Birds of a Feather Game Review (prepublished version)

Please Take Note: This is a review of the final game, but it might change slightly based on the success of the Kickstarter campaign. The game is being reviewed on the components and the rules provided with the understanding that “what you see is not what you might get” when the game is published. If you like what you read and want to learn more, we encourage you to visit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign. Now that we have all that disclaimer junk out of the way, on with the review.


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The Basics:

  • For ages 8 and up (publisher suggests 14+)
  • For 2 to 7 players
  • Approximately 15 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Memorization & Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Venture forth into the field to find feathered friends

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek mixed!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Observing our feathered friends has been a pastime enjoyed for generations. It allows an individual to explore their backyard or surrounding wilderness to catch sight of birds both big and small. There are birdwatching books, clubs, websites, and now a game. Visit different locations, spot birds, and rack up the points. The player with the best birding instincts will win the day.

Birds of a Feather, designed by Teale Fristoe and to be published by Nothing Sacred Games, will reportedly be comprised of 60 Bird cards and 1 score pad. The provided rules make mention of an app for the tablet and smartphones that is meant to replace the score pad. However, we did not have access to this app and cannot comment further on it. Nor can I comment on the game component quality, as this is a review of the prepublished version of the game. The provided illustrations of the birds by Trevor Fristoe are excellent and is sure to please any bird enthusiast.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, take the 60 Bird cards, shuffle them, and then deal the cards to each player, face-down. The number of Bird cards dealt is based on the number of players in the game. For example, in a 2-player game, each player would be dealt 15 Bird cards and 2 dummy hands of 15 Bird cards each would also be dealt. In a 7 player game, each player would be dealt 8 Bird cards. Regardless of the number of players, a game will always have 4 hands in play, 1 or 2 of which might be a dummy hand.

Players should pick up and look at their hand, but keep it hidden from their opponents at all times.

That’s it for game set up. Give each player a score pad and a pen or a pencil to write with.

Birdwatching 101

Birds of a Feather is a set collecting card game that requires players to travel to different habitats and look for specific avian characteristics. As such, it’s very important that every player know the following before going on their first birdwatching excursion.

Players will be looking for birds in 5 different habitats. Think of these habitats as Bird card suits, but “only kind of sort of”. Within the game, habitats are used to organize and identify what Bird cards are available for scoring, but they do not identify what Bird cards are scored. The habitats are as follows:

  • Desert
  • Forest
  • Wetlands
  • Mountains
  • Ocean

Each habitat has 12 Bird cards that depict birds that live within that habitat. As a bird enthusiast, players are looking for specific birds that have specific characteristics so they can mark them down in their journal (i.e. score pad). In game terms, the characteristics (which are identified using Bird symbols) are used to determine how many points a player gets and to keep track of specific Bird cards in specific habitats that they have already scored. The characteristics don’t really describe the bird the Bird card illustrations represent, but they are very important to the game.

Each Bird card also lists the point value and the total number of that Bird symbol found in the habitat. These two pieces of information are very important, as they tell the player how rare the Bird card is and how many points it will cost them if they don’t score it.

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When you put it all together, each Bird card in the game has all the information a player needs to make decisions. In fact, the Bird cards read a bit like a field guide (designed by someone who loves games).

Binoculars at the Ready!

Birds of a Feather is played in rounds (referred to as “Trips”). Each round is organized into steps where the players take their turns simultaneously. The total number of rounds in a game depends on the hand size dealt during game set up. A typical round is summarized here.

Step 1: Select One Bird Card

The player can select any Bird card in their hand they like and play it face-down in front of them. If this is the first Bird card played, place the Bird card so it’s in front of the player. If this is the second and subsequent Bird card played, place it so it’s directly below the face-up Bird card previously played.

If playing with a dummy hand (only used in a 2 and 3-player game), draw the top-most Bird card and place it face-down.

Step 2: Reveal Bird Card

Each player now reveals their Bird card by flipping it over. This step is only taken once every player completes step 1 noted above. Any Bird cards drawn from the dummy hand are also revealed at this time.

Step 3: Score Bird Cards

Now comes the fun part. Each Bird card represents a habitat and a specific bird. The Bird card placed by the player represents the habitat they are currently located in. They automatically “spot” (score) the bird represented by their Bird card because it’s in the same habitat. The player also spots all the birds on the Bird cards owned by the player’s opponents who share the same habitat as the Bird card placed by the player.

Players now mark down every bird they spot that matches the habitat of the Bird card they just placed. For example, Player “A” would only mark down that they spotted the uncommon Phainopepla (which has beautiful plumage), but Player “A” does not spot the Long-Billed Curlew or the Black Oystercatcher, since these birds are not found in the “Desert” habitat. Player “B” and Player “C” spot both the Long-Billed Curlew and the Black Oystercatcher because both birds are found in the “Ocean” habitat. However, neither Player “B” or Player “C” can spot the Phainopepla played by Player “A”.

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Additionally, players spot birds in the previously placed Bird cards. During round 1, only the Bird card placed by the player provides a bird to spot. During round 2 and all subsequent rounds, the players spot birds using the Bird cards they just placed and the Bird cards previously placed.

Players record what birds they spot using the score pad. Each Bird card will display a Bird symbol. The player matches the Bird symbol on the Bird card and marks it as spotted on their score pad. Each Bird symbol can only be spotted once per habitat. This means that players will always, by default, spot at least 1 Bird symbol (the one on their Bird card), but they might not always spot a new Bird symbol to score.

For example, Player “B” would record on his score pad that he spotted the single-feather and double-feather Bird symbols for the “Ocean” habitat, as indicated by the red “X” marks. Since each Bird symbol can only be spotted once per habitat, the Player “B” has no need to continue to look for these Bird symbols in he “Ocean” habitat. He still needs to find them in the other habitats, however. The search continues!

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Step 4: Clear Bird Cards

If this is the first round of the game, the revealed Bird cards are pushed slightly to the middle of the playing area. Make sure they are still directly in front of the player who set them.

After the second and all subsequent rounds, the Bird cards played in the last round are discarded. The Bird cards played in this round are pushed slightly to the middle of the playing area and will be used by the players during the next round.

This completes a single round. A new round now begins starting with step 1 noted above.

Ending the Game and Scoring

The game ends when all the players only have 1 Bird card left in their hand. This Bird card is NOT played and cannot be used to spot Bird symbols. The last Bird card in the player’s hand is now discarded and each player’s score is calculated.

Just about every Bird symbol recorded as spotted will be worth points. Each star under the Bird Symbol is worth 1 point. Players score bonus points if they were able to spot all the Bird symbols in a habitat. The egg Bird symbol is worth no points, but is worth spotting because it’s necessary to get the bonus points. Each habitat is worth at total of 10 possible points.

After every player has calculated their scores for habitats and added all their habitat scores together to find their game total, the player with the highest game total wins!

Game Variants

If running around in the wild and finding birds isn’t exciting enough for you, Birds of a Feather has two game variants to change how the game is played. Each variant is summarized here.

Migration

This game variant allows players to pass a certain number of Bird cards to the opponent to their left before the first round of play. After the Bird cards have been dealt, players review their Bird cards. Then, based on the number of players in the game, they select those Bird cards they do not want and pass them face-down to the opponent to their left. They then take the Bird cards passed to them from the opponent on their right, adding them to their hand. The rest of the game is played as normal.

Raptors!

This game variant removes Bird cards. When a player places a raptor Bird symbol (looks like a bird’s talons), all the Bird cards that share the same habitat that were placed during the previous round are removed. This happens BEFORE players spot birds. Thematically, this is the equivalent of all the other birds taking flight because a predatory bird has arrived on the scene. However, only those Bird cards placed in the previous round are effected. All Bird cards placed in the current round, even if they share the same habitat as the predator, remain in play.

To learn more about Birds of a Feathervisit the game publisher’s website or visit the Kickstarter campaign.

Final Word

The Child Geeks really enjoyed themselves and talked often of other birds they had seen. In fact, a few walks were planned after the games to allow the Child Geeks a chance to do their own bird spotting in the real world. According to one Child Geek, “I thought this was going to be a teaching game, but it’s more than that. It’s fun to try to see all the birds.” Another Child Geek said, “I like it when you can spot a rare bird, but I hate it when I’m in the wrong habitat!” This came up a great deal and exasperated more than a few of the Child Geeks. But their frustration was not vented on the game. As one Child Geek put it, “You can’t help but beat yourself up a bit when you play the wrong habitat card.” True, but this is a very forgiving game. If the wrong habitat was played, the player can attempt to play the right one in the next round. Either way, birds will be spotted. When all the binoculars were put away and the birds recorded, the Child Geeks voted to approve Birds of a Feather.

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Two Child Geek birdwatchers quickly scan the table and record their progress

The Parent Geeks were actually a bit disappointed that the Bird cards didn’t show more education information. As one Parent Geek put it, “This game had an opportunity to list more facts about these birds. Are they endangered? What do they eat? How much do they weigh? I just think it’s a shame the cards don’t show more.” When I pointed out to the Parent Geek that none of the information they suggest be shown would be beneficial to the game, they acknowledged that their comment was based more on personal interest rather than on the game. Another Parent Geek said, “This is a unique set collecting game. I really like how we play off each others cards, which makes me pause and consider if I want to play a card later just for myself or risk playing it now and giving my opponents points.” An excellent question that plagued many of our players throughout our games. It feels very easy to give points to opponents, but in doing so, you earn points yourself. It’s a conundrum. What wasn’t difficult to answer was the value of the game. All the Parent Geeks voted to approve Birds of a Feather.

The Gamer Geeks liked the uniqueness of the game play, but found the method of spotting birds to be flawed. According to one Gamer Geek, “This game has some fun ideas, but I don’t like that everyone sees everything if they are in the same habitat. This means players are scoring off players, which essentially means no one is scoring to get ahead. This leads me to believe that the only way to win is to mix both single habitats and big scoring habitats. But I don’t think the game wants you to do this.” Difficult to say, as players are welcome to score off each other or just their own Bird card, but all players only have so many opportunities to score points. This actually pleased a number of the Gamer Geeks. One enthusiastic Gamer Geek said, “I like this game. It’s fast, easy to learn, and requires a lot of critical thinking. It also helps if you can keep track of what cards have been played and for what habitat. Then you can risk less and maximize points more.” When all the votes were in, the Gamer Geeks were mixed when it came time to endorse the game. About half really liked the game, finding it to be fun and worth their time as a light filler. The other half found the game interesting, but not enough to get excited about it, finding it either to be too easy or too light.

The provided rules make a big deal out of an app that is intended to replace the score pads. That’s nice, but there is nothing wrong with the score pad. In fact, I found the score pads to be very helpful. Each Bird card lists its value and number in the deck (rarity), but tells you nothing else. The score pad, on the other hand, tells you about every Bird card in the game. This makes it an invaluable resource for quick reference and for those who are attempting to count Bird cards. While I’m sure the app will work brilliantly, I would stick with the score pad and a pencil.

I know. I’m so old school.

This is an entertaining Bird card game. It’s fast to play and it’s easy to stay engaged in the game play. You are always attempting to profit off your opponents, but they will profit off you, too. This forces a player to do some critical thinking when it comes time to decide what Bird cards to play. Do they play a Bird card that already matches existing habitats from the last round or do they gamble and play a Bird card that represents a habitat not yet played? The only risk the player takes is spotting a bird that doesn’t award them any points at the end of the game or not enough. Since you only benefit from spotting each Bird symbol once, doubling and tripling up does nothing for the player, but it could also means that there is no benefit to the opponent. These are just a few of the questions players will ask themselves while they play the game. All of which are not easy to answer, but never once did any of our players feel like the game was too much for them. The end result is a game that the majority of our players really enjoyed.

If you are a birdwatching and card game enthusiast, this game is sure to please. Even if you don’t think much about birds other than around Thanksgiving, I believe you’ll find Birds of a Feather to be an entertaining experience. If the game sounds like fun to you, do make the time to try it. I guarantee that Birds of a Feather won’t ruffle yours.

This is a paid for review of the game’s final prototype. Although our time and focus was financially compensated, our words are our own. We’d need at least 10 million dollars before we started saying what other people wanted. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek which cannot be bought except by those who own their own private islands and small countries.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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2 Responses to Birds of a Feather Game Review (prepublished version)

  1. Very nice review of a very nice little game! It seems as though our experiences with this game for all gamer types is nearly identical! This game has certainly got my tiny table toppers excited about looking for birds along our walks. Whenever a game is able to kindle an interest or spark enthusiasm about our real-life surroundings it becomes a winner in my books!

    My extended (non gamer) family adored this game and has prompted me to buy multiple copies as gifts.

    Have a wonderful day!

    • Cyrus says:

      Very pleased to hear of the positive and enthusiastic experience the game brought to your gaming table, David! Thanks for taking the time to read the review and leave a comment.

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