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.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Dust in the Wings

Game: Dust in the Wings

Publisher: Board & Dice

Designer:  Dennis Kirps, Christian Kruchten, Jean-Claude Pellin

Year: 2019

Dust in the Wings was one of a glut of UK Games Expo releases from Board & Dice. Since acquiring NSKN games, they are bringing out more and more notable titles that are definitely making them a publisher to look out for.

Dust in the Wings is a mancala-style, abstract game for 2-4 players in which you are artfully arranging butterflies to take the perfect photograph. The game has fantastic production quality with three colours of wooden butterflies, each in corresponding unique shapes (helpful for colour blind players) and a colourful board which makes setup a breeze and has enough visual interest, but doesn't distract from the gameplay.

The board is seeded with 1, 2 or 3 butterflies on each square of the 5x5 grid. On your turn you pick up all of the butterflies from one square and then drop the butterflies off, 1 per square, in a route of orthogonal moves, starting from the initial square. The resulting pattern of butterflies on the final square in your route is what matters. If you can make a set of coloured butterflies that exactly matches a gathering card then you can gain the gems on that card as points. If your final square is part of a group of squares that meet the criteria of a composition card, then you can take that composition card for a fixed number of points instead. Each turn, additional gems are added to the gathering cards that are not taken, and gems are worth 1 or 2 points. The maximum a card can hold is three gems, so gathering cards can be worth a maximum of 6 points if you're lucky. When the gems run out, the game ends and the player who has collected the most points on cards and in gems wins.

We've read and re-read the rules to this extremely simple game three times, because every time it feels like we must be getting something wrong, but we're really not. I actually can't believe that it got through playtesting. I don't say this lightly and I'm not normally this mean in reviews, but half of the game is pointless! The gathering cards are super easy and they're often worth three points. If you can't complete one on your turn, then it's a very rare event. Contrast this with the composition cards which are a massive brain burner and might earn you 1-4 points and there's just no point wasting your energy 99% of the time. The gathering cards are the only logical strategy and they're boring.

We dug deep to figure out whether we were playing Dust in the Wings incorrectly and found an official 'Advanced' mode on BGG. In this mode you can gain both a gathering card and a composition card on a single turn, and if you don't take a gathering card, then no more gems are added. Frankly I feel like this is an errata rather than an 'advanced mode' because the game is nothing without it. Even when playing this variant, it's still really tough to get a composition card, and whilst you can sometimes get two cards in one go, which feels awesome, it's still often a lot easier to take a gathering card.

As with most of our reviews, this is a two-player perspective and it's notable that the chances of achieving composition cards do increase further into the game. As butterflies start to clump together, there are more empty spots on the board and more crowded spots which help with these objectives. In a higher player count game, each player will take fewer turns before the game starts to get more interesting. What doesn't make a whole lot of sense is that with two players there are fewer gems in the bag, which act as the game timer, so a two-player game lasts fewer turns total, meaning that there's less interesting gameplay time.

Dust in the Wings showed so much promise. The box is minimalist and beautiful - so much so that a cover photo doesn't even do it justice. The pieces and board and well designed, with the butterflies having both different shapes and different colours. The game has a nature theme that broadens the appeal of boar games to new audiences, as demonstrated by the huge success of Wingspan. Even when I saw the game setup and heard the rules I was really excited to try, what sounded like, a streamlined and accessible version of Five Tribes

It really took playing the game for it to all fall apart. Perhaps a less experienced gaming audience would be able to overlook, or not notice the flaws I see, and if so, it's a very basic abstract with table presence that might appeal. Even if it were a small box abstract game to share with new players, rather than the shelf-hog filled with air that it is, it might have some purpose. But, for the Yellow Meeple, it's a 4/10.

Dust in the Wings was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £39.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

No comments:

Post a Comment