Flick ‘em Up!: Dead of Winter is the brand-new zombie themed dexterity title from Pretzel Games. Combining their Flick ‘em Up franchise with the highly acclaimed Dead of Winter franchise certain seems like an odd mix in concept but what could be more entertaining than killing zombies? Ten survivors set out against the hordes, however is this a journey worth venturing on or should you duck and cover out of this experience? Let’s find out!
When you get Flick ‘em Up!: Dead of Winter don’t be hoping to play straight away, as you will have approximately 20 minutes construction to get through. Most games come with plenty of cardboard tokens to pop from punch boards but this game has a lot more than most. This includes stickers to peel and careful stick on the front and back of zombies, survivors, crates and back packs. After that there is still s ton of tokens to be popped from their cardboard punch out sheets, alongside the buildings and vehicles.
Once done it all looks pretty damn epic thanks to the unique characters and three different artwork designs for the zombies. The zombies are especially well designed. Despite having a specific stance, one of the three sticker sets for six of the zombies switches the back and front side around leading to them looking distinctly different. However, setup still isn’t done.
For each scenario there is a unique way to setup the full box of tokens, buildings and barrels onto the table. If the other players are new to the game this often means a good 5-10 minutes of set up, as it seemed quicker to just do it yourself. Thankfully, after a game other players can take it upon themselves to help constructing the game world for a second mission.
Players will be taking it in turns to control the survivors in play. Depending on the mission they will be looking to pick up objectives from buildings, taking down zombies or becoming heroes by rescuing someone. To do this, as the name suggests, players will be spending their two actions to do some flicking. To move around the map simply replace your character with the movement disk and give it a flick. Where it ends up, good or bad, is where you end up. If a character has a line of sight on a standing zombie it may be advantageous to take it out. The only issue is guns are loud and will attract more zombies than the quieter knives.
Different weapons feel very different to use something which isn’t done to this extent in any other board game. Often board games see you rolling more dice or different types of dice depending on the weapon. Flick ‘em Up!: Dead of Winter excels at making the weapons very different. For throwing a knife, players will be flicking a plastic knife towards zombies. The guns don’t just use the same bullet either. The most common gun, a pistol, sees a regular shot flicked across the table. A shotgun has 4 smaller pellets to be flicked/fired at once, which often blast across the table. The way everything feels different is probably the best and most unique thing about the game.
As mentioned the weapons can attract zombies. After each and every survivor turn the zombies get to try to rush! If the character has used any type of gun then the closest standing zombie turns to face that character. The zombie tower is then carefully placed behind it, aiming towards the same character. That zombie and the closest two standing zombies are then placed at the top of the tower. Taking a deep, hopeful, breath the player then pulls the tower roof support. This drops the zombies into what is almost a dice tower, that sends them bouncing across the table.
If it was a baseball bat or knife that was used, or only movement was made, then the zombie rush is a lot smaller. If the closest zombie is standing it gets to rush on its own. If it has fallen over then it merely stands up. As the zombies crash down out of the tower if they knock over any survivors they lose a health token. Lose all your health tokens and that character dies and is removed from the game. As a result, I have found it best to make sure everyone controls a minimum of 2 characters, or that there is at least 1 spare. This negates the issue of one player being eliminated early on and having to just sit and watch. There is also an issue of time taken, in the sense of character downtime, while this zombie phase is conducted.
I must admit I am split on the zombie tower. The randomness it brings to the game isn’t a huge factor as the game revolves around flicking. It is just stacking randomness on randomness. Therefore, it isn’t like this is a new introduction of luck that spoils the game. In fact, the way players are unsure of the outcome of the zombie tower adds some excitement. The issue is this excitement can be overshadowed by the occasional fiddly-ness of placing the tower in the right place on the map. It is constructed in a way that it fits over a lot of the in-game objects. Alas, when there are some close together it is like moving a bull through a china shop… something will get knocked over.
As with every zombie game there is a constant flow of new zombies that enter play as the rounds progress. At the end of each turn players rotate the backpacks of the characters. Once all have been rotated the round ends. Depending on if it becomes night or day a different amount of zombies spawn, based upon the scenario. This builds the game up against players that makes situations go one of two ways. There is sometimes a lacklustre, anti-climax to scenarios that have been built up before being easily won. On the other hand there can be a huge sense of relief if you just make it.
The range of objects and buildings help turn any surface from a table or floor into a zombie apocalypse. Scattering crates and barrels amongst locations such as a hospital, a gas station and a trusty RV all work to make the theme come together. This is something special for a game which has no game board of any kind to drive the setting. Getting the right surface to play on isn’t entirely key but there is a noticeable difference when playing on different tables. Often a wooden/laminate floor can be the best bet as then fired bullets or movement tokens cant be sent flying off a table sending players scrabbling to the floor, as they are already there!
A total of 10 scenarios are included in the rulebook. These give some structure for new players to work through adding new rules or special rules to mix things up. As a player new to the Flick ‘em Up series these where great to work through and having that structure of objectives with narrative to add some flare to the scenarios worked great to get players into the game. It is also nice to see the content used in different ways to construct missions.
This is a style of game that players can comfortably design their own content. The rule book even suggests taking the teams ideas and tweaking them to create completely new rescue attempts, object collection or simple survival missions. Even without coming up with new missions simply playing the same ones again can lead to massively different outcomes. All it takes is a well-placed shotgun blast or a missed knife throw to complete change the dynamic of the mission. Will you be on the back-foot from the beginning or will you be able to successful clear a path through the undead? Well, you’ll have to put your flicking to the test!
Flick ‘em Up!: Dead of Winter is fun to play. There is no doubt of that. However, it is heavily let down by the setup and teardown time, which combined can almost be as long as the shorter missions. If these elements were faster the constant moving around the table and zombie turns wouldn’t be an issue. Even the zombie tower knocking things over would be a forgettable issue, even if it is the same lamppost for the 5th time in 5 turns… This is a game I want to enjoy as it is unique in many ways: it just takes too long to get onto the table, even when the box is there waiting. A game based on flicking should be quick and simple. Flick ‘em Up!: Dead of Winter doesn’t really tick either dexterity box for me.
[Editor’s Note: Flick ‘em Up!: Dead of Winter was provided to us by Esdevium Games for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £47.99. It is also available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]