Flick em Up or Cool Penguins – Dexterity Games

flick em up photoAs you look through your holiday lists, don’t forget to include a good boardgame or two. Aside from eating together (also highly encouraged,) there are very few activities requiring people to interact face to face. Not everyone is all that interested in a heavy thinking game, and there are a whole line of simple dexterity games that are great fun for all ages. The following is a list of what I call ‘flicking games,’ games that involve players flicking wooden (plastic in some cases) pieces around a playing area as the main objective. Some are straightforward while others require a bit more than just manual dexterity.


BrainGames_IceCool_boxIce Cool (Brain Games) – 2-4 players
The newest game on this list is Ice Cool by Brain Games, having been released just this past fall. Players take on the role of penguins at penguin school. One player is the hall monitor and the others are penguins who have snuck out of class and are roaming the school. Penguins playing hooky try to flick their piece through three different doorways, acquiring a scoring card for each one they enter. Meanwhile, the hall monitor tries to tag each of the other penguins and steal their hall pass. The round ends when all players are caught or one player manages to pass through all three doorways. At the end of the round, players gain an additional scoring card for each hall pass they own. (One if you haven’t been tagged by the hall monitor while the hall monitor gets one for each person they tag – plus their own.) The board is reset and another round starts with a new hall monitor. The game is played until all players have had a chance to be hall monitor.

ice cool box flicking


The most intriguing part of the game is how the game board is constructed out of nesting boxes which are then arranged into a large board held together by small fish-shaped clothes pins. It makes the game extremely portable (unlike many of the other games listed here.) I also enjoy the weeble-wobble style penguin pieces. Due to their bottom-heavy rounded bases they have some interesting options for one’s shots. Giving the penguin a bit of a side spin will get them to wobble in an arc and giving them a big kick to the head can even get them to launch completely over a wall (something I have yet to get any good at.) All in all, a great option for a dexterity game and kudos for it being so portable and (because it is mostly cardboard boxes) inexpensive.

ice cool box in box

flick em up plasticFlick em up (Z-Man Games / Pretzel Games) – 2-10 p
Flick em Up has been on the market for a few years and has been quite successful. Originally a game made with nice wooden pieces, there is now a less expensive (more mass market) version with plastic (but still pretty solid) pieces. The idea in the game is for players to face off between two teams, the light and the dark pieces, in a game of elimination.

On a player’s turn, they put down a disc at the location of their wooden “guy” and flick the disc around the board. One can flick a disc to move around the board or flick a smaller disk to “shoot” at an opponent. You can do one of those twice or do one of each. Don’t hit the nifty stand-up terrain if you’re “moving” or you won’t move at all. (Although if you are “in” a building you have a different option of “searching” for items which could be new weapons or dynamite, etc… If you are using the smaller disc to “shoot” at someone, you need to actually knock over their piece to damage/wound them – very thematic.




The “nifty terrain” includes buildings, cacti, barrels, etc… and act both as scenery and obstacles during play. The game doesn’t have to be simple team elimination. It comes with a scenario book containing other goals including taking out the opposing leader, perform a bank robbery, etc…)

In addition to the base game, there are two expansions: Stallion Canyon, and the recent Red Rock Tomahawk. While both contain the nice wooden style pieces of the original release, they are completely compatible with the new mass-market version. They include new pieces and new scenarios, including a few learning ones to slowly introduce the expansions’ new features.

As its name implies, Stallion Canyon introduces horses that you can flick to domesticate and then ride around the table. The canyon aspect comes in as there are two large canyon stand-ups that separate the game into two different areas. You can even use them to create an area between two entirely different tables! Oh, and the expansion also includes some much needed female cowboy figures to give players a choice of genders.

flilck em tomahawk box


In the new Red Rock Tomahawk, forests and Native Americans are added to the mix. They come complete with long arrow pieces which are shot from a little platform at the figure’s waist. The included tomahawk is launched from an upright position, giving it a nice arced flightpath. Both weapons introduce interesting techniques, as it is easier to knock over a figure if you hit it near its top. To counteract the advantage, it does take a bit of time to get used to the new launching techniques. The play elements introduced by the new stand-ups include the ability to “teleport” between forest figures or “climb” the mountain figure to launch attacks from on high.

While playable with up to 10 people, the game can really slow down with more than 5 or 6. A 10 player game would be fine as long as the objective was more social rather than game-focused. Players with better flicking technique will have an advantage, but since the game is often played in teams, this can be mitigated by pairing up the better and “less better” players. WIth a balance of technique and a bit of luck Flick em Up is great for grown-up play filled with smack talk or a (perhaps kinder) game for mixed ages.
crokinolebanner_smCrokinole – 2 or 4p
The oldest game of the group is Crokinole, popular in Canada and perhaps originating in the mid-1800s. Played on a round board of 3 concentric circles with an innermost spot (the size of a single disc) recessed and the inner circle is surrounded by wooden pegs. The game can be thought of as a small-sized mix of curling and shuffleboard. Players alternate shooting their discs onto the board until all discs (12 for each side) have been shot. Discs score according to their location in the rings. Discs score 20 pts for the center hole (discs falling in the hole are removed from the board so subsequent discs can fall in.) Discs in the inner circle (inside the pegs) score 15 pts, and the outer rings score 10 and 5 points respectively. At the end of each round, the player with the most points scores the difference between their score and their opponents (as in horseshoes or cornhole.) Games are played to 100 points, but I find this score system to be silly and always play with scores of 4,3,2, or 1 point and play games to 20.


Crokinole board


Both technique and strategy come into play. Similar to pool, players must only target specific discs (their opponents’.) Fail to touch an opponent piece and all of your pieces involved in the shot are removed from the game. Thus, players cannot simply aim for the center hole in each shot, and banking off an opponent’s disc is the required shot.

My favorite way to play is with partners. Each team sits across from each other and can shoot from anywhere on their (¼ of the board) outer edge. Players can shift around their chairs or the board, but have to lean. (There is even a “one butt cheek must be in contact” rule…) While a bit pricey (this kickstarter for $100 is as cheap as you’ll ever see a board) the boards are great wooden pieces that will last – many folks even hang them up on a game room wall (since they’re quite big but still look nice.) A great game for families (make up your own handicaps) and enjoyed by non-gamers and gamers alike.

71xOq9nfToL._SL1500_PitchCar (Ferti) – 2-8p
A bit expensive and a difficult to find, PitchCar (Carabande in Europe) is a fun little racing game where players flick their wooden “car” token around a wooden track with little red guardrails. The game is simple enough – players take turns shooting their discs along the track, losing their turn and going back to their previous spot if they ever go off the track. (Flipping one’s token over also causes one to lose a turn.) The game doesn’t have a lot of depth but is fun nonetheless. There are several expansions that add new track and new features so sometimes just setting up the track can be quite fun. I like getting it out for parties if I have a table to spare. People can walk up and play a round with almost no instructions.


catacombs boxCatacombs or Catacombs and Castles (Elzra Games)
Catacombs as well as its more mass-market targeted Catacombs and Castles takes the disc-flicking game and stirs it up with a fantasy setting. In Catacombs, one player plays the evil “overlord” of a dungeon, controlling all the nefarious creatures within. The other players control heroes with special powers that cooperate to brave successive waves of baddies and challenge the final boss. The game is played on sequential modular boards (in different orders depending on the scenario) with the good team fighting off that board’s bad guys (which can also vary independent of the boards) before moving on to the challenge of the next board. During the game the heroes have (very few) chances to heal themselves up as well as acquire new toys and powers (from the gold scavenged from defeated monsters of course!) It is a you-go, I-go type game where the heroes may move and fight in any order and then all the bad guys get to move in any order. Many of the hero’s special powers can only be used a limited number of times so additional strategic decisions need to be made as to when to use a power or when to save it for later, more difficult fights.


catacombs and castlesCatacombs and Castles (not yet out but its release is imminent) uses the same idea and rules but without the dungeon-exploration experience. Instead, it focuses on a pitched battle between two sides. However, all the pieces in Catacombs and Castles are compatible with the base Catacombs game (if you want, you could treat it as an expansion to the original game.)

In my first play I was quite surprised how much the dungeon exploration theme shone through the basic idea of flicking around little discs. The heroes have different abilities and powers so some are easier to play than others, which is a great tool for helping to even out a wider range of abilities. A dungeon exploration in its entirety is a bit long for a family weeknight, but since it is covered in episodic fashion (replacing boards as you go to a new “room”) it isn’t too hard to put away and pop back out again. As one might expect, the rules are more involved than other games on this list, but that cost provides a very satisfying and thematic evening of entertainment. I host a big day of boardgaming for my birthday each year and there is now a small group of people who come by just to play through a round of Catacombs.

If cards, dice, and sitting on your hands isn’t your thing, there are plenty of “active” games out there to play. By their very mechanics, most are quite forgiving for age and ability differences. These are some of my favorites and I highly recommend any of them that caught your eye. See below for a few (more obscure) games that have also entered my collection.





If dexterity games are your thing, feel free to search out some of these other (rather more obscure) “flicking” games out there: Tumblin Dice – players flick their dice down a stair step board and score based on the face-up pips multiplied by the value of the stairstep, Ascending Empire – flicking crossed with a space civilization building game, WeyKick – a soccer game where the players are controlled with magnets held under the wooden board, Micro Mutants – a tiddlywinks game of bug warfare, or Bisikle – an obscure bicycle race themed game where you flick a weighted marble around the track.

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