5. FIRE TOWER (2019)

Designers: Samuel Bryant and Gwen Ruelle
Publisher: Runaway Parade Games
Players: 2-4
Time: 15-30 minutes
Ages: 14+

Most firefighting games have a strong cooperative aspect, but this one bucks the trend. Your most important priority is to defend your own position by trying to spread the fire toward your opponents, burn their towers down and take their cards! There are numerous pieces in abstract shapes designed to look very much like actual flames spreading across the board, and a compass rose to determine (and display) the current wind direction . . . 

This is not only a non-cooperative game . . . it’s also got a healthy dose of “Take That” ! 

4. THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON 1666 (2010)

Designer: Richard Denning
Publisher: Medusa Games
Players: 3 to 6
Time: 80-120 minutes
Ages: 12+

In this game, you are the landlord of several London residential properties. When the Great Fire of London strikes, you must do all you can to save the houses! You must do what you can to cooperate with other players, or London’s “trained bands” of firefighters, to minimize damage to the homes of London. 

This is a relatively easy, “gateway” game. The fire markers start concentrated in Pudding Lane, where the fire is said to have originated. Players move the “fire cones” around the board (when too many are close together, the fire grows hotter and more dangerous!) Perhaps you will gain the honor of “Hero of London” — and the 2 Victory Points that come with it!

3.TSUNAMI! (2014)

Designer: Alyssa Garver
Publisher: Apocalypse Games
Players: 2-4
Time: 45 minutes
Ages: 10+

This is a game of competitive philanthropy. You are a self-proclaimed, genius billionaire — and fancy yourself to be humanity’s savior, in the face of an apocalyptic tsunami that threatens the very existence of humankind!  

Build fleets of ships! Collect and preserve priceless artifacts! Recruit a crackerjack team of skilled workers and savvy experts! 

At the end of the game, the tsunami hits!  Only time will tell whether your preparation, your boundless genius, and your money is enough to keep the world afloat.

This is a game with tongue-in-cheek humor, simple rules, and a chance to save the human race!

2. THE DOWNFALL OF POMPEII (2004)

Designer: Klaus-Jürgen Wrede
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Players: 2-4
Time: 45 minutes
Ages: 10+

This game (simulating the historical event) comes with its own ominous volcano prop, situated at one corner of the board. During setup, everyone places pieces of their color (representing people) at board locations throughout the city. Eventually, people are deposited into the volcano, but this unfortunately does not seem to have much effect on placating Vulcan (or any other Roman god, for that matter). Soon lava comes pouring into the city; escaping it can be hard, and all casualties are deposited in the volcano. If you end the game with pieces of your color representing the fewest casualties in the volcano, you win! 

1. 1906 SAN FRANCISCO (2018)

Designer: Perepau Llistosella
Publisher: Looping Games
Players: 2-4
Time: 45-60 minutes
Ages: 12+

In this worker placement game, the game begins after the disaster (covering the first five years after the event, and a bit of the year after that, 1912.)*. Players scramble to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake, emanating from the infamous San Andreas Fault and hitting with “moment magnitudes” and Richter readings ranging from 7.5 up to 8.6  — easily ranking as one of the worst disaster in American history. Resulting fires raged across the city for many days, killing three thousand people and reducing more than three quarters of the city’s area to rubble. 

The player who has most recently felt an earthquake goes first; all players receive a Secret Objective card. Other cards are dealt out with numbers and colors, directing where players may try to build (or clear rubble). 

Start buying up plots of land. Get to work clearing the rubble. Get the necessary permits to erect new buildings! Prepare for twentieth-century modernization, and figure out exactly how you’re going to get water and other public services to people in this struggle to rebuild. And don’t take too long — the cost of building goes up as the years pass!

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