Review Jul 15, 2013

It’s Game Review Monday – where we take an in-depth look at a game and analyze it, particularly focusing on the game mechanics and design. Specifically, we attempt to reverse engineer the game and see what design lessons we can learn from it, and how it can influence our own designs. So, without further ado, let’s get on to today’s game.

Frogflip

Frogflip is the latest game by Jason Kotarski (creator of The Great Heartland Hauling Co.. It is co-designed by his daughter Claire Kotarski. Frog Flip was previously available on The Game Crafter but is currently being Kickstarted for publication by Sprocket Games the publishing company of Michael Fox (of Little Metal Dog Show fame). As of the time of this post Frogflip is already 130% funded, but has some great stretch goals – so be sure to check it out. Sprocket Games generously provided me a review copy so I write about it here.

Frogflip is a light dexterity game for 2 or 4 players (requires a 2nd copy to play 4) that is playable by young children but will appeal to all ages. It consumes little table space and can be played most anywhere with a few feet of level playing surface. The game comes with 4 lily pad cards, 8 scoring cards, a rule card, and a frog token. To play the game, set the 4 lily pads out in a line between the two players (with the two players being the endpoints of the line), leaving a little space between each. Players then take turns attempting to flip the frog token (a disc about the size of a quarter) onto their target lily pad. A score card is used to determine which lily pad the player must target, and how many points that attempt will be worth if successful. The frog token is flipped like a coin and you score points if the frog token touches the target lily pad but bounces away and double points if it comes to rest on the lily pad. Flip the frog off the table and you lose a turn!

Mechanics

Dexterity is key here. While flipping a coin may be easy, getting it to land where you want is far more difficult! Many games make use of dexterity elements. As a whole dexterity games open up board gaming to be more than simply a mental exercise. The best laid strategies are all for naught if you are unable to physically manipulate the game components in the required manner. Thus, dexterity elements can be a good equalizer between players of differing strategic ability. Tests of dexterity can also add excitement and anticipation for many beyond normal component manipulation.

On the downside, dexterity games can be a turn-off to players who prefer deep strategy. Just like a die roll or other random element dexterity tests can be frustratingly difficult to control, particularly for the unskilled. Also, in games where you are flipping, flicking, tossing, or knocking down components there is always the risk of losing pieces off the edge of the playing area and having to recover them from the floor or worse.

Frogflip plays to the strengths of dexterity mechanics while minimizing the weaknesses. There is only one component in motion and it is of a size and color to make retrieval from the floor an easy proposition. It is also designed as a fast, light game focused around the dexterity element – allowing players to relax and have fun without having to put a great deal of thought into game strategy.

Design Decisions

* Playing Area / Game Size – The game is 14 cards and a token and can be easily fit into a pocket for taking nearly anywhere. When set up in requires only a small table space or countertop to play and thus can be played virtually anywhere.

* Scoring – The scoring cards give you the most points for hitting the lily pads furthest from you. Thus, while the more difficult flips have a lower chance of success they have a higher reward. Matching reward to level of risk is a hallmark of good game design.

Theme, Style, & Marketing

The artistic style is where Frogflip really shines. The cover artwork captures the light fun style of the game with it’s cartoon depictions of designers Jason and Claire Kotarski. The card artwork carries through with the style, and the game uses bright blues and greens to give it a striking appearance. The theme of the game could easily be changed (a cannon shooting at tanks?) but the stylistic match for the selected theme is a perfect fit.

This game has been marketed well. First, it was available on The Game Crafter as a print on demand title – allowing prospective players to purchase it at a low price and spread the word. I have also heard multiple reports now of Mr. Kotarski carrying around Frogflip in his pocket and using every available opportunity to demo it. Finally, the game has been launched on Kickstarter, and has made good use of the reputation of Jason Kotarski as a designer and Sprocket Games / Michael Fox as a publisher to quickly push it over the funding goal.

Wrap Up

Be sure to take a look at the Frogflip Kickstarter page and back it to get yourself a copy. The base game is available at a £9 pledge level (about $14 US), and for higher pledges there are laser-cut wood and full metal versions available!

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