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

Sunday 29 December 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Papillon

Game: Papillon

Publisher: Kolossal Games

Designer:  J.B. Howell

Year: 2020

Papillon certainly doesn't look like your typical Kickstarter game, but for Kolossal Games, Kickstarter is the business model, so they're brought all sorts of games to Kickstarter over the past couple of years. From typical big box games like Western Legends, to small games in big packages like Papillon.

Papillon certainly needs its large package and starts with a craft project, which might be something you farm out to a crafty friend or child. Your first project is assembling the 8 3-dimensional flowers which really form the centre piece of the game, as well as filling out of the space in the large box. Once assembled, Papillon is a tile-laying and area control game for 2-4 players about planting flower, capturing butterflies and little cardboard butterfly pieces on clothes pegs.


In a game of Papillon there are 8 turns, where the board will be filled with tiles. Tiles have 4 quadrants, each depicting either open meadow or different colours of flowers. Players will bid for turn order and once this has been determined, players will draft a row or column of tiles from the central board. Some rows have more tiles than others and one row and column have a gnome token which is also worth points. Going first is really important to get the most tiles as well as first pick, but you have to bid points to get high up the turn order.

Tiles that you obtain are added to your personal tableau. There are a number of goals that will determine your placement. Whenever you complete a segment of one colour you earn a butterfly. Butterflies are added to the 3-D flowers in a corresponding colour. You are also hoping to make two large, completed areas of flowers in a single colour, and also to enclose meadows that show a lot of butterflies.

In terms of end game points, you'll score for the two largest completed areas of flowers in a single colour, the butterflies trapped in meadows, caterpillar tokens that you keep after drafting certain tiles, gnome tokens, and finally points from area control on each of the 3-D flowers. Each flower is worth points for the person with the most, second most and third most number of butterflies on each flower.

In the two-player variant there is no bidding for turn order, the first player is the player who took the gnome/point token in the last round. It's a very simple two-player variant that is in no way detrimental to the game experience.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

At first glance Papillion looks like a basic tile laying game a la Carcassonne, the tiles themselves certainly look familiar if you replaced the cities with different coloured flowers and removed the roads. But while the act of constructing your flower field may be all to familiar, the way that you get them, and the reason you might do so elevates the game beyond the status quo. Completing a flower field gets you a new butterfly to place on one of the large 3D flowers of it's colour. Each one of these is a separate area to control for end game points and the values are randomised each game, you may well have a game where blue is simply better than other colours! This encourages completing small flower fields, but bigger fields offer rewards too. The first player to complete a three tile large flower field will get a bonus butterfly to place. And the end game points reward you for having two (but only two) large fields will score you bonus points too.

This all combines to create several races for completing each colour of flower field, but with the added complexity of trying to make large fields filled with printed butterflies on your board it's rarely obvious where the best place to put a field is. That's assuming that you can get the tiles you want in the first place, the tile drafting mechanics are simple, but add a noticeable first player advantage which makes it well worth unseating the current first player if possible.

The 3D flowers are certainly a novel addition to the game. There's no real need to have them, but they certainly make a more interesting addition than simply having a board with different trackers. Are they necessary to have a good game? Not at all, do they add enough to the experience to warrant them using up two thirds of the box? probably not. But they add table presence and beauty, sometimes that's all the justification you need! With them Papillion stands out as a tremendously pretty game which for such a light game is a great thing to draw in potential new gamers. But when you get down to brass tacks there is a lot of strategy in the box too. Sometimes you might take less tiles in order to get the ones that fit in your field just right, but whatever you do you only have 8 rounds to do it, that's an (unlikely) maximum of 24 tiles to play with during the game, so desperation to get the right tile really helps the end game feel dramatic.

The two player mechanics perhaps lose some of the nuance of higher player counts, with the bidding for first player being replaced with a much simpler mechanic, this keeps the game running fast and is a much better solution than a 2 player bidding mechanic, which always fall flat. The area control also becomes less central as you are likely to get a similar number of tiles and therefore a similar number of butterflies out. This means that you'll often find you will be winning 2 each. But even with that said Papillion does make a great 2 player game, it's fast and full of meaningful choices. The tile laying is satisfying and the gameplay is light enough to get anyone into it.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

I really enjoy how much there is to think about in Papillon. With only eight chances to draft tiles, each decision is important and it's often about getting that one tile you really want, whilst seeing what is the best thing you can do with the others. I love how your personal tableau works like a jigsaw puzzle, fitting in pieces to best mean the three different objectives you're working towards. The puzzle is by no means difficult, but it is interesting and different enough n each games that you'll get to have a go at different strategies.

Papillon is a great little tile laying game. A two player game lasts around 20 minutes but there's a good little puzzle going on. A few factors group together to make me pretty skeptical about the 3-D flowers though. Firstly, I'm not a big fan of area control, so they represent the one mechanism in the game that I wouldn't usually enjoy. Fortunately for me, but perhaps not for the game design, that area control aspect has never factored into my decision making for all but the final turn of the game. Perhaps that's a particular quirk of the 2-player experience because we almost always win 2 flowers each. Finally, they're huge - they make a small, pock-sized tile-laying game, into a game larger than most standard boxes on my shelf. While this definitely makes the game stand out where it honestly might not have otherwise, it feels like a bit of a crude solution to standing out from the crowd. You could've been placing discs on meeples onto a card to keep the same mechanisms but save space!

Ultimately that's my conclusion, it's just too large for the game it contains and I can't justify having it in the collection it because the gameplay on it's own doesn't warrant half a Kallax square on the shelf!

You Might Like...
  • Papillon has a fantastic, eye-catching look.
  • It's  a good looking tile-laying game and it's always satisfying to build a beautiful pattern in front of you.
  • There's just the right number of scoring opportunities to create an interesting puzzle.
You Might Not Like...
  • The game is the definition of over-produced - with a huge box and no real purpose to the flowers except looks.
  • Making grand plans can be blitzed by unlucky tile draws late in the game.

The Verdict
7/10 Papillon is a really great, accessible tile laying game. It looks good and has a good variety of puzzly elements that contribute to end game scoring, as well as an interesting drafting mechanism. The production goes the extra mile to make it stand out from the crowd so that it's not just another tile laying game, but it's really up to you if you want to see this as a way to make the game stand out, or an overblown gimmick that makes Papillon take up too much space on the shelf!

Papillon was a review copy kindly provided to us by  Kolossal Games.

No comments:

Post a Comment