Flip Ships Review
So, if you guys are around the same age as me, you would probably know video games like Galaga or Space Invaders back in the day where you were still hitting Atari or Nintendo game controllers. Those two games were iconic and we spend a great deal of time and fun with those simple looking game (now we have high demands on lots of things). Space Invaders / Galaga is a game where you control a ship and shoot lining-up enemy’s space ships (Alien ships) with our laser beam (that looks the 4 long square piece from Tetris) and save the day, It’s not easy back in the day, the levels were keep harder and harder every time you beat it, those were simpler days, where keeping us occupied was harder levels than before. Now you can recall those glory and simpler days because Renegade Game Studios publish the analog version of the game and somehow modernize it. Yes, Flipships is one of the newest game from Kane Klenko, the designer of Flatline, Fuse and Covert and really implements the game system of Space Invaders / Galaga into the board game platform, the twist is that He made it with a touch of dexterity element in it’s core. So let’s launch into space and explore the world of Flipships to find out more about the game!
If you are familiar about the video game version, there’s no need to know more about the theme, but in case you are new and unfamiliar with the video game, read on. In this game, players will hand in hand control their ships to defend alien’s invasion against your home planet. They are up right outside the planet’s atmosphere and the enemy lines are starting to close in our planet, we must stop them before our planet sustain enough damages and destroyed. The future of its population rest in your trigger-button fingers. You need to destroy it’s mothership (the boss) and while in the same time take care of those pesky ships storming face on to your planets.
Kwanchai Moriya done the artworks in Flipships and I must admit that He had done a great work. The visuals are breathtaking, I love the gripping and thrilling box cover art with His signature showing contrast colorful with abstract approach to reconstruct the visual in broken style manner, I heard it’s called the Dorito Space Art by some people and I concur. And another interesting thing is that the game title can be read upside down (that’s something). You can find his other works on Coaster Park, Dinosaur Island, Loop Inc., Catacombs, Kodama and many more.
The Game Components
The game comes in a weird-size square box, smaller than the usual box like Catan. I imagined it as Catan sized. The components are nice, mostly standard (cards, tokens) but one thing pops out, the launching pad made from huge chunk of red-painted wood. This is partially necessary, while players may opt out this when they flick their ships using end of table, there is a ship ability that require this component. The good thing is that when you cannot use end of table, you can use this. The tokens seemed the only components that will worn out first since they’re frequently flips during plays, but it shouldn’t be a problem, putting a sticker of printed ships would do the trick. Having a game mat that covers the entire table so it looks like the outer space is definitely enhanced the game experience (or maybe a dark blue game mat).
The Game Play
Playing Flipships is very simple. All you (and up to your three friends) need to do is just flick your ships (tokens) and hit those baddies, that’s all. But since it uses dexterity, it’s never just that easy. Yes, to flick and hit the target you want is pretty much down to your perfect combination of hand coordination, accuracy and power handling. At the start of the game, your planet has 20 health and you need to avoid getting it down to zero. The mothership generally has 4 hit points (but you can adjust this to modify the challenge). The enemy will start with 2 rows of 5 ship cards drawn from the pile (amount of cards is varied based on number of players) of the opposite end of your planet. There are 4 levels of space o top of your planet atmosphere, once the enemy cards enter the atmosphere area, they start dealing damages to your planet and make a rerun back to their stack (yes, you only get rid of them by destroying them). If you playing with your friend(s), you will take turns to launch your ships. Once all players take their turns, surviving enemy ships advance towards the atmosphere based on their speeds. In players’ turn they will flick their available ship tokens one by one with their fingers (how they flick them is up to them, as long as using their own fingers and the token must do at least one full flip before hitting the target (wow, that sounds difficult and highly sensitive to keep track! Don’t overthink it, just have fun, it’s a cooperative game anyway).
So, the enemy ships (cards) have different stats, they have different speed, some need to be hit double to destroy or there’s a ship with Shield generator to give shield to adjacent ships (you need to destroy this ship first to disable shield of adjacent ships). And The Mothership is made from 4 side boards to form a box with hollow top (and bottom) and players need to flick their ships directly inside it to hit it. Players’ ships also have special variable powers that they can unlocked once they take some hits (when the hit track decreases to certain level, next ship is unlocked from level 1 to 3. The different level of ships are shown by the shape of ships, higher level has bigger size ship drawing. This to differentiate the ability of each ship. If players managed to downsize to 6 enemy cards or less they will trigger final round and have to destroy the mothership in the next round, if not, they will lose because the mothership will advance to the planet and deal 20 damages.
There’s not much replay value on this one, surprisingly the game will always be the same over and over again aside from the difficulty adjustment. You and your friends will flick ships and there is no twist on the game, simple but maybe for some it’s boring after several plays. The one thing that keeps the game fun is the dexterity element, which can cause hilarious moments among friends. Some could be moments to remember and topic discussion, but that’s just it. They also provide another speed variant (competitive) where the mothership is placed on the center of the table and players take their 7 ships. No other components are needed. I find the game to be really easy to figure out, one play and you already get the bottom of it. It’s a game where you just having fun flicking your ships.
My Thoughts of The Game
I always have soft spot with dexterity games, I love Terror in Meeple City (one of my favorite games), Super Rhino and etc. So this one is not an exception. I was hooked by the dexterity concept though not entirely, but since my expectation was not particularly high for this kind of games, it’s not a big deal for me. When the first time I tried the game, it was fun, though most of the time my flicks missed the target. The first thing I had in my mind was “wow, this is hard! How I could successfully hit the target I want with this?” despite the fact the rules give us three chances if the ship fail to go beyond the atmosphere. If you flip the ship behind the mothership, there’s no hope in that, it lost to the void. Well, this difficulty sounds very dismissive but rest assured, after three-fourth of the game play it starting to give me answer that it is possible, as long as you have faith and keep hone your flicks to be the flick master. In my second play, I finally feel pretty good with my aim and turned out the game isn’t that hard like the first time (that’s why you can adjust it’s difficulty level).
I really think there’s a good portion of cooperative element on this game (also a hint of alpha player if the group allows it) because the variable ship powers. Yes, as I mentioned earlier, the ships have different powers based on colors and levels. This allows players to discuss which target they think more suitable to tackle on by each ships. And those powers are fun. There are power who can get a rerun if managed to hit the mothership or power that can destroy another ship of the same level instead of the ship it’s land on and etc. These truly makes the game really interesting as you explore the powers of the ships. This might be one game that I can enjoy as a solitaire game (oops…), yeah mostly because the dexterity element presents actual challenge right in front of you, allows you to immerse on doing something curiously irritating to hit the target, like doing beer pong or throwing paper ship to trash can. But like others, this feeling would eventually washed away after several plays (just guessing here).
I am thinking that the game can be expanded in many ways, scenarios are good to have, specific requirements that players need to follow to win the game and maybe different game modes, partnership versus and else. Of course you easily can come up with your own scenarios and game modes and share them to others.