Over summer vacation, my daughter and I took a trip that involved playing many rounds of the card game Speed. I’ve been playing this game since I was a kid, and I like to think I’m halfway decent at it.
So one night at this year’s Gen Con, Dave Banks introduces me to a rep from one of the game companies, and she asks what I like to play with my kid, and I mention Speed, and she immediately says, “Oh, I’ve got a game for you.” And then she introduces me to Naomi Tripi, creator of Tripi Games’ Flip Flash.
Here’s a quick video explaining the basics:
Clearly, Flip Flash is, at its heart, very much like Speed. But Ms. Tripi has made a few neat additions to the game that elevate it from the standard playing card version.
While you’re playing sequential numbers, you have to match color as well, and the number of stacks where you can play cards can grow quickly, which increases your possibilities but also means there are more numbers to keep track of.
Bonus cards (some not shown in the video) make it possible to do things like “pause” and “resume” a stack, assign whatever color and number you’d like to a wild card, and throw a new, unseen card atop a stack.
But the aspect of Flip Flash that really appealed to me was its “Custom Level Setup” rules, which make it possible for players of widely-varied skill levels to compete against each other. I’ll get to those in a bit.
The only game components are four decks (green, orange, purple, and blue, determined by their cardbacks) of 66 cards each. Maximum of four players.
If the consensus is that everyone is on the same footing, you start with each player claiming a colored deck of cards. Everyone shuffles their deck and deals 20 cards face down into their “Down Pile.” You turn the top card face up and then, from the remaining cards — your “Flip Deck” — you deal four more cards face up next to your Down Pile. These are your “booster cards.”
You can either hold your Flip Deck in your hand or set it off to the side — but you don’t want it confused with your Down Pile. When everyone’s ready, play starts.
As with Speed, everything happens at once — no waiting for turns. The difference at the start is that unlike Speed, where the sequential “Number Piles” are started with random cards, Flip Flash Number Piles must be started with a 10/1 card, so if you’ve got one in your booster cards or on top of your Down Pile, play it in the middle of the table.
As long as you match the color, you play one number higher or lower than the top card on a Number Pile — so you can either play a 9 or a 2 on that 10/1 card. And anyone can play on any Number Pile.
You refill your booster card slots from your Down Pile, and you want to play from that as much as possible. If you don’t have anything there to play, you go through your Flip Deck one card at a time. You can play the top card from that as often as you like, and when you get through the Flip Deck, just pick it up, turn it over, and go through it again as needed.
There are also question-marked Wild Cards — you play these on any Number Pile you want and, keeping your finger on the card, say what color and number you’d like that card to represent. (You can’t use one to start a new pile as a 10/1 card, though.) The “Pause” and “Play” cards do just what you’d think, with the former freezing a Number Pile until a Play card of the same color is laid over it.
To play a “+1” card, place it on a Number Pile — always matching the color! — and, without peeking, put the next card from your Flip Deck face up on top of it. Whatever that new card is, it stays there, and play continues.
The +1, Pause, and Play cards are all considered expansion cards and can be removed from the game if you want to simplify things a bit.
The round ends when one player turns over the last card in their Down Pile – -they don’t have to play it, and they don’t have to be out of booster cards, either — and hollers “Flip Flash!”
Everyone picks up any remaining booster cards, adds them to their Flip Deck, and sets them aside. Then you count your Down Pile cards and multiply by two. That’s the number of points you have against you. Where are your positive points? In those Number Piles, naturally! Turn over all the Number Piles and sort them by their cardback color. Each player gets a point for each card they played. Subtract the points against you from your positive points, and that’s your score for the round. You can play as many rounds as you want, although all the times I’ve played, we’ve stuck with one-round games.
The Custom Levels Setup allows you to balance things out between players of differing skill levels by altering the number of cards in the Down Pile, and the negative and positive point values.
A Level 1 player, for instance, only deals 10 cards into their Down Pile, and is penalized 1 point per remaining Down Pile card, while receiving 3 points per card played in the Number Piles.
At the other end of the spectrum, a Level 5 player (presumably a much faster competitor) deals 30 cards into their Down Pile, is penalized 3 points per leftover Down Pile card, and earns just one point per card played in the Number Piles.
In between are:
Level 2: 15 card Down Pile, -1 per leftover, 2 points per card played
Level 3: 20 card Down Pile, -2 per leftover, 2 points per card played
Level 4: 25 card Down Pile, -2 per leftover, 1 point per card played
The Custom Levels Setup allowed my brother and I to play a nicely competitive game against my nine-year-old nephew, with both of us playing at Level 5, and my nephew on Level 1. And when I introduced it to my regular gaming group, I think we settled on a two-level difference between us, since I had played before.
When I played against Ms. Tripi and her friends at Gen Con, it was apparent from the start that my Speed experience had barely prepared me for Flip Flash. Instead of building sequences on just two stacks, I had to watch a rapidly-growing bunch of them. And match the colors. And watch for the special cards and the wilds. It was far more difficult to do rapidly than I had anticipated. I was way out of my league trying to compete with Ms. Tripi at Level 5, but at Level 3, I was much more in the game. You may have to play once or twice, of course, to find the levels at which your group of players are the most evenly-matched.
Flip Flash is quick to learn and play, and seems like the kind of card game my family will enjoy having around during get-togethers. It doesn’t require a huge time investment, can be played by a skill-diverse group, and allows for hanging out and chatting without an intense focus on strategy.
I do wonder whether the game could succeed if it were scaled up to accommodate a larger group. Tripi Games would either need to produce additional decks with different color cardbacks for this, or I suppose you could buy two Flip Flash boxes and differentiate the same-colored decks with your own markings. (Anyone tried this? Let me know!)
Flip Flash is available for $20.00 through Tripi Games’ website.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of Flip Flash for this review.