Let’s get the physical observations out of the way first. The Starfinder Flip-Tiles: Space Station Starter Set comes with 42 double-sided map tiles, each 6” x 6” (which, of course, translates to 6×6 in terms of 5” movement squares). As one would expect from the name, they depict different 30’ x 30’ sections of space station.
The flip-tiles are rated to work with wet erase, dry erase, and even permanent markers (although I have to admit that I would probably have severe anxiety if I actually tried to write on them with a permanent marker). They’re thin, so they store well – the box can easily hold three times as many tiles, so you don’t have to worry about storage if you buy more flip-tiles. You can bend them so that one edge touches the next and they don’t crease (I tested). Combined with the laminate surface, that means they are relatively resistant to accidental damage. The thin construction does make them move around during play a bit more than you might like, but that seems unavoidable if any sort of non-interlocking tile system (and there are flip-mats for those who want a single fixed map).
Jason Engle does solid work on these flip-tiles as he usually does, although I will admit that it’s hard to feel inspired by lots of empty grey rooms and corridors. There are some details on some tiles – lifts, edges of the station, piles of cargo, a display of fluorescent flora stretching across multiple tiles – but it is mostly generic. It’s a necessary limitation, I think, of needing the station to be generic and extremely modular.
But then what does one do with flip-tiles? They’re a little more complicated to use than some other accessories. Some accessories, like Pathfinder/Starfinder Pawns, are flat-out improvements in the immersiveness of the experience. Others, like Condition Cards, are straightforward improvements in ease of play. At least to me, the decision on whether to use these accessories is essentially a financial one. Of course I want to use the Pawns instead of pennies or dice or random tokens – it’s just a question of whether it was worth it to splash out for the particular Pawn Box in question (of course, you could spend even more and get miniatures, which is another call that’s mostly a cost-benefit analysis). It’s similar with some flip-mats – if you’re running The Fall of Plaguestone, you can buy the Fall of Plaguestone Flip-Mat and voila! you’ve got exactly what you need with no extra effort.
The best use of flip-tiles, on the other hand, requires some effort. A no-effort option would be to create an essentially random space station, either for a planned encounter (if you aren’t worried about the nuances of the location) or if you weren’t expecting a particular fight to come up. The latter use doesn’t seem to come up a ton, and the first options seems lackluster – although I have to admit that one rarely has all of the time one wants to design the nuances of a planned adventure. I suppose you could randomly flip them to procedurally generate an endless space station to battle through, but that’s not really my sort of game. What I like the flip-tiles best for probably requires a little extra effort on the part of the GM – using the flip-tiles when planning an adventure. This takes more effort than just drawing a map out on grid paper. But when you’re done, you can make notes or take a picture of the tiles. Because all of the tiles have serial numbers on them (and dividers in the box to help sort and keep track of them) this allows you to quickly recreate the same layout, even if the tiles got jumbled later. Now, instead of needing to recite descriptions from your map, have the players draw a map, and then draw out parts of it themself when combat starts, the GM can simply start laying out the flip-tiles. PCs move further down the corridor? Lay out more flip tiles. No more having to decide between drawing everything out all at once or pausing in the middle of the combat to draw more on the grid map. Also, these will look way better than anything the GM is going to draw.
Now, if you know me, you know that I think extra effort on the part of the GM is a real cost (especially when I’m the GM). But for the GM that’s looking to make their own level designs and still have a nice appearance on the table (and at a much lower price point than 3D terrain), the flip-tiles will do quite nicely.
Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy.