Top Of The Table – Flick ‘Em Up
Not every tabletop game is about rolling dice, shuffling cards, or table-spanning boards. Flick ‘em Up is one of a growing category of dexterity games, in which direct and active manipulation of the game’s components guides the gameplay. Developer Pretzel Games and publisher Plan B Games has a phenomenal game on their hands with the western movie-themed Flick ‘em Up, which they’ve been building out with different versions and expansions for a few years now.
The concept is simple; wooden cowboy figures duke it out amid a backdrop of cardboard standee saloons and banks. Cacti and hay bales litter the playfield. Opposing players take turns flicking tiny discs around the table. If one of those “bullets” hits and topples an enemy figure, they lose health, until one or the other team wins out. Think paper football, but with lots more figures, obstacles, and options for outmaneuvering your opponent.
Flick ‘em Up is incredibly straightforward to grasp, but like many of the best games, it’s hard to master. The finger flick maneuver that governs both movement and shooting seems easy enough, but balancing speed and power of your shot with necessary pinpoint accuracy takes a lot of practice. Like a game of billiards, Flick ‘em Up demands that everyone is constantly moving around the table, checking angles and setting up their best shots. Discs and other play pieces regularly spin out of control or off the table, lending a chaotic amusement to the whole affair, which I’ve found makes both kids and adults crack into laughter.
The flicking gun battle mechanic is tons of fun on its own, but its Flick ‘em Up’s many scenarios that keep things interesting, and make it an easy pick to pull off the shelf again and again. Over the course of ten included stories and setups, you can play through the tale of the Cooper Clan’s ongoing clashes with the sheriff and his lawmen. In one session, the outlaw team might be trying to retrieve money bags from the bank. In another, the lawmen must rescue a hostage from the bad guys. In yet another, the outlaws must cut the rope on the gallows before their patriarch is pushed off the barrel. Each scenario includes new physical game components that help the experience feel fresh. And there’s enough variety that replaying a favorite setup won’t feel repetitive.
Thanks to designers Jean-Yves Monpertuis and Gaëtan Beaujannot, a smart rules and turn-order system stands behind the combat. Your cowboy figures each wear hats that flip over (from blue to red) when they’ve completed their turn, and the town clock helps keep track of passing turns on the march to high noon. With five characters on each team, Flick ‘em Up flexes easily to support anything from two dueling players to as many as ten players – though it’s fair to note that at those numbers, the table tends to get pretty rowdy and loud. No matter the player count, turns roll over very quickly; it’s easy to play a full scenario in around 45 minutes. If played in order, these scenarios also roll out new rules gradually, without overwhelming new players with new features like dynamite, or the tense dueling dynamic.
Flick ‘em Up is notable for supporting different levels of financial investment, depending on your level of interest. If you’re simply curious to try out a great dexterity game, and you don’t mind slightly cheaper components, the entry level option is the plastic version. Often available for about half the price of the wooden core set, it’s a good introduction to the fun, but you may find the feel of the plastic pieces leads to less accuracy. The wooden version of the core game costs more, but the components simply feel better to shoot with (and shoot at), and everything comes in an attractive wooden box. The wooden version is also the better fit if you want a uniform feel with the expansions, which also use wood.
The two expansions are both excellent, and if your family or gaming group gets into Flick ‘em Up, I suspect it won’t be long until you pull the trigger on one or the other. Each offers a surprisingly different way to grow the game. Stallion Canyon adds horses into your Old West adventure, giving your hero new mobility options, but often demanding that you “lasso” your ride first. This expansion also adds a cowgirl figure to each team to diversify the line-up of characters. I love the little wooden horses, and there’s even a new ramp that comes into play that lets you shoot your opponents off their mounts. You also get five new scenarios that take advantage of the new components.
A second expansion, Red Rock Tomahawk, sees the bad guys of the Cooper Clan heading out to plunder new enemies in the wilderness, but they quickly encounter a tribe of Native Americans ready to resist their antics. The new Native American faction has their own figures and gameplay mechanics, most notably a new system for using bow and arrows instead of guns. Red Rock Tomahawk also brings in some other fun twists, like the devastating gatling gun, flaming arrows, and new environmental features like forests and mountains. All the new goodies come along with five additional story-driven scenarios.
It’s worth emphasizing that Flick ‘em Up is a fantastic experience with just the core game. The choice to invest in the expansions is likely an option for player groups who really fall in love with the concept, and are eager to try their hand at new variations of play. The nature of the game also easily supports you designing your own scenarios, table setups, and storylines – an option that might be especially appealing to kids (or kids at heart) who want an increased level of creativity and involvement in the game.
If the western themes don’t do it for you, I’d encourage you to keep an eye out for Flick ‘em Up: Dead of Winter, coming later this year – it looks like a very similar idea, but switches over to a zombie survival vibe. I selected that title as one of my most anticipated of 2017. Developer Pretzel Games is also the originator of Junk Art, another recent favorite of mine. It’s clear that the developer has an eye toward accessible, fun games that virtually anyone can dive in and enjoy. If you’re looking for other tabletop gaming options, definitely consider checking out the full Top of the Table hub from the banner below. And if you’d like some personalized tabletop gaming recommendations, drop me a line via email or Twitter, let me know what you’re looking for, and I can give you some ideas.