This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting DPrime headquarters for both business and pleasure. At least a portion of the reason I make the trip from my pre-apocalypse shelter to the hustle and bustle of Seattle proper is to do some scrounging within the city limits for good deals and rare geeky items. This trip was no exception. Dustimus Prime himself coordinated efforts during the trip, and I was pleased with the larger than normal haul.
My wife and her sharp eye pulled Flame War out from behind a stack of old dime novels at one of the numerous Half-Price Books in the area. At $5, it was just the sort of thing I like to encounter and add to my collection. This is a song and dance I’ve done many times, and while I always intend to make use of my purchases, the fact of the matter is that many of them get stored long term (for a rainy day is my reasoning; it makes me feel less like a hoarder that way). For whatever reason, Flame War avoided that fate, and was put into circulation on a slow news day over the weekend. I was pleasantly surprised at the results.
Flame War by Fun to 11 hits a sweet spot for me. It’s concept is simple, as are its mechanics. You and up 3 of your friends take on the role of forum moderator, one of the most terrifying and thankless jobs in our modern digital age. Your mission? Cultivate and extend good threads, whilst keeping an eye on the trolls, holding them at bay with your mighty Banhammer. Should a thread become too negative, you might have to just trash the whole thing and start over.
So, a card game about being on the internet is your sweet spot, eh Mr. Author? Well, that is at least a portion of the charm here. The subject matter is something close to my heart as an aged computer geek. Featuring such cards as “The Game” (p.s., you lose), “Thanks Autocomplete” and “Cool Story Bro,” Flame War will have most seasoned net-dwellers lol’ing. Seriously. Until you’ve had a thread utterly ruined by a Brony post, you haven’t even scratched the surface.
Beyond the yucks and meme references, the game is also easy to learn, but somehow hides a depth of strategic options that I honestly didn’t even start to see until my 4th or 5th game. Play is easy enough; start your own threads, add cards (with equal or higher numerical value) to them on successive turns, and try to close them. Players may close one thread at the beginning of their turn if they meet the criteria. In order to be closed, a thread must contain a point (right arrow), counterpoint (left arrow), and cannot have a red Flame card on top. You can also play cards on your opponents threads to ruin them with flamebait about politics or gaming, and keep them from closing their own. Beware, however, as cards played on a thread that does manage to get completed will add points to the player who completes the thread.
With 6 cards to choose from per turn, and 2 actions to use, play progresses quickly and is easy to keep pace with. Cards occasionally have effects that happen when you play them as well, adding an additional considerations to your turn. These effects range from looking at upcoming cards, to changing the order of cards in a thread, to removing or stealing a thread outright. The game ends when one player completes their third thread, or the deck is gone. The player with the most cards in their completed threads (flame or otherwise) wins. Each card is worth one point when counting score at the end. Most games can be played start to finish in 15-20 minutes. There are so few games these days that are consumable in this micro time unit, and I am honestly impressed when one like Flame War comes along and just crushes it.
You like the internet? Sure you do, you are enjoying it right now, are you not? Do yourself a favor: get yourself a copy of Flame War for your next web development meeting or LAN. You won’t be disappointed (and neither will your friends).