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Subject: Unfinished Business: A SEAL Team Flix Review rss

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David Waldorf
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Unfinished Business

A SEAL Team Flix Review


Note: this game was provided to me for review by the publisher.


SEAL Team Flix is a cooperative game of military operations against a fictional bio-terrorism group. One to four players take on the roles of SEALs trying to rescue hostages, gather intel, and take out masterminds through a series of missions that can be played singly or as a campaign. What sets this game apart from others with similar themes is that it is also a dexterity game—SEAL combat is resolved by flicking disc “bullets” at enemies, and several other flicking activities are carried out on sideboards. The game comes in a huge box and features six different maps with 3D walls—but is it any good? Read on for a quick overview of gameplay, a look at the components, and some of thoughts and analysis from me.





Gameplay Experience

Each game of SEAL Team Flix is played over a series of rounds, with the SEALS getting to take two actions each and then the bad guys (“Tangos”) getting a turn. SEAL actions are things like moving a certain number of squares on the map, firing weapons, attempting to bypass electronically locked doors, and interacting with objectives on the map. A few actions are fee, and do not count toward your turn limit. Firing actions are performed by using the size and number of discs depicted on the SEAL’s weapon cards (selected at the beginning of the game from a variety of available choices), placing them on the map and flicking them at targets. Bank shots are legal, and ricochets can cause multiple targets to be hit. But firing weapons creates noise, which will alert the Tangos to your presence and cause them to converge on that position. Their attacks are resolved with dice, and they can score enough hits on a SEAL to knock that player out of the game. The mission continues until the objectives have been met, the last round has been played, or all SEALs are killed.

There are some variable aspects to setting up a mission, such as the possible locations of the objectives and the position of brown cubes for additional cover. The objectives are anything from diffusing time bombs (by flicking disks on a sideboard while a sand timer is running) to picking up evidence and escorting hostages out to a safe zone. You can choose a few items of equipment for your SEAL, limited by their rank (campaign) or the “rank” of the scenario in one-off games. There are rules covering line of sight (LOS) and how to use the terrain blocks, but as well as a multi-step AI system for the Tangos. All of this is a very high-level overview, but you should get the idea. Now I’ll try to give you an idea of what gameplay feels like, which is something you don’t necessarily get from rule books and summaries.

The game feels quite thematic. The need to keep noise as minimal as possible will at times make you feel like you really are in stealth mode, hunkering down to wait for the right moment to dash across a hallway to another room. However, more often than not things will go sideways in a hurry and you will have to shoot your way out of a jam. A patrol will spot you and raise the alarm, and you’ll have several turns of damage control as you try to maneuver to a better position and keep out of harm’s way. It is often frustrating how agile the Tangos are, and the way they are permitted to react to SEAL actions but not the other way around. Once the SEALs’ turn is over, Tangos that you could not shoot at before will suddenly be firing away right behind you, and new patrols can spawn on the board in the most disadvantageous locations to shoot you to pieces before you have a chance to move to cover.





Since the SEALs get only two actions (plus a few free ones), you have to make tough choices about what you want to do and when you want to do it. You do not have enough hit points to do any tanking whatsoever, but often you are not able to move far enough to completely evade reaction fire from the Tangos. Thus eliminating hostiles sometimes takes precedence over moving through the map, and it is possible to get pinned down in one location for a while.

The dexterity aspects of this game are fun, but (mostly) do not require a great deal of skill. Flicking bullet disks at enemies on the map is usually a short-range affair, and although trick shots (banking, curves) are possible they are not required. The side board activities are fun and feature different difficulty levels that align with the difficulty level you have chosen to play.

Figuring out when/how to move the the Tangos and handle their attacks is a little confusing at first, but after a few plays it becomes smooth and the turn summary on the back of the rulebook tells you at a glance what to do next. There are a few misprints on the boards that affect positioning and movement a little (more on that later), and you can also run into weird fringe cases that are not specifically addressed in the rulebook. A quick spin through some of the threads on the forums here on BGG will illustrate some of the issues and questions different players have had, and you might be able to find answers and examples to help you through gray areas.





There is player elimination in the game, and it is possible for one or more players to get knocked out quite a while before the mission ends. This is not exactly fun, but the rules suggest eliminated players take control of running the Tangos, which is a good idea to keep them in the game.

As already mentioned, you can play this game either as a progressive non-linear campaign, or just play the 17 scenarios individually. I would recommend campaign play for maximum immersion; your SEALs can get promoted to higher ranks as they accomplish missions (with access to better equipment), and winning or losing a scenario determines which one you play next. There is a little bit of a narrative that develops with the briefing notes that you read before each scenario, but it is not integral to gameplay; if you play the scenarios singly at first and later decide to try campaign mode, you will still be able to enjoy it.

Finally, with the random set-up elements in the game, your mileage will vary on how difficult the win conditions are. I had a particular scenario that I was having trouble beating, so I replayed it a bunch of times; on one occasion, the hostage I was supposed to rescue turned up in the room adjacent to the starting area. The SEALs went in without being seen, rescued the hostage and got back out without anyone ever firing a shot.
The game was over in just three or four rounds, when a previous game had taken about the same amount of time or slightly more and ended in complete and disastrous failure. Neither of these two outcomes is very fun, honestly—whether I’m going to win or lose, I want to have the game play out over a longer period, and not end right after it starts. But several of my other plays of the same scenario resulted in longer and more fun gameplay, with tight moments and heroic actions.


Production Quality





The production quality is mostly good. The map boards are sturdy, but exhibit a slight tendency to bow (which probably is not going to effect gameplay much). In my copy of the game not all of the walls were exactly the same height, which bothers me a little but also does not effect gameplay. The movement squares feel like they need to be a hair bigger in places or the pieces a hair smaller; when trying to put standees next to walls,/doors/corners or map items, they don’t always fit the best and end up overlapping other squares or pushing things out of the way a bit.

The wooden pieces are good, the standees are good, the cards are decent (mine have a mildly annoying bend or warp to them that I can’t seem to straighten) and the player boards are good. The various cardboard tokens are mostly good quality and well printed, although a few of the objective tokens in my copy have slight indentations on the backs, which would make it possible to tell some of them apart when they are face down if you are really paying attention. The artwork throughout the whole game fits the theme well, being somewhat realistic without getting too stark.

Note that there is quite a bit of one-time assembly that needs to occur before the game can be played. This can be kind of fun in its own right; there are diagrams that show you how to set up the maps and it’s all pretty straightforward. You might want to use rubber cement or something to secure some of the smaller wall sections, and you also might need to do a touch of trimming on a few pieces to make things fit, such as the spaces where the door tokens are supposed to slot in. Definitely check the door fit before gluing anything down, though.





There are three quality (or perhaps quality control) issues that need to be noted. First, there are supposed to be markings on the boards to indicate sentry placement during setup, but these did not actually get printed in production. There is an errata sheet available here that helps with this issue. There is also at least one instance where attack arrows (things that help determine where standees can see around corners and doors) did not get printed. These misprints are regrettable, but do not break the game.

The second thing is that while the game comes with a nice insert, you won’t be able to use it and still close the lid on the box. The problem is the maps, which were supposed to fit in the box even when fully assembled, but don’t. I have seen some talk on the forums that individuals were able to get things to fit by trimming the insert, but there was no way that it was going to work in my copy. Sadly, I had to ditch the insert to get the lid to close flush. Again, this does not affect gameplay, but it’s definitely a downer.

Thirdly, there is the rulebook. While it is generally adequate for the purpose and contains illustrated examples, there are some key spots that are unclear or areas with missing bits of text, plus a few seeming contradictions. There is also a lack of guidance for certain oddball situations that can occur in the game, making it necessary to hit up the internet for clarification. There is an official errata thread here that you will will definitely want to look through for important rules clarifications.





What I Like and Don’t Like

I like the campaign system that comes with the game. Rather than pushing you through a string of scenarios regardless of your outcome, this game has a simple system for dictating the next scenario you need to play based on whether you won, lost, or partially won the previous scenario. But the system is flexible enough to allow you to play each scenario singly, if you so desire.

I like the integration of dexterity into the combat system of the game. This is not by any means the first game to do such a thing (Flick ‘em Up is a popular alternate example), but I do feel it works particularly well here and ups the realism a notch. The legality of trick shots damages this realism a bit for me, even if I am not good enough to make them myself. Still, the fact that hitting an opponent takes real physical skill as opposed to a lucky die roll sets this game apart in my eyes as good example of blending dexterity in with other game mechanics.

I also like the replay value. On top of a solid number of scenarios, there is the random setup that makes each game different as well as a variety of equipment and weapons options to explore.





The things I do not like so much I have mentioned already in other parts of the review: wasted insert, some cloudy spots in the rules, and issues with the game boards. I think this game is a keeper, but it does feel like it needed to spend a bit more time getting polished and proofed before it was released. It feels unfinished, as if it didn’t quite get it’s clothes on properly before heading out the door to meet the wide world. I get that misprints happen and there are some things that are beyond a publisher’s control, but this game had a few too many quality control issues to just give it a shrug.

Conclusion
Seal Team Flix is a good game with a ton of replay value. The mistakes, misprints and useless insert are disappointing, but not enough to detract from the fun factor of gameplay. It definitely has a place on my shelf.
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Ze SoloGamer
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Nice review and thanks because I was not aware of the errata on the sentry position.

I've played it only once for now so I just thought there were no sentries on my map as it was the first scenario... whistle

It's indeed a pity that it is not present... But the game is good fortunately so I can accept that.
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Thanks for the review. It’s worth noting that it did get thoroughly proofed but the wrong files got sent to the printer, hence the misprints and some things that weren’t clear.
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Christopher
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I actually like not having the sentry positions printed on the board. Setup is done consulting the map in the book anyway, and it's obvious which sentries have moved and which haven't based on whether or not they've taken cover. Not having them on the board streamlines the board a tiny bit and also frees up the designers to move the sentry positions around in future expansion missions.
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Matt Crawford
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Very good and thoughtful review! Good balance between description and opinion.

You really nailed the part about the extreme swings in difficulty because of the random set up:

Quote:
Finally, with the random set-up elements in the game, your mileage will vary on how difficult the win conditions are. I had a particular scenario that I was having trouble beating, so I replayed it a bunch of times; on one occasion, the hostage I was supposed to rescue turned up in the room adjacent to the starting area. The SEALs went in without being seen, rescued the hostage and got back out without anyone ever firing a shot The game was over in just three or four rounds, when a previous game had taken about the same amount of time or slightly more and ended in complete and disastrous failure. Neither of these two outcomes is very fun, honestly—whether I’m going to win or lose, I want to have the game play out over a longer period, and not end right after it starts. But several of my other plays of the same scenario resulted in longer and more fun gameplay, with tight moments and heroic actions.


That's the part that makes me not want to pull it off the shelf. Particularly for me, I'll often get into a situation with the Tangos that I see no way out of. Unless I hit a miracle trick shot and take out two or three in one action... Because very often you are in a situation where you can kill a Tango, but that will just make things worse as more get drawn in. And that is not an enjoyable game situation to play.

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The trick is to not get yourself into those situations
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