Full disclosure: A review copy of Flip Over Frog was provided by Big Cat Games.
As I’ve said in a few reviews, I’m doing a fair bit of reviews for Big Cat Games, a shop out here in California bringing doujin games (indie Japanese board games) over from … Japan. Part of the reason I’m doing these is that it’s fun to see the differences between the games of other countries and ours, and hopefully the extra press encourages companies to localize them for US audiences. Everyone wins! Ironically, Flip Over Frog has already been picked up by Hub Games (who did the excellent Holding On, along with the upcoming Megacity: Oceania), so, that’s one goal down. Before it releases, though, I’d like to talk about it a bit.
In Flip Over Frog, players vie for control of the meadow representing bitter enemies ready to duel to the death: a fishie, a froggy, a kitty, and a bunny. Okay, maybe it’s not as intense as I might have led you to believe. But the area control is still important! Who will end up in control of the meadow?
Not much to do, here. Set out the board:
Shuffle and give each player an animal card, which they should keep hidden:
These represent which animal you want to win. Now, shuffle the other cards and give each player 2:
You should be ready to start!
So, your goal is to take over as much of the meadow as you can for your animal. At the end of the game, the player with the most of their animal in the meadow wins! That’s about it.
On your turn, you must first draw a card, then you may play a card to any “open” space. More on open in a second. You’ll notice cards have arrows either on every edge or every corner. When you play a card, flip all cards adjacent to those arrows over. If a card is now face-down, that space is considered “open”. This means that you can have a space with two cards on it, and whenever it’s flipped, the other card ends up face-up. Once a space has two cards on it, no other cards can be played on that space. If the card is face-down, it flips back face-up. No cards may be played on top of a face-up card; only a face-down one.
Importantly, flipping cards does not chain. You flip, at most, the four cards adjacent to the card you played.
If you have a Candy card, you may play it to remove it and the top card of any space from the game. If another card is on that space, leave it there, face-down.
Play continues until there are no open spaces or until players run out of cards. At that point, everyone reveals their hidden Animal Card and the player with the most of their animals face-up wins!
Player Count Differences
Surprisingly, not many. The major one is that the board state can change a lot between your turns at higher player counts. It might not actually change that much, though; players can get a bit too focused on small things. Additionally, it’s very rare that you have a lot of your own animal in your hand, so play happens seemingly at random regardless of player count. At two it at least feels more strategic, which is fun. The game is short enough, though, that you don’t see much analysis paralysis (which is strange because it’s a tile-laying memory game, which is usually the worst for that). Either way, I like it pretty well at any player count; no preferences.
- Don’t tip your hand. Try to play in such a way that it’s not clear what animal you want face-up. Especially at lower player counts, you might be able to trick your opponent into leaving your own animals alone with this kind of strategy. Just spend a lot of time trying to trick them; any game is a mind game if you really believe in yourself.
- Use Candy wisely. If you can, try to take out the top card that’s surrounded by a bunch of your opponents’ cards; that means the next player to play there will be able to flip a bunch of them, hopefully to your opponents’ detriment. It kind of goes without saying, but, this is the strategy section, so don’t use Candy to remove your own animals. There is pretty much zero strategic value to doing this, even in the interest of concealing what animal you’re going for from your opponents. It’s a bad move.
- Memory is key. You need to know what cards you’re going to flip up when you play cards. The crux of the game is that it’s kind of impossible to actually track that, but do your best.
- Try to double a bit, but you won’t win the game if you double too often. I refer to the practice of making a space that has the same animal on both sides as “doubling”, here. If you double, that space is definitely yours, but you have half as much power, which isn’t great (because you’re using twice as many cards to control one space).
- No space is truly “safe”. Generally speaking, at least, every space on the board is going to flip usually at least two or three times. Don’t get too attached to certain spots. Even corners, which have the fewest adjacent squares of any spot on the board, have three spaces that can potentially flip them. You’re going to be flipping a lot during this game; try not to take it too personally.
- Avoid taking an early lead. If there are too many of one card on the board, a lot of players tend to go after it for the rest of the game, which usually sinks that player. You’d, naturally, prefer to avoid being that player if you can, so if you’re drawing your own cards, hold on to them.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Incredibly cute art. It’s very endearing; I’m interested to see more of the art direction that Hub Games is shooting for. It would be fun to recreate all the shots from this game with the new art, too.
- Plays pretty fast. It’s nice for a game like this to be as quick as it is; makes for some really solid filler.
- Very friendly to younger players. It’s a great little game for some basic pattern-matching, but it’s still interesting and requires some strategy, so I’d think it’s a great game to play with kids (instead of, say, UNO, my continual go-to dunk). I may pick up a few copies for friends when the holidays roll around.
- Has its own Nintendo Switch app! That was a fun little surprise to find out, but it exists. It also has its own distinct (and super cute) art style, so I guess I’ve seen three different versions of Flip Over Frog?
- Portability is nice, too. Small box, small game; easy to take places. Hard to play as a travel game because if it slides, the game’s over, but I suppose they have the Switch app for that.
- A larger board would be nice. It’s very portable as-is, but it can be hard to get in there and flip cards without disturbing other spaces. If you wanted to make a Deluxe Version of this, some thicker tiles that don’t spin as much and a grooved board would be pretty rad.
- Larger cards would consequently also be nice. Tiny square cards are difficult to shuffle.
- The board is too big for the box? It’s like, the exact size of the box bottom, so it barely fits in the box lid and that causes some issues when you’re trying to get the game out. It’s just Kind Of Weird.
- It might not feel very strategic to some players on your first plays. I think some players can get lost in the flipping and not feel like they have any real impact on the game, which isn’t an awesome feeling. I don’t necessarily agree that the game isn’t strategic, though; I think there are a lot of ways to push the game’s outcome towards your favored animal. It might just not work out, which is fine; the game’s short.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I actually like Flip Over Frog a lot? It’s rapidly shooting up my list of favorite fillers, since it’s got really endearing art, a cool gimmick, and it just plays quickly. It’s not the kind of game where players are going to overanalyze their decisions, because the larger impact of them is relatively low, as you only affect the cards in your immediate vicinity. The nice thing is that it’s got a low overhead to learning it and doesn’t require that much to know how to play, so you can play it with most people pretty easily (making it a very good game for the whole family, which I appreciate). It fits nicely in with other games with similar mechanics, like Tag City or Tiny Towns, except the spatial element is on a shared board rather than individual ones, and you don’t have to do the heavy shape-based lifting in a game like Roam. It’s essentially the filler version of that series, and as a result I’m a big fan. If you like games with great art or are a fan of spatial games like I am, I’d recommend Flip Over Frog!