PLAYList 17: Flip Ships | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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PLAYList 17: Flip Ships

Jan 04, 2018 By Austin Trunick Bookmark and Share

Happy 2018, readers! There are so many cool-looking games on the horizon, but before we get too far into that I want to take some time to catch up on a few of our favorite 2017 releases that we haven’t covered in full detail yet. (Stay tuned for our breakdown of the year’s biggest box… I won’t name names, but it rhymes with Highlight Bacterium: North Sedition.)

One of my favorite things about the PLAYlist column is that it’s given me the opportunity to cover games of so many different styles. Thus far I’ve been negligent in covering dexterity titles because, well, I’m awful at them. (Dexterity games are ones that involve some sort of physical skill – if you’ve ever toppled a Jenga tower or flicked a paper football between your pal’s extended fingers, you’ve played a dexterity game.) Once in a rare while, though, a dexterity game will come along that really excites me: one so fun (and, in most cases, silly) that I’ll happily play it over and over again despite a sad acceptance that I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever win at it without help.

Flip Ships is just such a game.

In a few of the games we’ve covered already you find yourself hunched over a table, doing brain-burning calculations in hopes of squeezing out a few extra victory points in a turn, or maximizing an economic engine. In others, you’re scanning a map to find a way to knock a dent inyour opponent’s areas of the board. Sometimes you’ll spend a game staring across the table, trying to read other players’ expressions and suss out what they’re thinking. And then there’s a game like Flip Ships, from Renegade Game Studios, where you find yourself delicately positioning your thumb and forefinger at the edge of a table and trying to flip your POG-like space fighter onto an alien card a couple feet away. Each game I’ve described has its place; one of them, though, requires significantly less cerebral processing power than the others. When I describe Flip Ships as more brainless than the majority of games we’ve covered, I mean it in the most positive sense: Flip Ships won’t leave you feeling mentally exhausted afterward, making it far more accessible than many others we've talked about. The fun in Flip Ships isn't buried beneath any unnecessary complexity. 

In the loosest sense, Kane Klenko’s Flip Ships moves the classic video game Space Invaders onto the tabletop. You and up to three friends work together as a team of fighter pilots: mankind’s last defense against an invading alien fleet. The game starts with two rows of cards representing alien ships lined up at the far end of the table. You all take turns launching your ship tokens at them. Afterward, any surviving aliens move in closer, and are replaced with new back rows. If too many aliens reach your end of the table, you lose.

If you’ve touched a video game in the last 40 years, the basics of Flip Ships will be easy to grasp. The way you fight back against the tireless intergalactic invaders is by flipping round, cardboard tokens from the edge of your table (or a wooden "launchpad," if your table has rounded edges.) The token has to rotate at least once fully in the air for the shot to count. If your token lands on one of the alien’s cards, that usually means it’s destroyed.

It's easy enough to wrap your brain around, but can be much tougher to pull off. Flipping a cardboard disc is trickier than, say, tossing a dart, and far more difficult to aim. You’ll think you’re about to hit the bad guy ship you desire, only to see your token go sailing over the far side of the table and roll under a bookcase. Imagine if Poe Dameron had downed a flask of Jack Daniels, blindfolded himself and spun around in circles for ten minutes before climbing into his X-Wing and making a run at the Starkiller Base, and you’ll have a good idea of what it’s like trying to pilot Flip Ships’ cardboard fighters.

If your squad is lucky enough to knock out all of the enemy ships – and that’s a big “if” – then, guess what? It’s not over, because the mothership (or, as we know her: “the bad mutha ship”) arrives for a final, sudden death round. The mothership is a three-dimensional, box-like structure, and to take her down you’ll need to flip enough of your tokens into her maw. This takes even more skill to pull off than hitting the ship cards. Fail to do so before the round ends, and you lose.

Flip Ships is simple, but definitely not easy. Because you’re working together with other players, though, that takes the sting out of being a poor shot. At least from my experience, it’s rare for a player to excel at Flip Ships – you’re all going to laugh when one of your ships flies wildly off course, because it’s likely that everyone at the table will have at least three or four truly awful shots per game. On the flipside of that (see what I did there?), when you get really lucky and hit a bullseye, there will be high-fives all around. And you’ll notice, too, that as you play together, you’ll gradually get better at the game. With practice comes precision. Individual strengths may start to surface; one person may be the long-range shooter, while others will be better at taking out the baddies up close, or such. This progress, albeit slow, makes each game of Flip Ships feel more rewarding than the last.

The game encourages replays with a ton of variability out of the box. Each player’s ship has a unique set of increasingly-powerful abilities that will unlock as the situation becomes dire; you’ll want to try out all of those. There are also numerous methods of increasing the game’s difficulty, should you get good enough at it to need more of a challenge. (Full disclosure: we’ve been playing on the “easiest” mode in all of our games thus far, and it still feels like an accomplishment when we manage to squeak out a win.) And the simple fact that there are different types of alien ships – from kamikaze-style bombers to ships that provide shields to their nearby allies – who show up in different arrangements means that no two games will ever feel exactly the same. 

One nice thing about many dexterity games (and is especially true about Flip Ships) is that the playing field is fairly level for all age groups. Unless we’re talking about some smarty-pants, Doogie Howser-type kid, a child will usually be at a disadvantage when playing a strategy game against (most) adults. Take a dexterity game like Flip Ships, though, and there’s very little reason for an adult to be any better than a kid at flipping tokens across a table. Here’s an example: not long ago I had the opportunity to play the game with a wide span of ages, ranging from children to young adults, to grizzled, embittered men staring down the precipice of middle age. (Myself.) My 10-year-old nephew, it turns out, is the Tom Brady of Flip Ships, effortlessly outclassing everyone else at the table and the only one of us capable of consistently sinking hits on the mothership. What I’m getting at is that a kid can be as valuable a member of the team as any grown-up, making Flip Ships a worthwhile pick-up for any parent-, aunt-, or uncle-gamer.

With an MSRP of $40 and playtime of roughly half an hour, Flip Ships gets our hearty recommendation. (And, if you dig the game’s cool, retro-futuristic visuals, check out Kwanchai Moriya’s artist page – we love his redesigned covers for classic sci-fi novels.)

One last thing about Flip Ships, and it’s that there’s probably an incredible drinking game hidden somewhere in it. We really don’t love to quantify entertainment by how much fun it would theoretically be after passing around a bottle of hooch, but dexterity games just lend themselves so well to some moderated intoxication. Plus, I can’t imagine a little tipsiness would send my cardboard ships that much further off-target. There’s a reason why dexterity competitions like Beer Pong and Flip Cup are the most popular drinking games on college campuses. (We have no scientific data to back that up that statistic, so just trust us, won’t you?) Once somebody puts together rules for a Flip Ships drinking variant, let’s hope they upload them straight to BoardGameGeek.

And now, music! Never before has a board game given us such a clear and obvious path to take when putting together our playlist for it. When you’re playing Flip Ships, you can practically hear a classic-sounding, 16-bit video game soundtrack pulsing through your head, like something from an oldschool, Japanese, bullet-hell shmup like Raiden, R-Type, or Radiant Silvergun. Did you know that the first video game to feature a continuous soundtrack was 1978’s Space Invaders? That makes our playlist below for Flip Ships feel all the more appropriate:

We’ve put together a vintage-sounding score for Flip Ships using tracks by contemporary chiptune artists – musicians who compose using sound chips from old computers and video game consoles. Combine the board game with our provided jams and it’ll feel like you’re playing something along the lines of Sega Genesis: Unplugged. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for more PLAYlist board game reviews – and have a happy start to 2018. Until next time, gamers!  


Previous PLAYlist columns: NMBR 9UnearthEscape from 100 Million B.C., Orleans (plus Trade & Intrigue)Whistle StopCaverna: Cave vs CaveTwilight StruggleHonshuBärenpark, Notre Dame & In the Year of the DragonYokohamaClank! A Deck-Building AdventureVillages of ValeriaNew York SliceWatson & HolmesHanamikoji.


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January 9th 2018

Love this playlist, great it is on spotify. Great music to listen while laying on best pillow reviews 2018.

January 15th 2018

I have an inclination Flip Ships will be an incredible tradition diversion for quite a long time to come, yet redundant one individuals will frequently play at home or at their amusement evenings. Be that as it may, I do figure the vast majority would be cheerful to keep it on their racks since it functions admirably as a gathering diversion and it gives a one of a kind ordeal.

This in all likelihood boils down to various flipping methods. Try different things with various choices. I incline toward flicking with my center finger and feel like that offers the most power, yet I’ve seen individuals effectively utilize their forefinger or kine so mania their thumb. Those don’t work for me however. Others go palm up and flip with different fingers. I don’t see that procedure as having as much power or precision, however in the event that it works for them, it is passable.

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