The fire system in Race to the Raft
Last week we talked about the island boards and choosing cards, these are the colourful parts of the game where we’re just going on a nice stroll across an island.
Today I’d like to dive into the darker side, the fire that is spreading across the lands and causing things to be a little more tricky…
Fire is bad!
Cats cannot move through fire and once a square contains fire, nothing else may be placed there. As you play through the game fire will spread across the island limiting your options, if at any point a cat can no longer get to the raft, or you don’t have room to place any more fire on the island, you immediately lose.
Every scenario will start with at least one area of fire already on the island, and every piece of fire placed during the game must touch at least 1 square of existing fire. This means all new fire spreads out from existing fire which ties in nicely with how fire could spread across an island in real life.
Fire is represented by polyomino tiles.
Every time a player places a pathway card on the island they must immediately take 1 fire tile at random from the fire bag and place it on the island.
Additionally, every 4th time you move a cat you must immediately take 1 fire tile and place it on the island.
Keep in mind, during a players turn no one may talk. This means when you draw your fire tile out of the bag, only you will be able to decide where it is going to be placed and everyone else must remain silent.
Typically, before nominating a player to play you will discuss with the team what areas might be good for fire, perhaps you’ll put together a plan, but these tiles vary a great deal in shape and wont always work out how you want.
This system creates a great deal of tension in the game as you are constantly under pressure trying to keep ahead of the fire. It also provides each player with critical gameplay moments where they are in control and no one can influence their decisions.
Here’s an example of the end of a challenging scenario.
A unique experience
With many polyomino games you have an area that you are trying to fill, you want to cover every square and will have small tiles to help you do it. In Race to the Raft your area changes in size and shape every turn as you move your cats further along their pathways. You won’t get small tiles to fill gaps and it’s much more about efficiently placing the tile to leave options and take up the smallest area possible.
You’ll be encouraged to place tiles in strange places to allow a cat to move or future card to be placed, and then desperately try to fill around that space later on.
It’s a truly unique experience watching another player place a tile in some absurd position because of some strategy they have in their head that you don’t understand!
Frank West is a gamer and designer based in Bristol, UK. He published his first board game, The City of Kings, in 2018 and now works on other games and organising events in the local area. His goal? To design and publish games focusing on immersive themes, fun mechanics and beautiful components. If you have any questions or would just like a chat, feel free to get in touch at any time!