It strikes the most unsuspecting board gamers. One day you’re the kind of player who loves organizing and categorizing your collection, admiring attractive color and pattern combinations, and exploring games with interesting nature themes, and the next moment, BAM! You’re a birder. It happens to the best of us. There is a surprising amount of crossover between the hobbies, and there’s a whole bird game fandom to support new and recovering Wingspan addicts. If you’re looking for a light weight, portable solution to your bird game fixation, set down your binoculars and pick up Birds of a Feather: Western North America by Snowbright studios, a 1-7 player set collection card game.
In standard play, the deck is dealt out evenly between the players. The cards show birds from five different types of habitats, of varying levels of rarity. The table is divided into an inner field of Lingering Birds, the cards played during the previous round, and an outer field of Arriving Birds, cards currently being played.
Each round everyone simultaneously selects a card to play face down in the Arriving Bird field. When revealed, all cards played belonging to the same habitat as your bird from either of the fields get added to your scoresheet. Lingering Birds are discarded, Arriving Birds move into the Lingering Field, and play continues until all the cards from the player’s hands are played. Rarer birds and complete sets of birds earn the most points, and the player with the highest point total at the end wins.
Originally released as Birds of a Feather in 2015, the 2022 Western North America reimplementation comes with a revised rulebook and redesigned cards. The gameplay is essentially the same between editions. In addition to standard play, there is a solo mode, a more strategic card drafting mode, and optional powers for raptor cards to make the game more competitive. Having so many variants packed into such a small box makes this a really flexible game. It plays just about as well with a small group of players as it does with a large group, and being able to choose how aggressive play will be is a nice bonus.
The gameplay moves quickly, and the rules are quick to pick up as you go. The iconography on the cards makes keeping track of your scoresheet fairly easy. Birds of a Feather really does manage to feel a bit like going out birdwatching in how you identify the bird rarity, take in a view of the environment, and get excited to tick new birds off your list.
In balance, the game relies heavily on the luck of the draw. While you will see every bird across a game, making it possible to strategically count cards and weigh the odds of when a rare bird will come out, if you didn’t get any cards from that environment in your opening hand you’ll still be in the weeds.
The card art is beautiful and dynamic, depicting a wide range of birds that fit the Western North American theme. They’re in flight, diving, hunting, perching, in different background environments and lighting. The linen texture of the cards feels good in hand. I appreciate the thought that went into the design, making the cards both color and symbol coded for colorblind accessibility. The whole game is also eco-friendly, designed and manufactured from recycled and responsibly sourced materials. Unfortunately, many have noted that the eco friendly tape used to seal the game tears the box art badly when removed. Snowbright recommends that the tape is sliced open instead, but the edges of the tape still fray and pick up dirt and dust over time.
The scoresheets are functional and easy to use, but the game also provides a free app for scoring and solo play. The digital scoresheet is bright and colorful and brings the birds to life. It’s not necessary, but it works for when no one brought pencils to game night. The app implementation of the solo mode is particularly successful, with additional facts about the birds, a nice soundtrack, and efficient graphics.
Birds of a Feather: Western North America is a tidy and satisfying light weight card game. The number of rule variants it has provides more versatility than many other games in its category, and the art will make any bird lover’s heart soar.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – Solidly fun and playable for gamers that like light strategy and thematic art.
• Multiple Modes of play to satisfy a wide range of player counts and play styles
• Optional app is attractive and functions well
• Cards are well designed and they do a good job of implementing a popular theme
• Packaging could use improvement
• Strategic play is easily thwarted by being dealt a bad hand