I have sometimes wondered if I have some kind of weird obsession with Heinrich Grumpler’s Ablaze, which is actually a thematically linked set of three games that use the same components. If you count games I’ve played only once, I have played a lot of different games over the years. And, on multiple occasions, I’ve revisited Ablaze for binge plays, despite thinking there are more deserving games for that honor.
But after my latest revisit, I’m wondering if I’m being too harsh to Ablaze, that Ablaze is actually quite a good set of games. I just haven’t been using the appropriate criteria.
Okay, here’s a short overview. The box has rules for three different games: Wild Fire, Volcano and On the Run. All three are tile games that are themed around forest fires. More than that, they all are can be played competitively, cooperatively and solitaire. They are pretty abstract but their themes do shine through.
And all the games were too light and too random to really work as serious abstracts or ‘serious’ games so I always felt like they weren’t actually good.
And if I want a brain burning abstract or a meaty game that will be the centerpiece of a game night, Ablaze isn’t a good choice. But for casual gaming? The Ablaze collection is quick and easy to teach with the right amount of choices to keep everyone engaged. And for solitaire, which I play a lot more of right now, the games are light enough that I can get them in but still feel like I have gamed.
Over the last few years, I have gained or regained an appreciation of casual games. (I have also regained an appreciation for James Earnst and Cheapass Games, which is clearly related) Outside of organized game nights and conventions, this is what gets played. And there’s a broader audience for it.
And Ablaze is a really good example of a casual game system. It’s one step more thematic than a deck of cards (Don’t get me wrong, I think a deck of playing cards is the most amazing tool you can have in your tool box) while being very accessible and versatile. Heck, the original Feurio version came out in 2003 and the Ablaze version is still pretty easy to find.
I was right in my old thinking that Abalze isn’t going to set the world on fire (thank you, folks, I’m here all week, don’t forget to tip your waiters) but I now really it’s a game that would see a lot of play for a lot of different audiences.
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