May 2018 be all you dreamed it would be and be all that you dreamed...
Image Courtesy of Henning
This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.
If you liked the review please thumb the top of the article so others have a better chance of seeing it and I know you stopped by. Thanks for reading.
Game Type – Card Game
Play Time: 10-20 minutes
Number of Players: 3-8 (Best 5-8)
Mechanics – Hand Management, Take That
Difficulty – Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in 10 minutes)
Components – Excellent
Release – 2016
Designer – Friedemann Friese - (504, Black Friday, Copycat, Fabled Fruit, Famiglia, Fast Flowing Forest Fellas, All things Fast Forward, Fauna, Fearsome Floors, Fiji, Formidable Foes, Friday, Funny Friends, All things Power Grid)
Overview and Theme
Game Designers are pretty fantastic people. They come in many different forms too. Some like to focus on certain themes, others favour certain mechanics or mechanisms. Then there is Friedemann Friese...the green haired maestro that delights in exploring games as a form and is perhaps one of the more experimental in his designs. He really isn't afraid to try new things and push the envelope of what a game design can do.
Of course his design or sandbox game 504 springs immediately to front of mind in terms of experimentation. But I would also point to two card game releases in 2016 in Fabled Fruit and Fuji Flush. The former is the most ambitious of the pair and has been labelled by the German as an example of a 'Fable Game'. This term loosely translates to a game that is 'Legacy' in nature (in that it can evolve and change) but the game is also entirely re-settable and therefore re-playable.
He is about to take the idea of Fable Games to a new level in the form of a series of games called Fast Forward: (enter sub-title here) which will be released at Spiel '17 (you can read more here) in an article by W Eric Martin.
But these are discussions for another day. I am currently in the middle of playing through Fabled Fruit and I look forward to reviewing that one once it is done.
But this is Fuji Flush. There is no theme here as the deck is nothing more than a set of numerical values. Grab that tie-dyed t-shirt and join me as we look at this techni-coloured creation.
Well this won't take long as the game only needs 2 elements inside the box.
Cards – The cards are of standard size and each one features a number ranging from 2 to 20. As with many games of this nature, the higher valued cards are less frequent and the lower cards quite common. To highlight this there is only 1 copy of values 16-20 whilst there are 16 copies of value 2 cards. The intervening numbers then enjoy a frequency on a sliding scale.
Each value enjoys its own background colour with various hues of blues, pinks and purples dominating the colour palette. Colour blindness is not an issue here as only the card values matter and these are printed several times on each card and feature a large distinctive font size.
Graphics are present but they are a garnish at best. The card backs are green and designed to stand out from the colours used on the side that matters.
What is important in such a spartan production is that the card quality is excellent. I am happy to report that Fuji Flush offers a matte\linen finish for all cards and that is great.
Image Courtesy of JoergBoerg
Rules – The rules are a very simple 2-sided small fold-out sheet that really leave no room for ambiguity. If you need to visit the BGG forums for rule clarifications...I would suggest giving up on rulebooks as they might not be your thing.
Image Courtesy of Alice87
The Box - Given the simplicity of the game, it is neatly packaged in what has become one of the standard small card game box designs. No annoying tuck-box design here either. It’s got that nice lid over the top that helps keep everything in its place, if packed semi-tightly alongside other games of like size on a shelf.
Image Courtesy of Alice87
All in all Fuji Flush is as concise a production as the game play is straight forward. But the quality of what is on offer is well worth the asking price.
Blink and you will miss it. Shuffle up the 90 card deck, deal 6 cards to each player (5 if playing with 7-8 players) and set the deck centrally on the table.
Select a start player in some way (we usually flip 1 card per player with the highest going first before reshuffling the deck) and the game is ready to begin.
Fuji Flush is one of those games that is so simple in its execution that it almost beggars belief.
The Aim – The aim of the game is to be the first player to get rid of all of your cards. Your hand is defined as 'all cards you hold plus the card on the table in front of you' (should there be one). It doesn't get much easier than that.
Play a Card – On a player's turn they must select one card from their hand and play it face-up in front of them for all to see. Any card can be played...there is no restriction of any kind.
Flushing the Opposition – If the newly played card is higher than (not equal to) those of any other players, all such cards are flushed, meaning they must be discarded by those players and they must draw a new card from the deck.
An Example - Three other players have a 4, 9 and 12 in front of them. Freddy decides to play a 10 which flushes the 4 and 9 but the player with the 12 is unaffected.
Having your card flushed of course means that you have to draw a replacement and that means you didn't manage to reduce the size of your hand and therefore you are no closer to your goal.
Flushing other player's cards might seem like a smart play at every occasion. But not always.
Joining Forces -
Image Courtesy of sjonnie It is possible for a player to play a card that has the same value as one or more other cards already in play. In this instance you have formed a team with them and all cards of matching value are added together to form a greater sum\total.
Eg - Fanny plays a 5 which is already in play in front of Frank. Both of those 5s now assume the value of 10 (5 + 5). Next up is Felicity and she too decides to play a 5. Now all three players are teamed together and each of their 5s are now worth 15 (5 + 5 + 5).
Should another player play a 15, this would not add to the other '5' cards as it is not a natural 5.
It is possible to play a card to form a team and in doing so create a new sum total for those cards that is higher than another card or team of cards to Flush them.
Eg - In the above example, when Felicity plays her 5 to turn them all into 15's, this play would Flush a pair of 7's that had assumed a total of 14!
Pushing a Card Through - This is how each player tries to advance their position and win the game.
If the play gets back to a player and the card they played last time is still in play, they get to 'Push it Through'. No, this is not referring to a painful bowel movement.
This means that the active player gets to discard the card but they do not need to draw a replacement card. They then take their normal turn by playing one of their remaining cards face-up in front of them and 'fling-flam-flop' they are 1 step closer to winning the game.
Pushing Through as a Team - If several players find themselves with the same card in play, thereby forming a team, and one of those players manages to 'Push their card through'...the whole team gets to do the same, discarding their card at the same time.
This gives an added incentive to forming teams in Fuji Flush and timing can be important.
Exhausting the Deck - It is quite likely that the deck will become exhausted. If this occurs then all discards are simply shuffled together and all those expended values are once again back in play.
Some groups may find they need to insist on some form of split-shuffle or some other technique to help separate some of those value 2 cards given how many there are.
Winning - The first player to not be physically holding any cards and manages to 'Push Through' their last card on the table takes the win. Of course it is possible for several players to win at the same time if a team 'Pushes' their last card through together. In this case the win is shared.
In this way Fuji Flush thumbs its nose at the importance of winning individually. It is too cool for that. Just enjoy the play, its chilled nature and the value placed on forming partnerships.
The Final Word
Fuji Flush is one of those games that relies on the 'eye of the beholder' and all that. Some may see it as totally frivolous, luck-dependent and vacuous. I prefer to see it as a really simple, clever filler that does have some luck but tends to favour those that play their cards smart.
Sure, at its core, there is luck here as you cannot control what cards you are dealt or draw. The game offers up some strategic choices in when you decide to team up with others and when you go it alone. It raises questions such as 'how long should I hold onto my high valued cards and when should I play that 14 to Flush Ferdinand, Felicia and Freidel as they only have 2 cards left each?' It also rewards those that pay particular attention to what cards, particularly those higher values, have been seen and what still lurks in-hand.
Despite your own personal thoughts on the strategy v luck aspect of the game, one thing I can quantify is how it feels when playing. Make no mistake, this is a quick-play card game where each player requires no more than a few seconds to make a play. That means no downtime of any consequence as the players are all watching to see who is advancing and how the next play may affect them. The table will regularly abound with smiles and high-fives as players decide to team up and then howls of disapproval when a player hits the table with a 16 to Flush 5 other players. That is the extent of the 'Take That' in this game and those averse to such things should not fear it here as it is about as light and friendly as it gets.
Once one or more players get down to their last card or two it is 'game-on' and you have this large target painted on your forehead. Suddenly the sacrifice play may be called for and the tension is ramped up when a player puts down their last card and the collective opposition hope that someone is holding the card or cards (if a team can be formed) to Flush them. Of course you are always hoping that someone else has to burn that high-valued card to save the game before you do, so you can skate in for the win later on!
This is what Fuji Flush offers as an experience. Add in the fact that it is a rare game in that it can accommodate those higher player counts of 6-8 and it definitely fills a niche. Consider still that it can play in 5-20 minutes and suddenly it is a title that can really find value in a person's collection as an excellent opener or closer. It's also a game that is very friendly for our non-gamer family members and friends as the rule-set is easy to learn and it won't outstay their attention span. In fact it should be noted that Fuji Flush can be quite the social game as the players can keep an eye on the play whilst making small talk around the table.
For me all of these elements make Fuji Flush a winner and groups I play it with always ask to play 2-4 games in a row as they were 'that close' to winning. If we have the time and no-one is eager to play something else I often suggest that we play until someone around the table manages a 2nd win and our group is pretty happy with that.
I am always staggered when I come across games of such simplicity and am left wondering how it hasn't been designed before now.
To come full circle from my introduction, it is amazing to think that Mr Soylent Green himself is also the same man that designed Power Grid. I mean these two games couldn't be further apart in terms of complexity, strategic decision making and intricacy and yet they are both excellent games (even if Power Grid and I don't see eye to eye).
Till next we meet, avoid the Flush and push on through to the other side.
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Easily one of my favorite filler games. Such an easy and accessible card game that doesn't get old. Good review!
Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
Great review Neil. This has been an interesting one for my group in that we were all underwhelmed after our first play but it has subsequently become a firm favourite for beginning or ending the night.