Orphans & Ashes
Orphans & Ashes is based on the fantasy web comic Looking for Group by Blind Ferret Entertainment. In the base game play as one of the popular web comic characters Cale or Richard. Play as Cale and do your best to rescue the orphans by attaching them to your character piece. If you’re feeling like the orphan’s souls are better suited to be in your collection rather than taken by the flames play as Richard. Richard wins by claiming the most souls, while Cale wins if he saves the most orphans.
In the expansion More Phun, they added two more character options: Benny and Sooba. Benny is a healer that cares more about money then actually saving the orphans. She gains points by bringing orphans through fire in her force field bubbles. Sooba, chooses to save or mutilate orphans along with the bonus of speed (extra dice rolls).
Every player’s turn consists of two phases: the action phase and the fire phase. During the action phase, you have three actions to use. You can use the same action multiple times.
The Actions Are:
Move your pawn
Guide an orphan
Put out a fire
Stop, drop, and roll
Character’s 1st special action
Character’s 2nd special action
During the fire phase, roll to see how many fires spread. Depending on the roll, the fire may consume a room or some orphans. Two flame pieces is all it takes to claim an orphan’s life. That could be the original yellow flames or Richard’s red fire pawns.
One missed opportunity in the game is the fire phase. It does claim orphans which is important, but it would add an extra level if the fire could win. It could win if you run out of fire tokens to place on the board or if it claims a certain number of rooms/orphans. Possibly even have the game board tile be flipped over simulating the fire has collapsed the room similar to the game Hotshots. Every time I play we hardly remove the fire because we don’t want to waste actions on it. We chose to chance catching on fire and walking through it. All you do is roll a die to see if you take damage. If you roll a 2-6, you’re in the clear. To make it riskier you could have more than one number mean you take damage or have the fire have its own win scenario. That way it’s a semi-cooperative game. Which seems to be all the rage thanks to Pandemic. But currently, fire spreading just means less orphans (points) for the playing characters to gain.
The fire pieces were designed to clip to the character or orphan pieces. The plastic pieces in this game are amazing. Cale’s piece was designed to have the screaming orphans clip onto it. I was able to clip 9 orphans onto it without them falling off. This was impressive for a miniature. Sooba was designed to be able to have it’s back taken partially off so you could clip a single orphan piece onto it. Benny has her glowing orb like force field pieces that clip onto orphans like the fire pawns. Obviously, there was a lot of time spent on the creation of these game pieces.
I enjoyed the unique comic-based characters that have very different motives and special abilities. Playing the game made me want to read the comic series Looking for Group to learn more about these characters. The board is customizable which makes for a different feel each game that I like. Though, I would suggest a different card stalk for the board pieces since it’s currently a glossy paper stock. That way the game will stay in better condition. My guess is the miniatures took most of the budget so that’s where they decided to cut down on spending. I’m sure in future editions this will be addressed. For how many custom pieces there are I’m surprised the game only costs $40.
As for game play, the game is easy to pick up once you understand the rules and can be played in less then an hour. The special abilities are great and quickly become your favorite actions. I personally prefer to play as Cale since he seems to win the most in a 2-player game. It’s also fun to see how many orphans I can fit on him. The theme is amusing and never wavers like in some games. Who doesn’t want to help/steal the souls of orphans? I’d buy it again for the unique theme, character powers, miniatures and game play.