The Crow: Fire it up! Review

In a world without justice, one man was chosen to protect the innocent! On Devil’s Night in the Motor City, play as Eric Draven as he dishes out revenge against the gang that took his life and the life of his fiance, Shelly, in The Crow: Fire It Up!

We don’t tend to play that many one verses many type board games, in fact I think the only other one we’ve played and reviewed was the superb Escape from Colditz, which you can read our review of here. Given that this is only our second experience of a one verses many and the competition that it’s up against, The Crow: Fire it up certainly has a lot to live up.

The Crow: Fire it up is from Upper Deck and is based on the film The Crow. Now I’ll get the confession out of the way, I’ve never actually seen The Crow, and neither has my colleague Will or any of our usual board game players. So as great as the game pieces and game board looked it was already a little lost on us.

Crow: Fire it up is a game of 2 very different sides. One player plays as the Eric Draven and his allies The Crow (as in an actual bird), Office Albrecht and Sarah. Their goal is to move around the city protecting it and eliminating the four street demons who murdered Eric and his fiancée. However Eric and his allies need to kill the four street demons in a particular order off his kill list, once the street demons and the lieutenants are taken out then it’s down to take out the big boss, Top Dollar.

Draven Squad

Sounds pretty easy for that player right? Well, not when your opposition are in charge of the Motor City Gang’s street demons. The players playing as the Street Demons have one ultimate secret objective which they’ll have to burn buildings and cause havoc and mayhem around the city to achieve. They can choose to take out Eric and his allies to ensure that their secret objective is met with more ease. Should things head south, the Motor City Gang’s big boss Top Dollar can be called into play when the situation arises that he’s needed.

Motor City Gang Hierarchy

So in theory it sounds rather simple. The good guys save the city and take out the gang, the bad guys work towards a secret objective taking out the good guys on route if they wish and causing havoc in the city.

The game is played in a series of turns, and starts with the Motor City Gang. The actions both players can make involve moving around the city, attacking the opponents or burning buildings if you’re part of the gang. The city is built up of 4 double sided squares which ensures the game has replay-ability as you can have numerous city layouts.

The combat system is all very much luck of the dice. As an attack move you role the number of dice your character card permits. To successfully attack you need a matching pair of symbols on dice to show for a successful attack attempt. But that doesn’t mean you’ve actually hit. The player defending then roles the permitted number of dice based from their player card and need to roll one of the same symbol the attacker rolled to successfully defend. If the defender is unsuccessful whatever attack symbol was rolled is the method of the attack that is made. It’s a very inventive combat mechanic and does add intrigue to the attacks as you might hope to attack in a certain way to gain a potential bonus attribute, but you could end up rolling a different attack to which you wanted. You’re still potentially dealing damage, but maybe not with the benefits after you’d wanted.

Here’s what you could get, but probably won’t get

Our first play-through of the game was an absolute disaster as we were so far off having the rules correct. At one point as I was playing as Eric and his allies I was absolutely obliterating the Motor City Gang, then when we found out the defence roll I’d have to make depended on the bird being in the same block of the city as me, and for the most part he never was, I found my-self getting a good kicking from the gang.

It’s quite difficult to know what perks you have too, to aid you. Again while playing as the Crow, you have a lot of ‘building’ cards which all give you a bonus to ensure the city is safe. Things like The Police Station can offer Eric an additional bonus, and another card ensures that Sarah cannot be kidnapped as long as she is in the block this apartment is in and it’s not been destroyed. On a few occasions the Motor City Gang completed actions against my good guys which they should not have been able to due to the bonus in play that me having the building card should have provided.

A lot to take in and remember to check

As this sank in more, and the rules began to click we did see strategies change as the Motor City Gang would go out of their way to destroy buildings which would result in me losing the building card bonuses and I’d got a little more savvy with my character movements.

As someone who’s not seen the film I honestly cannot tell you how this game pays homage to the film. I’m sure fans will enjoy the player standees, the theme and point of the game. But to us who hadn’t seen it and were experiencing these characters and plot for the first time it might have dampened our appreciation of the game.

While the game is a one verses many, the game feels very difficult to play as Eric Draven. It all feels very much in favour of the Motor City Gang. It’s fundamentally down to the luck of the dice roll, but because there are so many more Motor City Gang members, the team against the Crow seem to have many more ways to achieve their objective. I found that each player could swan off to a building each and cause destruction whereas playing as Just Eric you have to kind of ration your actions and tend to use them all on your most powerful piece which of course is Eric. So you cannot get to each of the events taking place and have to focus on one player at a time, especially more difficult as you have to follow a specific death list and kill the gang members in a particular random order that’s determined at the start of the game. Officer Albrecht and Sarah were for the most part hardly used, and often ended up being burdens for me rather than help. Especially if Sarah is kidnapped you cannot then kill any of the gang until Sarah is saved or killed. It’s actually more help for the Motor City Gang to have Sarah and Albrecht on the board than it is for Eric and the Crow.

The general basics and concept the game are entertaining, and even on a theme we knew nothing about, there are the fundamentals of a good game, but the balance between the player’s movements and objectives means that you dread playing as Eric and his allies. And when the game finishes and someone else is ready to take the role of Eric, if you’ve just played as him which I had done 2 goes in a row, you lose all enthusiasm to play again even as the more favoured Motor City Gang.

– Murr

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