I’m a big fan of the trend in board games towards new and original themes. Less games are being designed about trading goods or fighting war, and more games about planting flowers or collecting birds are making an impact on the hobby. There will always be traditionally themed games out there, but there have never been more options for gamers. That is why I was so excited to play Dust in the Wings, a beautifully produced game about butterflies flitting from flower to flower in a meadow. I so much wanted to like this game…
In Dust in the Wings, 2 to 4 players compete to move butterflies around to gain points for their arrangement. The Meadow board is a 5×5 grid with one to three flowers in each square. It’s seeded with one butterfly randomly placed on each flower. The butterflies are cute meeples in red, yellow, and blue. The Meadow board also has spaces for three Composition cards and three Gathering cards to be placed face up. This is how you’re going to score points.
The Gathering cards depict a number and the colours of butterflies that must be present on a square to claim them. The Composition cards refer to the Meadow itself, like a straight line of four squares with at least 21 total butterflies in them. Here’s the thing though, the Composition cards are worth a maximum of four points to complete and they’re much harder to accomplish. The Gathering cards may be worth up to six points, and you can pretty much do one of them on every turn.
In a sort of insect-like Five Tribes, players take all of the butterflies off one square and deposit them one at a time on adjoining squares. The last one they place can be scored for a Gathering card or part of a Composition card. All Composition cards have a fixed value to them, but Gathering cards have gems randomly placed on them. A black gem is worth one point and a white gem is worth two. If a card isn’t claimed on a player’s turn, another gem is added increasing its value.
The game ends when the last gem is taken from the bag. The next player takes their turn and then you calculate your points in gem and Composition cards.
So yeah, as I said, I really wanted to like this game. It is really pretty, the box is minimalist with a lot of white space which I love, but… there really isn’t that much game there. I could see situationally when you might have to take a Composition card, but that happened so rarely in the games I played. It was less challenging and more lucrative to just take Gathering cards. Visually it was a lot easier to look at the board and see how to make the right arrangement to score points, and because there are some many butterflies on the grid and the mancala like movement gives you a lot of flexibility, you don’t have to strain too hard to get the max points available.
Dust in the Wings just felt like there was something missing. I wanted there to be another layer to the decision making. Maybe event cards, or round powers, or secret objectives would’ve have helped, but as it is, I really didn’t feel compelled by the decisions. Don’t get me wrong, I like a simple game (which is obviously what the designers were going for), I just want the choices I make to feel impactful to the game.
Dust in the Wings is a beautiful package, but it might have needed a little more time in the cocoon.
A media copy of Dust in the Wings was provided by Board and Dice for this article.