Flip Ships is a cooperative dexterity game in which players take on the roles of brave pilots defending their planet from an onslaught of firepower. Flip your ships to take out the encroaching enemies and to take down the powerful mother ship before it's too late.
"It was an ambush. That's the only way to describe it. The mother ship appeared out of nowhere, creating a massive shadow over the city. Within seconds, wave after wave of fighters poured out of it, filling the sky."
"We're launching the ships we have ready, but they aren't much. Our pilots must fight bravely to defend the planet while we ready the rest of the fleet. Explosions fill the sky, and we've taken some hits, but we won't give up. Will you?"
A few years ago, I stumbled upon a game that became an instant hit. FUSE from Renegade Games and Kane Klenko won over my friends and family with it's frantic dice rolling. Despite there being some initial iconography to interpret the game became a firm favourite. Maybe it was the co-operative nature, or the strict 10 minute timer, the rush of trying to frantically diffuse bombs together, whatever it was it worked. So when I heard about Flip Ships I was immediately interested.
Klenko seems to be a man who refuses to be bound by one genre and Flip Ships is his entry in to the dexterity game genre. Flip Ships takes the basic concept from Space Invaders of advancing minion ships in front of a menacing mothership, and adds cooperative flicking. Before you go running for the hills this isn't a simple dexterity game like Zoo Ball, or PitchCar but attempts to be a more consider affair with other mechanics. Is Flip Ships to space games what Flick 'Em Up was to westerns?
In the box you will find seven cardboard chits in each of the four player colours, three level 1, two level 2, and two level 3. A mothership that is essentially a cardboard bin, a deck of enemy ships, four power cards for each of the ship levels, a city/mothership health, and height ruler thing, score counters and a wooden flicking platform.
Depending on player count you will construct an enemy ship deck, and lay out power cards for each player at the three levels. Each different level gives a ship different powers, like being able to fire a laser or gain extra flicks.
You lay out the roughly meter long health/height tracker hybrid and place the mother ship at the top. The tracker is split into four single length moon sections and one double length atmosphere section. Four enemy cards are dealt to each of the top two rows. Then the first player takes their ships, and, well... flips them.
Using the provided wooden launch block or the edge of the table you must flip your ship so it rotates at least once and exits the atmosphere (in the game not reality), hopefully landing on one of the approaching enemies. Enemies will be able to take one or two hits with added complications like shield bearing ships that protect adjacent ships. You remove any ships you destroy and then the next player does the same.
Once all ships are flipped, the enemies advance according to specific rules. Any that breach the atmosphere do damage to the city and go to the bottom of the deck to swing back round for a second rodeo. Then any of the spaces in the top two zones are refilled and on we go.
The city taking damage isn't all bad though, as once the city drops below certain thresholds you get extra ships to flip! Once there are six or less enemies left, it's the final attack followed by the mothership battle. In the final attack any ships you don't destroy kamikaze the city, then you each have one chance to end the mothership once and for all, if you haven't scored enough hits already.
Should you fail, the mothership attacks with great wrath and fury and destroys the city, no matter how much health you have.
There is so much to like about Flip Ships; the typical Renegade production quality, the theme of the game and the dexterity. That last one might be a sticking point for some though, and there is no denying that Flip Ships is a bit of a one trick pony. So if you don't like your ponies in a dexterity flavour, you probably won't be won over by Flip Ships. If, like me however, you like to flick, push and throw your way around, then saddle up partner!
I'm really glad that Flip Ships is a co-op game, the pressure of working together and not being the weakest link in the chain is light but incredibly fun. When it's you and your last three ships taking on a mothership with only one health left, your pals all stood round unable to help knowing that you are the worst flicker here, is hilarious. The special powers are neat and well thought out, and mitigate poor coordination to some degree granting bonus flips and alike.
The game is easy to teach and quick to play. It's not a tense game, but neither is it a relaxing one. You will all be stood round the table cheering each other on, and sighing when Simon flips his ship two metres too far... again.
Flip Ships is as much about the sheer silly experience as it is the game itself. Yes there is more meat there than most dexterity games, but despite some variants after a four player game you will have seen everything the game has too offer. What you won't have seen, though, is the way human dexterity can play out differently time and again. Flip Ships gets a higher score from me because of the experience it creates.
The theme is perfect and the way the enemy ships move is perfectly reminiscent of those old shooter video games. It's not a game that will be player every night but I'd wager that when you do play it you will have more memorable stories to tell than after some of the games you do.
Nick can also be found at Board, Deck & Dice