Two teleporting time-travelers arrive in the city, but only one will walk away. Who will prevail in this battle of wits?
In Reaping the Rewards, I take a look at the finished product from a crowdfunding campaign. Slip Strike was originally funded on Kickstarter in March 2020 (after an initial attempt the previous November), and has delivered to backers. It’s now available to order. This review is a modified version of my original Kickstarter Tabletop Alert, updated to reflect final component quality and rules.
What Is Slip Strike?
Slip Strike is a card game for 2 or 4 players, ages 10 and up, and takes about 10 to 15 minutes to play. (You need to combine two copies of the game—one blue, one orange—to play with 4 players.) It’s available now from Junk Spirit Games for $19.99 per copy. The rules themselves are pretty easy to learn, so I think the age rating is about right; thematically, the game involves two players trying to attack each other with weapons, so parents should be aware of that.
Slip Strike was designed by David Gerrard and published by Junk Spirit Games, with art and design by Justin Hillgrove and Zachary Vail.
Slip Strike Components
The components list is fairly short:
- 5 Location tiles
- 20 Basic cards (10 per player)
- 4 Agent meeples (2 per player)
- 8 Asset cards
The game comes in a blue version and an orange version—the two versions are nearly identical, though with a few differences in the assets included. For instance, several of the assets are directional, targeting either left or right, so the two sets have many of the same weapons but targeting different directions. If you want to play a four-player game, you’ll want one set of each color.
For Kickstarter backers, there was also a promo pack that includes 10 additional asset cards that can be mixed in.
The components are fairly similar to the prototype, though in finished quality. (For instance, the location tiles are cardboard instead of just cards.) The one thing that was removed was the “critical cooldown” cards used for certain assets. It was just a place to set those cards when used, but now they’re just set aside. Hopefully, it won’t be too hard to remember the difference between a card in critical cooldown and one that is in regular cooldown.
I had kind of hoped that the asset cards would get some unique artwork in the finished version, but they still just look like briefcases.
The art and design on the cards is by Justin Hillgrove and Zachary Vail, and is a bit of a departure from the usual style seen from Junk Spirit Games, which are often set in the fantasy world of Tessandor. This one goes for more of a retro-futuristic vibe, and I really like the understated black-and-blue color palette. I also like the fact that each player, although they have identical effects, have custom illustrations for the weapons.
The location tiles are sturdy cardboard, with angled top edges so they can be placed in a ring. Like the weapons, the orange and blue sets each get their own unique locations, so if you get both versions they’re not just duplicates.
The basic cards are all pretty easy to interpret—there’s not that much information needed on the cards. The asset cards are a little more complex, but even those don’t require too much reference to the rules. Overall, things are pretty intuitive.
The box is small, with a magnetic flap closure. A simple plastic insert holds the cards and location tiles on one side, and the meeples on the other. There’s a “Sequence of Play” printed right on the lid as well for easy reference.
My only problem: which box do I store my Kickstarter promo cards in, orange or blue? Or do I take out the plastic insert so I can fit both sets into a single box? It’ll fit that way, but it won’t look as nice. Plus I’ll still have to pick which color I like better.
How to Play Slip Strike
You can download a draft of the rulebook here. I’ll explain the 2-player game here, with a section on the 4-player rules after.
The goal of the game is to eliminate the other player.
Setup is a cinch: lay out the five location tiles in a ring (in random order), and give each player a meeple and the 10 matching basic cards: 5 teleport cards (1 per location), 3 weapons, and 2 movement (left and right). Each player secretly chooses one teleport card, which will represent their starting location. Players reveal cards simultaneously, place meeples in their starting locations, and then return the teleport cards to their hands. (The additional meeples are so you can keep one in front of you just as a reminder of who’s who—time travel and teleporting can be confusing!)
Each round, players will secretly program their next two moves, choosing two cards from their hands and placing them face-down.
Then, players simultaneously reveal their first programmed action: movement cards (move left/right or teleport) are resolved first, and then strike actions (weapons). If both players play strike actions, they are resolved simultaneously (see below). Then, both players reveal their second programmed action and resolve them.
The three weapons attack at different ranges: the blade attacks your current location, the pistol attacks the two adjacent locations, and the rifle attacks the two farther locations. If you hit the space where your opponent is, then they must “slip” to avoid the strike, reversing time just enough to teleport away. The opponent must play a teleport card from their hand to move to a location that your weapon cannot hit, and that teleport card is permanently removed from their hand.
Each card has a cooldown time, indicating how many rounds you’ll need to set that card aside before you put it back into your hand.
After resolving both programmed moves, begin a new round, with both players programming two moves again.
If you strike your opponent and they don’t have a teleport card in hand that allows them to slip, then you win the game.
Once you know the basic rules, you can add in the asset cards. Each player gets one asset card at random to add to their hand at setup. These give powerful abilities, like a shield that protects you from strikes for one action, advantage that negates the other player’s weapon when you both use the same weapon simultaneously, and dash cards that let you move two spaces instead of one.
Some of the assets are discarded when played, and some have a “critical cooldown”: that means that it’s set aside until the next time you slip from a strike—then it has cooldown 2.
The 4-player game uses two sets and is played in teams. You remove locations so that there are 3 orange and 3 blue locations, alternating—remove the corresponding cards as well. One team has two black meeples, and the other team has a blue meeple and an orange meeple. Everyone programs their two moves simultaneously, and you can’t have secret discussions with your teammate or indicate what cards you’re playing.
Weapons only strike your opponents and do not hit your teammate. If an opponent is struck by two weapons simultaneously, they only have to slip once. Also, your two programmed cards cannot consist of only a combination of weapons and assets; if so, the second card doesn’t take effect (but still has to cooldown).
If a player is unable to slip a strike, they are eliminated and the other player plays alone—but is now allowed to use weapons and assets as both cards in the program if they wish.
The game ends when one team is entirely eliminated.
Slip Strike is GeekDad Approved!
Why You Should Play Slip Strike
I first tried a prototype of Slip Strike at Gen Con last year, and it was one of my highlights of the show: it’s a slick, fast-paced game that looks sharp and is easy to learn, and it hits a lot of the right notes for me. I like simultaneous action games, where you’re trying to figure out what your opponent is going to do, and this one adds that small bit of programming since you have to choose two actions per round instead of just one. Since everyone starts with the same basic abilities (aside from the asset cards), it’s also a game with perfect information: you know exactly what your opponent is capable of, and they know the same about you. It’s a great battle of wits.
Since movement always resolves before the strikes, you’re basically trying to target the space where your opponent will be: will they stay still and try to hit you, or will they move to another location? If they move, which way will they go? With your three weapons, you can hit any of the five spaces on the board—but the weapons have a 1-round cooldown. That means that, after your opponent takes a shot at you, you know they don’t have access to that weapon for a round, which creates a couple of spaces that are “safe” for you… at least, based on your opponent’s current position.
Using teleport cards to move around the map can help you take your rival by surprise if they’re only considering left and right as possibilities. However, the teleport cards also have a 2-round cooldown, so using them carelessly can leave you stranded. I’ve seen games end not because somebody had run out of teleport cards, but because the teleport card they needed was still cooling down at the time. Knowing which teleport cards your opponent has access to is also crucial, because it may let you strike them with a card that they can’t escape.
Programming two moves at a time can be difficult because your second action will depend a lot on what happens during the first action. Do you move, and then try to shoot at the space where you think your opponent will be? Or do you strike where your opponent is now, hoping they don’t move—but if they don’t move, then will they hit you? Thematically, it gives it the feel of making split-second decisions that are unspooling in slow-mo: you’ve already decided your next two steps, and it’s too late to change your mind when you realize your opponent did something unexpected.
Even your choice of teleport card to slip away when you get hit has important consequences, because of the two-move programming. If you get hit on the first move, your second move will take place from your new location, so it’s important not to throw down just any valid card to get away—again, you can consider what your opponent’s second step is, and see if you can use your slip to get into a more advantageous position.
Slip Strike manages to do a lot with a small set of cards—even without the additional asset cards, it can become a very intense cat-and-mouse game, and I love the way that it helps you imagine yourself in this world of spies and assassins. With the introduction of the asset cards, each person has a particular edge on the other. I like to play without revealing the asset you drew so that your opponent doesn’t know what you have until you make it public. If you like 2-player games and you’re looking for a good battle of the wits, I highly recommend Slip Strike!
Unfortunately, at the moment I’m not able to try out the 4-player version of the game because of lockdown, so I’m going to have to wait until later to try that out. I do think it will be interesting because each player only has teleport cards for half of the locations, though they can move left and right among any of them. I can tell that will play into the way you target spaces and calculate whether a player will be able to teleport away from a strike, and that seems pretty fascinating (and hard!).
I gave Slip Strike a GeekDad Approved seal when I wrote my Kickstarter Tabletop Alert. I don’t often do that for Kickstarter games, simply because I usually want to see the final version before making that decision. Now that it’s finally available, I’m proud to give it our 2020 GeekDad Approved to make it official.
For more about Slip Strike, visit the Junk Spirit Games website!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.