Full disclosure: A review copy of In a Flash Firefighters was provided by HABA.
More games on the review pile! I’ve been meaning to get this one reviewed for a while, but it was challenging to get a good sense of the game without getting a chance to play it at more than two players. And now I have! So I did! The cycle continues. This time, we’re checking out another HABA title. I’ve been really enjoying The Key series, so trying out another real-time game seems like a good follow-up. To that end, we have In A Flash Firefighters! Let’s see how the game goes.
In In A Flash Firefighters, there’s some hay on fire, and you’re first on the scene! And second, third, and potentially fourth. Unfortunately, your hose is a mess. You just haven’t untangled it since the last time someone dared you to tangle it up, and now it’s a problem. You can’t fight fires like this! You’ll have to move quickly if you want to untangle them and put out the fire, especially because you’ve heard that there’s a medal on the line. And, you know, saving the farm. Will you be able to stop the fire before it’s too late?
Not a ton here. Have each player assemble their frame:
Then, shuffle the tiles and place them in the center:
Set the medals out and the end of the hose in the middle of the tiles:
Give each player a starting tile, as well:
Have each player place a fire hydrant in the indicated space on their frame so that it goes into the frame and through the hole in the starting tile. If one player is more experienced, have them start with their hydrant (and starting tile) back one or two spaces:
You should be ready to start!
This one’s pretty quick. Your goal is to connect the hydrant with enough hose to put out the fire! You’re going to move quickly, as everyone’s playing at the same time and in real-time.
To start a round, one player says “Go!” and players must use only one hand to take tiles. When you take a tile, you must place it at the end of your current hose closest to the fire and build towards it. But be careful! There are five different positions the hose can be in, and if you can’t connect your tile, you must return it to the center. You can rotate the tiles, however.
Once a player connects their hose to the fire, they grab the nozzle tile and say “Water on!”. This stops the round. Check their hose. If it’s incorrect, they return all of their tiles to the center and play resumes after a “Ready, go!”. If it’s built correctly, they gain a medal and place it in one of the round holes in their frame.
Before starting the next round, the winner moves their hydrant and starting space back one spot (for extra challenge). The player with the fewest tiles in their hose frame may move their hydrant one space forward (closer to the fire) as a bonus.
Return the tiles, shuffle them, and get ready! Have players pass their starting tile to the left before starting the next round.
The first player to collect three medals wins!
Player Count Differences
Generally, the game gets a bit more complicated as the player count increases, in this one. Since players are all fighting over the tiles in the center, having more players means there’s more contention. It’s relatively unlikely that you’ll ever be completely shut out on tiles, but, you may still notice that it’s difficult to get a bunch of tiles that are straight-line connected along the path that you have in mind. You’ll also have a bit more variety in your starting locations, since you’ll be passing more of them around between rounds, rather than just two (as you might at lower player counts). Starting position doesn’t matter that much, but it does change things up. At two, I find it a bit too easy to get the tiles you need, so the game becomes a bit more strict of a race than anything else. With the extra competition, you eventually have to take the more complex-looking pieces, which I think is fun. I’d probably recommend this most at three players, then? Two and four aren’t bad, I just like the balance of having additional players without having too much competition for tile types.
- Don’t overcomplicate things. There’s a way to make this much harder than it is, and that’s going for making long, snaking paths. No matter what you’re thinking about doing, I recommend against making things complicated for yourself when you play.
- For one, I generally tell people to stick to making as straight of a path as possible. There are a few very curvy path tiles that you can take and use, that will curve from top to bottom and vice-versa. I don’t think those are terribly complicated, but the ones that take you from 2 to 4 or 3 to 4 can be complicated. It’s hard to quickly differentiate between the different middle paths, especially the minor curve changes between them. As a result, I usually just try to grab straight-line paths as much as I can.
- I find it easier to focus on the edges of the road, rather than the center. This is my other recommendation; I find that the top or bottom edge of the road is easiest to distinguish quickly, relative to the middle. Dealing with mostly those tiles rather than the center ones has typically limited my mistakes when I play.
- Make sure that you’re looking at each of your tiles as you take them; you can’t afford a mistake. Haste makes waste. If you mess up when taking tiles, you end up having to return them all to the center. As a result, it’s a good idea to check your tiles as you’re playing them a bit closely.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Cute theme. It’s firefighting! I think competing to put out fires in real-time is pretty enjoyable, and it’s also an accessible theme for a family-weight game. You’ve got a bunch of jumbled hoses and you want to untangle them and lay them out so you can put out the fire. It’s not that complicated, and I appreciate that.
- Real-time games are always a hoot. It’s one of my favorite genres! I think I like games that tend to move pretty quickly, and real-time games are great in that category. Add in that it’s a fairly silly concept and you’ve got a humorous, quick, and goofy game.
- I appreciate the balancing the game supports for players that are already skilled with this kind of game (or just players that are doing better in the game). It’s nice! Giving players the ability to start closer to or farther from the fire allows you to modulate the difficulty until you find a balance that’s good for every player. I generally like games with configurable difficulties, and this is no exception. I also appreciate that the game becomes gradually more difficult for the winner and easier for the player who laid the fewest tiles.
- Plays pretty quickly. This is true of many real-time games; that’s part of why I like them (as I mentioned before). This one moves quickly, though, and there’s essentially no downtime between rounds.
- I like that the medals fit in the assembled player board; that’s a nice touch. It has the added benefit of keeping the bulk of the play pieces inside of the frame, rather than all over the table. I think that’s wise for a game targeted at younger players.
- Little fire hydrants! I just like fun tokens and pieces, and having little fire hydrants as pieces in a firefighting game is very positive. They look good, too!
- Having players pass their starting tiles to the left at least forces players to be moderately creative, beyond just using the same strategy every time. I appreciate this in particular, as someone who tends to want to use the same strategy each time. It’s decently-easily averted, since you just need to play a tile that shifts your endpoint back to where it was last round, but, I appreciate that an attempt is made.
- The starter tile isn’t quite locked-in enough, which can cause tiles to get pushed backwards below it during the game. This one is odd, but there’s not much to be done. It’s just a quirk of the design. Since the starting tile sits above the frame, there’s nothing to stop players hastily pushing tiles back under their starting tile, if they’re in a rush and not paying that much attention. Ideally, it would be great to have something under the starting tile (or have the starting tile be two tiles thick) so that other tiles are blocked from moving back.
- It seems like it’s kind of easy to just grab a bunch of tiles that are straight along the edge of the road, if your opponents don’t notice / try to stop you. It’s a good strategy, but it can be a bit boring to do routinely if your opponents don’t see it. Thankfully, having players rotate their starting tiles is a good way to address the problem without it getting too annoying.
- I get that this is part of the challenge, but the two levels of hose closest to the edge of the road do look alarmingly similar, and players get that confused pretty regularly, to their detriment. I think that’s largely just part of the game. It seems a bit … rude to make the big crux of the game that some of the tiles are just difficult to distinguish, but it’s not the biggest deal. This is why I tend to stick to the edges proper, but playing the same way every round can be a bit uninteresting.
Overall: 7 / 10
Overall, I think In A Flash Firefighters is pretty fun! I think In a Flash Firefighters probably lands best as a quick-and-simple family game for younger players. For more experienced players, I think the lack of complexity may not necessarily land, but, I still think the game is enjoyable when I play it. In A Flash lacks some of the panache of real-time games like Eco-Links, in my opinion, but it’s a small price to pay for the decrease in complexity that goes with it. You’re not building complex real-time networks; you’re building a straight line of tokens to try and put out a fire. This isn’t to say that the game is too basic to be interesting! I actually think In A Flash Firefighters does a fair job of adding some complexity, in that there are five different route options and a solid catch-up mechanism. It would be nice if there were some way to prevent players taking the same tile over and over (just because it makes their routes uninteresting), but what can you do. There’s certainly the classic HABA touches. There’s the bright yellow box, there’s some cute components (like the fire hydrants), and there’s some simple gameplay that makes the game very accessible for younger players. I like all of those things! If you’re looking for a straightforward game to introduce younger players to real-time gameplay or you just really love firefighting but Flash Point is too difficult for you, you might enjoy In A Flash Firefighters!
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