What makes a game a wargame? Playing Flick’em Up made me start to ponder this question. You see, Flick’em Up is a wild west shoot-out game similar to Legends of the Old Wets, Dead Man’s Hand, and The Rules With No Name. Despite the genre, I would wager many people would find calling Flick’em Up a wargame to be an affront to their hobby. You see, in Flick’em Up all effects are determined by “flicking” a disc around the table, there is no random number generators, no cards, no fancy terrain, no painted models, and no charts. All results are determined by the player’s dexterity skills. Is this a wargame or a dexterity game?
I recall in reading many varying thoughts about “Guess Range” weapons in wargames. The argument was often around substituting a player skill to determine results over tactical skills. I.e. some folks were just really good at visualizing and determining distance and therefore had an unfair disadvantage in the rules. Therefore, these “Guess Range” weapons were unfair and not proper additions to a true wargame.
I wonder what these folks would say about Flick’em Up. Each player controls 5 cowboy models that can take three hits. The game is scenario based and each scenario has a different objective. The board is a set of terrain and 2d card-buildings with rules for entering and shooting out of said buildings. The turn sequence is an alternating activation, and in a turn each cowboy has two actions, move or shoot. All of this is pretty standard fare for a Wargame.
What makes Flick’em Up different is how you resolve movement and shooting. Movement replaces a Cowboy model with a white disc that you flick with your finger to where you want it to go. Where the disc stops is the new location of the Cowboy. If he hits any other models or terrain, the move is negated. Shooting is similar, except a smaller black disc is placed next to the model, and you “flick” the bullet towards your target. If you knock them over they lose a heart. Any terrain that is moved or knocked over by the bullet stays down. In a way, it reminds me of the spring-loaded cannons in Little Wars.
Is this a wargame then?
Things I like
The game has all the trappings of a traditional wargame and plays really fast. A game takes about 45 minutes. You can play between 2 and 10 players with each player taking a cowboy model. That means the whole family can play and the concepts and play is very simple to grasp. There is no assembly or painting, you just open the box and can start playing.
The game cleverly creates different weapons and weapon combinations. Two pistols allow you to shoot twice, a rifle makes use of a small template that funnels your shot and allows a straighter shot, dynamite has a blast radius from where the marker stops to hit multiple guys. Pretty clever stuff.
They also have an easy way to determine who has activated. You flip the models hat brim over. It is either red or blue. When everyone on your side has the same color hat, they have all activated. A new turn starts. You can also steal the initiative by shooting the cowboy with the initiative marker.
The game comes with 10 or so scenarios, but it really gives you everything you need to make any custom scenarios you want. Therefore, the game has near infinite re-playability.
Things I Do Not Like
Well, everyone is pretty much the same. The only difference is what they are armed with. Everyone has a pistol but in some scenarios they have rifles or dynamite. There is no skill progression between scenarios, permanent injuries, or guys missing the next game. No matter how good or bad you do in one scenario, your start the next with 5 cowboys vs. 5 cowboys. I am sure such rules and ideas are beyond the scope of play for a game such as this; but it left me wanting more.
Some of the scenarios were not well thought out. They follow pretty standard wargaming tropes, but sometimes the incentives to action were a bit bizarre. For example, in the 2nd scenario you are trying to take out each sides’ leader. This led to us playing a very defensive game, which ended up going down to a dual on time. All the preceding effort culminated in an alternating activation duel that the previous actions had no bearing on. That was a bit of a downer. I could see similar situations arising in other scenarios too.
Meh and Other Uncertainties
The elephant in the room is that all the “tactical” skill could be off-set by player skill. For example, I was really good at long range shots with my pistols. Meanwhile, some of my team mates couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn at close range. However, that dictated how we played, and the tactics we had to adopt as a team. The order in which we activated and what each cowboy did was decided on by the capabilities of the player and not the model.
So, does that distinction remove Flick’em Up from the realm of wargames? Is it that much different than judging the range of spring loaded cannons in Little Wars? If you argue that the capabilities of the troops vs. the capabilities of the player are what matters is Chess a wargame instead of a board game as the skill of the pieces indicates how they can be used effectively? Plus, in all wargames doesn’t the capability of the general play a key part in determining victory? I don’t know the answers.
We had fun playing the game as a family with people who are NOT wargamers. It was a nice distraction and allowed us to whoop up, praise good shots, lament bad ones, laugh when a cowboy failed to move where he was supposed to go, and have a good laugh. All of which is similar to my wargaming experiences. It was a fun 45 minutes and then put away until next time.
However, I can’t really answer if it is a true wargame. I imagine most of the “wargamers” that we play games with will find it fun, but not see it as a “true” wargame. Wargamers do not seem to feel that the physical capabilities of the player should dictate the flow of the game, and in Flick’em Up! It is all about what the player can physically do.
For my part, it was hard to see this game too much differently than many of the skirmish games I have played over the years. The only difference was rolling a die/flipping a card to determine the outcomes of the actions versus physically flicking a marker. In my mind, it still felt like a wargame.
What do you think? Does physical capability play a role in wargaming, or does that relegate it to something else? Your thoughts?