Built on Rock and Roll--A Double-Take Review of Flip City

Dominion changed gaming forever. It created, and simultaneously perfected, a whole new genre: deck-building. Countless games have taken that core mechanism and gone in some unexpected directions. The latest offering is a "microdeckbuilder" called Flip City, from Tasty Minstrel Games and designer Chen Zhifan. So did we flip over the game, or just flip out? Let's see!



The Components

Like just about every deck-builder out there, the components are completely made up of cards. There are 6 different types of cards, but these cards are double-sided, so in a way you'll actually have to get to know 12 different types, and their functions, and the strategic advantages of each one. We'll talk about all of that a little later.

Jeremiah-- This is already a big difference from any other deck-builder. The use of double-sided cards is an interesting choice, and creates a few different things to keep track of as you play the game.


The Setup

Each player is given a starting deck of cards, which are carefully shuffled so as not to flip them. It's also recommended that you shuffle them under the table so that they cannot be seen because once you're done shuffling you'll be able to see your top card, and it would be cheating to keep shuffling until you got the card you wanted on top!

You then organize the rest of the cards into the general supply, placing them in individual stacks with the side up that shows the cost of the card. 

Firestone--We tried playing with the deck of cards on the table, but after having cards unintentionally slide off the top, and some confusion about which was the draw deck and which was the discard, we eventually just kept the draw deck in our hands. It was SO MUCH BETTER. Do that. Seriously. 


The Gameplay

Players take turns in order, and the turns are broken into two simple phases:
Phase 1  The Aptly Named "Play Cards Phase" - Play Cards. Cards are put into play one at a time from the top of your deck, which means, yes, you can see what the next card is before you play it. There are also a few other options you can do during this phase, such as recycling cards (we'll talk a little more about that later). As you play cards you gain Money, Victory Points, and/or Unhappiness. Unless you have a card that lets you break this rule, you can only have 2 Unhappiness on your turn. If you play (or are forced to play) a card that gives you a third Unhappiness (represented on the cards by a red frowny face) your turn is over immediately. Some cards, when they're on top of your deck, force you to play them, or require you to play the next card that comes up, and this will often put you over your 2-frown limit.

When you decide to stop playing cards, you count up what you've gained and move onto the next phase.


Phase 2 The Building Phase - You can do one of three things here: 

1 Purchase a new card. You do this by paying the cost on a card (in the upper right hand corner), and placing it in your discard pile.

2. Flip a card. After paying the Flip cost of a card that is IN YOUR DISCARD PILE you can flip it to the other side. This is why it's so important to keep cards the right side up when shuffling!

3. Develop. If you've earned enough money this turn, you can pay the purchase and Flip Cost of a card in the general supply, flip it, and put it into your discard pile--essentially buying a fully upgraded card.

Let's talk about the cards and why we're flipping them!

There are five different card types (the copies we received also had a Kickstarter expansion which added a sixth card). All cards have a Flip Cost that you pay in phase 2 of your turn to flip it; once you've flipped a card it will have a Recycle ability. If a card is flipped and in your discard pile you can flip it back to its original side and the Recycle ability as a one-time bonus on the your turn.

 Here's a quick breakdown of the cards and the way they affect the game.

Residential Area/Apartment Building - Both sides of this card have a frowny face and give you one coin (money). The trick is, if a Residential Card is on the top of your deck, you HAVE to play it, so it could definitely put you over your frowny face limit and end your turn. It's constantly lurking somewhere in your deck. The Apartment building is just as crude but in a way that is beneficial to you.  It has a pricey Flip Cost (no recycle ability) but if you pay it, you put the Residential Area in someone else's deck. Zing!


Convenience Store/Shopping Mall - The Convenience Store gives you an extra win condition when you play it. If you play 18 cards on the turn you play it, you win. Flip it to the Shopping mall side and it chips in two coins, and a victory point.

Factory/Power Plant - The Factory lets you take a card from the bottom of your deck and stick it in the discard pile. While the power plant gives you a frowny face, a coin and two victory points, it also lets you put an Apartment into another player's discard pile.

Hospital/Church - Adds a frowny and a coin, but also gives you an extra coin for each frowny you gain that turn. The Church increases your frowny-face limit by one. You can also recycle it to gain yet another frowny-face to your limit.

Central Park/Station - This is a heavy hitter. Central Park gives you two VPs and allows you to buy an additional card on your turn, while the Station side gives you three VPs, and allows you to flip an additional card this turn--it also gives you a VP if you Recycle it.

Office/Trade Center - The Office gives you a coin and it also allows you to set it aside when you shuffle your deck, and then place it on top. The Trade Center allows you to shuffle your discard pile into your deck during your turn.

Jeremiah--We noticed the first thing you want to do is start managing the Residential areas--the good thing is that there are a finite number of them. They're starting cards and aren't in the general supply. But if you don't start flipping them, they can really wreck your game. Losing turns is a killer, and I had a stretch of 2-3 turns in a row where I was done in by the Residential Areas! #Anger

The Verdict

Firestone--I immediately liked Flip City. It's a clever new take on the deck-building genre, but isn't a beast to set up or explain. It's a great first step in the genre, or as a shortish game at game night. After a few games, I was really hoping we had other cards to swap in. It's not a complaint. I like what's there--and I like the price-point and the portability. It just screams for an expansion. 

Jeremiah--Definitely. In the middle of game one, I thought two things:
1 - This is ripe for expanding; it's great, small, and portable, and the smaller card count makes the learning curve quicker.

2 - I'm not sure adding more than two players will add to the fun. To give context to that statement, I think that of most deck-builders, yes, some games it makes it much more tense because you might not get the cards you want when they populate the lineup (like Star Realms or DC Comics) but for the most part, more players means more down time. And I could see that being an issue here. 

Firestone--Yeah, our first game with 3 players took a good 45 minutes. That's longer than "filler" length for me, so I agree that I'll probably suggest this at 2 players, perhaps suggest at 3, and suggest something different with 4. 


Jeremiah-- The one thing I wasn't terribly fond of, and I know it's a total preference/taste thing, is the theme. It's well done, the artwork and graphic design, is bright, and somewhat stylized. But the "City Building" theme to me is a bit vanilla. I would have loved a medieval theme, building castles, and villages, and defenses. Or space colonization. Again, this is my preference and the theme may be right up many folks' alley. The other side of the theme discussion is: I'm wondering why a residential area and an apartment building would bring sadness into a city... I mean don't you have to have places to live? And the hospital, I mean sometimes people are sad there, but they also heal and help people too. So why the frowny face? The church does however make sense, I can see why someone's faith increases their tolerance for unhappiness in their lives... But that's a whole other discussion!

Jeremiah--Despite my apathy towards the theme, the third thing that came to mind somewhere in the middle of the first game was: This game is REALLY fun, and I like it a lot. I'll be teaching this to many of my gaming friends and even some of my non-gamer friends. The fact that the cards flip and change how they impact your strategy is great. Being able to think ahead to the benefit that card will eventually give you is also a very fun and unique strategy building block. 

Firestone--The push-your-luck aspect was really enjoyable. You know you only have one more Residential Area in your deck, so the odds are really low that it's right under this next card, right? CRAP! Turn over...

Jeremiah's Final Verdict--Flip City has found a way to uniquely approach a gaming genre than has birthed many, many doppelgangers. Flip City introduces new mechanics and new strategies into the deck-building genre without sacrificing fun! I highly recommend it!

Firestone's Final Verdict--Flip City is clever little game with a finite shelf life due to the small current card pool. I still recommend it, because I don't think it will take many new cards to make this game shine. And the two-sided card mechanism is unique and fun. Flip City is fun--so give us more cards, Tasty Minstrel! 

Theology of Games would like to thank Tasty Minstrel Games for providing review copies of Flip City. This in no way affected our opinions of the game. 

Thanks for reading! Have you played Flip City? Did you flip out over it? Let us know in the comments!