Here’s a scenario we’ve all been in. You have some friends over who aren’t initiated into the world of tabletop gaming, but they’re curious. So you pull out that tried and true copy of Catan to ease them into the hobby. Halfway through the game, though, they make that comment. You know the one. You’ve probably heard it now more times than you can count on both hands.
“This game is pretty fun! But I feel like it needs some giant birds.”
Remember how you paused the first time, not sure if you’d heard correctly? You’re probably chuckling right now to think that you were ever so fresh and new. Lately though, when people make that comment, you’ve just had to nod in helpless agreement and reply, “You’re right, it does need some giant birds. Huge ones. With little people riding on them. But what can we do?”
Well comrade, I have news for you. The gods have provided and our time of scarcity is at an end thanks to the Clash of Galliformes.
But these aren’t just any birds. For those of you not part of your local birding club, a galliform is specifically an order of ground-dwelling birds including quails, pheasants, chickens, and turkeys. And they are the stars of this 2 – 4 player game. Which is…weird? But I also like it?
At the outset, players construct a modular map using triangular board pieces and dotted with locations ripe for the taking. Each player begins the game with several bird tokens and a nest which serves as your home base. Each turn it will create resources and serve as a spawning point for more birds. But one base is definitely not enough.
Over the course of a game, players expand outward from their nests to try and claim other locations by building Outposts on them. Like a Nest, these Outposts produce resources each turn, but each Outpost only produces a specific resource. Diversifying is important because you can use these resources to upgrade just about everything: Birds, Nests, Outposts, Technologies.
Eventually, things will start to get crowded. When that happens, it’s good to remember that despite their frail, hollow bones and adorably soft plumage, birds are monsters. C’mon I mean, they’re just littler dinosaurs! Complete savages, the lot of them. Even chickens with their domesticated appeal will use that pointy beak of theirs to kill and eat just about anything that will fit in there. And the same goes for this game. Any time two players have a bird on the same location, there’s a fight. It’s a simple dice roll, but a number of factors go into it. How many Birds you have in the fight, what size they are, how many upgrades they have, and what special abilities you’ve earned will all factor in. Plus, each player starts the game with a set amount of Bonus Cards which will give a bonus to your roll. Before each roll, both players can choose a as many Bonus Cards as they’d like but do not have to show their total value to their opponent. Then, after everything has been added, the highest roll wins. If the fight is over an Outpost, it is destroyed for good. If it was your Nest, you simply move it to one of your Outposts. Assuming you’ve been adding them, that is.
Defeating an opponent lets you collect Number, Puzzle, and Technology tokens, all needed for ending the game. Each player has a 3 x 3 number pad on their play with the numbers 1 – 9. Once you have collected all 9 numbers (either through exploration, trading, or combat), you can then start to solve a Puzzle. Puzzles look like Neolithic cave paintings, and are made up of 3 sections that correspond in size to the 3 columns on your number pad. As you collect the pieces, you can place them on your player board’s number pad until you’ve completed the entire picture. Technology tokens just require a variable amount of resources to unlock them, at which point they too are placed on your player board. Once a player unlocks 2 Technologies and completes a Puzzle, the game is over. Players earn points for completing puzzles, having resources and tokens, and by retaining the coveted Golden Egg, a leader token of sorts that can be moved from player to player. Most points wins.
Despite a lot of familiar elements and mechanics, it really proves the importance of theme to distinguish a game. There are a lot of things here that I’ve done before, but never with an army of chickens. And even just saying that phrase makes me wish that it hadn’t taken me this long to do so.
by Zane Messina