This is a review of Flipships designed by Kane Klenko. It plays 1 – 4 players. Realistcally, I’d estimate the playtime at about 15 minutes per player (in a solo game, you control all players).
For some, dexterity games evoke bad memories of Jenga, Twister, or Carcassonne’s “Catapult” expansion – but there are some undeniable favorites in the genre (Cronkinole, Flick ’em Up, and recent Kinderspiel winner, Ice Cool, to name a few). What does it take to create a truly unique one?
Flip, flip, flip! The mechanics in Flipships are simple as can be – literally flip your ships out onto the field and try to land on either encroaching enemy fighters or the dreaded mothership.
Flipships is a cooperative dexterity game that is about ten times better than you’d expect it to be. Each player begins with three base ships and a randomly drawn ability, such as “if you hit the mothership, score the hit and flip again.” Your ships are represented by sturdy tokens, roughly the size of a half-dollar. Place your first ship on the provided “launch pad” – an inch-thick wooden block – and flick out onto the field of alien fighters, represented by cards drawn randomly from the deck.
There are a couple of nuanced rules about how the ships must be flipped. Your ship must actually flip end over end, so no sliding! If you don’t make it past the first marker (the atmosphere), you get to flip again, up to three times. When you land, you must be on top of cards, not just touching them. I could go on, but I feel like this is a particular case where none of this would make any sense until you are standing in front of the game itself.
And that’s an interesting thing, really. Flipships feels totally different than it looks like it would – the field of play is longer than it seems and you’ll see individual techniques develop around the table. In some cases, you may even adopt superstitions – we were legitimately standing around the room to “block wind”, but the whole thing is more than just a silly, good time.
After a player flips their ships out, you resolve all hits against the enemy fleet and the mothership. Some abilities grant you special actions by which to do this, such as measuring a certain distance away from your ship or hitting an adjacent enemy instead. This becomes tactically important because some enemies are more powerful than others, some more dangerous, and some shield surrounding crafts from damage.
After all players have taken their turn, the fleet of enemies advances… Move each craft towards the bottom of the field according to their varied capabilities. Again, this is where some of your tactical considerations come in because certain enemy crafts can get stuck behind others. And that’s good!
Enemies that break through the atmosphere and hit your planet deal damage equal to the strength printed on their card and are shuffled back into the enemy deck. Predictably, if your city’s health is reduced to zero, that’s a game over. However, as the health marker falls below certain milestones, players unlock new and better ships to flick! That’s right, they not only get more ships, those ships also grant you new abilities, and some potentially killer combos.
From the enemy deck, refill the top rows of cards and start a new round. There is a condition for a final round, during which enemies are much more aggressive and, if you haven’t killed the mothership by the end, you are wiped out.
In recent years, I’ve played quite a few dexterity games I’ve liked a lot – Ice Cool, Sorry Sliders, and now I’m excited to add Flipships to that list. The clever combination of tactical decision-making and downright silly skill is a blast.
If the Space Invaders dice game released this year didn’t do it for you, Flipships is your sweet salvation. There’s undeniable similarity in the downward advancing fleet of alien attackers and it will, of course, scratch that itch.
Thematically, Flipships couldn’t be more on point. The enemy formations encourage you to coordinate with the other players and take full advantage of their abilities. Flipships feels like the war it depicts, and that’s a lot of fun.
I’ll be perfectly honest, I actually bought this game solely based on the art. It was a total impulse grab at the shop and I actually got into my car and said “a cooperative dexterity game…what did I just buy…?”
I say this, though, as a tremendous credit to Kwanchai Moriya, the artist behind Flipships and other recent titles like Kodama and Catacombs (third edition). In and out, top to bottom, the art in Flipships is stellar, pun very much intended. Hell, even the logo reads properly when flipped – how cool is that?
There’s minimal use of iconography on the components, but there really isn’t much to understand that demands such a thing. I do, however, truly appreciate the measurement card that’s included with Flipships. This little card is invaluable in setup and measuring distance when the “targeting computer” is activated.
Downtime in Flipships is absolutely minimal. At higher player counts, you do need to wait for other players to finish their turns, but teammates’ turns can be just as exciting as your own. There will be planning and shouting – trust me.
Various difficulty settings will increase the enemy deck size, but the timing will scale because, presumably, you’re are only playing the higher difficulties if you don’t suck at Flipships.
Flipships is a unique sort of game – it could become a go-to favorite for some as easily as it could be a hard pass for others. Personally, I hope to play the nuts off of Flipships and it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at. That’s a winning combination for me.
The cards are slick linen, the tokens are sturdy, and did I mention how incredible this artwork is?
Flipships is, predictably, a breeze to teach. Playtime is quick and this is the sort that will break up an otherwise crunchy game night. It’s nice to get up and move a bit sometimes.
Some players will be turned off by the dexterity element, which is a shame. But, don’t inject any pretension into Flipships – it’s just good fun.
There are a variety of difficulty setups in Flipships, which absolutely improves its longevity. In all seriousness, I can see myself playing solo to practice…
The light gameplay and easy nature of Flipships makes it ideal to breakout in between heavier games. As much as I’d like to break this out at our regular game meetup, flipping tokens across a bar sounds like a great way to lose bits and make enemies.
I’m really glad I gave Flipships a shot. This game was a ton of fun and I’m glad to have it on my shelf. The artwork is incredible, the components are high-quality, and the game itself is clever and tactical.