14 November 2018
Birds of a feather flock together in this brain-scratching set-collector
CuBirds mixes light puzzle solving and set collection, occupying players for a breezy 20 minutes, before letting them fly into the sunset to seek warmer climates. Players collect different species of birds, aiming to gather two flocks of the same three birds or seven different birds to win the game.
Undeniably, the most fun part of the game is interacting with the central tableau of birds laid out in the middle of the table. It is constantly changing as the result of players adding extra birds and taking some away. While each round is relatively fast, it encourages players to consider altering available cards and figure out what would be the best move to collect the birds they need, while also not letting the next player benefit too much from their decision.
The rules of the game are very nicely balanced to make players feel that they have done something worthwhile every turn, with the right proportion of strategy to luck to make every round just a little bit risky.
Playing birds from your hand into the central tableau is mandatory but players have a lot of choices of what and how to play, even with one major restriction: they always have to put down all cards of the same species they have in their hand.
Sometimes that makes the moves sweetly agonising to consider – to pick up an owl from the table, a player needs to surround it with the same type of bird already in the line, say, a seagull. The latter is a tricky bird to collect because it has a big flock, and needs at least six birds to score. So it may take players a while to get all the cards they need and might therefore make it not worth picking up. Whereas an owl, while a rarer card, needs a minimum of three birds to score. If a player already has two owls in hand, picking up that card could be really beneficial for this turn.
Here swoops in the delicious struggle of the game. The player needs to place all their three seagulls from their hand to collect an owl. What if the player after them is collecting seagulls and picks them up afterwards? Is it worth the risk to set the next player up to score, too? What if someone else picks up an owl instead?
So while CuBirds is really uncomplicated mechanically, strategically it gives players a bit to think about. At the same time, the decisions are not complicated enough to invoke analysis paralysis and hinder the flow of the game. For a short, light game, that is a perfect combination. Add to that quirky cubic artwork, and CuBirds makes a great little warm-up game ahead of a heavier longer one later in the night.
CuBirds may not occupy players for long or make a strong enough impression to inspire returning to again and again. But with its lightweight theme and simple, yet engaging core mechanics, it tickles the brain just enough to be entertaining with a side of a light challenge.
CuBirds takes full advantage of its short playtime to engage players in a fleeting game of bird collecting and flock gathering. Could be worth a quick flutter.
Designer: Stefan Alexander
Artist: Kristiaan der Nederlanden
Time: 20 minutes
This review originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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