Birds of a Feather is a set collection game about birdwatching. Yes, that is the least engaging sentence that I could possibly start this review with. The game immediately doesn’t sound all that different from a million other set collection games, and there’s a chance you haven’t even made it to this sentence because you already started looking for something else. If you’re still here, thanks. I ask that you give me a little more time to explain this game to you and let you know why this game is probably better than you think.
As I was saying, Birds of a Feather is a set collection game about birdwatching. Each player is given a checklist of the different birds available in the game, which basically serves as your score sheet. The checklist is divided up into types of birds and the different environments in which they live in. All or most of the cards are distributed to the players (depending on how many people are playing), and you all pick a card from your hand and place it face down in front of you. Once everybody has chosen a card, you simultaneously flip the cards over, and begin your bird watching.
GOTTA SEE ‘EM ALL!
You don’t physically collect cards (or birds) in this game. Rather, you ‘see’ them. On your score sheet, you will mark down that you have seen the bird that you have played, but also any other birds that were played in the environment of your bird. So if you played a desert card, and two other players played desert cards, you will get to see up to three birds. Once you’ve marked everything down, you move to the next set of cards and the same rule applies. But not only will you see the birds from the current hand, but also those found in your environment from the previous hand. Play continues this way until each player has one card left, at which point the game is over. Whoever has received the most points from their birdwatching adventures wins!
The rules are simple, and that little twist of seeing the previous round’s birds takes this game from being pure luck to being somewhat strategic. You won’t usually have two or three cards from each environment, so you’ll need to rely on others to see all the birds in each place. Thus, if you see a few desert cards on a turn, perhaps you’ll be wanting to play a desert card on the next turn to pick up all of those turns. As the game wraps up, the tables might turn and you’re wanting to play one of the rarer cards when you think no one else is going to your same environment. It’s not going to leave you feeling like a genius, but it’s enough to keep things interesting.
We Flock Together
The game does a very good job of scaling for larger groups. Given the way the cards divide out, there will sometimes be rounds where some of the birds never show up, which can mess with some of your plans. With more people you have a smaller hand, which means you have to be more careful about when you play cards, given that you might have just one or two from a particular environment. Unfortunately, sometimes you end up with no cards from a particular environment, so you have no chance of ever scoring anything in that row. This is my biggest issue with the game, as it can often mean that you’re going to lose from the start. However, the game ends up usually balancing itself out, and the games are so short that you’ll probably be dealt a better hand when you play again in just a few minutes.
And you probably will play again in just a few minutes. You see, the major reason why I wanted to bring this game to your attention is that it seems to have cast a spell on the people with whom I have played it. People always want to play the game again immediately. There seems to be this feeling that you’ve got it all figured out and will totally blow away the competition in the next game. With my family, we broke this out when a group of people were about to leave and wanted one last game. Four games later, they were struggling to say goodbye. I also taught this to some of my students at school, and now we play every week during one of their long breaks. When the game finishes up, they always want another round, even when they know they will be late to their next class.
Birds of a Feather is not a game changer or a must buy, but it’s a solid set collection game that plays very quickly and leaves you ready for another round. For many gaming groups, that means it’s a perfect fit. If that’s you, then maybe go out and get yourself a copy.
- Unique twist on set collection
- Scales well to 7 players
- Some games can be unwinnable
- Theme won’t appeal to all audiences