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Subject: To Flip or Not to Flip - A Pictorial Overview rss

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Daniel Danzer
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As one of the designers of the game, I will of course not write anything as a "review", but I can offer an introduction into gameplay.

The game "out of the box"

Undercover is a game about secret agents and matching colors. We are the heads of secret services in the cold war era. Each of the 6 secret services/countries is represented by one color of the rainbow and an icon, so color blind people also can play the game.

The six headquarters in the game and the material, each player gets at the beginning.

To set up the game, first of all the score board is equipped with randomly distributed point tokens on the rightmost columns. The 12 agents are shuffled and split into two draw piles of 6 agents each.

The two random elements of the game (point tokens from 4 to 8 and draw piles) and the complete setup

The six headquarters are placed on the table with some space around the group. They too create a "colour wheel" and a huge, single room, but split into six smaller parts "all over the world". In a game with 2 or 4 players, 2 headquarters are removed and flipped - they are jokers on the back. In a 3-player game, 3 of them are removed and flipped.

Each player gets his staffers (= score markers), a colour wheel for the same colour (shown in the middle of the wheel) and a joker. Now, you are ready to play.

The point tokens are collected
face-down on your colour wheel

Aim of the Game
We arrange meetings between agents from all the different countries to gather information. Each meeting lets our staffers in the office (= scoring markers) in the colors of all agents involved in the meeting move forward on the score board, sometimes 3 or 4 or even 5 steps at once. If a staffer lands on an occupied space, it goes to the next free space. At the end of the board point tokens are waiting for us, so it's like a simultaneous six-track race. Each player scores each color only once - when you hit a token, you take it and that’s your score in that color for the game. You don’t move here anymore.

Now, HOW you get your staffers move forward is the actual game:

On your turn you pick up one unblocked agent from a draw pile or already placed before. Then you give him your instructions file (thus blocking him until after your next turn), place him somewhere else adjacently to matching other agents and score some steps on the score board. As easy as that. Here come the details ...:

Beside each agent you can see three colored icons: A large one (the color of the tile itself) and two above and underneath the central one. These two other colors are always the two neighbored colors on the color wheel (imagine a rainbow). This is important for two rules:

1. Placing:
You may only place the agent you picked up only to agents of the same colour or one of the two neighbored colors on the color wheel (see left column: the orange tile can only be placed next to red, orange or yellow, as shown on the tile itself).

2. Hidden identities and Flipping:
There are two identical, lighter, "official" agents and two "undercover" agents of each color in the game. Each agent always has an official side ("day job") and an undercover side ("operations at night") of two colours adjacent on the color wheel.

Now, when you pick up a tile you MAY flip it before you place it (right column). When you decide to do so, you cannot reverse this decision, but have to look now for a spot to place it.

The Forbidden Color
Now a step back: when picking up a tile, you are restricted to 5 of colors. One color - your direct opposite (aka "arch enemy", marked on your color wheel with "x2", see picture above) you are not allowed to pick. But when you pick up a tile and after being flipped it shows the forbidden color, you are allowed to place it. In the end the point token you get in this color scores double.

3. Scoring:
After having (re-)placed the agent, you score this meeting. All your staffers on the tracks of the colors taking part in that meeting move one step forward per tile involved.

In the example on the left, the meeting involved two orange tiles (the one placed and one adjacent), two yellow tiles and one red tile (the headquarter). The three staffers of that colors proceed accordingly, the red one lands on an occupied space and can proceed two more spaces.

In case you FLIPPED the agent before placing (the actual side visible doesn‘t matter, it’s the FLIPPING that matters) this very tile counts double – your staffer for that color makes two steps, the others the usual one step.

The flipping example on the right would score 3 steps in blue (two for the flipped tile placed, one for the adjacent one).

Last thing to add: each player has a Joker for one-time use, matching everywhere, not scoring any points itself, but all surrounding tiles as usual.

So, that’s it. 30 minutes of flexible reacting according to the ever-changing situation within a growing and dynamic layout looking for the right tile for the perfect spot to score best.

What’s going on ...

In the beginning of the game you mostly just want to flip – you need all colors anyway. Later on, you want some colors more than others. Now it would be helpful to know what is underneath any given tile instead of being surprised. And this is, where the game offers several ways to deal with the color system and possibilities:

- Taking risks. Just don’t care, more or less always flip and see, where the revealed color matches.

- Remember, what was underneath. Your kids will beat you easily using this way to play.

- Use your logical thinking. The most easy step is, if there are two equal agents face-up and you turn one of them around. Now you can say, which color the other one is on the bottom side. But even when you have not seen anything from before (or can’t remember), there are things to discover by deduction.

What else to say?
- No downtime at all – you better take care of what the others are doing! And turns are done quickly.

- Interaction galore. Everything you are doing directly affects the others: picking up a tile and blocking it for this turn, occupying attractive spots in the layout, advancing on the score track and changing positions in the race.

- Learning curve – most probably you become better and better, exploring the dynamics of the game and how to beat even your kids with their great memory skills.

So, I hope you have some fun with our game.

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