Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 31 October 2017

Nurse, roll me the scalpel:- Flatline

Flatline is a real-time cooperative game in which you assume the role of emergency medics after a bomb blast. You have to cure all of the patients that come to you before your emergency generators run out of power and all your equipment turns off, dooming the remaining patients. When I say you have to cure all the patients I mean it, should you save the lives of 7 out of 8 critically wounded people you aren’t congratulated on a job well done under stressful conditions. No. Save everyone or go find a new job!

Flatline takes place in a series of rounds, each with a preparation phase, a real-time phase and a conclusion phase. Each round you lose a cube from the power supply, which acts as the round timer. After that you draw a number of crisis cards equal to the newly revealed number on the power bar. Crisis cards are either standard blue cards, which have negative effects and form a numbered track or emergency orange cards which need to be dealt with this round or they start to trigger a failure state. After drawing crisis cards you roll the two crisis dice and resolve associated crisis cards. Then comes the planning phase where you can take stock and talk to each other for as long as needed to decide what you want to achieve this round. 

Crisis cards appear regually, this turn we got 4 orange crisis cards, after deciding to cure all of them we were left with most of our dice waster for the turn!

Once you decide you are ready a 1-minute timer starts (there is a free app with sound, though any timer would work), you roll your dice and assign them to various different action spaces. Different spaces will need different combination of dice faces and may need dice to come from different combinations of players too! Patients are the main priority, as you win the game when you cure enough, however if you ignore too many orange cards then you will instantly lose, so you have to assign some dice to them. There are a couple of power generators which give you extra power, and therefore extra turns, but you also might want to get rid of some of the particularly nasty blue crisis cards before they trigger. Once your minute is up there are a couple of phases where you clean up all your completed cards, mark off partially cured patients, and replace fully cured patients with fresh victims. Should you cure all the patients before you run out of power, or fail too many orange crisis cards, then you win the game!

Flatline is a great combination of real-time gameplay and turn-based planning/cleanup. The minute that you have to roll, assign, reroll and collaborate with your fellow players may be very intense, but the gaps in-between give you some time to unwind a little bit and take stock of what you are doing. Since Flatline is a dice game it is naturally very luck-based, especially with lower player counts when you have less dice being rolled (though less patients to cure). This can be an issue if you both draw and roll a particularly nasty crisis card that undoes all your careful planning. However that’s why you get a planning phase to discuss what you can do to circumvent these new problems.

A game just about to end, there are a massive amount of blue crisis cards, and we've run out of time to cure the last two patients.

There is a lot of strategy in Flatline for when to do certain actions (for example if you use the generators at the right times you can repeat turns with a low number of crisis cards). But even when things are going well there is a constant feeling that you need to do more. I can only imagine that is exactly how a paramedic would feel in an emergency situation. Once you have played a few rounds you quickly get into the flow of the game and Flatline becomes a really quick game to play. Ultimately it’s quick, chaotic fun that will be sure to get you shouting at eachother that is very enjoyable as a gaming pair, but only gets better with more players!


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