Review – Captain Flip

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Designer Paolo Mori, Remo Conzadori

Artist Jonathan Aucomte

Publisher PlayPunk (Flat River Group)

Category Gateway game

Length 15-30 minutes

Release Date Summer 2024

Player Count 2-5

Price $29.99 MSRP

Paolo Mori is a veteran game designer, with all kinds of games under his belt. But if I were to identify a common thread, it would be “simple turns.” In Ethnos / Archeos Society, you draw a card or play a card. In Augustus, someone draws a tile from a bag and you cover up that icon. In Captain Flip (co-designed with Remo Conzadori), it’s simple: draw a tile from a bag and place it – or if you don’t like the tile, flip it first, then place it. It’s one of the simplest games I’ve ever played – can it still be good?

The day before Captain Flip arrived in the mail, it was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres, the most prestigious award in board gaming. It’s not an award for the “best” game according to gamers, but rather an accessible, “open up and play” kind of family game that grandma can buy for everyone at Christmas. And Captain Flip seems clearly designed with this idea in mind.

First, the game has zero setup. Once everyone has a player board, you just start drawing tiles. Nothing to lay out, no starting resources, nothing. Second, the iconography is extremely good, and “coded”: immediate effects are one color and on one side, while endgame effects are another color and on the other side. It seems a little odd that there are only 3 player aids for a 2-5 player game, but it suffices if people share, and they are very large, very good player aids. The way to win is simple and intuitive (most coins wins) and the game’s small push-your-luck element does make for some cheering moments, both kinds: happiness that your flip worked out, and happiness that your opponent’s flip backfired. 

That still begs the question: can a game this simple be good? Surprisingly, yes. I’m not sure it can be great, but it’s still better than it has any right to be. This week I played Captain Flip twice over a lunch hour, and the next day I played hotness Skyrise for about 80 minutes (including teaching). I can tell you I had a lot more fun playing Captain Flip. There’s some light strategy, there’s some hooting and hollering, there’s just a sense of fun, without the analysis paralysis or pretend seriousness of gamer’s games.

The theme is great, and so is the art. The tile effects have just enough meat to be interesting and allow for some combos, while still using very simple concepts. For variability, the game comes with four different player boards, and I can’t undersell the importance of this. The Kraken board adds much more interaction compared to the others, and this was the key change that elevated the game for me. 

I feel fairly confident that Captain Flip will win the Spiel des Jahres, and to be honest, it’s a good fit. Time will tell whether the game is a “keeper,” but as a tool for introducing new players to the hobby, it is a perfectly crafted design. 

The Bottom Line

A perfectly crafted gateway game.

 

8

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Author: Derek Thompson


I’ve been a board game reviewer on Geeks Under Grace since 2011. I love card-driven games and party games. I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics and teach the subject at Taylor University in Upland, IN. My wife and kids are my favorite gaming partners.