Oh hey, more dexterity games. It’s pretty well-known that I’ve got a soft spot for dexterity games, ranging from Ice Cool (obviously) to Mars Open: Tabletop Golf to the indefensible Carcassonne: The Catapult (and I look forward to the day when all of these links are blue). Why not add one more, but this time, one from the ever-popular Renegade Game Studios? Seems like a good fit.
In Flip Ships you, like Will Smith before you, are in charge of welcoming some aggressive aliens to Earf as they exit the fearsome mothership. You’ll need to defeat them before they reach the city, but don’t forget about the mothership, lest you incur its fury. Will you be able to stop the invasion and save the world?
So this will take some time to set up. The easiest way is to start with the Battle Zone:
Put them in order (depending on your player count) and set them on the right side of your play area.
Next, set aside a set of Pilot Cards per number of players (you should have a 1, 2, and 3 for each player):
Place the First Player Marker above the leftmost set of Pilot Cards, along with the Docking Bay:
After that, have each player pick their ship color:
Players should get two Level 1 ships (the smallest ones). Put the remaining ships on their respective Pilot cards. In a two-player game, players start with all three of their Level 1 Ships. Put the other ships on their respective Pilot cards.
Now, shuffle the enemy cards together and make a deck:
The size of the deck depends on your player count and the difficulty level you want to play at:
Now, shuffle them and place them into two rows of five cards starting as far back as possible. They should be roughly half an inch apart, but just eyeball it such that a ship could reasonably be on two of them. Put the bottom edges of the card along a line stretching from the bottom edges of the Moon Spaces, like so:
Now for one of my favorite parts. Assemble the Mothership and put it behind those two rows, kind of centered:
Yeah it’s basically a trash can but who cares it’s imposing. Grab the Launch Pad (it’s a red block), and set it aside. You’ll want to indicate its health (and the City’s health) using the Health Markers:
Man, that is not an interesting picture. Oh well. For the City:
- Training or Standard Levels: 20 Health
- Expert Level: 15 Health
- Elite Level: 10 Health
For the Mothership:
12 seems like a lot, but hey, you do you. You’ll also want to set aside the Targeting Computer Card:
But once you’ve done that you should be ready to start!
So you know how much I love Ice Cool, yeah? Well, imagine a bit of that, a bit of Space Invaders, and a bit of co-op gameplay and you’re not TERRIBLY far off.
The game is played over several rounds, each consisting of player turns. The round ends with the enemy’s turn and a cleanup phase.
Your turn will be two steps:
- Flip Ships. You might have guessed that, since it’s literally the name of the game, but here we are.You flip all of your ships and resolve their effects after you flip. You must flip according to the following rules:
- The ship must be placed on the edge of the table or the edge of the Launch Pad. It should be hanging off.
- The ship must be launched from the edge of the table that touches the bottom of the Battle Zone. That’s typically called the Atmosphere.
- Flip the ship up. Usually swatting upwards or flicking with a finger is good, but I’m not here to critique your technique.
- The ship must complete a full rotation. This isn’t Frisbee Ships, as the rules note. If it doesn’t, re-flip it.
- Leave the ship where it lands. Unless it lands off the table or something. Then move it to the Docking Bay.
- If you knock any Enemy Cards, leave them where they are. Don’t straighten them or anything like that.
- If your ship lands completely in the Atmosphere (the first Battle Zone), you may re-flip it up to three times. If you can’t get it out of the Atmosphere after the third flip, move it to the Docking Bay and feel very bad. This also counts if you manage to flip the ship so badly that it flips backwards off the table. That’s sort of a yikes.
- Resolve Attacks. Once you’ve flipped your ships, resolve their attack effects. Some effects might depend on the Pilot Card effects associated with your ships, so check those out! Level 1 Ships can use the first Pilot Card, Level 2 Ships can use the second, and Level 3 Ships can use the third. They’re all pretty good!Anyways, here’s what happens next:
- If you missed everything, place your ship in the Docking Bay. Sad! But you’ll get ’em next time; I believe in you.
- If you managed to land a ship in the Mothership, decrease the Mothership’s health by one and place your ship in the Docking Bay. Nice! You hit the Mothership! If you completely knock out its health you’ve destroyed it and you can remove it from the play area. You still need to destroy all the other ships to win, though.
- If the ship lands on an enemy card, discard it and place your ship in the Docking Bay. You took out a bad guy! Note that it has to be ON the card, not just touching it. If you landed on more than one card, you take them BOTH out!
- If the enemy is shielded or requires more than one hit to take out, leave your ship there. There are enemies that can shield adjacent enemies:And enemies that take two hits to kill:They’re tough! The only consolation is that Shield enemies themselves aren’t shielded, so they only need one hit to destroy. They also can’t shield other Shield enemies, so don’t worry about them. Just go in and hit them when you can. That said, just because you hit a shielded enemy or a multi-hit enemy doesn’t mean you’re out of luck; another player might hit something that allows you to destroy that enemy, so don’t move it back to the Docking Bay just yet.
Once all players have resolved their turns, move any ships on shielded or multi-hit enemies to the Docking Bay. Now the enemy gets to go! Hooray!
There are many types of enemies, but the first thing you should know is that they will all move towards the city to try and damage it. There are three different kinds of movement:
So, what’ll happen is starting from the bottom-right and moving up, then left, each enemy moves according to the number of chevrons in the bottom-left corner:
- 1 Chevron: This enemy moves one “space” towards the city.
- 2 Chevrons: This enemy moves two “spaces” towards the city, and pushes enemies in front of it forward.
- 3 Chevrons: This enemy goes as far as it can until it either hits the city or another enemy. These guys are rough!
If any of them make it into the atmosphere, deal damage to the city equal to the number in the bottom-right corner of the card and shuffle the enemy back into the deck. That’s not good, but you know what is good? Every time you pass a pink number, you can add the lowest-ranked ship still on a Pilot card to every player’s Docking Bay, allowing you to flip even more ships! That’s excellent!
Now for the Cleanup Phase. It’s simple. Refill the top two rows of the board, adding enemy cards back, again going bottom to top, right to left. You should have either 10 enemies in the top two rows or no cards left in the deck. Either way, move the First Player marker one space to the right, and that player goes first, this time.
Continue playing until you have fewer than six enemies on the board at the start of a round.
End of Game
So, if you start a round with fewer than six enemies, they’re going to get uh, agitated. They instantly all become kamikaze ships and will always hit the atmosphere if they’re not destroyed this turn. To make matters worse, they will deal double damage! That should knock y’all down a peg, I would assume.
To make matters worse, no reinforcements are sent in when the city takes damage from this phase. That just sucks.
If you manage to survive that, then you enter the Final Assault! The Mothership has used some kind of weapon to disable all of your Pilot Abilities, so it’s down to some final flips! If you can defeat the Mothership (or if you anticlimactically already have), then you win! If not, the Mothership takes a page straight out of Independence Day and hits the city for 20 damage, instantly destroying it! Rough.
Player Count Differences
Honestly, it’s hard no matter how many players you play it with. The biggest difference is how good are your players at hitting things and how spread are your Pilot abilities. Either way you personally only get one turn before the enemies move, so I would say it feels pretty much the same at any player count. I have no preference.
- Get good. You should practice flipping a bit. It’ll help you out, a lot. Generally, I give everyone five practice flips before their first turn, just to get adjusted to how Flip Ships works.
- Sometimes it’s actually good to … miss? For certain abilities you’ll definitely want to not always hit just any enemy. There’s one that lets you hit anyone in a row provided you land on that row’s Moon Space on the Battle Zone board. You should just aim for that. Another lets you relaunch at the Mothership from wherever you landed, which can be pretty useful!
- You might just want to eat the damage from the round before the Final Assault. It’s probably worth it (if you can survive) to just take shots at the Mothership instead while you can still use your Pilot abilities.
- If you have the choice, always take out Shield enemies. That gives your co-players more options that they can take out.
- Sometimes taking hits isn’t too bad, either. Taking hits unlocks ships with better abilities, so you do want to take some damage, otherwise you’ll go into the Final Assault and need to hit the Mothership every time to win. That would be … bad.
- Some players should pretty much just go for the Mothership. Take inventory of everyone’s abilities and let people play to their strengths rather than playing haphazardly.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The art is phenomenal. As is to be expected from Kwancahi Moriya. (Capital Lux has a similar style.)
- Wow, what a weird game concept. You’re flipping ships sort of like coins at aggressive aliens and there’s a mothership that you want to dunk on and the whole thing sings to me.
- Pretty easy to learn. You flip ships. That’s the name of the game. Not much more to it than that.
- Leads to some pretty epic moments. Nobody believes me but I was playing once and my ship spun on the thin edge of the Mothership before falling out. I haven’t been the same since then.
- I pretty much love dexterity games. They’re just weird and fun and Flip Ships is no exception.
- Feels pretty balanced. I’ve played it a bunch with different players and at different difficulty levels, and we generally barely win or only lose by one shot. It’s kind of nice how it remains kind of constant, though I wish we won more.
- Seems expandable. Other mothership shapes, new Pilot abilities, different types of enemies or ships. It seems like there are a lot of places to build outwards from here and I’ll be interested to see what they go for.
- The ambigram on the card backs makes it hard to figure out which side is “up”. I’ve made this mistake a few times and it’s irritating me a bit. Not a huge problem, but a real problem that I have.
- Could use a playmat. It’s kind of annoying to have to somewhat measure out the cards every time I need to move them or reset the row.
- Can kind of depend on your table quality? This is a weird thing, but if your table has certain textures the pieces might be more or less likely to stop or bounce or something? That can kind of impact the game.
- The rulebook is a bit unclear. I had to get clarifications on a few things that were ambiguous and that’s a tiny bit frustrating. Most of the ambiguity is around the Pilot abilities, though. There are also a number of rules that are easy to miss, so make sure you read through the entire thing carefully before you play.
- A few bad plays can really get you into a bind. Don’t play this game with drunk players. Unlike Ice Cool where precision doesn’t matter at all, pretty much, it matters a ton here. That can cause some heartache.
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, Flip Ships is super! It’s definitely one of the games I had the most fun with at Gen Con because it’s just the right amount of crazy for me. Sure, it’s overwhelmingly hard if you’re bad at flipping, sure, I haven’t won that many times, but it’s a blast! I can’t imagine playing it on Elite difficulty because I can barely win Standard, but other than that I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. I especially like how it feels like you could build on this from here and do even crazier stuff in an expansion or a follow-up. That said, in the moment, I think if you’re into dexterity games you won’t be disappointed by Flip Ships! I certainly think it’s pretty awesome.