Last year, Pretzel Games released the gun-totin’, finger-flickin’ shoot-em-up dexterity game, Flick ‘Em Up to much fanfare. With colorful components, easy rules, support for up to ten players, and a clever and fun dexterity mechanism, the game exploded in popularity. It also exploded many people’s wallets with a hefty price tag thanks to fancy wooden components.
This year, Flick ‘Em Up is back, but with a cheaper mass market edition that utilizes plastic components instead of wooden ones. But does this new version that clocks in around half the original’s price retain the entertainment value, or is it a shoddy replacement?
Well, cowboys and cowgirls, saddle your horses and load your six-shooters, because you’re about to find out.
How It Plays
Flick ‘Em Up is a shootout between two teams – the sheriff and his deputies versus the outlaws. The actual goal depends on your scenario, and the game comes with ten unique scenarios, but in general you’ll be running around an old western town firing bullets at the enemy.
This is a dexterity game, so instead of dice or gridded cardboard or measuring templates, your movement and combat is determined by flicking disks (and sometimes other objects) around your table.
Teams alternate turns. On your turn, you get 2 actions with one cowboy. You can move, shoot, use special objects, or pick up items inside a building.
To move, you use a white disc – replace the cowboy, flick the disc, place the cowboy back on the table where the disc lands. Just try not to hit anything, as your movement fails if you do. You can enter a building by flicking the white disc between its two supports.
To shoot, you use the smaller black discs. Place one off to the side of your cowboy and flick it. Try to knock over an opponent, but only the first thing the bullet hits counts, so try not to ricochet off a barrel, a cactus, or one of your own guys. (Friendly fire does hurt, by the way).
Inside a building, you can pick up or drop off items, like extra weapons or health or cash. You might find an extra pistol to dual-wield, or dynamite to toss and hit a group of enemies. Many items are scenario-specific, so you might need to grab something – like a bag of gold – and make a run for it.
After you’ve taken your two actions, you flip your cowboy’s hat, indicating he’s been activated already. The hats have different colors on each side, and the round marker alternates colors so you don’t have to flip all the hats back over at the end of a round.
Teams alternate, playing one cowboy at a time, until all 10 cowboys have been activated. Then the round ends.
The scenarios, as mentioned, provide different goals. In the very basic scenario, you just need to kill off three enemies. Every cowboy has three hit points, so it goes pretty quickly. Other scenarios task you with stealing gold, finding the barrels with poisoned water, protecting innocents, and so on. Other special rules are introduced gradually, such as duels. (Yes, when you duel you set the two cowboys face to face about a foot apart and take turns shooting while slowly moving towards each other). There are more unique items, like the Winchester, which grants you the use of an aiming tool.
In this “wider audience” edition, the primary difference is that the pieces are made of plastic instead of wood. Also, the large health/inventory platforms of the original have been replaced with smaller cardboard tokens for each cowboy.
Big Enough For The Two Of Us?
Most dexterity games – the sorts of games that use your hands to flick, toss, or stack – are lighter fare, reserved as the appetizers and desserts of game nights, but rarely the main course. It makes sense. These games generally rely on a silly gimmick; entertaining to watch your friends try (and often fail), but without much substance. But every once in a while, something special and unique comes along that takes that flicking or spinning or dropping and stuffs it into a deeper, more complex game in a simple and entertaining way. Ascending Empires was one such game – a space-based civilization building game which used dexterity for exploration and combat, and it hit all the right notes to make it entertaining and interesting. The dexterity element served to streamline the experience, fitting a genre that normally occupies several hours into an hour, maybe 90 minutes at worst.
Now we’ve got Flick ‘Em Up, which is as pure a dexterity game as they come, but offers a whole lot of substance beyond just the flicking. There’s no resource management or worker placement or anything else like that, but it’s not just a flick-and-hope-you-score sort of game. There’s strategy, tactics, goals, and even a bit of story, all coming out of the flicking.
Of course, you can play this game as heavy or as lite as you like. You might have a group that just flicks discs around willy-nilly, trying for ridiculous and nigh-impossible targets (the equivalent of the basketball full-court shot) and laughing at both your failures and successes. Or, you might have a group that plays with calculated tactics; seeking cover, using teamwork, maximizing the efficiency of your actions. Either way, I think you can have fun. You might run into trouble if half your group wants to goof off and the other half wants to play more seriously, but you’ll have to work that out on your own.
Anyway, the game works and it works well. Your limited options – move or shoot, for the most part – still provide a wealth of opportunities, and you can approach the game from so many directions. Do you keep your cowboys safe and fire bullets from a distance, hoping one of your shots connects eventually? Do you rush right up to your enemy so you’re almost guaranteed to hit? Or, do you seek a middle ground, trying to end up behind cover to protect yourself while you set up a medium range shot?
Regardless of what you do, the game provides an exquisite tactile experience. Yes, even this mass market version with its plastic cowboys and plastic bales of hay. Despite the cheaper price, the plastic pieces still feel substantial, with enough weight to keep them balanced on the table. The flicking discs have heft to them, and their surfaces are smooth to ensure a clean shot. At least, clean on the components part. It’s your problem if you can’t hit your enemy from two inches away (which is often might problem. sigh). I mean, you just can’t complain about the components here. At half the price, this is better quality plastic than most games out there. I don’t have both editions to compare the components directly, but Pretzel Games clearly tackled this edition with care. In some cases, I think the plastic might be better than the wood – depending on what playing surfaces you have available. I imagine the smooth plastic sliding far better on carpet or a tablecloth than wood.
In fact, I even played this game on a picnic table covered with a table cloth. You know what I mean – uneven boards with gaps between them, and lots of folds in the cloth.. Not exactly ideal for this sort of thing, but it worked and it was still a whole lot of fun. Yeah, we had occasional trouble keeping a cowboy on his two feet – we had to make a house rule that you could adjust your cowboy by an inch so that he could stay standing – but it provided a unique, zany experience with curving bullets and landscape issues that messed with both teams. You could play this game in a whole lot of places.
You don’t have to be amazing at this game to have fun with it. I know I’m pretty terrible. You’ll miss some easy shots, but you’ll also make some impressive ones. Everybody will. The game gives everyone an even chance to do something fun, and it works whether you’re playing with the full group of ten or an intense 1-on-1 battle. I admit, I would always choose to play with more people if possible – and teams ensure you can divide people so teams have approximately equal overall skill levels.
There is a particular rule that helps rein in ridiculous skill shots – a rule against flicking with leverage (that is, holding your flicking finger against your thumb or other surface in order to create a “snap” for a harder shot). That makes it harder to ensure perfect aim, and also harder to make sure you have enough momentum that the bullet will actually knock an opponent over. This generally forces cowboys to close in on each other, and the closer they are the more likely anyone – even the worst player on the team – will score a hit.
The scenarios add a ton of replay value to the game. You might get tired of the simple back-and-forth shoot out, but with different objectives to worry about, you will need to use different tactics and strategies. The goals are often asymmetrical between teams, too, so you can at the very least play each scenario once as the law and once as the outlaws. And, thanks to the sandbox nature of the game, two different players might approach the same scenario in a completely different way. Basically, you’re getting your moneys worth. I haven’t played every scenario, but I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve played.
The scenarios also allow you to gradually introduce more complex rules. That’s extremely useful for some groups who don’t like big complex games thrown at them all at once. The first scenario still feels like a full game, but it only uses the moving and shooting rules – even buildings are closed off. After that, you may be able to jump to any scenario in the book – your group depending – as the added rules aren’t insanely complex, but you can work your way through in order to gradually increase complexity. You can also treat it like a campaign if you like, though you’ll have to overlook the constant resurrection of the same cowboys.
I will mention that, given the dexterity-focused nature of the game, some players might not be prepared for it to last as long as it does. Most people, I think, expect a pure dexterity game to last maybe twenty minutes. This game is going to run you at least 45, and probably longer (depending on how good everyone’s aim is, and how quickly people realize it’s their turn), which some people might not expect (or want). Just know what you’re getting into.
As for me, I think the inherent tactical nature of the game and the simple fun of flicking discs as your opponents is enough to keep me entertained the whole time, and I wouldn’t even mind playing multiple times in a row. The only real time issue I have is with setup and take down – there are a lot of little bits to collect and assemble. But, if you get everyone in helping, it isn’t much of an issue.
So, in conclusion, Flick ‘Em Up is a fast-paced, action-filled game that is simply fun to play. It’s a gamified toy with enough substance to stay interesting even after you’ve played a few times. The bright, colorful components are eyecatching and well-designed, and even this cheaper plastic edition is of the highest quality. There’s only one caveat – I don’t know if any of the expansions for Flick ‘Em Up will be compatible with this, or if the expansions will get their own plastic editions. However, whether you go for the expensive, classy wooden version or the cheap plastic, I highly recommend adding this game to your shelf.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Z-Man games for providing a review copy of Flick ‘Em Up.