Flip City Review

Posted September 7, 2015 by Oscar Russell in Nerdy Bits

Designer: Chen Zhifan

Publisher: Homosapiens Lab and Tasty Minstrel Games

Number of Players: 1-4

Duration: 30-50 min

Originally published in Japan and China as Design Town, the game with a new name of Flip City, is now finally available amid much fanfare in the rest of the world. The game got a lot of attention at Gen Con this year, and since its world release has been a pretty hard game to get ones hands on. Anyway, I saw it pop up on Amazon for a very reasonable price and bought it without a second thought to see what the fuss was about.

The game has been compared to Machi Koro meets Dominion, and in my mind this is a pretty good comparison. Flip City is a micro deck builder, consisting of a pack of 86 cards and plays 1-4 players (the game features a solo variant, which I haven’t tried out yet).

Players get dealt a standard starting hand, and the remaining sets of cards go into the general supply in centre of the table a la Dominion. Your job after that is to upgrade your hand, by both buying from the general supply and upgrading the cards in your discard pile in order to be able to meet the winning criteria of 8 victory points or by playing 18 cards played in one turn.

Each card offers a number of different options. Cards have value which is how much they cost to buy from the general supply, they have a coin amount which is how much the card counts as money towards buying items. A few cards have a :(, you don’t want to many of those. And they also have a flip value, which once activated lets you flip your card over so that you can get the benefits of the other side of the card.

Residential and Apartment

Residential and Apartment

Flip City’s big USP is the cards themselves, every card is double sided. You start with the basics and slowly try and upgrade them. You aren’t going to win this game unless you upgrade cards. The other thing that seems unique to this game compared to the other games mentioned in this article is the Push Your Luck element of this game. You start with your deck in front of you in a neat pile (more on that later), then take the first card on the pile as your starting card and carry out the action (if there is one) and then decide if you want to play the next card on your pile, which is visible to you. You can keep going like this as long as you like, but once you hit the limit of 2 (or 3 if you have played the Church card) 🙁 symbols your turn ends immediately and you can not move on to the next phase of buying/flipping. This turned out to be infuriating for the person hitting the 🙁 limit, and fun for everyone else at the table. Especially when you think all is going well then you see that you have a Residential Area as the top card of your deck and are forced into playing it, but that is Push Your Luck for you.

The General Supply

The General Supply

There is quite a bit of trust that is required in playing this game. As the game hinges on not seeing what cards are in your deck, so that the Push Your Luck element of the game isn’t ruined. I was playing with my wife, who I believe I can trust, but we still had problems keeping the cards straight and had to come up with methods of holding the cards, and indeed shuffling them so that we couldn’t see what order the cards went into. This becomes slightly harder when you have got the Office card in play, which allows you to keep it to the side when you are shuffling your discard pile to make your deck, and then put it on top of your deck. So there is a lot of looking away and under table shuffles, which can be a bit of a faff. I don’t know how well this will work for people that put there cards in sleeves, as there may be some additional sliding?

Another problem I think this game might have for the time being is depth. And I really don’t like where I am about to go with this paragraph but it needs to be said. This game seems to be made with expansions in mind. There are only 6 types of cards available to play in this game. Residential Areas/Apartment card is a staring card and you only get them in your original hand. So that leaves 5 sets of cards left for the general supply. Not a huge amount. Although you need a good combination of all the cards and sides in your hand in order to string together a victory, it still feels like once you have figured out the puzzle, that is winning it’ll just be a race between you and your opponent every game. The beauty of games like Dominion is the customisation of the general supply. I think limiting the general supply to cards as with Flip City, has its positives, as it doesn’t overwhelm a new gamer or indeed people looking for a filler. But I think it needs a few more options so that you can challenge yourself with making that winning hand.

The General Supply Flipped

The General Supply Flipped

On that note, there is already an expansion planned for the Japanese and Chinese market which TMG have said they will be importing to the rest of the world with a date to be confirmed.

This game is definitely one that is going to come back to our table, as we haven’t yet mastered it and we have only played it two players so will be interested to see how it scales up with 4 and also how the solo variant plays. The game to me feels unique, very simple, and easy to learn it took us all of 5 minutes to read and understand the rules to this game.

Saying the above about not being enough sets of cards, that is also one of the plus points. The game is minimalism at its purest. There is no faff or over the top unnecessary cards, just the basics you need to play a good solid game for half an hour. I know this totally contradicts what I said earlier, but I think a healthy balance between the two is important. Also every card that is in the game is important, and you need a good combination of all of them to secure winning, but it still feels like more cards would benefit players hands and also keep this game coming to the table a lot more.

The winning criteria seem incredibly daunting when you start your first couple of hands, as there are next to no victory cards in your deck and an 18 card run of cards seems huge (which it is). But once you gt going and figure out how and what you need to be buying and flipping victory condition of 8 points comes far to quickly. In the games we played no one managed the elusive 18 card run and would be interested to hear if anyone else has managed that.

About the Author

Oscar Russell

Comics Editor for WTN, and co-host of the All New Comics Dash Podcast. I like comics and tabletop gaming!