20 May 2021
A solid lightweight Euro
The first thing that strikes you about Papillon, a game of rival gardeners competing to attract butterflies to their flower patches, is just how ridiculously pretty it is. With its three-dimensional cardboard flowers and brightly coloured wooden butterfly tokens, its sumptuous visuals ensure that it makes an immediate impression on your table.
Good looks don’t mean much without solid gameplay to back them up, though, and Papillon is just that – solid. A beginner-friendly, Euro-style light strategy game, it manages to be quick, smooth and simple, even if it’s never particularly innovative, cobbling together tried-and-tested bits from previous releases rather than relying on anything especially new.
To win, you’ll aim to cultivate a beautiful garden and provide a better butterfly habitat than your rivals, laying down tiles to create conjoined beds of matching-coloured flowers. At the start of each round you’ll bid for turn order, paying caterpillar tokens for the right to go first. Often it makes sense to bid aggressively, gaining an advantage by acting before anyone else. But at other times you’ll want to hang back, collect extra tokens and put yourself in a stronger position for subsequent rounds.
From there, you’ll take turns drafting collections of garden tiles from the main central board, then placing them in carefully calculated configurations to form complete, sealed-off flower patches. It feels a little like everyone at the table is playing their own game of mini-Carcassonne as you fight to claim the most useful tiles, then find the most advantageous spots to lay them in your steadily growing garden.
Once you’ve completed some flower beds, you’ll be rewarded with wooden butterfly tokens, each attached to what looks like a tiny clothes peg. These let you clip them to the 3D flowers in the middle of the table, and at the end of the game each plant rewards players for the butterflies they’ve placed on them, with the highest number of points going to the player with the most insects on each one.
There are a handful of other ways to score some bonus points, but this straightforward setup is the cocoon from which Papillon emerges in all its delicate beauty. In truth, if you already have a decent-sized collection of lightweight Eurogames – Carcassonne, Alhambra, Kingdomino and their ilk – there’s not much new here to entice you. If you’re new to the hobby and looking for something with real visual flair, though, Papillon is an absolutely gorgeous addition to your shelf.
Papillon is a beautiful game with easy, accessible rules, and if you're looking for a visually appealing way to introduce friends to the hobby, it might be just what you're looking for. For more experienced gamers, though, it doesn't quite have the substance to stay interesting with repeat plays.
With its combination of personal tile-laying and competing for majority scoring, Papillon will appeal to fans of the classic palace-building Eurogame.
Designer: J.B. Howell
Publisher: Kolossal Games
Time: 30-45 minutes
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
- 94 Garden tiles
- 50 Caterpillar tokens
- 48 Butterflies
- 8 Garden gnome tokens
- 8 3D Flowers
- 8 Flower bonus tokens
- 4 Gardener meeples
- Double-sided draft board
- Tile bag
- Score pad
This article originally appeared in issue 47 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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