What is it about birds that we, generally, love so much? Amateur ornithology is such a popular pastime, birds are remarkably popular as fashion motifs and in pop culture (I am particularly fond of False Knees and Effin’ Birds), and birdwatching has never been more popular! (Shout out to the Feminist Bird Club.) So, it’s obviously something that would translate into the realm of play. Angry Birds aside, there are a ton of games that have birds — and a lot of them are tabletop games! Here are my picks for some great bird games that I recommend hit your table.
Speaking of birdwatching, my first suggestion is Birds of a Feather. Not only do I delight in owning this game for the theme, but it’s also one of the more unique games in my collection. The deck of cards is dealt out among all players, and then round-by-round cards are played to the centre of the play space. Based on the birds ‘seen’ each round (you will see birds in the same environment as the one you’ve played), players will mark on their score sheet what traits they’ve seen in order to complete sets of birds in each of the environments by the end of the game. What I really enjoy is a couple of the aspects of card play – first, the previous round’s cards will stay visible in addition to the new cards, letting you predict a bit what environments might be best to birdwatch in. Secondly, if someone played a bird of prey out, all other cards from that environment from the previous round are ‘scared off’ so you won’t get to score them. It’s a terrific little game with lovely art – plus it can play from 1 – 7 players, which is quite the range.
Before we get any further, of course I’m including Wingspan on this list. This game is an incredible delight, from a real wildlife and nature enthusiast (designer Elizabeth Hargrave). Along with gorgeous art, all of the cards have a fact about the bird on the bottom. And if you know me, you know that is a winner in my book. Over the course of 4 rounds, players will be managing their hand of cards and their resources, in an attempt to populate various environments with birds from their hand. It’s a great mid-weight engine-building game and if you’d like to know more about what I think, my review is here. I’ve since gotten myself both the European and Oceanic bird expansion packs because.. Well, there’s no such thing as too many birds now, is there?
Now, what could make a game about birds better than simply adorable art and components? Tweeet makes me so happy! The previous games on my list do look lovely, but there’s something next level about Tweeet’s little food components and bird figures. Plus, there is a modular/shifting board! Players form teams – robins vs bluethroats – and are attempting to cross the landscape to reach their summer habitat. A bird will eat a type of food – a berry or a caterpillar, say – which will get them a certain distance across the board. They will need to take care to collect more food as they go, or fall short of their holiday destination. I managed to grab this unique game in a math trade – perhaps if you’re hankering to try, once we’re all back in the land of going to conventions, track me down. Early bird will catch the worm and a chance to marvel at the prettiness.
Getting down to more specifics for my last couple of recommendations. The first is 3-player only Eggs of Ostrich. I wrote up this game as a hidden gem a while back – and still so few people know of it! While the game itself is one of strategically playing cards to gather eggs, the card art features a wild array of ostriches in some pretty hilarious poses. Thematic? Well, they are lanky and strange so I’d say it’s pretty spot-on. If you enjoy a bit of card play, sussing out what your opponents might do, and the strange tension of hoping your bags won’t break with too many ostrich eggs, then this is the game for you!
My last top-notch bird game for you is Hey, That’s My Fish! The game that’s been around the longest of those I’ve mentioned. What is a fairly abstract game of piece movement and tile collection, was given a charming theme of moving penguins around ice floes to collect fish. I absolutely love how perfectly it works! Starting with an arrangement of fish tiles on the play space, players will then take turns moving their penguins in a straight line as far as they can go – they take their starting tile as fish points, and hopefully the tile they land on will be a lucrative start for the next round. As the game progresses, the ice becomes more and more precarious as fish are collected, leaving holes around which to try and navigate. After a while, penguins will end up abandoned on a tile and no longer be moved. Once that happens to all players, the game ends and the penguin who snagged the most fish wins. I have to say, I am really fond of the more recent printing that has lovely sculpted minis of penguins with flipper-fulls of fish and big grins on their beaks. This one is a classic I’m always down to play!
There we have it! I’ve spotted some great bird games for you. But let’s be real – there’s plenty to love about games with birds. And there are so many more than just my list! I’ve really enjoyed the card games Piepmatz and Songbirds, but haven’t played them quite enough to write about them at length. And before you ask, no, I haven’t played Chicken Caesar! I hear very good things, however. And last of all… I suppose we could also technically consider any game about dinosaurs to be also about birds, so let’s just chew on that one for a bit. I hope you’re able to take flight at the table with some of these titles!