Flip City Review - Minimalist Micro Deckbuilder
Quick Glance: Flip City
- Game Type: Card Game
- Number of Players: 1 - 4
- Mechanics: Micro-Deckbuilding / Press Your Luck
- Difficulty: Light / Medium
- Release: 2014
- Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
- MSRP: $19.95
Flip City is minimalist in almost every sense of the word. The contents of the petite display box are, and to no great surprise, basic. One pile of 86 cards, a brochure for other TMG games and a two-sided 8.5 x 11 pamphlet for the rules. The artwork is even minimalist, yet, done up in an aesthetically pleasing and colorful isometric style. The direction that the designer, Chih-Fan Chen, is headed with Flip City is to create a game that at it’s core is simple, in all its elements, but allows for complexity to be sprinkled in as the player desires. He has done this by introducing expansion packs, that can be played alone or mixed into the original game.
The aim of Flip City is to build a micro-deck of cards, each with varying point values (read: victory points), cash generation and effects. If you can play enough cards to amass 8 points in a single turn without going over your unhappiness limit, you win. If you can play a convenience store and 17 other cards in a single turn, you win. Those are the two and only two victory conditions with the original game. The trick is, your city gets BULLDOZED at the end of every turn. Look for Bobby Jones’ review of Flip City: Wilderness, one of the two current standalone additions for more rules and possibly more ways to win. The cards are double-sided, and all cards start on one specific side. It took the group I was playing with some time to get used to the idea that if you flip your cards accidentally while shuffling, you’re going to end up with a completely different game. You start out with a set of preselected cards and 5 piles of community cards that you can “purchase” during one of your two phases of gameplay. Essentially what this game boils down to is pressing your luck at the beginning of your turn (in your Play Phase) and trying to play as many cards from the top of your deck as you can. The trick is avoiding playing too many cards with the “unhappiness” attribute. If you hit a certain amount of unhappiness in your Play Phase, your turn is over, and not just that phases, your ENTIRE turn. Don’t pass Go, don’t collect $200. If you don’t bust, you enter the Building Phase where you get the chance to spend the cash generated by the buildings you did manage to play. It’s up to you whether to buy more buildings to add to your deck or flip cards that are currently in your discard pile to improve them and give them new abilities. If you’re feeling extra spicy, you can do a buy AND flip in the same action, which is the develop action.
The rulebook, as mentioned above, is not so much of a book, but a pamphlet. It folds out to reveal basic instructions that are somewhat lacking. I ran through this game with a couple of different groups and the rules and learning the game were a pain point with the first group. After trying and failing to play, I decided to look up a video tutorial on how to play the game and it broke down gameplay in a way that was incredibly simple to understand. My next playthrough was much more enjoyable. Possibly TMG can take a page out of The Dice Tower’s book (read: video review) and work on their rule structure and layout a bit. It wasn’t until my third playthrough that it was pointed out to me there was a QR code with a featured video tutorial, which was much easier to follow.
The theme of this game is an illustrated, modern city builder. While there is no doubt a deep strategic element of this game, which takes great leaps with each expansion, the overall feel of this game is light-hearted fun for all, and the theme reflects that. If you are a fan of colorful, isometric art with almost a lego-like style, you might be into Flip City.
Getting a game of Flip City started is as simple as dealing each player a hand of preselected cards, and then making 5 piles with the remaining cards. I liked the fact that the turn order is determined by the last person who has flipped a table, giving you ample heads up who your more competitive players might be. If everyone already knows the rules, you can get started in about 1 minute.
The components consists of cards, cards and more cards. 86 of them to be exact. There isn’t anything special or noteworthy about the card stock, the quality or any of the other contents of the box. They feel the same as a run-of-the-mill set of playing cards.
Why yes! There IS a solo-play variant of Flip City. I didn’t run through it myself, but the community’s sentiment seems to be that it is too simplistic. Once you develop a strategy, it becomes very rote, and the only thing you need is a pinch of luck to start. The lose condition for a solo game of Flip City is when you burn through all of the supply cards, and haven’t reached one of the two win conditions that I mentioned in the gameplay section.
After watching some other playthroughs of the game, and reading up on what to expect, I was a bit disappointed. The included rules were a bit hard to follow, the turns are long and it is easy to miss an card’s ability or special effect during that process. It’s also easy for players with a shorter attention span to become disinterested very quickly during another player’s 10 minute turn. Granted, I had a difficult group of players the first go around, and there were 4 of us which isn’t ideal for this format. In addition, no matter how you stage your deck, unless you are holding it under the table the entire game, you will often catch glimpses of what the next card is, negating the press your luck component. I can see myself taking this game on a road trip or vacation as something to kill an hour with, being that it is so compact. I also can see myself picking up some of the expansions to see how that impacts gameplay. In my opinion, $10 is about what this game is worth. I’m a fan of the style, and I would absolutely check out other titles from Chih / TMG as the potential is absolutely there.