Tag Archives: solitaire

Birdie Fight

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.

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.

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

Shephy

Shephy (pronounced ‘Sheppie’judging by the reimplementation) is quite simply a modern classic.

Released in 2013 by veteran Japanese tabletop / RPG publishers Bouken – also charmingly known as Adventure Planning Service – it was both designed and illustrated by Pawn (ポーン). This light, surreal solitaire balances between whimsy and meaningful choices.

But Shephy isn’t going to drive you insane with agonizing dilemmas.

It’s a meditative exercise. Protect the herd when you can; sacrifice it when you must. I think I’m in love.

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Theme

It’s not often that quoting directly from the rulebook is a good way to convey theme. In this case it’s perfect:

Be fruitful. Multiply. Fill the earth.
Flourish in every part of the land and let the tread of golden hooves resound.
Let calamity be inspiration and have a plan for any purpose.

This poem continues for some time, sketching out a gentle yet fragile post-apocalyptic world. Sheep – the meekest of creatures – have inherited the earth, and are filled with hereditary urges to populate its vast, empty fields.

As both designer and illustrator, Pawn has complete control of this vision.

Every woolly fatality by lightning strike, falling rock or asteroid feels tragic. There’s just something touching about the noble ambitions of these sheep married with their plump, round, woefully impractical biology.

Mechanics

The game’s population is represented by 49 sheep cards of ascending value (1, 3, 10, 30, 100, 300, 1000 – seven of each). These are moved around seven play slots, representing the land available to grow and expand.

You’ll start with one sheep, and from there things can only improve, although that first expansion is never quite explained…

Manage your hand of event cards to guide this flock through the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Duplicate, subtract, divide and combine your furry citizens in a glorious march to outproduce the game’s timer – the black sheep.

Players win by reaching a population of at least 1000 by the end of three rounds.

Although it’s possible to lose in the first round (even the first hand), there’s usually a path to victory once you understand the different cards. The challenge then becomes beating your previous score.

Choose a card; do the thing. Simple.

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Components

There are no chips, counters or dice here – only cards on nice, premium stock.

But just look at those sheep! Each card has a unique illustration, from the weird acrobatics of population markers to the grim portents of the event cards (what exactly is a Shephion?).

It won’t be to everyone’s taste but clearly I’m a fan.

If there’s one complaint (I’m contractually obligated to have at least one) it’s that Shephy isn’t quite as portable as it feels like it should be. At 72 cards, it’s a fairly substantial deck, and won’t exactly fit in your back pocket.

This is probably the inspiration behind the previously mentioned reimplementation, which is the same game in miniature.

What do others think?

Shephy is rated 6.8 on BoardGameGeek and reviewers generally approve – although rarely with the same enthusiasm I feel.

If you are looking for a light, fast solo game, that won’t burn your brain, Shephy could be just what you baa-gained for.

David Harding

I play this game as a kind of restful, self-imposed exile from other min-maxing, heartier games that my group loves.

Michael C

If the idea of sitting alone on a tea break and indulging in some hot sheep on sheep action while defending your flock from all the worst bits of the bible does it for you, then I urge you to give this a try.

Mike B

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Conclusion

Shephy is a gateway game.

Don’t take that for the insult sometimes suggested. This is a gateway to solitaire play, a field I’ve previously associated with fiddly World War Two simulations and big boxes that you could – technically, if you really wanted to, we suppose – play on your own.

With Shephy, I’m finally able to game over my morning coffee. And doesn’t everyone deserve a moment of zen?

4.5 sheepskin rugs out of 5.

Number of players: 1

Playing time: 15 mins

Age: 12+

Country: Japan

By: Pawn

Price: 19.99€ at NiceGameShop