A lot of games make their way through the Sweet Lemon office; unfortunately, we can’t try them all.

However, the moment I saw Birdie Fight’s exquisite box art, I knew it had to be one of those lucky games we cracked open.

While the mechanics spring from designer ゆお (Yuo), the immediate star is illustrator ことり寧子 (Kotori Neiko). The pair have worked together on other projects and I’m a big fan of the results.

But is it more than just a charming theme?

That may depend on your tendency to analysis paralysis…

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Theme

Strap yourself in because this gets (moderately) quirky.

There is a place called “mysterious forest” in the depths of the mountain. This is a paradise for small birds. But these small birds don’t get along well!

The players are forest spirits secretly guiding their favored species to victory in the battle of the birds. Also: there’s an owl.

Okay, so there’s not much of a backstory, and this is essentially an abstract game – but the illustrations do carry a charming sense of place.

Because favored species are secret, motivations can seem mysterious and indirect as players delicately nudge the forest in different directions.

If this seems superficial or light… don’t be fooled.

Mechanics

Birds of the mysterious forest come in four species: blue, white, red and green. They’re also ranked in strength from 1-7, making a total of 28 cards.

Ten scoring chips of various values are randomly distributed to form the top and side of an invisible 5X5 grid. These chips represent spoils of war for the bird species that control those columns and rows at the end of the game.

  Birdie Fight

Each turn, players select a card from their hand and play it to the grid. The only exception is the vicious owl, which attacks and replaces a previous card, permanently altering the grid.

The overall visual effect is something like Sudoku, only far prettier.

Play continues until the hands have dwindled to a single card. This final bird determines which species each player scores, revealing and crystallizing motivations for the first time.

Points are carried into the second round, when a final winner is declared.

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Components

28 dainty little birds, each unique and each awash with loving detail, plus the coolest looking owl this side of Twin Peaks?

Yes sir, Birdie Fight sure is beautiful, but there’s a caveat.

Those point chips are horrible: faded colors, bubbled plastic wrap, and random industrial markings stretched across the flip sides.

Okay, they’re literally home made, and such quirks are common for indie games in Japan, but it’s such a shame when everything else is so polished. I mean, the strength values even subtly illustrate life cycles from youth to adulthood and nesting!

It doesn’t ruin the game by any means, but if you have anything else around the house to replace those chips, you’ll want to do it.

What do others think?

Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothin’.

I haven’t found a single English-language review.

Leave a comment below if you’ve tracked down something elsewhere, otherwise I’ll check periodically to add to this section.

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Conclusion

Let’s be clear: this is a very well designed game.

Birdie Fight takes about a minute to explain and 20 minutes to play. However, a lot of intricacy emerges from these simple rules.

  Tokyo Highway

Competitive players will quickly find their brains burning up, while for more casual players it’s a… more casual experience.

This makes Bird Fight a classic couple’s game. The cooperative mode in particular begs for repeated play over the coffee table, rules long-since internalized to the point you barely mention the game itself.

But – every now and then – that high score increases a little.

If only those chips were better!

3.5 red breasted robins out of 5.

Number of players: 1-4

Playing time: 20 mins

Age: 8+

Country: Japan

By: Kocchiya

Price: 24.99€ at NiceGameShop