Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 8 October 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Flip City

Game: Flip City

Manufacturer: Tasty Minstrel Games

Designer: Chen Zhifan

Year: 2014

On our recent trip to New York in September, I was keen to try as many GenCon releases as possible before they were widely available back home in the UK. Flip City was on my list because we love deck builders. Dominion is probably still our favourite, but we’ve also enjoyed Trains and Legendary Encounters recently. Flip City hit the table on one of our trips to New York’s board game cafes and although it was initially a little slow, by the end of the game, we were very keen to play again and so a copy of Flip City flew home with us to the UK.

Flip City is a deck building game for 1-4 players. In the game you are trying to build an exemplary town and ensure that you don’t make too many people unhappy whilst doing so. As the genre suggests you will be building a deck of cards. You start the game with a basic deck of 9 cards, and 4/5 of those cards in particular are cards you don’t want in your hand. Residential Areas and Apartments are particular causes of unhappiness and do not really earn you much money in the game. During the game you will strengthen your deck by buying more cards from the central supply and also by flipping the cards in your deck to their alternate side, which is usually more powerful, for example earning you more money or more points, or a cooler special ability.

The starting hand
Unlike most deck-building games you do not take a hand of cards. Instead your shuffled deck is placed in front of you so you can only see the top card. On your turn you decide if you should play the top card of your deck. You may play as many cards as you like in one turn, but some cards will have frowny faces: if you play 3 frowny faces in one turn, you bust and do not get to spend any money on building your deck. You can choose to stop at any point unless the cards tel you otherwise. The Residential Area says it must be played if it is the top card of your deck – meaning it can often cause you to bust early in the game. It is key to get rid of Residential Areas. You can flip a residential area when it is in your discard pile to turn it into an Apartment. An Apartment still gives you a frowny face, but you don’t have to play it. When you have an Apartment in your discard you can pay 8 money to flip it and seed your opponent’s deck with another Residential Area.

Once you’ve decided to stop playing cards from your deck, you add up the total money you have played on the table and you can either; pay the cost to buy a card from the supply, pay the flip cost of one card in your discard, or develop a card from the supply which means pay its buy cost and its flip cost to add it to your deck with the ‘better’ side face up.

Each card type and its reverse side. Most are a simple improvement when you flip them eg. 1 money flips to 2 money, but some are a double edged sword eg. the power plant which gets you victory points but is an additional frowny face in your deck.
There are two win conditions in Flip City and the winner is the first person to achieve either. The first is to have played 8 points symbols on your turn. The second is to have played 18 cards in one turn which include at least one Convenience Store. Achieving either of these conditions general involves you to have controlled the number of frowny faces in your deck, or at least increased your town’s capacity for Unhappiness by filling your deck with Churches. If you’re going for victory on a specific then it’s also worth keeping of the cards in your discard – flipped cards can often be flipped back over for an instant bonus such as an extra point or an allowance of one more frowny face, which might get you over the line for victory.

Flip City is certainly unique amongst deck builders. It is very simple and so far it appears that multiple strategies can result in victory. I have seen victory from both the 18 card and 8 victory point routes. Its unique elements can make it a little fiddly at times, for example remembering which way up your deck was supposed to be after to shuffled and ensuring that you don’t peek at the cards underneath the top card of your deck, but these are minor issues. 

I’ve played this one at every player count, including one solo game. I think two or three players is probably the sweet spot for this one. With 4 players there is far too much down time, due to a lack of player interaction and the fact you cannot plan ahead. In the solo game, you have a much smaller central supply which acts as a timer. Every time you shuffle your deck, you must remove from the game one card from the supply, once the supply is empty, time is up. You must achieve one of the victory conditions before the game is over. The solo game is mechanically sound, but is just a little boring. If you have bad luck, your chances of winning are not mitigated by the fact that other people may also get bad luck, whilst if you have good luck, it’s just quite a dull process of sailing to victory. This is the first solo game I have ever played though, so perhaps I’m just not of the right mind set for solo gaming.

With two players Flip City is a nice, unique take on deck building. The choice of cards is quite limited and it could certainly benefit from expansions (although as a micro game I’m not sure it will ever get any). For us as a couple, this is a filler, but with 3 or 4 players, it probably out stays its welcome as the game drags on, especially in the slower initial turns. I think the lack of variety will mean we burn out on this game quite quickly, but as a micro game for travelling and with its low price point, it’s definitely worth checking out for fans of deck-builders and light card games. 

Flip City gets a 6.5/10 from the Yellow Meeple.

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