Maybe it’s because of a recent discussion the Gameosity crew had regarding 80s era board games, or maybe it’s just because I can’t help comparing things to other things, but 4 the Birds – from designer Steve Ewoldt and publisher Breaking Games (Game of 49, Letter Tycoon), with some great artwork by Ben Crenshaw – is a lot like Connect Four mashed-up with Chess.
It’s nowhere near as complicated as that sounds, which is kind of disappointing truth be told, since, with such top-notch components, we were hoping for just a little more meat on these birds.
What we have here is an abstract gateway game.
Each of the two to six players in 4 the Birds has their own tiny flock of six birds. In order to win they have to get four of those birds arranged either in a straight line or in a 2×2 square, so long as those spaces are connected by tree branches (i.e. lines on the board), hence the Connect Four connection. The added wrinkles are where the Chess comparison comes in.
Unlike that previously mentioned weird game of vertical Checkers, it’s possible to move your pieces (i.e. birds) around on subsequent turns. This can be done purposely by playing a card on your turn instead of placing a bird. Everybody has their own hand of matching cards, so nobody has an overall better hand, but playing certain cards at certain times can definitely cause a big swing.
Diana: It seemed like getting all the birds on the board is the best way to start; then you can focus on shuffling them all around and lining them up.
Rob: I noticed that, too. Having to rely on dice to place your birds means you can’t rely on chance too much, but once they’re on the board it’s much easier to manipulate them.
Other semi-x factors include Crows and Hawks, which will also displace everyone’s birds. Sometimes this can be irritating, but it can also be beneficial if you have your birds lined up properly. It’s even a suggested tactic to intentionally place a bird in a space near a hawk so that you can slide it to an adjacent space instead. And, of course, you can use a couple of different cards to manipulate Crows and Hawks to your advantage or someone else’s disadvantage.
Rob: It’s not a bad game, and the artwork for the birds is great – kind of a highly stylized children’s book illustration approach, I think. The problem I have with it is it’s too simple.
Diana: Yeah, it’s definitely simple. I could see it being a really great family game, but it’s not very exciting when you’re used to stuff like Elder Sign or Pandemic.
What’s here is a perfectly serviceable gateway game, and will likely even be a lot of fun for young players or those who are just starting to dip a toe into the deeper waters of the board gaming pool after ditching their Parker Bros. and Milton Bradley swimmies. It’s just not particularly captivating when you’re already used to hanging out in the deep end.
Diana: Overuse swimming pool metaphors much?
Rob: I suppose I was treading water a bit at the end there.
Andrew: *death stare*