean, I’m not going to stop you if that’s how you want to live your life, but I’m going to critique it, gently. Either way, yes, make sure you’re considering the players’ various boards when you’re picking partners (if you have a choice). You don’t want to partner up with the player who is doing the best; then they have no incentive to help you. Instead, try to pick the player with the fewest tiles or who is the furthest from completing major fireworks. Then they need the tiles that only you can provide.
Honestly, the player count doesn’t matter that much for this game beyond contention for certain tiles. I’d play it at any player count.
- Collect 5 Special Tiles or none of them. Special Tiles (without certain abilities) are atrociously bad, if you don’t get many of them. They junk up your sky, they cut off other fireworks that might be point-scorers, and you need a bunch to actually make them work! Naturally, don’t leave them for other players (lest they get 5), but try to only take them if you really think you can get 5. Your goal should be to hit 5 exactly.
- Use the Gale to mess with players. I usually use that opportunity to pass players Special Tiles, especially if they’re already at 5 (since additional tiles are worthless) or if it seems unlikely that they’ll get to 5 (since it mostly just junks up the sky). It’s cruel, but entertaining. In the same vein, I use Heavy Rain to return Special Tiles to the box if I’m not confident I’ll finish with 5.
- Don’t forget your scoring. You want same color and same shape for your big fireworks and your Saturns, same shape and different color for your Kaleidoscopes. Plan ahead so you’re not stuck taking penalties later on in the game for not noticing that you should have swapped them or taken other tiles. Also keep an eye on your player power; you’re going to have wanted to maximize that if you want to end up winning.
- You can try to negatively impact other players, I suppose. A slight twist of the wrist or a bit of momentum in the wrong direction when you’re supposed to be “helping” someone else put the die into the box can send the Fireworks Die clattering off the table or into space. Whoops. There’s no penalty for violating common decency like that if, you know, you’re gonna aggressively play a dexterity game to win.
- Watch your opponents’ boards. Not only is that useful so that you know who you should be pulling in to help you on Action Cards (if you have the option), you also should then know what types of tiles you’re going to need and what types of tiles you can leave for them in a mutually-beneficial or I-got-mine sort of way. Either one works, really.
- Generally, stand up when you launch the die. Don’t play this game sitting down; you’re just gonna reduce your chances of flipping anything. Don’t try to launch too hard, though, otherwise you’ll just explode all the tiles out of the box and get nothing.
- Beyond that, uh, it’s a pretty silly dexterity game. Just try to have fun out there and don’t overthink it.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Really good art. The box cover is incredible and super eye-catching. I can see this really rocking on shelves both in stores and in the home. Many people have wanted to play it just from seeing the cover.
- Super whimsical dexterity game with some strategy. People who like dexterity games will enjoy this one, especially with the group action cards almost being like little mini games of charades. It’s silly, but a lot of fun. I’d love to see an expansion deck with even more Action Cards; the Arrogant Queen and the Staring Contest are my current favorites..
- Allowing players to rearrange tiles they’ve taken reduces frustration a lot. I imagine you could make a much more aggressive variant of this game by just removing that ability, but what we do is just restrict people to reorganizing on other players’ turns, so that they don’t take too long on their turns. That’s made the game fairly streamlined.
- Plays pretty quickly. The speed game is even faster (I imagine), but the base / advanced games don’t take too long, at all. Would be a great lunch game, given the time commitment.
- Easy to learn. Everything’s pretty straightforward once you go through the rules a few times, or at least my group picked it up pretty quickly.
- The box doesn’t really … close. The Fireworks Tube is kind of round and it doesn’t totally fit in the box in such a way that it can be closed flush. It’s a problem, but, oh well. The real issue is that the game comes with no baggies, so you have to provide those if you don’t want things just kinda sloshing around inside. Also a bummer, unfortunately.
- The rulebook isn’t the most clear. It’s generally easy enough to figure out most things, but there are a few places where it’s a bit confusing, especially around when the game ends and how many extra turns you can get. We’ve house ruled them all in ways that make sense, but it would be nice for it to be explicit. Another one we’ve house ruled is that if the die falls out of the box, it’s fine, just keep the dice face that’s up. If it falls on the floor, re-roll it. Floor dice never count.
- The difference between kaleidoscopes and saturns is very subtle on your first game. It doesn’t really note in the rulebook that there’s an actual difference between them and the scoresheets / rulebook make an unfortunate pattern of showing them at opposite angles, so you could plausibly believe that they are just mirrors of each other until you notice that saturns are purely a curve whereas kaleidoscopes have that set of lines coming out of the center. Noticing that might save your entire game.
- Some people will not appreciate how personal some of the Action Cards require you to be. Definitely play this with the same crowd you’d play In A Bind / Yogi with, not the crowd who would hate that sort of game. If you do that, you’ll have a great time.
- It’s got some color accessibility issues. It relies pretty heavily on color but if you have difficulty with colors, you’re not going to be able to tell some of the tiles apart (in some circumstances). That’s … not great.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, Fireworks is an absolute blast, pun intended, emphasis mine, and et cetera. Don’t get me wrong, I love dexterity games in general, sure, but Fireworks takes a silly concept and adds in a fun tile-laying game with some points and some strategy to make a delightful experience overall (or it adds a super-endearing dexterity game to an otherwise-light strategy game, your choice). Everyone I’ve played it with has been delighted by it, even if it did otherwise make some people a tiny bit uncomfortable (they got over it). For me, it’s pretty much ousted Hanabi as my go-to New Year’s Eve game (or general-purpose-game-to-play-while-watching-fireworks). I think Renegade made a really smart move picking this one up, and if you’re a fan of light strategy, tile placement, or whimsical dexterity games, I think you’d make a smart move picking up Fireworks, too!