They must time it. It’s not that as a fan of multi-player strategy games, one gets tired of playing them or anything, it’s just that you reach a certain point, and whether you know it or not, you’re looking for something just slightly less complicated and more along the lines of plain fun. The Gamewright company out of Newton, MA seems to have my particular cycle down pat because they recently sent me a ‘plain fun’ package of games for review that included one called FlipOut; The Switching, Swapping and Swiping Card Game.
I’m of the opinion that you couldn’t strategize with this game even if you wanted to. All you can do is follow the rules, do what you gotta do and hope for the best. You can play a complete game of it with four people in less than half an hour, and because the ‘swapping and swiping’ component of the game involves messing with the plans of your opponents, it leads to some lively banter. “Oh, you creep.” Or “I don’t believe you’re doing that.” Or my favorite, “Your mother wears Army boots.”
Like I said, fun. . .
Ok, here’s the deal, literally. You’ve got a deck of 90, double-sided cards. Well, of course, all cards are double-sided, right? But with this deck, it means that both sides of the cards are involved in game play and scoring. This means, essentially, that there are 180 possibilities inherent in the deck. This 180 is divided up evenly among five colors and card designs – Blue, Green, Yellow, a Purple/Red hybrid color and Orange. You will find each color represented 36 times in the deck, though depending on the random way the deck is oriented at the start, they generally won’t be even on both sides. In other words, just because there are 36 Blue cards, doesn’t mean you’ll find 18 on what might be termed, the ‘down side’ of the deck and 18 on the ‘up side’ I’m sure this is very significant somehow, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how.
Everybody gets a little two-piece, curved card holder (Tab A into Slot B construction) that will hold six cards. At the start of the game, everybody draws six cards from the deck and places them in their holder. Each player can see the colors of the cards that are facing them. Their opponents can see the backs of these cards. You are trying to collect cards of the same color that are side by side in the display; either your own (facing you as you look at your display) or someone else’s (whose backs you can see). To collect (and ultimately, score) the cards, you need to collect a minimum of four of the same color card.
On your turn, you perform two of five possible actions, in any order you wish. You can Flip one of your cards or the card of an opponent; in other words, turn it around so that the color facing you is now facing away from you. You can Switch the positions of any two cards in either your display or an opponent’s display. You can Swap 1; swap one card with another player’s (maintaining original front/back orientation) or Swap 2; swap two, side-by-side cards of the same color for two side by side cards of the same color on your opponent’s display. You can Score a set of cards of the same color that are side by side facing you (4, 5 or 6 of them) or Swipe a set of 4, 5, or 6, showing on your opponent’s display.
Play continues until the deck is exhausted and players count the number of cards they’ve collected. Player with the most cards wins.
In a two-player game of this, you can get into a repetitive series of Swaps, that hypothetically could go on forever (“I want these two cards.” “I want them back.” “No, I want them.” “No, I want them.”). Eventually, someone’s going to have to give in before the sun comes up and play will move on. With three, four or five players, when one person swaps, the next clockwise player might swap back, but there’ll be one, two or three players interfering before the original perpetrator of the swap gets a second chance. The first time I taught this game to my significant other, Cathy, we had a few of those back and forth swaps, and oddly enough, the game ended in a tie. Eight cards were left over and we’d each collected 41.
Two nights later, we played it with Cathy’s daughter, Sinead, and her husband, Mike, and things got a little more complex. Much different with four players. The deck gets used up quicker, and there’s more cross-table competition for cards. You get yourself a decent array of four, same-color cards, lined up side by side just waiting for your turn to come around and before it happens, three people have removed one of the cards, flipped it around or downright pulled it off your display and scored.
Like I said, no way to strategize with this. Turn actions and the order in which you utilize them is important. Switch here, score there. Score here, replenish your display to six and with the luck of the draw, score again. Or swap one card with an opponent, and then use the card you’ve swapped to swap with another opponent. There are numerous occasions when it would be beneficial to be able to perform two actions and then score, which is a variant offered in the rules, that (with tokens; not included) players can utilize three times during game play.
It’s a quickie, and not one that’s going to get a lot of attention with the serious game crowd. Yet for all of that, you find yourself doing a fair amount of thinking (albeit, shallow thinking) during game play. The five possible actions on a turn place it just outside the realm of the first-through-third-grade crowd. While younger folk will grasp the four, five or six cards of the same color, side by side, concept of the thing, the mechanisms to make this happen in a multi-player game will tax their layered thinking abilities. Not always a bad thing, mind you, but it might be just a little frustrating for them. The box does indicate “8 and up,” and it probably won’t be much of a hit below that age.
FlipOut is published by Gamewright (design not credited), can be played with 2-5 players and is recommended for ages 8 & up. It’s won a few ‘parenting’ awards, like “Dr. Toy’s Best Vacation Products award, the Creative Child Magazine Seal of Excellence and an iParenting Media Award. Suggested retail price for Flip Out is $19.95, though it has yet to appear in the on-line catalogs of some of its retailers like Fun Again Games (on-line) or Barnes and Noble. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you go looking for this game on BoardGameGeek, be aware that it is spelled without a space between "Flip" and "Out." A search for "Flip Out" will not yield results, whereas "FlipOut" will take you to the relevant Geek page.