Board game review roundup: Race to Adventure, World War Z, Flash Point: Fire Rescue full of action

By Cody Carlson

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27 2013 3:58 p.m. MDT

Players work together to save lives in Flash Point: Fire Rescue, from Indie Boards and Cards.

Cody Carlson

Three new board games promise action and good times: Race to Adventure from Evil Hat Productions, World War Z from University Games and Flash Point: Fire Rescue from Indie Boards and Cards.

In Race to Adventure, two to five players take on the roles of world adventurers circa 1930. The goal is to collect postage stamps from all over the world by completing a series of tasks, including defeating the gorilla people of Antarctica and freeing a prisoner from Atlantis. The board is a series of 12 tiles placed differently for each game.

In order to complete their tasks, players must select certain items, including the map, the lightning gun or the magnifying glass. Some, like the biplane or the zeppelin, allow players special movement abilities. Players start on the leftmost tiles, representing the Century Club in New York City. A turn begins by selecting an item, followed by performing actions to gain a stamp. The first player to complete his passport by collecting all the stamps and then returning to the Century Club is the winner.

The tension really builds as each player desperately tries to collect his stamps. Some real critical thinking is necessary here as well, as players must identify which items they will need to complete their tasks, while at the same time denying those items to opponents who are close to finishing. The game is recommended for ages 8 and up, and I suspect that due to its theme and simplicity children and younger teenagers will get more out of this game than older players. Race to Adventure plays in about 30 minutes.

Hot on the heels of the Brad Pitt blockbuster movie "World War Z," University Games has released a board game tie-in. Two to four players act as specialists working together to stop a zombie apocalypse. The world is divided into many different regions, and the players start out in the United States. Tokens numbered from 1 to 4 are placed randomly throughout the board, indicating the level of zombie infection. Players receive role cards giving them unique special abilities to deal with the crisis.

As the game progresses, players move to zombie-infested regions to battle the undead. If successful, players receive combat cards that increase their power. Failure results in the loss of combat cards, effectively acting as hit points — once all of your combat cards are gone, you become a zombie yourself and can control the hoard. After a set number of turns, first- and second-level zombie tokens are removed. If the remainder adds up to more than 10, the zombies win. If not, the humans have saved the planet.

There are some interesting innovations here, like the different-colored dice for the different-sized zombie hoards and using combat cards as hit points. In general, however, World War Z feels as though it was not play-tested enough in development, leading to some clunky mechanics and major balancing issues. The human players can too easily be overwhelmed, and if just one or two humans become zombies, it feels as if there won't be enough turns for the others to fight the larger hoards.

Additionally, World War Z's components are not terribly well-produced, either. The cards themselves are rather flimsy, and the images appear to be generic shots from the film. Sorry, ladies, Brad Pitt does not make an appearance. One gets the sense that the board game was rushed to open with the film, which is sad because the foundations of a great game are here, but the final product just doesn't measure up.

World War Z is recommended for ages 12 and up and plays in about an hour.

Flash Point: Fire Rescue is a cooperative game in which two to six players become firefighters desperately trying to rescue people from a burning building before it collapses. The board is double-sided, with easier and more difficult maps depicting buildings in which fires have broken out. Players have a set number of action points used to move, chop through walls, extinguish fires or smoke, or carry victims. At the end of the turn, the player must roll two dice to see how the fire spreads using a grid system.

The players win if they have rescued seven victims, but they lose if four victims die or if the building collapses around them.

First, this is just a wonderful theme — saving lives. It's nice to see a game which, at least in a very small degree, honors the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to save others. What is more, Flash Point has a thrilling game mechanic that ties in beautifully with its tremendous theme. Tension builds every turn as fire spreads, explosions weaken walls and potential victims turn out to be false alarms.

When a cooperative game is done right, players are sure to have a fun and intense experience. Flash Point is definitely done right.

Expanded rules allow experienced players to take on specific roles and allow for more player options in the game. Flash Point: Fire Rescue is recommended for ages 10 and up and plays in about 45 minutes.

Cody K. Carlson holds a master's degree in history from the University of Utah and currently teaches at SLCC. Cody has also appeared on many local stages including Hale Center Theater and Off Broadway Theater. Email: ckcarlson76@gmail.com

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