Games can be about anything. So much of life is a series of mini-conflicts every day just to get through the normal stuff. When a game can slow players down and allow them to focus on small, maybe mundane, even joyful activities, it can make a big deal out of a small theme.
The Butterfly Garden is just such a game. Through set collection and turn order manipulation, players aim to collect the most valuable groups of butterflies to add to their garden. It’s a filler game for 2-6 lepidopterists (in the rules) that takes 20-40 minutes to play. It plays best with 4 players.
Each round of a game, players will be looking at a hand of Butterfly cards, more Butterfly cards on the table, and Garden cards. At the start of the round, each player selects a Butterfly card from their hand to play. These cards indicate the turn order using a large number in the upper left of the card. They also show the number and type of butterflies the player will gain in their jar.
Once everyone has selected a card, play continues in the numbered order with each player selecting a Butterfly card and potentially fulfilling the requirements of a Garden card. Garden cards show different sets of butterflies along with a number of points.
There are additional rainbow butterflies that act as a wild card and some Butterfly cards grant additional actions or points. Players will play round by round until someone has earned a set number of points and wins the game.
The Butterfly Garden is a great gateway game, especially for players intimidated by more macho themes. It has a calm demeanor in play style, but it’s also very competitive. Choosing just the right card to play can be challenging, especially when trying to stay early in the turn order through the different rounds. Usually the cards with the most butterflies cause a player to go last in turn order.
Another highlight is the art. The cards of butterflies against blue sky are very well illustrated. They don’t have a photorealistic art quality that can make other games stand out, but the innocence of a clear spring day comes through. The cards are also of a decent quality and easy to shuffle.
While all of this bodes well, there are some negatives. Some of the butterflies are hard to distinguish in lower light, and it takes some examination to make sure all the correct butterflies are in your set. Players with vision challenges should sit close to the cards displayed on the table. The bonus actions, if a card has them, are also a little hard to see.
The other main negative is that the game really doesn’t stand out well for its mechanisms. The theme is the draw here, and it’s great if players are looking for something with this clearly underserved concept. However, after a few plays, more experienced gamers will likely go through the motions rather than be seriously engaged.
The Butterfly Garden is a great choice for a gateway gift game. It’s not intimidating and helps new gamers get a grasp of the fundamentals of set collection. Experienced gamers may enjoy it twice, but that’s about it. However, lepidopterists will definitely have fun adding The Butterfly Garden to their collection.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A great game for new gamers or those looking for a game with a butterfly theme.
• Ho-hum play style for experienced gamers