Flee is one of those games where I think I’m the only person in the universe that likes it or who ever talks about it. But don’t let that put you off. Read on and you may find too that this is a hidden gem of a game.
How To Play
Flee in in Friedemann Friese’s Fast Forward series of games, a set of games where you pick up the box, open a pack of cards and start playing. The rules are introduced on the cards as the game progresses and each game will be a different puzzle as you’ll be playing with pretty much all of the cards you unlocked in the previous game. It morphs over time as you play it.
But what is Flee about? Well, the theme is Alice in Wonderland and the art on the cards is all about Alice in Wonderland, but that’s it. It’s pretty much themeless. Flee is a cooperative puzzle game where you are trying to flee from a monster.
Each player has some cards in front of them and on your turn, you play one card. If you have zero cards in front of you at the end of your turn, you draw another card. The cards have powers that let you change the direction in which you take turns, draw more cards, skip over players’ turns, take a card from the discard pile, and many other things. But there’s a monster and if ever you have the monster in front of you when it comes round to your turn, everyone loses. You win by getting to the end of the deck of 90 cards.
Ow, My Brain
To say this is a brain-burner is an understatement. You have to think ahead quite a few turns and get your head around who you’re going to skip, what direction you’re playing in, and the cards that you’ll get from either the discard pile or the top of the deck. There’s a lot to keep track of.
Will I Like This Game
Flee is going to be liked – maybe even loved – by a small subset of gamers. First of all, you have to love quirky puzzle games. The next prerequisite is that you love cooperative games in which you spend most of your time discussing and planning with the other players and then putting this plan into action. Don’t expect a game where everyone can do whatever they fancy on their turn just because they like the sound of it. This will kill you very quickly. It has to be a concerted effort. Also, the game can very easily be taken over by an alpha gamer, someone who tells everyone else what to do, and so it’s important that the people playing are at a similar level. I prefer playing this at 2 players but if you can’t manage that, it is a great solo game.
So if you meet all of those criteria, why is it any good? Flee does the thing that the best puzzle games do: it puts you in a situation where you 99% know that you’ve lost but you sense that if you think hard enough and cleverly enough there is a way to survive. And when you find this way, it is very rewarding. By the end of the game, you are barely hanging on and it is a challenging game to beat. I have beaten it by playing multiple games of it – which makes it slightly easier – but I’ve never won on the first run-through. I think Stephen Hawking would have struggled with that.
I don’t want to give any spoilers but suffice it to say there are some surprises as you go through the deck, things that help you and things that certainly make your life tougher. That’s part of the fun, seeing what comes up next in the deck and how it affects your situation.
It’s a pack of 90 cards. That’s it. No rulebook. No tokens. No huge Cthulhu miniature. I’m not a big fan of either the theme or the art but the gameplay pushes past this for me. It could have done with a token to show whose turn it currently is. Sometimes you will be working out what to do for a good five minutes, and then, when you come to start again, you can’t remember whose turn it is. This can be easily remedied by using any handy token but including a thematic token would have been a nice touch.
You like puzzle games: check. You like cooperative games where you have to discuss, plan, and cooperate a lot: check. The people you play with are all at the same level with puzzle games or you don’t mind playing solo: check. Then Flee may well be for you. The Fast Forward system means that you get into the game very quickly. There’s no rulebook to read beforehand and new rules are drip fed throughout the game. Throw in the inexpensive price tag and some great surprises and you’ve got a quirky little game that will stretch your brain power and give you many great moments where you just manage to hang on in there. I wouldn’t say that this game is underrated but it is a game that you may find that you love. I know I do.