Review: Flip City
Designer: Chih-Fan Chen
Artists: Chih-Fan Chen, Adam P. McIver
Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
Category: Card Game, City Building
Price: $16.06 Amazon
Flip City is a 1-4 player city building card game. Flip City was designed by Chih-Fan Chen, who has also created Dairyman, Nerdy Inventors, and the sequel, Flip City: Wilderness. Chen has also designed an expansion for Flip City called Flip City: Reuse.
Tasty Minstrel Games was established by owner Michael Mendes in 2009, where Michael worked with his close friend, Seth Jaffee, to immediately begin publishing games, starting with Terra Prime. TMG has reprinted a few old favorites like Colosseum, Amun-Re, At the Gates of Loyang, Belfort, and others. Other popular titles from TMG include Orleans, Scoville, Village, Aquasphere, Cthulhu Realms, Eminent Domain, and more.
When I was younger, I spent a lot of time building cities in Sim City 3000. One day, I found a pre-made city called Metropolis saved in the game files. Every night for a few weeks, I told my parents I was working on an incredible city for them, but they weren’t allowed to see it until I deemed it ready. Secretly, I was actually playing a demo I found for Populus 3 and I didn’t want my parents to know I was playing a violent game about casting lightning on villagers, killing them instantly.
I did always have a fascination with Sim City, and after the disappointment of modern Sim City titles, have found a lot of joy and solace in Cities: Skylines. Furthermore, city building and planning is enthralling for me, which explains why I love the pacing and long game planning in Suburbia.
Flip City takes elements of city planning, but focuses more on hand management and smart deck-building practices.
Flip City is a self-proclaimed micro-deck builder. In fact, if you include the Office Expansion, Flip City only contains 14 different cards. Like most deck builders, players start with an average deck and need to thin out the chaff to make it strong and worthwhile.
What separates Flip City from the genre is a unique card-flipping mechanism, where no card shares common face down artwork, like most card games. Instead, each card has a basic side, with a basic ability or resource, and a cost to flip the card to the back side. Each card’s back side features an upgraded version, which provides more resources, a more powerful ability (for better or worse), and the option to recycle the card when in your discard. Recycling flips the card to the basic side, but provides a situational bonus for the loss.
On a player’s turn, he must play the top card of his deck and then may choose to play another card if he would like. He may play as many cards as desired until he chooses to stop, or until he reaches an unhappiness limit. After deciding to stop, a player will add up the coins produced by cards, and then must choose one of three options:
- Purchase a card from available cards
- Upgrade a card in the discard (flip it)
- Recycle a card in the discard (flip it)
This cycle continues until a player can reveal eight victory point resources in a single turn. It’s also possible to win by playing 18 cards, including the convenience store.
Flip City is fine mechanically because flipping cards is neat. The only downside is the chance to accidentally miss shuffle, causing some cards to flip to the incorrect side. It’s always confusing when this happens, and dropping cards is somewhat common when shuffling. It’s not a huge downside, but it’s an interesting consequence of dual-faced cards.
This dual-faced card scenario gives players a bit of room to think about their future turns, which is cool. You’ll spend time rifling through your discard, trying to remember how many residential and apartment cards you have left, counting the sad faces on cards as you go.
Flip City also confuses me. In the most odd of thematic choices, playing an apartment or residential area gives you unhappiness. Factories and convenience stores simply give money. Who knew going to work could bring so much joy, while going home to your family would bring so much sadness that you can actually lose your turn? It’s one of the most odd and subtle creative choices I’ve ever seen in a game. I’m so curious what drove this decision-making. Perhaps the goal is to create a city of industry, so anything halting progress is counter to the end goal—even people going home and taking a break.
Hospitals grant unhappiness, so that I can understand, as they also give extra cash for previous unhappy people in your lineup. Flipping a hospital creates a church, which increases your unhappiness limit. I can see this making sense as well, but thematically, the game does some weird things for me.
The artstyle is cute. Colorful buildings distinguish themselves from one another. Each victory point resource brings joy, and counting up your coins is satisfying. Cards can be hindu shuffled quickly, especially because decks will end up 10-20 cards in size by the end of the game.
Flip City is pretty fun at 1-2 players, but adding more to the table increase the length of the game substantially. It’s extremely helpful when people know the game well and can play quickly, but I still take issue with the length of the game. It’s not uncommon to have games with new players extend close to an hour. I like the complexity of the game, and I like deciding whether or not to push my luck for another coin or two, but I just can’t enjoy a tiny game like this past 25-30 minutes.
If the intent of Flip City is to provide a great experience in a short amount of time, I don’t think that’s accomplished here. I do like adding the Office Expansion, because these cards get placed at the top of your deck when shuffling. This means easy coins each turn, which means buying central park cards for more victory points faster. This can definitely speed the game up and mean fewer lost turns, resulting in faster games.
If I want a city-building game, I think I’m going to look to Suburbia or another city-builder. I haven’t found the perfect city-building game yet, but I’m always looking. Flip City doesn’t give me the feeling of planning and building a city. I’m basically flipping cards and trying to achieve victory points, instead of trying to create a city featuring specific highlights or tourist traps. It’s more about buying lots of parks or trying to buy as many convenience stores as possible.
Flip City is fine, and it might be an instant grab for some, but for me, it’s a hard sell at this point. If the game can play in 25 minutes max then it’s worth it, but it doesn’t. It’s too long, and you end up waiting on the perfect lineup of cards to win out first. This gets even worse if other players can dump their residential area cards into your deck, because it draws the game out longer.
Hear me though, it’s mechanically a fun game, and if you don’t mind the length, check it out. For me, I’m looking elsewhere because the journey doesn’t justify the time spent.
A review copy of Flip City was provided by Tasty Minstrel Games.
The Bottom Line
Flip City is a pretty game with a unique take on card usage and deck-building. One or two track strategies and lengthy games make Flip City hit or miss, so try before you buy.