08 February 2019
Sink or swim?
Oink, the boutique Japanese producer of big games in tiny boxes like A Fake Artist Goes to New York and Insider, has been ramping up production – Flotsam Fight is its fifth title of 2018.
From the back cover it sounds like a cousin of the company’s first big hit, Deep Sea Adventure, where once again you’re all treasure hunters battling to get the most out of a shared resource – in this case loading your precious treasures into lifeboats as your ship sinks.
What you actually get is a maths puzzle.
You need to load numbered treasure cards into one of eight lifeboats. You can only put a treasure in a boat if its number is a multiple of the boat’s number and it’s the highest-value card in the boat; and you can only use as many boats as there are players. So you can block a potentially popular boat by playing a high-value card early.
This creates a clever and dynamic system that gets bogged down in a fiddly win-condition: you have to play out all your cards in a very specific way. The primary tactic is to be the last player in each hand, so you’re one card ahead of your opponents. It’s fun enough but feels a little undercooked, and some ambiguously-worded rules don’t help.
The central problem is that it never feels like anything more than putting numbered cards on numbered counters. The best Oink games combine theme and gameplay with a delightful elegance, but despite its witty illustrations and high production values Flotsam Fight never gets its head far above the water.
Designer: Tomoyuki Maruta
Artist: Oink Games team
Time: 30 minutes
This review originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.