Nothing Sacred Games
1 - 7 (that's right, up to seven people can play!)
Quick to learn
Fun to play
Some depth for serious players
Bird watching is a hobby that some people have, apparently. We’re too busy playing tabletop games over here for additional hobbies, so we’ll have to take their word on it. Fortunately, Birds of a Feather brings the two together in what we can only assume is a rigorous simulation of the passtime.
Birds of a Feather is something like a friendly trick-taking card game, where everyone can score off the same hand. It’s also a game of timing, misdirecting and baiting your opponents, and setting yourself up for big scoring opportunities on future plays.
The sixty card Birds of a Feather deck is split up into five habitats, analogous to the suits of a standard deck. Each habitat includes seven different birds of varying rarity. At the start of a game, the entire deck is dealt out (with two or three players dummy hands are used). Each turn, every player secretly selects a card to play, and then they are all revealed simultaneously. The habitat you just played determines where you, as a bird watcher, are conceptually standing this turn. As such, you may mark on your score pad any birds that are in that same habitat, played by you or by any other player this turn or (crucially) the previous turn. And marking a bird on your score pad doesn’t prevent anyone else from marking it as well.
So, if I play a desert card, such as the Black-throated Sparrow, I can score all the desert birds played this turn or last turn. I would mark my own Sparrow, but perhaps I would also see my opponent’s Prairie Falcon that they played in the desert last turn.
The interplay between this turn and the previous turn is what makes the game. You could lead with a valuable, rare bird, confident that next turn several opponents would rush to that habitat to spot it. As such, you could come to the same habitat again immediately to scoop up the birds they brought. Alternately, you could wait one more turn to come back to the same habitat to see the birds then, or give it a pass if your gambit didn’t work.
Scoring is simple. Most birds are worth one point. Each habitat includes a rare bird that is worth two points, and a common bird that is worth no points. But you score three extra points if you manage to spot every bird from one habitat, so you may want to turn out to see that common bird after all.
An optional rule (and the rulebook contains several interesting optional rules) allows the single raptor card from each habitat to discard all the birds from the same habitat that were played the previous turn. If you sit in one place for too long, you may get eaten! Lure your opponents in with the prospect of an albatross viewing, and then send your osprey to dash their hopes!
Birds of a Feather takes perhaps a minute to teach, and maybe ten minutes to play. Despite the simplicity of the rules, there’s plenty of depth here for grizzled old gamers, and enough beautiful bird art to engage even the flightiest casual player. The only real complaint about the game is the score pads. The game ships with 50 two-sided sheets, and they have a minor typo. The publisher offers downloadable replacement sheets, and has a scoring app (which we didn’t test). If your players don’t feel like downloading the app, though, everyone is going to want their own pen or pencil. Which is a pain.
Editor’s Note: My wife and I played this game as a two player and we both downloaded the scoring app. It is perfectly functional and does exactly what it is intended to do. The game designer knows score pads aren’t the most fun and suggests using the app in the rule book. If you plan on playing with the same group of people most of the time and/or have generally nice friends that don’t mind downloading things, using the app is really the only way to play (unless you are the type of person I keep hearing about that doesn’t like technology, in which case you’ll love the paper score pad). The paper score pad isn’t awful by any means. Plenty of games have score pads; it is what it is. But, the app is certainly handy, and it is free, so go get it already.
Like any good card game, there’s lots of replayability here. If the fun of emergent gameplay based on your opponent’s actions isn’t enough for you, there are some nice ideas for optional rules included.
Just what it needs to be: a quick read, with nice visual aids. As a bonus, several optional rules are included. The raptors rule is a must!
The cards are of a nice, glossy stock, with lots of beautiful bird art. The score pads are functional, despite the typo implying the wrong score for one bird type. The box and insert are amazingly well-crafted, if you don’t mind that you can’t include writing utensils and the insert at the same time.
A wonderful game for casual and hardcore players alike, this may be just the game to lure in that one family member who doesn’t game but does love birds. Have pencils handy.