Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the Kickstarter campaign’s success. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.
- For ages 8 and up
- For 2 players
- Approximately 45 minutes to complete
- Active Listening & Communication
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Lead your troops to victory one fight at a time
- Gamer Geek rejected!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
The peaceful village of Fairfield lies in a lush valley surrounded by healthy farms and livestock. Those who live in the village are prosperous and happy. However, two armies hungrily eye the village, coveting it as their own. Now Fairfield has become the epicenter of chaos and violence where once only peace and tranquility were found. The two armies will fight to the end to possess the village, but which will win, and what will be the valley’s fate after the swords stop clashing? That is up to you, but only if you win the day.
Flank!: Battle for Fairfield, designed and to be self-published by Andrew Blair Dobson, will reportedly be comprised of one game board, 30 standard six-sided dice (in two different colors), 52 War Cry cards, 30 Honor tiles, and 22 Army chips. Unfortunately, as this is a review of a prepublished game, I cannot comment on the game component quality.
Preparing for Battle
To set up the game, complete the following steps:
First, place the game board in the middle of the playing area and between the two players.
Second, have each player take their Army chips and place them on the game board in their starting positions on the field.
Third, shuffle the Honor tiles and place them face-down in three equal stacks on the game board’s designated space.
Fourth, take and flip the top-most Honor tile from each of the three stacks and place them face-up in the space adjacent to each stack from which they were removed.
Fifth, shuffle the War Cry cards. Deal three to each player, face-down. Players can look at their cards but keep them hidden from their opponent until played. Place the remaining War Cry cards face-down to create the War Cry draw deck.
Sixth, give each player 15 six-sided dice of the same color that matches their Army pieces.
Seventh, determine who should go first by having each player roll a die. The player with the highest rolled value goes first. Re-roll if there is a tie. The player who loses the roll will go second and now draws two War Cry cards, adding them to their hand.
This completes the game setup. Time to go to battle!
Starting a Fight
Flank!: Battle for Fairfield is played rounds and turns with no set number of rounds per game. A players’ turn is summarized here.
Step One: Draw
The first thing a player does on their turn is to draw two War Cry cards from the draw deck. These immediately go into the player’s hand. There is no hand-size limit during the game.
If the draw deck is depleted, take the discarded pile, shuffle, and place face-down to create a new draw deck.
Step Two: Honor
The player now selects one of the face-up Honor tiles and attaches (by placing it on the game board) to an Army unit’s banner of their choice. After placing the Honor tile, they draw a new Honor tile from the stack to replace the one they just took.
Honor improves an Army unit’s (represented by Army chips on the game board) ability to move and fight on the field. Once placed, the Honor tile will remain attached until removed via a resolved action noted on a War Cry card. Skip this step if a player no longer has any free spaces to place an Honor tile.
There are four different Honor tile bonuses:
- A “Sword” increases the number of dice used when attacking
- A “Shield” increases the number of dice used when defending
- An “Arrow” increases the number of movement spaces that can be taken
- A “Flank” increases the number of dice used for every flanking unit (which is further described below)
Step Three: Move
The player may now move up to three of their Army chips on the field. The number of spaces the chip can move is noted by the number of “Arrow” icons under their Army unit’s information found on the game board. An Army chip can move one space in any direction to an adjacent empty space for each arrow. This number, as noted, can be changed using Honor tiles.
Once moved, the Army chip cannot be moved again until the player’s next turn. In addition, an Army chip can never move into or through a space occupied by another Army chip (including those that belong to the players).
There are five different Army soldier types:
- Minions, who have a default Attack, Defense, Movement, and Flank value of one
- Crusaders, who have a default Attack and Flank value of one and a default Movement and Defense value of two
- Assassins, who have a default Defense and Movement value of one and a default Attack and Flank value of two
- Sentinels, who have a default Movement and Flank value of one and a default Attack and Defense value of two
- Champions, who have a default Flank value of zero, a default Movement value of two, and a default Attack and Defense value of three
Each of these Army unit types has three spaces available for Honor tiles (except for the Minion, who only has one Honor tile space), allowing each player to customize their army.
Step Four: Fight
It’s now time to fight! During this step, each battle is resolved using the following actions in the noted sequential order shown here.
First, Declare Your Attack:
The player chooses one of their Army chips as the attacker and any adjacent opponent Army chip as the defender. At this time, players should determine how many flankers they have to accompany their selected Army chips into the fight. A “flanker” is any Army chip that is not the designed attacker or defender but is surrounding the opponent’s piece. Army chips can move during the fight step and should be reevaluated if any of the Army chips move due to resolved War Cry cards.
The attacker’s flankers are any Army chips they own adjacent to the targeted defender. The defender’s flankers are any Army chips they own adjacent to the attacker.
Second, Count Your Strength:
Both players now determine the number of dice they will use based on the Army unit type and any attached Honor tiles. For example, the attacker rolls one die for each “Sword,” The defender rolls one die for each “Shield.” In addition, each of the players will roll one additional die for each flanking Army chip using the “Flank” icon noted on the Army unit’s information found on the game board.
Third, Shout Your War Cries:
Starting with the defender, each player may now play a single War Cry card and take turns one at a time. Once the War Cry card is played, it’s immediately resolved and discarded to the discard pile face-up.
War Cry cards do several things:
- Add dice when attacking and defending
- Move Army chips on the field
- Adjust Honor tile bonuses
- Stop War Cry cards from being played during a fight
Playing a War Cry card on your turn is an optional action. A player may elect to pass. If they do so, they do not play a War Cry card on their turn, allowing their opponent to play another War Cry card immediately.
Players continue to play one War Cry card at a time until both players pass or are unable to play any additional cards.
Fourth, Roll the Dice:
After resolving all the War Cry cards, make sure each player now has their updated number of dice to roll based on card abilities, shifting positions of Army chips on the game board, and any other bonuses.
Each player now rolls all their awarded dice, with the goal of rolling the highest possible value once all the dice values rolled are added together.
Fifth, Rally Your Troops:
Starting with the defender, each player may now elect to rally their forces by adjusting the rolled dice. To do so, the player discards any War Cry card from their hand directly to the discard pile without resolving it. Doing so allows them to select two dice rolled and re-roll them immediately.
Each player takes turns doing so, which again is always optional. When both players pass, the fight is finally resolved.
Sixth, Resolve the Fight:
After the dice have stopped being rolled, each player now recounts their dice.
The player with the highest total values has won the fight. After that, the defeated Army chip (not its flankers) is removed from the game.
If there is a tie, both players remove their Army chip noted as the attacker and the defender.
Continuing the Battle and Winning the War
If there is another fight to resolve, the players complete it now, using the sequential actions noted above during the Fight step. Once all the fights are resolved, the next player takes their turn, starting with Step One.
This continues until one player loses their Champion during a fight. If the player does, they have lost the game. If both players lose their Champion while resolving a fight, the game is a draw.
The Child Geeks very much enjoyed themselves, finding the game easy to learn and fun to play. Despite the small field for battle and the limited number of pieces, players had room to maneuver and attack each other with ease. Even our youngest had no issue finding a means to put the “hurt” on their opponent, regardless of skill level. As the game progressed, the Child Geeks adapted to the shifting power balance by adjusting their Honor tiles and properly playing War Cry cards to carry out additional actions. Honestly, they aced like little generals. According to one Child Geek, “I’ve played war and battle games before and always found them too confusing or too much going on. This game makes it easy to know who you want to control and move them into battle. I liked it.” Another Child Geek said, “I liked the game because I always knew which piece to move, and I could level up my army to protect my champion.” When the last sword was drawn, and shield bashed, all the Child Geeks voted to fully approve Flank!
The Parent Geeks also found the game entertaining and engaging, especially liking how easy the game was to set up and get to the table. According to one Parent Geek, “Most war or fighting games can take a bit of time to set up and a lot of time to teach. That is not the case here. The game’s rules are easy to teach, and the game is complex enough to keep an adult mind busy. I also liked how fast battles were resolved, but always in the hands of the players to adjust. Fun little game.” Another Parent Geek said, “Lots of fun with my kids and even more fun against my husband who normally hates fighting games. He said it was like Battle Chess, but I felt it was more like Battle Checkers. Either way, we both enjoyed it, as did our whole family.” When the white flag was raised, and the battlefield fell silent, the only sound to be heard was the cheering of the Parent Geeks for Flank!
For all the reasons the Child Geeks enjoyed Flank!, the Gamer Geeks disliked it. They found the game to be too simple, not at all deep enough to make it worth their while, and too fast to maneuver and use tactics to any degree that felt satisfying. According to one Gamer Geek, “I think this is an excellent game to bring to the table to introduce games that use strategy and tactics. It certainly has all the elements with hand-management, tactical moving, and adjusting your strategy based on strengthening your army with honor. But it is too short. When you feel like you are building the army you want, the fight is over. I don’t recommend this game to us gaming elitists, but it would be good for their families and younger kids.” Another Gamer Geek said, “Great game for the kids who are looking to break into more complex games that involve deeper strategy and tactics, but this is not a game that would interest me more than the time it takes you to explain the rules.” At the end of the day, Flank! lost to the Gamer Geeks, but it put up a good fight all the same.
Flank!: Battle for Fairfield is an excellent game for the Child Geeks and their parents. It’s very casual, to the point, and fast. Unfortunately, the Gamer Geeks are very much correct that the battles are not nearly long enough, and thus the game is not long enough to feel like you are doing anything other than quickly moving, rolling dice, and then moving on. Yes, you can build your army using Honor, but one tile at a time. Your improvements are incremental, which is not at all surprising, but the speed at which you can update your army doesn’t match the rate at which your army is being taken out due to battles.
Which, if you’ll excuse the pun, is a double-edged sword when it comes to this delightful little battle game. Because it’s fast, your choices are always limited to “what can I do now” versus “what do I want to do in five turns?” As a result, the game feels most of the time like a brutal slapdown, with players rolling dice and after dice, counting values, and reducing the population of the armies very quickly. But, of course, the saving grace here is that the game is straightforward to reset and replay, which makes even a quick and devasting loss something to just as quickly get over as you jump back into the fray with a fresh army.
My only negative criticism of the game is its lack of variety in its units. They all play the same, more or less, with the most significant difference being their starting abilities to survive combat, which is quickly adjusted by placing an Honor tile or two on them. Which, if you are lucky, you’ll have time to do. Players start to lose army units right off the bat, which means you’ll need to focus on fewer and fewer units to consider for a bonus, but you’re always stuck with the same starters who might get slightly beefier. I would have loved to have seen different units to bring into the battle, allowing players to customize at a deeper level. Not possible here, which keeps the learning curve low, but at the cost of diversity.
Which could be a very intentional design decision. A low entry bar means the game is easier to teach and play. Lack of diversity in units is offputting, but you can adjust each unit to your liking within the limitations of their available Honor tile slots and lifespan on the battlefield. The result is a game that makes sense from the start to the end. Just don’t expect to think too hard or too long at any point along the journey if you know your way around a gameboard.
I liked the game and would recommend it to families who are looking to take their Child Geeks to the next level in the board game hobby or are in the market for a casual two-player battle game that gives the players just enough to consider without overwhelming them with the chaos that is the battlefield. So do give this game a try.
This is a paid-for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus were financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek, which cannot be bought except by those who own their private islands and small countries.