Published on October 23rd, 2013 | by Nicole Jekich
Ever Wanted to Hack the Gibson?
Firewall: For the Hacker on the Go
Hack the Mainframe! Reroute the Backdoor! Upload the Kill Codes to the RAM Server! Okay, so I am about as well-versed in computer vocabulary as a B-movie hacker, but having an understanding or love of technical jargon and computers is not necessary to enjoy Firewall. It is a fast-paced game for 2-4 players that combines dice rolling and area control.
(Note: In the interest of full disclosure, Across The Board Games received a free review copy of Firewall containing prototype game pieces.)
The pictures in this article are of the prototype version of Firewall. In additon, we received 2 engraved dice which will be the versions used in the Kickstarter fulfillment. There are not a lot of pieces to Firewall and to me that is a bonus with this game. There are enough dice for 2-4 players and a small, thick board for the center and while the pictures below show the CMYK set, their Kickstarter also offers a second choice of a colored set featuring RGBK. With both expansions, Firewall becomes a battle of the most talented hackers and extends the player cap to eight! The low investment in game pieces means Firewall is great for transporting or gaming on the go. The artwork and symbols are reminiscent of cyberpunk influences like Blade Runner and the Matrix and for players that are even marginally aware of the genre, the symbols and references are easily recognizable.
Each player is a hacker trying to control the most ports into the super computer’s mainframe. Whoever controls the most ports once every player has rolled and placed their last die wins the game. Control over a port is determined by the sum of the “programs” on each port- the player with the highest sum controls that port. Each die is marked with differently on each side, half of the sides show programs with values 1 – 3, while the remaining three sides of each die are special symbols used to alter the board state. A “Delete” symbol allows a player to destroy another player’s die, a “Firewall” blocks access to that port to everyone except the person who placed it, and a “Backdoor” lets the player access a port they normally cannot because of a Firewall. On a turn, the player rolls three dice with the option of placing one on the board and saving one in their RAM. Dice placed in RAM are not rolled again, but may be played for their face value instead of playing a die rolled on your turn. While the strategy is light, this is still a game that requires attention!
The rules are complete and well-examined; every issue we ran into while playing was resolved in the rulebook. The game plays very quickly once you have seen one turn in action, and series of games don’t last overly long. This makes Firewall a great pick up game, or something to play between more involved games. The game can feel repetitive if played too often with the same group of people, mostly because the variety of the gameplay comes from the players and not as much from the game itself. Playing with the same group of players will probably yield a similar experience each time so I recommend taking Firewall to game nights, conventions or using it as a palatte-cleanser between games that are longer and more complicated.
Firewall is a ton of fun for all ages and all gamers. Territory control games tend to be more rules heavy and tend to also require effort with remembering restrictions or other player’s specialties, but Firewall seamlessly blends dice placement, area control and player interaction into a quick and interactive game. It is a simple concept executed completely. Since each player has the same ten dice to work with, experienced players could take as little at 15 minutes to play a game! Luke, Amanda and I played Firewall with Geek Girl Con attendees while we were between big box board games and it was a hit. It was a low-investment in time and changed up the game pace and also helped recharge our overworked gaming brains.
For more updated information on Firewall, visit its Kickstarter page. There are plenty of great reward tiers as well!
(Editor’s Notes: As Firewall is still in production, this is our review of the prototype copy. The game pieces featured in our pictures are prototypes and will be replaced by engraved dice. The game components are subject to change based on the Kickstarter game. If you would like ATBG to play and write about your game, please contact us at Twitter or email Nicole directly at nicolejekich(at)yahoo(dot)com. Thank you!)