Designed By: Zakir Jafry
Art By: Lauren Helton
Published By: Renegade Game Studios
Player Count: 1-5
Time to Play: 45 Minutes
Like birds? Let me introduce you to a beautiful set collection game about birdwatching. In Birdwatcher players compete as wildlife photographers attempting to capture photos of various kinds of birds of paradise.
Each turn, players have a limited amount of action points they can spend to do things like call birds to your tree and take their pictures, run through the jungle to chase away birds, or publish a paper. As a fancy photographer, you can even use your zoom lens to capture a picture of a bird from another players tree. Players compete to score the most citation points by the end of the game.
The game can end one of two ways, first a player reaches the maximum number of pages in their photo journal, or the game can end when there are no cards remaining in the bird deck and a player needs to draw a card.
What's purr-ty cool:
I think it is important to note that Birdwatcher is an entirely different game from Wingspan. Though they are both bird themed, the games are completely different, so if you love birds and want to add some more awesome bird games to your collection, Birdwatcher is 100% worth checking out. (Also, it's art is so lovely!)
I absolutely love how to set collection mechanic combines with pushing your luck. In Birdwatcher sets are completed based on the order players add photos to their photo journals. This means that your have to prioritize what order to capture pictures of birds and publish papers. You only get 3 action points a turn (some actions cost 1 point and some cost 2), so you really have to think about what birds you want to try to call to your tree, or photograph at any given point in the game.
I also like how to collecting of cards works. When you call birds, all available birds of a single type will come to your tree, so if you plan well, you can call multiple birds at a single time instead of just one.
The zoom action, adds good player interaction because it allows you to essentially swipe a bird away from an opponents tree and exchange it with one of your own birds. This means that as a player, you have to think about which of your birds you care about most and prioritize getting their picture taken before your opponent has a chance to swipe them. Initially when I started playing Birdwatcher I did not really use this action, but a few games in I learned just how useful it could be. You can use it to complete your own sets, but maybe more importantly, you can use it to prevent an opponent from scoring big points from a set they have been working on.
Varied End Games:
I like when a games end can be triggered more than one way. I think it helps to move a game along and forces players to choose the most optimal move in the moment rather than playing the long game and stretching the game out until the perfect setup comes along. In Birdwatcher, players are competing against each other to fill their journals, the more full your journal is, the better odds you have at scoring more points. However, players are also kind of racing against the game. Once the bird deck runs out the game is going to end, so players need to try and optimize their moves sooner rather than later. If a player waits too long to make a move, they may wind up filling up less of their journal because the game ended before they found the exact card they wanted. As sets of cards are determined based on which cards they are next to in the journal, players need to decide whether to press their luck and wait a round for a specific bird they want for a set they are working on, or if they are better off scoring a small amount of points for that set, but getting more cards in play. I enjoyed the push your luck aspect combined with the timing. The deck runs out quicker than you initially think it will so each choice really needs to be intentional.
Birdwatcher has a very solid and challenging solo mode. The extra rules to learn to play Birdwatcher solo are minimal, so if you are familiar with the multi-player mode it will not take you long to pick it up. Solo mode also plays in a way that feels remarkably similar to multi-player mode. This is one of my favorite things that a solo mode can do. There is nothing that frustrates me more than when a game I enjoy says it has a solo mode and then I find out the solo mode is nothing like the multiplayer game that I enjoyed.
Birdwatcher has a real win/ loss system set up for solo mode so you compare your score with that of the AI to see if you got more points, just like your would if you were playing with other people. Birdwatcher has varying levels of complexity for the AI that you will play against so you can work your way through different levels of difficulty as you get familiar with the game. It is definitely worth noting, that the AI is a tough opponent. even on easy levels, you will need to be pretty strategic to beat them. But personally, I like a solo mode where I am not always going to win, so this is a plus for me.
Lastly, Birdwatcher also has a list of achievements that you can work toward unlocking if you accomplish them during a game that you win. I like the little extra challenge of trying to cross these off as you play!
The cat's meow:
"I think I would be really good at the run into the jungle action! I would love to chase some birds. Just look at my yelling at the birds face." - Solo the Spokescat
Disclosure: Pudgy Cat Games was provided a copy of this game in exchange for a review, however, this review reflects the honest thoughts of the author.