Flip City Review
At first glance, Flip City looks like a city building game along the lines of Machi Koro. Both share city building as a backdrop, along with similar art styles and colour palettes. What sets Flip City apart is that it’s not really a city building game at all. In reality, it’s a press your luck game with some deck-building thrown into the mix. However you want to classify it, is this small title worth your time?
The game is comprised of 86 building cards. Each card features two buildings; one per side. Some of the buildings on the cards include convenience stores, churches and parks. Buildings have their own attributes which vary based on cost and usefulness. At the start of the game, players will each get an identical hand of cards and a general supply of building cards will be set up in the middle of the table.
From there, players will play a series of building cards from the top of their deck. As each card is played, that player will gain its benefits, such as money to buy more cards or points that are needed to win the game. However, playing certain cards like the hospital will add sad faces to your total, which signify unhappiness in your city. Cash in before you hit three sad faces and you’ll get to keep everything you’ve earned. But if you hit that third sad face, your turn is over and you lose everything. Residential cards can be particularly dangerous, as these sad face cards have to be played when they appear at the top of your deck, further adding to the tension.
If you quit before its too late, you can partake in the build phase. With the money you’ve just earned, you can use it to buy a building from the supply or pay the upgrade fee on a card to unlock the better building on the back of a card. By bolstering your deck in these ways, you should be able to create longer combos of cards that will eventually get you to the winning condition without triggering a fail state.
One other thing you can do as you play cards is to recycle a card. When an upgraded card is in your discarded pile, you can revert it back to its original state in exchange for a one-time benefit, such as a large sum of money or points. I generally prefer to keep my buildings in their upgraded state, though there are certainly scenarios where its a viable option.
The crux of the game comes down to playing a card and determining if you want to play the next card without knowing what’s under it. Maybe it’s my clumsy fingers, but I found this to be a bit finicky. You have to hold your cards in a very specific way in order to keep all of the other cards hidden, though a slight fumble is enough to sneak a peek at other cards below, ruining the surprise and compromising the game. Also, due to the double-sided nature of the cards, you can effectively ruin the game if the cards fall out of your hand while shuffling, as you need to remember the specific orientation of every card.
On top of that, I just didn’t engage with the core mechanic, as there was a big disconnect with me in terms of thematic context. For example, within the confines of the game, it’s awesome to build a deck that lets you play five convenience stores in a row for an easy $5. But when you think about the theme, are citizens of any city overjoyed at the thought of me building a ton of convenience stores? Probably not.
On paper, Flip City sounds like a novel concept. I like the idea of building a deck that makes it easier to push your luck. I like the idea of having double-sided cards that have benefits for switching between the two sides. However, the end result is a game that failed to excite me while being a bit too fiddly for my tastes.