Birds of a Feather flock together, no this is not a game based on the popular British comedy of the 90’s. 4 The birds is a game for 2-6 players that plays in around 30 minutes. Players will take control of a breed of bird and try to get birds to form a flock (more on this later).
Inside the Nest
The box is very striking and does look very appealing, with a sort of modern art look on a white background. Inside the box you get:
- A small rule book that is mainly text based.
- A fold out board with numbered places the birds can be placed.
- Six coloured bird species.
- Crow and Hawk standees that are not a player’s piece but affect the game in other ways (more on this later.
- Six decks of cards that act as special powers.
- Four dice.
So a relatively small box with a fair amount of content. Everything is of good quality and the bird standees come in two parts, but are easily put together, and the box has room for them to stay like this so no added wear will be seen over time.
Learn to Fly
The rules in 4 The Birds are so basic that I was put off by how it sounded like it would play and that lowered my expectations.
- Roll two dice.
- Place a bird or play a card.
So how can a game where you do two things on your turn keep you engaged for the 30 minutes playtime?
In simple turns it’s all about the crows, hawks and cards. The idea is to get a flock of birds to do this you must have four birds connected by branch lines, this can either be in a square or in a straight line. When I first read this part of the rules I thought it sounded a lot like connect four and in some respects, it is. However the way the cards let you manipulate the birds makes it a very tactical affair.
The Crows and Hawks add another level of tactical thinking and this is done by way of the dice. If you roll a crow or hawk symbol then one of these birds can be placed.
- Crows have ‘Pecking Order’ (more on this later) so can be placed on spots where other birds are making that bird slide down a branch.
- Hawks get placed on the red dots on the board and scare away any birds adjacent to that dot.
Pecking order, mentioned above, is a way to resolve multiple birds in one spot. For example, if you roll a number that is already occupied you cannot go there unless you have pecking order. You have pecking order over the player to you left, therefore you can place on spots occupied by them and you would cause them to slide down a branch and take the now empty spot.
What at first seemed a basic game soon ramps up to be a very tactical game with some deep strategies involved. Throw in some cut-throat play as you try to be the first to get a flock together and it becomes a very fun game with a simple rule set.
Final Thoughts on 4 The Birds
I had never heard of 4 The Birds until Breaking Games sent me this copy to review and normally in the board game world that can only mean two things:
- Hidden gem.
- Total rubbish.
My first impressions of how easy it was to learn led me to think it was just a basic game, but it’s one of those games the more you play the more you realise it has some depth to it. The turns are all quick meaning there is little downtime, the fact that the ‘Pecking order’ can influence multiple birds in later turns keep you engaged.
The game length depends on who you are playing it with as you can be quite competitive and use the crows/Hawks to hinder your opponents as well as the cards you have. The placement of the birds being dependent on dice rolls is obviously down to luck but combining this with the ‘Pecking Order’ and your cards abilities you really can alter the game in a controlled way.
4 The Birds is a new imagining of Connect Four in my opinion with the added mechanics that really fit the theme and this is a game I would happily play again.