Slavic folklore speaks of the Firebird’s feathers and the fools who chase after their promise of fortune. Blaze, a new title from publisher HeidelBÄR Games, mechanises that myth into a competitive race to dump your hand of cards or else be burned.
Blaze is based on Durak, a widely popular Russian card game with roots stretching into the 18th century where three to five players use a 36-card deck to alternately single out and attack each other in a dance of shifting alliances and careful planning. While the broad strokes might remind some of Spades and other trick-taking games, Durak - and thus Blaze - focus on what’s known as the shedding phase for the meat of its action.
At the beginning of each round, one card is turned face-up and determines the trump by its suit. The player with the lowest value trump card attacks whoever sits to their left, and that player can defend. This volley continues until the attacker backs off, thus giving the player on the other side of the defender a chance to overwhelm them. If at any point the defender is unable to fend off the jabs of their opponents, they pick up the stack of cards and add them to their hand.
The position of attacker and defender then shifts one position, changing the alliances of the previous round before the dance begins again. If the defender wins, all the cards on the stack are discarded and do not re-enter play. Defending is difficult work, but success means clearing dangerous cards from your opponents’ hands. As in Durak, the last player with a card still in their hand is declared the loser of the round.
Blaze does little to adapt or change Durak’s time-honoured formula. The publisher instead said in an announcement that it chose to honor the history and cultural significance of the game by hiring Russian artist Nadezhda Mikryukova to illustrate both sides of the card with a firebird-inspired design printed on black with metallic inks.
German publishing studio HeidelBÄR Games is also responsible for Through the Ages - which we called one of the best digital board games available - and the deck-building/worker placement hybrid title Lost Ruins or Arnak. It also hosts the annual Castle TriCon alongside Czech Games Edition and Horrible Guild. The event hosted a digital gathering in 2020 to replace the real one normally held inside an actual German castle.
HeidelBÄR Games will begin selling copies of Blaze to the public through their website and retailers in May of this year. It will be available initially in German and English, and cost around €15 (£13/$18).