Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Bird good, Squirrel bad:- Piepmatz

Game: Piepmatz

Publisher: Lookout Spiele

Designer:  Ben Pinchback, Matt Riddle

Year: 2018


Piepmatz is a 2-4 player card game and certainly the only interesting game about birds that has been released lately. In it you will play bird cards from your hand in order to best position birds along the queue at the birdfeeder. Playing big birds will likely help you claim the seed cards you want, while smaller birds might help you build up your flock and create breeding pairs. Along the way you'll want to make sure you attract large numbers of each breed to your garden to maximise your bird-watching enjoyment!

Each turn in Piepmatz you will play one of the 4 cards you currently have in your hand to either side of the bird feeder, adding it to the queue behind the front bird. You will then compare the sum of the numbers on all the queued birds with the number on the front bird. If the queue is the same or lower then you get to play a card directly from your hand into your tableau. Should the queue be higher then you take the seed card equal to the difference (if you were 1 higher take the first seed card etc) and take the bird at the front of the queue into your tableau. After this the largest numbered bird in the queue will move to the front, if the queue's sum is still higher than the number of the front bird then you can take additional seed cards, repeating the action until the front bird is no-longer exceeded by the queue.

The birdfeeder is constantly filled with seed, the birds all queue up to feed, though the biggest birds get to barge their way to the front.
Of course anyone who has ever put up a birdfeeder will know that it's not just the birds you want that feed there. Hidden in the seed deck are crows, which will scare off birds in your tableau and squirrels which will eat your seed. These unwanted guests latch onto seed cards and punish anyone who takes the card. But even if you avoid them for a long time you will soon find that more and more appear until taking them is a necessity. At the end of the game players are awarded points for breeding pairs (2 birds of the same suit and same number), seeds collected and then additionally score points for every bird they have in each suit that they have the most cards in.

Piepmatz might be a small card game, but don't discard the amount of strategy in the game. The 4 visible seed cards give you short term goals to aim for by placing the correct numbered bird in the right place. Should you want to take risks you can always place high numbers, a difference of 5 or more results in a random card, though it might be a crow! Careful play can set up combos where you get 2/3 seed cards in the same turn as well as adding a lot of birds to your collection. But you may be better off simply sniping the high value seeds and focusing your collection on just a couple of breeds. The more birds you have in a winning breed the more points you'll get after-all. There's a lot to consider even before you start dealing with your limited hand size of 4, restricting which numbers you can play at any one time. Even worse if you are holding onto a breeding pair hoping to play it you won't be able to play those birds without risking giving them to an opponent!

Adding a 2 to this side of the birdfeeder will result in a chain reaction, first the 3 will be exceeded by the queue of 5, then a 2 will move forward, being exceeded by the remaining queue of 3, giving you more seed and more birds!
Piepmatz does a great job of bringing tough, meaningful decisions to the table in a card game that is simple to learn. It can, however, be a little different to predict the outcome of your actions some times. For my first couple of games I struggled to see exactly when and how my combos would pan out which often resulted in me accidentally picking up squirrels or getting lower value seeds than I might have liked. Playing 2-player, like in many card games, results in a far more tactical experience as you have responsibility for 50% of the actions. Every bird placed not only grants you a reward, but potentially sets up your opponent. Keeping an eye on which birds they might want is important to staying on top. Overall Piepmatz has really impressed me, the gameplay is simple to learn but has enough depth to keep my coming back for more.

8/10


Piepmatz was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £10.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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