Maricel Edwards: Fish ‘N Flip solo review

From the back of the box:

Save  marine animals from the fishing nets. The more nets you manage to empty by the end of the game, the better your score will be.

  • Play an action card.
  • Move the animal cards.
  • Free the newly formed groups of marine animals.

A rather underwhelming description for a very engaging game, and to be honest, I’m not a nature gal so this didn’t immediately grab me. But I needed a game to get free shipping, and boy howdy, was I pleasantly surprised! Let’s dive into it (see what I did there?)

There are four main components for this game: 1.  Marine animal cards; 2. Waste cards; 3. Action cards; and 4. Power cards. To start, shuffle together the marine animals and 4 of the Waste cards. (By the way, I only used plastic Waste cards; there are metal and oil options but these are for multiplayer/making the game harder and I’ve not implemented them at all). When you shuffle, make sure to flip the cards a few times so the animals aren’t all facing the same way.

After shuffling the deck, lay out a 4 x 3 grid. Then take one Power card per player (I use two in a solo game as per directions), and deal out 3 Action cards per player as well. Now you’re ready to go! 

A game’s initial set up. Note the ship card at the top. It’s supposed to signal when you’ve reached the 7th card of the column (more on this later), but I never have any room for it when I play, so I don’t use it as a placeholder very often. 

Also note the plastic Waste card. They’re there to block your groups and make life difficult. I try to shift them down and out of the way as fast as I can, but if they come out during the latter half of the game, that becomes a lot more challenging to do.

To free the animals, just choose which action card you want to play during your turn, follow the directions and start shifting those animals. 

As the animals move according to your chosen action, they should form groups. You may release orthogonally contiguous groups of like animals, i.e. animals that are facing the same direction. Colors don’t count for this. And as you release groups which then move other cards down (always down, not sideways), ideally new groups of like animals form and you can release them too. Free them animals with abandon!

Once per turn, you may also use your Power card. I found these extremely helpful during the end game, but I did confuse myself sometimes because, playing double-handed, I would forget that I couldn’t use a Power card until the next turn.

After your turn of acting, releasing and shifting, draw an Action card to replace the one you just used, discarding forever the one you just played. Then refresh the board, filling each column from the top starting on the left-hand side. Be careful – when you add a seventh card to any column, the game is over. At that point, each player gets one more turn to release as many animals using Action cards, you count up the number of animals still in the field (caught in the nets) after this last round, and that’s your final score.

Okay, so it’s basically BYOS and yes, sometimes the luck of the draw – either the newly-placed Animal cards or your Action cards – will determine the final outcome. Sure, you can plan your actions based on the current animals in the field, but this game is predominantly a tactical experience rather than a strategic one. At least, that’s what I found playing double-handed solo. 

I can’t speak to multiplayer, but I hazard that this game would play best with two – three at the most – even though the box says 1-99 players only because the field is limited and more players making more actions would shorten the game significantly. And I like me a meaty, semi-lengthy game, so less players equals more turns and more fun in my book.

As a solo player, this game gives me a Patience/Solitaire vibe, what with the cards moving down and all. I feel a sense of agency when I pick which action to use on my turn, and it’s truly satisfying when you flip an octopus to match four other octopi and free them all which in turn allows you to free three sharks after the shifting occurs, keeping you under the 7-card column threshold. I’ve played games where my score was an astonishing 4 animals left and games where my field was woefully crowded and had over 10 animals left – curse you, Waste cards that block my matches! The hardest part for me was memorizing the Action cards, but there’s really only a handful of them and keeping the rulebook flipped to that page as I play helps out a lot.

This is my gentle, after-work, semi-mindless quickie game of the month, and I foresee taking it with me on the rare moments when I travel. It’s portable (only cards), full of variety (you only use 4 of the 8 animal groups for any given game, so mix and match at your pleasure), and very relaxing. I found myself playing games back to back because setup is a breeze as well. As someone who prefers lighter gaming fare, I highly recommend this game, and at its current price point, I say scoop it up asap!

About mtsedwards

I'm not as interesting as you think I am.
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