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Flick ‘Em Up – Game Mechanic Review of “Initiative”

Flick ‘Em Up has definitely caught the eye of many gamers that would normally never buy dexterity games.  As a father of two gamers in training, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a cowboy themed tabletop game that would have my girls thinking pragmatically and then executing plans physically.  Dexterity games offer that juxtaposition.  But I want to talk more about a specific mechanic in this post: Initiative.

Initiative in games normally determine one thing: who goes first.   Most of the time, going first is advantage.  Going first is recognized in many games as such an advantage that there is a bonus to players that are not acting first.  For example:

  • Magic the Gathering’s “Go first or Draw First”
  • Castles of Mad King’s point system bonus.  (many examples of this in point based games)
  • Codenames has the starting team needing to identify one additional agent.


Some games don’t address how important going first is causing game groups to have make up rules to counter how strong going first is.  When playing Dominion, my group has what we call “The Phantom Round” where everyone gets the same amount of turns.  If someone ends the game “early” through their Kingdom card purchase, the other players get one more turn enabling them to buy other victory point cards and even out the opportunity for everyone to win, regardless of the turn order.  (Still doesn’t completely even it out, but it gets closer.)

So…. back to Flick ‘Em Up.  Let’s check out the rules for Initiative from the rulebook:

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That “explained later” part says that if a cowboy kills another cowboy that has the initiative token, they get the token themselves, and will go first in each subsequent round.

Why is this significant?  Besides acting first, there are two things to note here:  This puts a huge target on a specific model in the game and also enables Pretzel games to create scenarios that will force you to protect your first turn advantage, or lose the game.

Huge Target – If you are an aggressive player, going first and rushing in will practically guarantee that each turn your character will get shot each turn and your opponent will have initiative themselves a few turns into the game.  You are forced to play smart to keep the advantage of playing first each round.  And if you play carefully….. you are not using your “act first” advantage to it’s full worth.  That’s some pretty good balance, put solely into the hands of the player.

Scenario Aid – Multiple Scenarios in Flick ‘Em Up have the person with initiative being the “leader” of the team.  They have rules around what happens if you lose this character which includes losing the game in Scenario 2.  When combined with being a Huge Target as I detailed above, it changes how you play for sure.

I’ve played a number of games of Flick ‘Em Up with my daughters and they absolutely love it.  I’m waiting for them to see the tricks I am trying to pull when I have initiative, working hard to hold onto my “act first” advantage, working it for all that it is worth.  I enjoy the internal struggle that I feel as I try to decide if letting 1/3 of my advantage slip away (by taking a bullet from leaving my character in place) to shoot twice to do maximum damage…..or if I should just shoot and move, getting my character with initiative to cover.

These tweaks on the concept of Initiative in Flick ‘Em Up provide a unique mechanic that fits perfectly into this thematic dexterity game, and I’m glad I picked it up.

David Gerrard

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