Thursday, January 26, 2017

What the flock?


In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that 4theBirds! was designed by a good friend of mine.

4theBirds is an abstract game similar to Pente or Connect Four, in which players attempt to place their pieces on the board in a specific pattern, either four in a row or in a square. There are, of course, numerous catches: not all of the spaces are connected to each other, players can displace some (but not all) of their opponent's pieces, and there are non-player pieces that can be added to the board, affecting player pieces in various ways.

The game's theme is a simple one of various birds jockeying for position in a tree. The tree is represented by the game board, a somewhat dizzying grid of numbered spaces, some connected by "branches" and others not. Each turn, a player rolls two dice to determine his choice of  two different spaces into which he may place one of his birds. Once he's rolled, he can choose to either place a bird on the board, or play one of six cards that do things such as move other birds around, place new non-player birds (Hawks and Crows), or re-roll the dice.

The game establishes a "pecking order" which allows each player to displace the birds of the player to his left, which makes for some interesting choices as players attempt to get their four birds in a row while at the same time pushing other birds out of the way and disrupting the other players' bird placements.

The aforementioned Hawks and Crows add a bit more chaos to the mix: the Hawks play on certain spots in between regular spaces, and cause all the nearby birds to scatter to other spaces, which in turn can cause further displacement. Crows play on regular spaces but are at the top of the pecking order, so they can displace all the player birds and get in the way of further placements. All it takes is a well placed Hawk or Crow and suddenly your careful plan is scattered like, well, like a bunch of birds.

It's a very simple game, but fun, with just the right amount of strategy set off by random chaos. And the colorful graphic design is a joy to look at.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) A little too simple for us to want to play all that often, but great for when we want a lighter, shorter game to play.

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