- Designer: Aza Chen
- Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 6+
- Time: 15 minutes
- Times played: 4, with review copy provided by Renegade Game Studios
We just left the happiest place on Earth (TM ), and there are fireworks there every night. Of course, tonight, there will be one of the largest fireworks shows of the year. What better time to talk about games where you make up your own fireworks display?
In Fireworks, players (cats?!) strive to form the best firework display in the sky – as seen on their player boards. The game box is converted into a pit of night tiles – with firework displays on one side and a starry sky on the other. At the start of the game, all tiles are sky side up. Each player is given a character card which gives each player a unique special scoring rule. Each player is given an empty board and 2 start tiles of different colors which can be placed anywhere on the board.
Players will take turns playing in order. The game will end when a player fills out his entire board (all 23 spaces are filled with firework tiles) – the current round completes so that all players have the same number of turns.
Each turn goes through the same procedure:
There is a thick cardboard tube that you drop the fireworks die into. You hold the tube at least 18 inches above the box, and then upend it so that the die falls into the box. As it falls, the die will hopefully cause some tiles to flip over to the firework side. If some tiles flipped over, look at the die and see how many paw prints are seen on the die – you take tiles up to that limit; but they must be flipped over and must be in the box. You then place these collected tiles anywhere on your gameboard. You can freely re-organize any/all of your firework tiles on your board at any time. If you flipped over any function tiles – you cannot collect them, and you resolve them after you collect your tiles. These may cause everyone to pass tiles to their neighbor, may cause everyone to discard tiles from their board, or may even allow you to take an extra turn!
If you do not flip over any tiles on your initial roll, you flip over the top action card from the deck which will now give you rules on how to roll the die a second time. It may ask you to hold the tube under your chin and then figure out how to flip it over into the box. If you succeed in making tiles flip over, collect them as normal. You may have to ask an opponent to help you – such as holding the tube between your elbows. If you are required to ask someone for help, they may get some of the spoils. If tiles flip over, you get to choose the first one, then your helper takes one, and then you get one, and so on… until you reach the limit as stated on the die.
Once you have placed your tiles (or failed twice at rolling), the next player goes. While it is not your turn, you may freely reposition your collected tiles on the board. You can also try to make sad panda faces at your opponents so they will have mercy on you and choose you to help them with second rolls.
Again, the game ends at the end of a round when at least one player has a full board. Then you move to scoring.
There are 6 different ways to score, according to the rules – you score points for big fireworks, kaleidoscopes and saturns – these are all multi-tile things, and there are modifiers for matching (or mis-matching) shapes and colors in the formation. You also score points for small mini flowers that can occur at tile junctions. There are also some special tiles which can be collected which score for having different unique special tiles. Finally, you apply the bonus scoring associated with your character that you apply.
The player with the most points wins. No tiebreaker is noted in the rules. The score track can be found on the outer edge of the bottom of the box.
My thoughts on the game
Fireworks is a fun game with kids – the basic rules aren’t too bad… and it’s fun launching the dice at the box and then seeing what happens. There is a bit of an art to it… If you are too close to the box, nothing will flip over. If you’re too far away, lots of tiles splash around, but oftentimes they will be propelled out of the box, and you get nothing.
I don’t think this game is meant to be a deep strategic one, and as long as you go into it with the right attitude it’s a pleasant diversion. The art is whimsical, and there are a fair amount of laughs that will be had as you watch players work together to dump a die from between their elbows or pinned between their foreheads.
The game could devolve into AP hell as players can freely re-organize their tiles and any/all times – which means that you could try to work though the 2.5852017e+22 different ways there are to arrange 23 independent tiles to come up with the best possible scoring arrangement… Though, sure, I’m exaggerating here for effect! In the end, AP turns out to never be an issue because 1) it’s a whimsical game where scoring doesn’t seem to be as important and 2) no one really knows how to score the game, so it hasn’t been worth the effort to rearrange stuff that much.
You can spend some time making your board pretty during the game, but when you get to scoring – watch out… There are plenty of descriptions of how to score in the rule set… but no real descriptions of what the things are. We still don’t really know what the difference is between a Kaleidoscope and a Saturn. Is it that one slopes left to right and the other goes right to left? Is it that one is more oval shaped while the other has tendrils that look like someone attacked it with a mascara brush? There are super small pixelated illustrations next to the scoring rules, but they are perfectly unclear as to helping you decipher the difference. Oh, well, then let’s look at the slightly larger player aid that is included. Sadly, it’s the exact same pixelated images on that card.
I checked online – both BGG as well as a few independent sites – and most reviewers (including now myself) are pretty much in the dark as to how to actually score the game. I think that it has to do with the tendrils – that the more round one is a Saturn and the mascara-one is a kaleidoscope…
This game is still enjoyable to play, and with our made up scoring rules, we have a decent time with it. I hope that there will be official clarification at some point so that you know that you are playing the game that the designer intended.
In the end, I’ve enjoyed playing the game with younger kids, as they are the crowd that like watching the tiles splash about and get the most giggles about doing some of the crazy action cards. However, even if the scoring rules were clear – those rules would be was too complicated for an 8-year old. So, we’ve made up our own basic scoring rules, and we’re enjoying the game just fine that way. But are we playing Fireworks by Aza Chen? Maybe not… we’re playing a game with the bits that they provided.
The components are fine, and the tiles have held up well to the physical banging around that is part and parcel of the game. We’ve never tried to use the scoring track, because IT IS ON THE BOTTOM of the box which holds 50 or so uncollected tiles. Also, I have yet to figure out how to get the box to close without having to unfold the insert. The dice tube and the combined volume of tiles make it impossible to get the lid flush after repacking it. In fact, I’m actually trying to figure out how the game got to me with the box top on! Maybe it’s a Tardis? Maybe the shrink wrap was so tight as to hold the box lid in place?
Like most fireworks shows (and well, most anything in general), this game might be better on a sandy beach with a Dole Whip in hand (or maybe a Mai Tai from the bar at the Polynesian… ) but if that’s not an option, this is a way to have your own fireworks show with friends on your game night. Just get ready to make up your own scoring rules, or decide just to play for the fun of making your board as pretty as possible with the fireworks.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it.
Dale Y (to play with kids with simplified scoring, or no scoring at all)
- Not for me. Dale Y (with adults)