Remember when your parents told you not to play with fire? Fire Tower might be the best way to avoid this rule in a responsible way. This game is all about playing with fire in order to survive. The goal of the game is to burn your opponents before they burn you. Sounds kind of cruel, you say? Well, we assure you it’s not only a lot of fun, it also looks great on the table. So now the real question is, who burns first.
How to play.
If you play the base game only, place the board in the middle of the table and choose a fire tower. If you play with two, every player chooses a fire tower diagonally from the other tower. You can also choose to play the two player variant, in this case, choose two towers on the same side of the board to defend. Place all tokens close by and place one bucket card in front of each player. Shuffle the action cards and deal five cards to each player facedown, then roll the die to see in what direction the wind will blow. Adjust the wind marker on the weathervane. Lastly, decide with what events you want to play. A lot of events have extra explanations in the rulebook since they change some rules in the game. You can experiment with all events, but try not to play with to many. The firestorm however should be included in each game. The player who’s tower is closest to the current wind direction, can start first.
The goal of the game is to outlast your opponents by not having your tower burned. All other towers from opponents must be burned before you win the game. On your turn, the first thing you always do is placing a fire gem orthogonally adjacent to an already placed fire gem or the eternal flame in the current direction of the wind. If the current wind is south for example, a fire gem can never be placed north in this step. The rulebook also shows good examples of the term ‘orthogonally adjacent’. Make sure you understand this term since it’s used throughout the entire game.
Once you have placed a gem, you can take an action from a card in your hand, or you can discard as many cards as you want from your hand and draw back up to five. The bucket card is not a part of your hand and can always be played as an additional action.
If you play a wind card from your hand, you can either change the wind in the direction stated on the card, roll the die for a new direction or place a fire gem in the direction indicated on the card. You can also encounter fire cards. Fire cards ignore the current wind direction but have patterns you must follow in order to place the fire gems. At least one fire gem of this pattern must be placed orthogonally adjacent from an excisting fire gem. If you play a firebreak card, you can place purple firebreaks in the pattern indicated on the card. Firebreaks prevent fire from landing or jumping over the spaces they occupy, creating a defense line for you. Note that some fire cards can still jump over firebreaks. Lastly you have water cards. Water cards allow you to remove fire gems in the patterns on the card. While water cards allow you to even remove fire after firebreaks, they cannot remove fire once it enters the space from your tower.
Your tower has nine spaces in a 3 x 3 grid. You are standing in the corner of the map trying not to get burned. If fire enters this space, normal water cards can’t put out that fire. Every player has a bucket cards they can use to remove fire within your fire tower area. This card is not part of your hand and can be played as an additional action. Once you have used your bucket once, flip over the card to reckless abandon. This side of the card can be used multiple times if the conditions are met. If you discard three fire cards or three firebreak cards, you can place two fire gems on the board. If you use this side of the card, it will count as your action this turn. At the end of your turn, always draw back up to five cards.
If you play with events, you might encounter them when you are drawing new cards. Always play events immediately when drawn but don’t forget to still draw up to five cards for yourself. The rulebook has an explanation for every event and often an event card will send you to the rulebook for directions when drawn. An example of an event is firestorm which should be included in each game. When this event is drawn, roll the die for the wind direction and place a fire gem on every empty space that is orthogonally adjacent for that wind direction. Then roll again for a new wind direction. Players may now also discard as many cards as they choose and draw back up to five cards again before play resumes as normal. Event cards changes the game significantly and often have a specific way of setting up and how to play out the events.
If you also play with the expansion like we did, pay attention to the setup and the new rules that are added to the game. The biggest change to the game are the firehawks. If you play a card with firehawks, you can place as many firehawk meeples in your quadrant as it shows on the card. When a fire gem would be placed on the firehawk, instead of placing the gem, you can move your firehawk with the gem to any orthogonally adjacent space you like. Then place the fire gem and place the firehawk back into the supply. The expension also adds shadow of the woods which means you keep playing even if your tower is burned. You will come back as a vengeful spirit that wants to take revenge on the other players. When playing as the spirit, you can still win the game if you manage to burn all of your opponents. The expansion also adds new type of fire cards, water cards, event cards and even a solo and fifth player mode.
Playthrough of the game.
After getting to know the rules when playing the base game a couple of times, we decided it was time for the real fun and play the two player variant together with the expansion and some events. The wind started in my direction which meant there would be a fire token placed in the direction of my towers on each of our turns. This had to change fast, but I was unlucky with drawing wind cards. So instead, I just tried to smoke Tomasz out with as many fire cards as I could. After a couple of turns, one of his towers was already feeling the heat and he tried to create a barrier of firebreaks in order to stop me. At this point, I had no cards who could help me finish his tower off, so I decided to discard all of my cards. When drawing up to my hand limit again, I managed to draw two events which unleashed all the chaos. One event was the firestorm which caused a massive fire breakout on my side of the board. But the other event was a strike of lightning which caused burns around the lightning tokens. Since I not only had a lot of firehawks placed on the spaces of the fire breakout, but also had moved the lightning tokens as much as I could towards Tomasz his towers, he was about to take a big beating. I managed to replace five fire gems onto his side of the board which caused the first tower to burn. The lightning almost took care of the second tower which made it east to finish it off for me. Tomasz tried to save himself with his bucket and some water cards, but fortunately for me, it wasn’t enough. His towers burned and I managed to barely escape the fire this game.
After playing the base game only for a couple of times, we found that the base game is good enough for two players. But if you play with four, the game truly comes to life. If you play with the two player variant where each player also controls two towers, we found that the game shines much more to. The expansion however is a must have for this game when playing with two. Not only do you get more events that can spice up your game in a big way, you also get more fire and water cards which gives you much more strategies to play with. The firehawks are also a nice edition and are fun to play with. You can use them as extra defense barrier like I did, or you can even set them of yourself when placing fire gems to give you an extra attack. What we do miss while playing, is an overview card of all the events. Now you have to look through the rulebook of the base game or expansion which can delay the gameplay a little. Other then that this game is a lot of fun and looks good on the table.
Fire Tower is an abstract strategy game where you want to save your tower from burning while you set your opponents towers on fire. Not only is this game perfect for taking revenge after an argument for example, it’s also a lot of fun! We have played with the deluxe components which provide a big fire gem that can be placed in the middle and with the expansion rising flames. We found that the base game is already fun, but the expansion just provides more depth to make it an better game with more strategic choices and replayability. The expansion is a must have in our eyes when buying this game. Other then that, this game looks good on the table and is easy to explain once you understand the rules. We are fan!