The CROW: FIRE it UP!
An UPPER DECK Boardgame Manufactured by WINGO Games and Designed by Danny Mandel & Ben Cichoski
The CROW: Fire it Up! is one of those games where one player takes on the role of Eric Draven, the Crow, and the "good" guys including the Policeman, Officer Albrecht and Sarah. The other players split the Gangsters between them; these being the Gangsters who are led by Top Dollar and his two Lieutenants, Myca and Grange; four Street Demons - Funboy, Tin Tin, Skank and T-Bird, plus (possibly) Gideon. Gideon only joins in if the Crow burns down the Pawn Shop.
This is an US versus THEM combat game. The Gangsters move around the streets attempting to complete a randomly drawn Objective whilst the Crow, Draven and the others hunt the Gangsters, having to kill them in a particularly specific order and trying to protect the city. There is no `number of players` listed although the minimum number is 2 and any more than three will soon find themselves twiddling their thumbs as the Gangsters require just one actual hit to kill them, and the Crow/Draven has many opportunities and actions to complete this task. While the Gangsters move step by step around the street Eric Draven gets to travel building by building, though if Draven is on a building space and a Gangster is in an adjacent space (including diagonal) on the street then they are both considered to be adjacent and combat can occur.
The City is made up from a square of four double-sided boards each of which counts as one of the City's Quarters. When the boards are placed on the table any building edge that butts up against another building edge creates one larger building, and thus any movement space on the street surrounding the newly formed building is therefore considered adjacent to the building. All this aids to the speed of the game, which can easily be completed within 30 minutes with the optimum 3 players (1 as Draven and 2 for the Gangsters).
Both sides have their own deck of Plot cards which are shuffled and placed face down nearby. These are drawn when various successes are obtained and they give one-shot advantages which are not over powerful but can just give you the edge you need. Each character on both sides has one or more special abilities. Draven, for example, has Attack and Fire power equal to his current health and cannot be killed before Top Dollar has moved out of his starting position in the Pit; Eric can be injured though and it is a good idea to shoot him up a bit whilst waiting for the trigger to launch Top Dollar into play. The Street Demons each have the same four abilities as the other characters: They are all pretty much obvious: Feet = Movement, Flame = Fire, Bullet = Attack and Shield = Defence. These are usually associated with a number and apart from the movement which is # spaces per Action, the other numbers represent the number of Dice rolled when the ability is used. The Flame or Fire ability allows the character to attempt to set an adjacent building on fire.
Characters also have a +1 bonus which affects the other Gangsters. This can be one extra movement, one extra action, one extra die to be rolled depending on the characters in play and as long as they are alive - it gets to be a real bummer when a character dies and you suddenly realise your chances of completing an action have dropped considerably - that one die can make a real difference.
Speaking of the dice they are regular six-sided but instead of numbers there are 6 different symbols. When you roll the dice for a Combat Action you need to roll at least two of the same symbol, every pair signifies a possible hit. The twin symbols rolled each give different results IF they actually hit. I say IF because although the attacker has to roll TWO of the same symbol to perpetuate a hit the defender has to only roll ONE of that symbol to negate the hit. If the Defender fails then the effects are found on the Attack Powers Charts, one for each the Crow and the Gangsters and each are subtly different. If Eric Draven gets hit he loses a hit point and he can recover over time, the Gangsters take a hit and they die on the spot, thereby making that movement space one that is semi-blocked - Gangsters wanting to move through it have to end their movement for that Action on the space; they can move off immediately as long as they have Actions remaining and wish to move on.
Each character acts and behaves very much like they do in the great Brandon Lee movie which is excellent for fans of the film but makes it rather interesting because that was released some 22+ years ago; is there a resurgence in The Crow franchise on the horizon? One certainly might think so. So yes, this is a game that is aimed quite directly at players who enjoyed both the 1994 movie and the 1989 James O'Barr comic books. However, it is also going to become very popular with players who used to enjoy the Leading Edge board games like Alien and the Evil Dead as this is remarkably similar in style, visuals, and to an extent, gameplay of those black-boxed action combat games from the late 1980's. (By the way, looking online it appears that the Leading Edge game of Aliens is selling for absolutely silly money so if you are short of cash and you still have your original copy ...!)
The CROW: FIRE it UP has a fairly large rule book littered throughout with excellent artwork and highlighted points of note. Whether you are a fan of the film or the comics or you just like fast paced battle-arena type of games where the action is deadly but the play is more than just line up the pieces and roll the bones. The "Fire it up" in the title refers to the fact that many of the objectives for both sides require the players to have their characters set fire to the buildings. This can be a bit of a pain if Draven is in/on the building you wish to set fire to as although the rules allow for buildings to be flamed with other characters in them Draven is apparently fireproof - if the Crow is located in a building as it goes up in smoke it gets sent back to the Graveyard and is out of commission for an Action, characters likewise may be incapacitated (laid over) during play but generally fall on the spot.
Combat is the name of the game and characters usually have to be adjacent to their target. There are opportunities for long range or just ranged combat, these being Street to Street where straight line of sight is required, Street to Building where the Gangster has to be able to see Draven's building, again in a straight line and Building to Street, only performed by Eric.
Gangsters can attack Sarah if she isn't in the vicinity of Darla's Place - the vicinity being anywhere on the quarter-board. I should mention that the four boards that make up the City are double-sided (check) and that there is one major building on each, the Pit, the Graveyard, the Pawn Shop and Arcade Games. Other named buildings are on round counters that are put into place prior to each game, buildings without counters are regarded as regular buildings. All buildings can be set on fire but only those which are named are worth anything to the players, either as part of their mission and because when a named building is burned to the ground the players gain Plot cards.
Considering it's a game meant to (and actually does most of the time) last no more than half-hour it is quite complex. By this I mean there is a lot to remember and loads of options and actions for all players, though naturally once you have cornered your prey you are more than likely to spend all Actions available to you trying to kill or burn - remember you have to roll two of the same symbol to hit in a fight and two of the flame symbol (which can also affect a fight) when attempting to burn down a building.
In theory it is possible to have numerous players involved, each taking control of one of the characters, but in actuality this wouldn't work very well as the Eric Draven player will be in the game for a lot longer than any of the Street demons and thus playing a Street Demon could mean your involvement is 10 or less minutes and then only 3 or 4 turns. As I said before, in our opinion 3 is the optimum number of players, though 2 is also good because that means one player has the Gangsters and one Draven and company. Characters Top Dollar and Gideon do not come into play until they are triggered. Sarah is a bit of a misnomer character and so far we haven't found any reason she would be moved out of her District in regular play (haven't played or read all the Objectives yet - don't want to have preconceived ideas) but as she cannot be harmed or kidnapped while she is where she starts moving her is unnecessary.
Overall we found The CROW: FIRE it UP! to be a good solid game, well thought through, easy to learn but with a good variety of Actions and options for all players. Best with three players it moves along at a rapid pace towards its climax which can be one of a number of endings but almost always it is bloody and ultimate. I think it sells for around $45.00 and unfortunately for us in Britain around £45.00. Personally I think that's a little steep when I consider and compare it to some of the other games I review but then this is at least a lot of fun packed into a short play time and it has a lot of replay-ability. Think of it as one night at the Pub missed and you have hours of continuing entertainment for yourself and your friends.
Almost certainly available from your local games store (which is better than buying it online at places like Amazon)