Hello everyone and welcome to Boter Reviews Something, the recurring feature here on What’cha Reading where I take a game, maybe a movie or something, and… you know… review it. For this inaugural review: 4 The Birds. I’m Boter. Let’s review something.
A board game for… people? Who like board games?
This is gonna be tough. Most board games that I’ve played fall into one of two broad categories. There are the standard American family games like Sorry or Chutes and Ladders with a simple, linear progression, and the European games like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride with a wide open board and deep, nuanced strategy. And I find myself wondering where exactly I’d fit 4 The Birds, a new board game designed by Steve Ewoldt and published by Breaking Games.
The objective of the game is to take four of your six pawns – “birds” – to create a straight line or a square inside the game board – the “tree” – on various numbered spots. The rolling mechanic is interesting (rolling a 3 and a 4 lets you place a bird on spot 34 or 43) and the rules are very simple to get a grasp of. But as you continue play, the board fills up, and random effects from Crows and Hawks (being disruptive in the same fashion as the Robber in Settlers of Catan) add ever-deeper layers of strategy to the game. Soon there is a full board in front of you as you try to make your Flock of four birds while keeping everyone else from making theirs.
How It Plays
This endgame approaches fast. For ten to fifteen minutes we were just sort of dropping our birds willy-nilly, maybe trying to cluster them but more wondering how we’d start to get them together. Then, suddenly, two of us were one bird away from a Flock and another player was scrambling to disrupt us. Hawks broke apart flocks, Action Cards shuffled the birds around, and at the end of the day, with two others but a move away from completing the Flock, yours truly emerged victorious.
The game has an interesting method of scaling with the number of players. The board is labeled with numbers such that it roughly makes an X,Y axis numbered from 1 to 9, so the lower left spot is 11 while the upper right is 99. With two or three players, you use a set of dice that only allow use of the board up to 77, while 4-6 players use dice that unlock the entire board.
Four can be… a crowd?
Even with four players (as tested) the game gets very crowded. The art in the game is beautiful, with colors that aren’t exactly muted but aren’t vibrant either. It looks great, but unfortunately as the board gets more filled up it gets harder to read everyone’s situation at a glance. Martins (purple) got confused for Crows (grey/black) multiple times and it was in general hard to tell at a glance if someone was threatening to make a Flock.
Aside from slight differences in plumage, all birds have the same silhouette, with only Hawks being obviously different (at roughly twice the size as all other birds). I can’t imagine how much busier it’d seem with a full six players on the board. When I play in the future I might look at smaller plastic or colored glass tokens for readability – again, the bird tokens are great, but if you’re in less than ideal light it gets harder to actually play.
Still, at its core gameplay, 4 The Birds is a great game for the family that’s looking to get a little deeper into strategy board games. Someone in my group who’d never played a game more in-depth than Monopoly (which, yes, has strategy but is also linear and much more luck-based) praised the strategy level of the game and how much it made you think. Another commented that it was hectic, as he spent most of his time disrupting the rest of us. And we all agreed that it was fun.
A Note About The Rules
One thing I should note is that the copy of the game I got contained a single-sided sheet of the basic rules. I was later provided with a fuller set of rules, with an additional mechanic and clarification on some vague wording. Future editions will come with a physical copy of the full rule booklet, but if you find yourself with an early edition of the game, I’d make sure to contact Breaking Games about getting an electronic copy of the full set of rules.
UPDATE: I’ve confirmed that the copy I got is from the Kickstarter edition of the game. The second printing is expected in late summer and will include the full rule booklet, but the booklet will be available online before then for people with earlier editions of the game.
So maybe next time I’ll play in better lighting, or using different tiles, but there will definitely be a next time. I haven’t quite figured out how I’ll do a review/recommendation system for Boter Reviews Something but for now let’s say:
4 The Birds gets – 5 out of 6 Birds
Not quite up to its full potential because of readability but still more than enough for a Flock. Would recommend to families looking for something a bit deeper than normal as well as board game aficionados.
Wow, you guys, I got through that whole thing without making a bird pun. So glad I didn’t resort to such cheep tactics.
Find 4 The Birds at breakinggames.com/4-the-birds.