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Subject: Verflixxt (That’s Life!) Review and Strategy tips rss

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Dan Mulcare
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Somerville
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Verflixxt (That’s Life!) is a quick fun game. There is also a decent amount of strategy and plenty of tension. I usually play on BSW but I also own a copy. In this review I will go over gameplay and provide strategy tips.

At its core, Verflixxt is a roll (1 D6) and move game. There are 2 sets of negative tiles that range from -1 to -8, with two additional negative tiles of -9 and -10. There are also eight positive tiles that run from +1 to +8, and there are six luck tiles that turn a negative into a positive. Along with player markers, which are 2 or 3 in number depending on the amount of people who play, there are 8 “guards” that are placed onto the +7, +8 and each luck tile. Depending on the variant, the tiles are either lain out randomly or with two the two sets of red tiles separated by the luck and positive tiles. Pawns and guards can only move forward and if they are the only marker (including guards) on a tile when they leave it, they must pick up that tile. The guards can only be moved if there is a player’s pawn on it, though any player can move the guard in this situation. Once all the players’ pawns are off the board, the game ends, and the winner is the individual with the highest combined total of his or her tiles. In the online and non-expansion FTF version, you do not see other players’ accumulated tiles, so you must keep track of what they pick-up (this can also be done by looking at your tiles and those on the board and extrapolating what they have). This mechanics work well online, but in the material version, you can actually see the artwork, which is quite humorous (they are like the little cartoons between the panels in Mad Magazine)

Because of the random die roll element, one is never in full control of the game. At the same time, play is not determined by the die roll. Rather those who chose wisely give themselves greater chance for victory. For instance, when I play on BSW those with a low percentage rarely defeat those with high win ratios. However, there are also times when the die roll does not enable a player to win. So depending on your temperament, this dynamic can either infuriate or stimulate. I am in the latter camp. Although I don’t normally gamble, I enjoy the thrill of die rolling and having to play the percentages; sometimes it doesn’t work out, but you can usually hedge your bet so that you can make the percentages work to your advantage. Even if you predominantly received lousy die rolls, you can still eek out a win (or at least make the margin of defeat respectable) if you are able to adeptly maneuver your pawns and catch enough lucky breaks.

Here are some of my tips to manage your luck. First, try to delay movement as much as possible; if you can win the battle of “tempo moves” i.e. turns where your pawns stay put, you will put yourself in a good position to win. In this sense, Verflixxt is the opposite of a race game -- those who are the last to finish the tilepath usually win. This is because players whose pawns go out first have to move their other makers off positive tiles that are contested (i.e. have opponents pawns still on them). Hence if there are two luck tiles and/or a +8 or +7 with different players’ pawns on them, the player with the first pawn off the board will likely not pick up either of the other tiles. With this in mind, it is often a good idea to let another player obtain a good tile if this means they will be have the first marker of the board. Often, I move the only guard on an opponent’s tile so that they will be forced to move, which will further her or his distance from my pawns. This may result in the other player(s) obtaining one beneficial tile, but I may gain two to three as a result. This strategy is especially useful if you roll a high number, there are no good tiles in which to land on, or it is impossible to collect that particular positive tile (either you would land on the tile, only to have to move off of it on the next turn, or if the opponents’ piece is so far ahead you’ll never catch up to it). The only time I would not do this is if it is early in the game, likely that on your next turn you could reasonably land on this beneficial space, or the opponent’s pawn will have a good chance to move onto other beneficial tiles (though sometimes I take this risk)

Speaking of guards, the key to success often rests on your ability to move these figures in an effective manner. It is wise to count the guards that are currently active (on tiles with players’ pawns) to determine if you will be the last player to move a guard. If so, try to move the guards to a space that is empty of pawns so that you can keep your advantage. If you can, you should also move those guards that are the furthest back so that other players will not be able to move them onto spaces with their own or other’s pawns (which will shift the tempo advantage to another player). If your do not have the advantage, do the opposite; move the forward guards first and hope that the other player will have to move a guard onto an opponent’s space. Sometimes, this guard movement may result in you taking negative points, but this is usually acceptable; it is worth accumulating some pain to get a greater reward down the line.

Another useful tip is to spread out your pawns. This provides the best chance to land on beneficial spaces. Of course, this has to be done with some care so that you don’t accumulate numerous negative tiles (indeed there are times when it is necessary or unavoidable to double up).

In order to use the luck cards to their full advantage, you will want to collect high negative cards. In many games I play, opponents often forgo the -9 or -10. In doing so, they do not receive a high bonus from their luck tiles and are or unable to offset 2-3 lower numbered negative tiles.

It is also useful to enter the game with a strategy about the luck and positive tiles. In a two player game, each person should gain 3 luck tiles and 3-4 positive tiles (the percentages obviously change with more players). Hence to do well, you will want to stay even or gain the advantage in each category. If you can’t accomplish this, you should have a back-up strategy to keep yourself in the game. If your opponent gets one or two luck cards right away, plan to fight for the remaining four. If you only get two luck cards, try to offset this by gaining the high negatives and some high positives and/or try to keep you opponent away from the high negative tiles.

As you can see, even for a “filler” game, there are numerous decisions to be made. This, along with the die roll, provides for a fair amount of tension. When played with knowledgeable opponents, there is a fair amount of back-and-forth, and this makes the game rather enjoyable. Of course, there are also times when the die roll doesn’t facilitate a win, but these instances are generally the exception, not the rule. It is definitely worth playing on BSW and also a nice thing to bring to (or play at) a game night.
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Tim Seitz
United States
Glen Allen
VA
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Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. 2 Sam 14:14
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Just played this tonight. Good comments, although the tempo strategy bits kind of go out the window with 6 players. It's pretty chaotic.
 
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Piotr Jekel
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Me and my kids (8, 11) enjoy Verflixxt very much, especially with the orange tiles and bird from the Nochmal expansion. It is fast and provides a balanced mixture of luck and tactics to make the gameplay interesting. Although I generally hate the dice (Settlers in particular), Verflixxt does not seem to be ruled by a blind roll. You have 2-3 pawns to move, guards, Flixxy, etc. You can try to optimize your position and select best moves to hinder your opponents (orange tiles and visible stack of collected tiles add so much to the game). With Flixxy, there is also much more player interaction. If you think about buying the game, I can whole-heartily recommend it, preferably with the Nochmal expansion.

There is luck, but it does not ruin the game. It kind of balances itself thanks to the number of pawns and other options at your disposal. Verflixxt is a very engaging game with high playability. Best of all, it is really fun and I recommend it as a family game.

 
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Steve Oliver
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Alameda
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I agree completely and also recommend the Nochmal expansion as well.
 
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Adam Kunsemiller
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Indianapolis
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My only problem with this game was that everything you mentioned in your strategy tips becomes obvious to people playing this game relatively quickly, and then all players are playing the waiting game. It quickly turned into simply "who is going to be forced to move first, HAH! You lose!!"

In our group, it got to the point where someone would roll, and the person would move the only available guard option for them, becuase it was just assumed that that was what they wanted to do, and this was always the case.

That's not to say the game isn't fun, it can get people laughing and generally is a good, albeit light, game. In the end though, it just boils down to rolling the dice over and over again, with maybe one or two interesting decisions to make, usually in the early game.
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