As the first ding of the bell goes off, you leap out of your chair and towards the old brass pole at the end of the large room. There is a small hiss as your weight hits the soft foam pillow at the bottom. No sooner have you let go of the pole and your feet have left the pillow, there’s another hiss. Followed by another. And another. As you and your team throw on your pants and jackets, and scoop up your helmets, the wagon begins to pull out of the station. There is no better feeling than the wind rushing through your hair, your trusty crew speeding through the streets, and the knowledge that – like your father, and his before that – you are well on your way to becoming the Fire Chief of the Tinderbox Brigade.
To set up The Brigade board:
- Randomly arrange the square city block cards in a 6 x 6 grid, with the Pyromancer University cards in the middle and the corners missing.
- Align all the cards in the same direction with the non-burnt (coloured) side up. The top of the cards will be called North for the sake of managing fire spreading Event cards.
- In the four corners of the city grid, the players place the Fire House block tile of their colour. These are the starting positions and home bases for each player’s Brigade and Water Wagon tokens.
- Shuffle and place the Event and Crew card decks face down where everyone can easily reach them.
- Lastly, place all Fire and Water tokens within easy reach of all players.
The most recent player to set something on fire goes first and play will proceed clockwise.
Place fire tokens of two intensities on each Pyromancer University block. Search the event deck for the starter event cards. These are symbolised by the yellow corners. To start the game, the first player draws and resolves three of these event cards. Then shuffles the rest into the event deck.
Once these event cards are resolved the first player will start their turn on the Action Phase.
The Player Turn is divided into two parts: the Event Phase and the Action Phase.
- EVENT PHASE At the start of each player’s turn they draw an Event Card and resolve the effect. Event cards control where fires are appearing and spreading. Some Special Event cards give a bonus to the players.
There are three types of event cards:
- Wind Gust:A wind gust is indicated by a direction written on the Event Card. All blocks that are currently on fire spread flames to their neighbouring blocks in the direction indicated. Work from one side of the board to the other to spread all the flames. Start on the side of the city indicated by the wind gust as shown in the example (Wind is going east, start on east side). Once all the fires have spread, if a flame token is on a “destroyed” icon, flip that block upside down.
2. Special Event: All Players immediately follow the instructions on the card if they are able. If a player is not able to then they ignore this advantage/disadvantage.
- The Firestorm: The magically charged flame cloud above the city rains fireballs on the City Blocks as indicated by the marked squares on the grid. The Pyromancer University is marked for ease of use in the middle of the Event Card. Be sure to align the top of the card with the top of the grid of City Blocks when determining where the fireballs land.
- ACTION PHASE The Player then performs their Action Phase, taking the amount of actions indicated by the Leadership track of their Fire House board. A player can take the same action multiple times except for “Upgrade”.
Available actions include:
- Move Brigade – move Brigade meeple up to three spaces in any direction including diagonal. This represents your entire crew.
- Move Water Wagon – move Wagon meeple to any unoccupied space on the board or to your Brigade.
- Extinguish fire – Use water tokens to put out a fire with your Brigade.
- Refill – If you are on a loyal block or your firehouse, you can fill all buckets of the units on that space.
- Recruit – Draw two crew cards from the deck, choose one (1) and add it to your crew or replace a crew member.
- Crew action -Spend the indicated water from that crew member to perform a special action.
- Transfer – Move any water tokens between the Wagon and Brigade.
- Upgrade – Advance a tracker one (1) space on your Fire House board. May only use once per turn.
Once the player has completed their actions, check for end game conditions and play passes to the next player if those conditions have not been met.
The Aim of the game is to get the Loyalty of enough blocks on the board in order to win the right to become Fire Chief of Tinderbox and gain control of the other Brigades from the city.
There are three different ways to win The Brigade.
Become the Fire Chief – Loyalty of a Quarter: If a player has a Loyalty marker on five blocks of the same type (or three of the Pyromancer University blocks) they have enough influence and immediately win the game.
Become the Fire Chief – Loyalty of the Citizens: If a player has a Loyalty marker on at least one of each of the five types of city block, including the Pyromancer’s University, they have the Loyalty of the people and – as the hero of the city – become the Fire Chief.
Evacuation: If eight blocks in total are destroyed (or any three (3) Pyromancer University Blocks) the town is evacuated. Each player gets one final turn until it reaches the active player again. The active player revealing the event card to end it all/causing the evacuation does not get another turn.
All players add up the value of all the blocks that have their Loyalty Tokens on and the player with the highest score is the winner.
All’s Good in Yonder Hood – If the Fire Wardens are successful, and all the fires have been doused the game will end immediately. Similar to above, the players add up the blocks with their loyalty tokens on them and the player with the highest block value wins.
Tie Breaker: The player who last did a heroic deed (not in the game) wins. All other players must bathe in the glory of the new fire chief as the town possibly burns to the ground.
I was given The Brigade probably three months ago, and as a reviewer this truly allows me to sink my teeth into a game. I like to play a minimum of five play-throughs of a game before I review it. I have played this game close to twenty times and it just gets better. Whether I play several games with the same people or a once off with a couple of friends, this game is different every time. The replay value of this game is what truly makes it great.
Replay value is mainly due to two reasons: the fact that the board changes every game, and the multiple end-of-game conditions. In regards to the board, the only constant is the placement of the fire houses/Station and the University. We had more than one game where, after shuffling the tiles, we had either all the same blocks or one of each of the blocks very close to one of the fire houses. We found this changes your strategy considerably and also leads into the next reason for replay-ability: the multiple end-of-game triggers. I have become a massive fan of having multiple end-of-game triggers or win conditions. I just feel like this adds complexity to the game and allows players more versatility on the type of strategy they follow. As I found with one group of friends, they played it more like a co-op game and the person who put out the most fires won. Another group went all out focusing on themselves and not worrying about the others. However, where this game really kicks it up a gear is when the players start out with one plan and switch midway through the game, or go after several different end-of-game conditions depending on the other players. It is this style that I believe makes the game amazing, as this really allows for an immense amount of strategy. I found that if you play several games in a row, you’ll find people will start changing strategies and it will become more a battle of wits.
Please note: all artwork and components are the Prototype version. Check out the full and improved artwork at the kickstarter here.
The artwork on The Brigade is amazing. Alex and the team have been posting artwork and mock newspaper articles for months, which made me fall in love and become excited for this game even before I was offered a review copy. I love how they have created a whole new world for this game, and for me the story of the game is as good as the gameplay itself. The art gives it an almost fairytale feel, and doesn’t just add a visual element to the story but really breathes life into the world. The characters, the crews, and the buildings are all so unique and beautiful, but have a stunning cohesion between them which really makes this game the complete package for me.
I know a few of you will look at this game and think is this just a reskinned Flashpoint and the answer is “Hell No!” If Flashpoint was a football team, it would be an under 16’s football team while The Brigade would be the AFL. I liked Flashpoint but felt like it needed more: it needed more theme, it needed a competitive edge, and it needed more replay value. I have played Flashpoint three times, and in all honesty wouldn’t be upset if I don’t play it again. I feel l have had as much fun as I can get out of it, but I’m done. I don’t have that feeling with The Brigade. I want to play it again, and I want to play it with different groups of people.
The Brigade is due to hit Kickstarter on the 1st of August, and you can find it here. This is a game I highly recommend, and one that I will be backing on day one.