Picture it. A cool ocean breeze hits you in the face. Your boots make the “thunk, thunk” sound as you walk your way across the wooden planks of the deck. The moon shines brightly on this clear night. Can your voyage across the ocean on this wooden-mast sailing ship be any more perfect? Then all of a sudden, smack! You are hit in the face with a felt canon ball!
Today, we are going to take a look at Fire in the Hole, a new dexterity game from McMiller Games. No, this party game doesn’t involve you chucking canon balls at your fellow players. Rather, it tests your dexterity skills as you’ll be tossing little balls into a 3d ship. Intrigued? Read on, dear landlubbers.
Setting up Fire in the Hole literally takes about 30 seconds. The paper ship opens up like a pop-up book in all its glory. Each player gets 6 felt canon balls and a hand of 4 cards. On a player’s turn, they will draw a card and play a card. The card will determine their action for the turn. These usually involve throwing a ball at the ship in various ways, hoping it will land in one of the squares.
However, before taking said action, they must roll the die. This determines if the action is taken solo, or if all players get to do the action. The goal? Link up 4 of your canon balls in an orthogonally adjacent line. The first player to do that, wins!
Without a doubt, the most impressive part of Fire in the Hole has to be its table presence. You open up this board and the ship literally just pops right up. You slide the mast into place and you are ready to rock. Not only is it quick, but it just looks amazing. There are even great little details, like 3d waves or easter eggs if you peer down into the bowels of the ship. And not only that, but McMiller games produced this 100% plastic-free, biodegradable, and carbon-neutral. That’s pretty impressive for how good it looks.
But let’s move on to the gameplay because that’s what we are really here for. Obviously, it’s simple. Toss a ball and hope it lands. It almost feels like a carnival game (yet not as rigged). There are some minor requirements like you have to keep your elbow in contact with your body as you throw. So no trick shots here. But overall, the gameplay is delightful. The fact that most turns will allow all players to play (4 in 6 chance on the die) helps to keep players engaged throughout.
Overall everyone has really enjoyed Fire in the Hole. The biggest issue I’ve run into is that there are a few “take that” cards that can extend the gameplay more than it should. These involve moving other players’ balls, stealing their color, or rotating the ship. We’ve had games take 30+ minutes because the leader has bounced around between players due to take that cards. Once you near the 40+ minute mark, the game definitely drags and loses a lot of its appeal. So be aware of that. However, when you get a game that finishes in 20 or so minutes, it’s fantastic.
Finally, if you regularly play with kids, or even non-gamer friends, Fire in the Hole is highly accessible. I’ve even played with my 4.5-year-old kids. Since they can’t read yet, we just took turns throwing the balls at the ship and they had a great time. But if you are looking for an easy-to-learn game to bust out over a few tasty beverages, this one gets high marks.
Dexterity games are usually pretty black and white. Ether you like that style of gameplay or you don’t. Fire in the Hole is no exception. If throwing felt canon balls into a paper ship sounds like silly fun to you, then there is no reason not to grab a copy of this party game. If you like your games on the more serious side, you can row right past this one.
Final Score: 4 Stars – Stellar production values and some entertaining gameplay make this one easy to get to the table.
• Take that cards can cause the game to drag on longer than it should