Rolling dice and relying on the fickleness of the fates is not a core game mechanic appreciated by all, myself perhaps being a candidate for president of the ‘anti-dice’ lobby.
My better half on the other hand rather enjoys tossing a handful of cubes when at the game table, so I’m not averse to a few dicey games in exchange for a chance to play Line of Action, checkers, or some other game that is sans luck.
So in an attempt to be fair, I keep my eyes open for dicey games, and was pleased to come across Flock from designer Chase Estep recently.
Flock is a print and play offering that is too simple a construction not to give a whirl if you like dice-driven games.
The print part of Flock is nine cards, which all have rather lovely birds in full colour, so the game looks very nice. Print, cut and sleeve and you are half way to playing.
The next step in a handful of dice, four each of red, black and green are recommended although the colours can be substituted.
The game also suggests dice to track the score, but a pen and paper work fine.
The rules are straight forward, toss the dice to start the game. Then players take turns taking a card and adjusting the dice pool as stated on the top half of the card.
On the bottom half are how you can score, for example plus one point for every green die showing a 3, 4, 5.
The game plays over four rounds, with players scoring for their cards in play each round.
The key here is manipulating the dive to your best advantage, or to block the opponent scoring. It’s quick, straight forward, and as dice games go, fun.
For Estep designing Flock was almost a natural thing to do given his interest in PnP gaming.
“I've always liked the idea of PnPs but there was always the restriction of having to print out pages and pages of components,” he admitted. “It was only when I recently discovered micro-games that PnP game became more accessible to me. This was then reinforced during our shelter-in-place order.”
In the case of Flock it was a game designed with an ulterior motive, earning a bit of recognition.
Flock was originally created for the 9-Card PnP Design Contest on BoardGame Geek.
“The original idea came from an idea I had to create a Dudes-on-a-Map style game with action selection similar to a hybrid of Concordia and Puerto Rico,” said Estep.
“After some early playtesting, that design ended up not working but I liked the two-part cards I had created. Those cards transitioned to have an action on top and a scoring method on the bottom for Flock.
“Once I had the cards, I needed a simple component that people could manipulate and colored dice seemed to be the best answer.”
But why birds?
“Since I was designing this game for a contest, I wanted to make sure it looked good,” said Estep. “Unfortunately, I'm not a great artist. Because this is a lighter game and I wanted it to be more of a family game, I looked for public domain images that would lend to that. Eventually, I was able to find this great artwork from the Biodiversity Heritage Library and worked that theme into the game by having the birds looking for certain berries (the dice).”
On top of good looks Estep wanted simplicity of play.
“My main goal was to create a game that anyone could play but where having a good strategy would result in a better chance of winning,” he said. “My secondary goal is always to create a game that my wife will enjoy playing and she does like this one.”
All that said Flock came together rather quickly.
“Initially, the nine-card version took just two-three days to design and then another two-three days to refine once other play-testers identified overpowered cards,” said Estep.
“After that, I decided to continue developing the game outside of the contest which resulted in more bird cards, hidden end-of-game scoring conditions, and personal player powers. That process took just a few hours as I had the ideas during the original design but had no way of implementing them with the restrictions of the contest.
“That being said, I am still working on additional cards to add more re-playability to the game.”
The toughest part of the design process was maintaining balance within the game.
“The most difficult aspect of designing this game is making sure the scoring for all the birds is balanced,” said Estep. “I don't want one card to be an instant game-winner if it's drafted in the first round and I also don't want every card to score the same amount of points each game.”
Estep likes that the game creates tough decisions.
“I think the best element of the game is the tension that exists between choosing to draft a card that lets you alter dice that helps you right now versus drafting a card that can set you up for big points in a later round,” he said.
Estep also noted Flock will remain as a free PnP game so that people can have an activity that is easy to print, teach, and play, with files found on BGG.