Flashlights & Fireflies
Hide & Seek On the tabletop
So, I am definitely a little late to the table with this “review” as Flashlights & Fireflies was originally published in 2015 and is currently out of print (yet still available in places). Designed by Jeff Johnston the game was originally published by Gamewright Games. I started considering it for our daughter in 2016. She was four at the time. We didn’t actually get a copy of the game until 2019 and so I was worried we had probably missed the window for it since our daughter was now 7. I was wrong though.
The first time we played it, just to try it out you know, she kept wanting to play. That does not always mean a game is good though. Flashlights & Fireflies offers a charming game that is easy to learn and quick to play. If we would have picked this game up when she was still 5 it would have quickly become a favourite.
From the (Former) Publisher
Get ready for a backyard dash-through-the-dark in this game of firefly-powered flashlight freeze tag! First, catch fireflies to power up your flashlight, then shine it on other players before they sneak back to home base. All along, watch out for bats, raccoons, and other nighttime critters that are out to trip up your tracks.
Be the first to reach home in Flashlights & Fireflies and you’ve outshined the competition!
Hide and Seek, guessing games in general, are about the earliest games we play with our children. From our first Peek-a-boos to an afternoon of Eye-Spy. Even some of the first card games children learn like Go-Fish. Flashlights & Fireflies leverages that familiarity with great success.
The game takes one of the most loved children’s activities – Hide and Seek – and rebuilds it into a board game with a bit of dice rolling, tons of charm and handfuls of luck. A lot of times older folk (the non-children) tend to frown on luck-heavy games, but children tend to love them. There is still excitement in rolling dice or drawing tiles. There is almost a sense of danger and it works really well with this theme.
In the game, players are scattering into the woods to hide behind trees while using Firefly powered Flashlights to search for their friends in the dark. Those Fireflies are all on tokens that players must draw from a pool. Hoping to avoid being bit by mosquitos. Players roll a nice chunky dice to determine how many chances they get to pick Fireflies. The fireflies can later be turned into guesses used to find the other players hiding in the woods.
The hiding part of the game is simulated with the forest tiles. Every player has one tile that matches their standee and start with two others from the forest tile pool. Then it is a bit of 3 Card Monte action as players shuffle their tiles. Players then have to guess which tree tile the player is hiding behind. There are also a few critters hiding in the woods that can scare the kids away, ending your turn.
Players who succeed at hiding move up a small score track that leads to a warm safe little cabin on the board. Players who are caught get to pull more tree tiles to hide behind in the next round.
*This is a very brief summary of the rules if you want to know more about how to play you can check out this video by Family and Games.
While the simplicity of the game may not make it a stepping stone to bigger or more complicated games, not every game has to be. What it does offer is still fun and delightful. It is a game that children can easily teach and play with each other. It offers something familiar that young children will play again and again.
I connected recently with the designer, Jeff Johnston, who reached out after I posted a pic on Instagram. He is still very excited about his game and what it offers to young players. He offered up some new tweaks to gameplay that add a little more to the game. He has worked in a small change to the dice toss that helps eliminate bad feelings and helps the game keep up a bit more as well as a fun twist that adds some bluffing allowing for a bit of strategy that went over really well in our plays. Watch for the new twist when Flashlights & Fireflies finds a new publisher and returns to shelves.
A note on the Art
The artwork by Will Terry is full of charm and breathes life into the game. Will’s art creates a wonderful atmosphere, setting the scene and adding just enough adorable menace to capture the idea of playing hide and seek in the woods at night.
As our daughter gets older, and as her reading skills improve I get more and more excited to explore new games with her. She has a great head for rules and mechanics and a love of playing that lets us push her towards games that are a little out of her depth. But sometimes they fall flat because the added complexity takes away from her fun.
Kids can find fun in the simplest things. Just let them play.
It’s an important lesson to remember when you are playing games with children. As much as they may excel at new mechanics, and have fun with bigger and more complex games as they grow, children’s imaginations can be so much more lively than our own. They don’t need as much fuel to ignite their fires and sometimes they just want to play hide and seek.
Sometimes for hours.