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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Thursday 15 July 2021

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Fired Up

Game: Fired Up

Publisher: Drawlab Entertainment

Designer: Giorgos Eleftheriadis, Theofilos Koutroubis

Year: 2021

Fired Up is a competitive game for 2-5 players, set in a futuristic world where digital fighters are pit against each other in arena combat. However, the twist to the game is that players are playing as the audience and not the fighters themselves. As spectators you can bet of the outcome of the event, but you also have an influence on how the fight proceeds. You have huge influence from your premium seats, able to cheer and boo competitors, but also able to influence who they attack, who attacks first and who has the greatest attack or defence strength.

We first got the chance to try out Fired Up at the UK Games Expo a couple of years ago. After a couple of rounds we really impressed with how innovative the game was and how well it blended competitive gameplay with a game that felt almost cooperative. Now that we've had the chance to play the final version, let's see how it holds up to those positive first impressions.
Each player starts with a hand of four cards which describe a certain objective that you can obtain points for fulfilling in each round. Each round you'll pick two of these cards as your objectives and you'll refill to a hand of four to pick from in the next round. Objectives either describe something that happens during a fight, eg. all attacks are blocked, or something that happens in the setup before a fight eg. all fighters target one single fighter. Players then take turns to roll an hand of dice which will be used to manipulate the fighters. The dice faces can change the target of a fighter, increase their speed which will bump the up the turn order, add attack or defence value or boost or reduce fighter morale which puts a cap on the maximum attack or defence they can act with. There is a also a dice face to activate coins, which you can use as a wild dice face or spend to place bets on the fighters.

Each fighter can only be manipulated three times, and once all players have assigned all of their dice it will be time to fight. Fighters attack in numerical order, and attack and defence dice are rolled and compared. Hits and wounds may be the result of a fight, and the defender may even retaliate. As a result of running out of hit points, or being wounded three times, a fighter might be eliminated. In this phase, players will be considering their end game bets as well as their in round objectives to see if the conditions have been met, and points will be scored during the game for either or both. After four rounds the game will end and the player who has scored the most points over the course of the game will win.

Each round of Fired Up is its own puzzle. How will you achieve the criteria of both of your objective cards? Quite often it's not very simple and with other players also trying to set up the right conditions for their cards, you can find yourself in a tug of war, even through you're likely trying to achieve very different things. Taking the opportunity to activate a fighter for the final allowable time is your best chance of making your choices stick, but it's still no guarantee. Even after you're set up the perfect conditions, if your objective is a fight objective, it's likely you're still doing to need some dice luck to achieve the objective, especially at a high scoring level. There's a lot to think about to try and create your best chance of rolling the right thing, but you still might fail, which can be quite disappointment after all of the effort you spent. It does often feel easier, or at least more assured to get an objective which can be fulfilled before the fight phase, but they are much less common in the deck.

There's no doubt that Fired Up creates a competitive experience. With two players it can be a quite solo experience on some turns, when the stars align so that you can both achieve your objectives without interaction, while other turns will be a very intense back and forth. We haven't played with more players, but I imagine there is even more tug of war with everyone trying to optimise conditions for themselves. With that said, because you're all manipulating a central spectacle, there's an almost cooperative feel to the game which really messes with my mind. During the fighting phase I find myself really confused, with it being very hard to keep track of which fighter is attacking and which is defending. It's really important to know exactly what's going on, but my brain can't seem to comprehend the lack of owning a certain character. It's quite bewildering for me to play the game at times.

Fired Up feels like such a unique game experience, that I can't imagine not keeping it in my collection. It's so refreshing to have an arena combat, or just a fighting game in general, where there's no in your face competitiveness. However, be warned, the tug of war to try and line up your objectives can be just as a aggressive. I'm not always happy when I'm playing this game because it can be annoying to set up perfect conditions and then have another player back track, but I do love how the game is a series of short objectives to keep everyone engaged. If you're looking for something a little different that stands out with both its production and mechanisms, then Fired Up is certainly worth seeking out. For the Yellow Meeple though, it's a 6.5/10.

Fired Up was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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