Square Bird Card Game Preview - This is a prototype version of the game and does not represent the final quality or look of the game.
Square Birds is being brought to life by Lydia Wallace at Happy Hen Games. This is a first-time design from a UK-based independent designer. I am always excited to try games from new designers, especially one like Square Birds that has clearly been given so much love and care.
How To Play Square Birds
The game works very simply. There are 18 tiles in the deck, double-sided. The face-down side shows the scoring side, while the other shows the main playing side. Shuffle the tiles and deal one tile face down to each player. This is each player's scoring tile, which will show two birds. The birds are all different shapes and colors. Each tile is unique and will represent the birds you will score with in this game. Then deal each player two face-up tiles. These will be your hand.
Players then take turns placing tiles into a shared 4x4 grid, one tile at a time. The goal is to create clearings with the most amount of your scoring birds. The clearings are created by the lines on the tiles. Each time you place a tile, draw a tile to add to your hand. Continue this in turn until the draw pile is empty, and both players have placed all tiles in their hand. At the end of the game, when all 16 tiles have been placed, you can choose one clearing and score all birds from your scoring card in this area—one point per bird. The player with the most points wins.
Playing Square Birds is a wonderfully calming experience. You will feel competitive, sure. You will want to win. But games take 5 minutes. If you lose, it's okay. Just rack 'em up and go again. This will make you feel that you don't need to take the competitive side too seriously and simply have fun, which is the perfect headspace to be in when you play this game.
As the clearings begin to form, your mind will fill with all the possibilities of your scoring options. New clearings will be created. Old clearings will be expanded. Clearings you hoped to develop will be shut off. A surprisingly large number of things will happen simply by laying one tile.
The feeling of creating, adapting, and trying to manipulate this puzzle in your favour, all the while your opponent is doing the same, creates a very interesting dynamic. Sometimes, you will be inadvertently helping each other. Other times, you will be blocking off large scoring areas or placing scoring boards of your opponents into areas they cannot access. How much attention you pay to what your opponent needs or does not, versus building your own clearing, is up to you. There are obviously more than one way to play this game.
The game has a tiny footprint, both in terms of its size and the area needed to play. I would love for the final version to be made with high-quality stock cards with a bit of weight and a waterproof finish so that the game could be taken and played anywhere—outside in the wind, in the pub on any wet table. No worries, Square Birds can handle it! With only 18 tiles to make, the costs would be minimal, so I hope this can be achieved. It would be a huge selling point for me.
The art style on the cards is simplistic but gorgeous. Even though all the branches simply form from the centre line, it still amazes me how well and neatly they all meet when you join the tiles up. There is something so calming about playing this game. The art definitely helps with that, as do the simple rules and flow.
I will be very interested to see what Lydia does with this game. I feel she has created something that deserves a lot of love and attention. I sincerely hope this happens.