I've never held tabletop dexterity games in very high regard. Too often I find games that rely on some dexterous mechanic to rely too heavily on that particular element while simply tacking on a basic rules set to justify calling whatever action a game. Even the dexterity games that I enjoy are shallow affairs that are better suited to laughter and whimsy than tactics and strategy, so it was with a giant grain of salt that I went in to SEAL Team Flix.
This game is a campaign driven strategy game where players take on the role of elite SEAL Team operators who have to work together tactically to accomplish various, often difficult, missions. Most of the mechanics are familiar and fall right in line with other popular campaign based dungeon crawl games, but the biggest difference between those dice and card-driven games is the dexterity element that is called out right there in the game's title. Every time you fire your gun, and nearly every time you attempt to use a piece of equipment, unlock a door, or disarm a bomb you will be required to flick discs of various sizes. Unlike other dexterity games that often feel gimmicky, SEAL Team Flix incorporates disc-flicking in a way that not only makes sense but actually makes the game feel more thematic.
The story of SEAL Team Flix has you running various missions against an Eco-terrorist organization. There are only 3 types of baddies in the game, and their only real difference is how and when they move, but the tension doesn't really come from trying to outsmart the game's AI, nor from trying to exploit bad guy X's weakness to attack Y, rather it comes from how you move your team around the board, how you position yourselves to take your flicks/shots, and how you manage the noise your guns make when you fire.
The mission structures don't simply revolve around killing all of the baddies and making off with the treasure, although many are formulated that way (although the treasure is often replaced thematically with crucial documents, a hard drive with valuable info, etc) and going in guns blazing is almost always going to end in failure. This is all down to how sound is generated in the game, and how that sound effects enemy movement and enemy spawning. Ultimately, the more sound you make, the more aggressive the enemies are going to be, and the more likely it will be that more enemies will come running to get involved in the firefight.
The best example I can give of this is to simply tell a story of a mission that we played. Our team needed to infiltrate the enemy location, locate a high-value target, move adjacent to them to capture them, and then escort them out alive. As the mission began we slowly moved room to room clearing out tangos with silent knife kills. All was going well until we finally discovered the high-value target, who just so happened to be flanked by two baddies. With no way to get next to the target without making noise, we moved into a position where two SEALs could cover the hallway with the target and shoot the two thugs while a third made a mad dash to capture the target.
Our fourth teammate kept an eye on another room down the hall that had multiple enemies in it who we knew would come running as soon as we made our move. Once we were in position, we started shooting. And the noise started building. And the enemies started coming. We continued to shoot enemies from our covered positions, piling more and more noise into one small area of the board, which in turn brought more enemies running, and yet more enemy reinforcements, all making a B-line directly for our squad and the captive.
We started to run out of time and decided to make a mad dash for the exit when one enemy burst through the door between the SEAL escorting the target and the exit. We had one chance, and we put our faith in the hands of our sniper. He carefully lined up the shot, cocked his finger back and let fly....and managed to kill the target we were sent to capture instead of the bad guy. The table erupted. We were simultaneously devastated due to our failure and doubling over with laughter at the craziness of the scenario.
That one mission has managed to leave a lasting impression on myself and my gaming group, and the best part was that the campaign had a contingency for that outcome. We were able to continue playing, although we did miss out on some rewards, and that failure became part of our squad's story.
There are some hard-stops during the campaign, but often you are given multiple objectives and the next mission will be determined based on the outcome of the current game, and the difficulty is easy to adjust. There is also a perma-death rule built-in, so if you lose an experienced SEAL in action it can really hurt, especially as each SEAL gains more experience and starts to specialize. Those specializations also give you access to unique weapons and equipment, so it really pays to play a careful, tactical game.
A note on player count: SEAL Team Flix plays best with four SEALS. You can easily play with fewer than four players, and the game is quite easy to solo, but even though there are rules to play with fewer than four SEALS you really should go with four, regardless of how many players you actually have at the table.
A note on “chrome”: SEAL Team Flix has solid components. Nearly everything is well made, and I didn't notice any misprints or off-center tokens. The game does come with quite a few different boards that need to be assembled before you play. It took me about an hour to get all of the boards put together, and once they are built they stay that way, meaning the box doesn't quite sit flush, but because of the rather large size of the box anyway I didn't really find that to be a problem.
The bottom line:
All told, SEAL Team Flix is a riot, and the modern theme and flick-to-fire mechanics actually help set it apart in an incredibly crowded dungeon-crawl market. The designers did an excellent job of implementing the dexterity elements in a way that works in harmony with the other elements rather than feeling gimmicky. This is a tactical, challenging game that is compelling and tense, and the missions and campaign elements really help sell the overall experience. There are difficulty settings in case you wanted to play with younger players, but don't hesitate to bring this to the table with your hardcore gaming group, because it stands up to serious play.
Get this game if:
You like coop dungeon crawl games and want something a bit different from the norm.
You like a solid challenge.
You love dexterity games.
You've always wanted to try dexterity games but felt that they were too simplistic or gimmicky.
Avoid this game if:
You dislike campaign-driven games.
You prefer Euro-style games.
The copy of SEAL Team Flix used for this review was provided by the publisher.