Please note that the images in this review are a prototype of my own making based on the print-n-play files provided by the designer. These are adequate representations of the art, style, and theme of the game, but do not convey the polish of the final product.
Gabe Barrett’s The Final Flicktier (or as my wife would like to call it: The Flicky-Flick Game) is my first foray into a 4X-style tabletop game. For those who do not know what “4X” means, it’s simply: Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate. The Final Flicktier is also a dice-dexterity game, meaning the core mechanics of the game are carried out by performing physical “flicks” on the board with your ships (dice) to perform varying actions.
When Gabe first announced this game to his Board Game Design Lab community and offered the print-n-play files for playtesting, I was highly skeptical. I thought, “Flicking dice around? On the game board? Where the other components can get knocked around!?” This is coming from a guy who will fix every tile in Carcassonne after someone has placed it, just to make sure it’s aligned properly.
My first impression of the concept was that the dice were going to bump into the other components and create a mess that players would have to clean up throughout the game. However, I printed myself a prototype, pieced it together and sat down to play.
And boy oh boy, was I glad that I did.
Seeing as how this is a 4X game, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce the gameplay between the 4 X’s of the genre:
Players assume the role as 1 of 4 factions: The United Earth Alliance, The Noxian Empire, The Korivali Trade Federation, or The Surge. Each faction is equipped with their own set of ships (dice), structures (to stake claim on planets) and upgrades. It was clear to me after a few play-throughs that each faction possesses specific strengths and weaknesses, but they don’t feel restrictive on how you play the game and form your strategy.
Players use their ships (dice) to perform a couple of set actions in the game, of which there are seven: Move, Attack, Build, Exploit, Complete Mission, Upgrade and Return (in case your dice fly off the board or land in an undesirable place). As far as exploration goes, players can choose to move their ships across the board by way of flicking the dice. Players will be moving a lot in the first few turns to get established on planets that have the resources they seek.
During the setup of the game, 8 resource tokens are placed randomly on the 8 planets (2 of each of the 4 resources) to indicate what resource they have. There are also “Explore” mission cards that reward you for exploring specific points on the board if you can get one of your ships there.
Hopping from planet to planet felt very thematic in terms of “setting out into the galaxy”, but aside from the 4 sectors on the edges of the map, it didn’t really feel like I was discovering anything unknown. Perhaps if the resources on each planet were hidden until a player landed on them, it would add a little more to the exploration experience of the game.
It isn’t enough to have your ships on planets because as soon as you leave, you lose access to those resources. Instead, before you head out, it’s best that you build something. From The United Earth Alliance’s colonies to The Korivali Trade Federation’s markets, building structures can make it easier to gain resources in the future when your ships are busy exploring and fighting.
Each faction has 2 unique structures they can build (one of each on each planet). One of the structures offers players the ability to gain that planet’s resource after they’ve left, while the other structure provides a benefit unique to that faction. An example is The United Earth Alliance’s Warp Gates which allow their ships to warp from gate to gate as a free action. As the game progresses, the planets quickly fill with players’ structures. In the game’s current form, structures are not able to be targeted by enemy players, so once it’s built, it cannot be moved/destroyed.
In a 4-player game, when players have built most of their structures, the board can start to look a little crowded. Rest assured it does little to nothing in effecting the dice-flicking mechanic. Temporarily moving tokens and other dice out of the way is a minor task, one that you won’t be thinking about when you’re trying to get that perfect flick.
The Final Flicktier really shines in its resource management and acquisition. Players can only get resources by using the exploit action. Only planets with a player’s ships or primary structures can be targeted to collect resources from, and only in a limited amount. Your total resource cap is 9 cards, so when you have too many resources, the game forces you to make other moves.
I’m pleased there’s no trading in this game because I feel it would slow down player progression. Instead, players have to be tactical in how they move their ships and where they build their structures.
Resources are not only used for building but also upgrading. Each faction has two upgrade tracks. One track is identical among all factions and offers a movement bonus and resource cost reduction. The other upgrade track is unique to the faction and their particular strengths.
Resources can be used to complete “Delivery” mission cards by having a ship on the designated planet with the specified resource. There is one more use these cards have, but it is in relation to combat. So without further ado…
Each resource card in your hand has a number between 1 and 4 on it. These numbers should be hidden from your opponent at all times and are used when you want to go on the attack. Is there a pesky Korvalian on the same planet as you, a Noxian!? Your honor demands that you do something about it!
When a player announces an attack in The Final Flicktier, that player must have at least one resource card in their hand. The attacking player will play a resource card, number face down, onto the table. The defending player may do the same, while also placing the Hyperspace token next to their ship. If the attacking player flicks their ship towards the defender, makes contact and causes the ship to go past the hyperspace token, the defending player may place that ship anywhere on the board.
If the attacker misses, their ship remains where it lands. If the attacker’s ship hits, the attack is successful. From there, both players flip their cards and add that number to the face-up number on their ship. The higher number wins, and attackers win any ties.
Successful attacks garner you victory points, so it’s worth it to flex some muscle. While every faction has different dice (varieties of D4, D6, D8, and D12), the specific dice that each faction has makes sense regarding their strengths. Whereas The Noxian Empire has 2 D8’s and a D12, The Surge have 2 D4’s and a D6. What I appreciate about this is even though you would think a D12 clearly has the advantage over a D4, the D12 is much more unstable to flick, making it riskier to play.
Boldly Moving Forward
Let’s get flicking serious for a second. I had my doubts about this game, but after playing, it pulled me in. No matter what faction I take control of, I feel as though I’m that faction. My strategy is different when I play as the “shoot first, ask questions later” Noxian Empire versus the “infect the galaxy like a stomach virus” Surge.
The game is easy to learn and teach, and the flicking mechanic can level the playing field between veterans and newer players. The game feels like it has plenty of room to grow; not in a “this game is broken” way, but in an “I can’t wait for the expansion” way.
The Final Flicktier is a lighter-weight 4X game than you usually see being created nowadays, yet it gives players enough choices to make them wish they had one more action every turn.
– A 4X game that’s easy to learn, teach and play.
– Thematically engaging and mechanically sound.
– The dice “flicking” adds to the experience and makes it unique.
– The game could benefit from more initial exploration of the board.
– Mission cards need more variety and variance.
The Final Flicktier by Gabe Barrett scores a 4.5 overall on the burning meeple heat index!