Full disclosure: A review copy of Fluttering Souls was provided by Good Games Publishing.
Let’s keep the party going with more Gen Con reviews! Good Games Publishing has been supporting the site for a while, and they pushed out Unfair a while back (which I really enjoyed, once I got rid of all the take-that bits; I really just want to build a theme park in a board game, y’all). Now they’ve got two new games hitting the pipeline; a two-player butterfly game called Fluttering Souls, and another three- to five-player game called Fairy Season. We’re covering Fluttering Souls first, so let’s dive right into that one and see what’s up.
In Fluttering Souls, legend tells of a white butterfly coming to visit a bereaved person when their loved one has passed away. To earn that, though, you have to take care of the existing butterflies. I mean, in general, you should be nice to butterflies, but now you have an incentive. Will you be granted a visit?
Setup is pretty fun, honestly. Set aside the Butterfly Tokens for now:
Shuffle up the Layout Cards, make a deck, and reveal one:
This is how you organize the Butterfly Cards (dark cards are face-down), which you should also shuffle once you remove the Great Eggfly:
Place them in that layout (you’ll have two left over; set them aside); give the second player the Great Eggfly card, and you should be ready to start!
A game of Fluttering Souls is played over three rounds; in each round, players work to try and score the most points based on the butterflies they collect over the course of the game. It plays pretty similarly to 7 Wonders Duel, but without all the card effects, which is a nice simplification.
On your turn, take an uncovered card. That’s it. If, by doing so, you completely uncover a face-down card, turn it face-up.
If you have The Great Eggfly, you may end your turn by placing The Great Eggfly back in exactly the same position as the previous card you took. This will force a player to take it if they want to re-uncover the card now below it.
After all cards have been claimed, players score (each butterfly can only be scored once):
- Eighty-Eight: 3 points for every pair of Eighty-Eights you have.
- Blue Morpho: 4 points for every set of 3 Blue Morphos you have.
- Monarch: 2 / 5 / 8 points for having 2 / 3 / 4 Monarchs.
- Swallowtail: Swallowtails are wild; a pair may be used as any single card (and is worth 0). By itself, a single Swallowtail is worth 2 points.
- The Great Eggfly: 0 points, but the player holding it wins if players are tied.
The winner of the round receives a butterfly token! Reveal another Layout Card, and the loser of the round chooses to be first or second. Play until one player has collected 3 butterfly tokens!
Player Count Differences
None! It’s a two-player game.
- Count a bit. It may make a huge difference if there are 5 Blue Morphos in the game or 6, if you have two and your opponent has three. One’s a lost cause and the other is pretty much a lost cause but potentially salvageable. It’s going to take a lot of luck, but you might be able to pull it off. Either way, just keep in mind that there are some cards out of play, as well, so you may not even have the chance to get the exact cards that you want.
- You’re going to need to put in some clever blocks. Knowing which cards your opponent doesn’t want can work in your favor, especially if you want to put those cards in their way. That should slow them down while you grab other things. Just make sure you don’t end up giving them points for taking cards that you might actually want.
- Signaling what you want early to your opponent is unfortunate, but you don’t want to give them time to make it hard for you to get what you want. If you want all the Monarchs, you have to take every Monarch. That means your opponent will try to stop you, but you have to be aggressive sometimes if you want to get what you feel like you deserve. At the very least, you may end up with three Monarchs, which is still pretty good.
- Don’t let your opponent get all four Monarchs. That’s so many points per card. Seriously, just take one or something just to spite them. That said, don’t also let them take both Swallowtails, as well, because then they can just use that to complete the set (at a pretty high cost, but, sometimes it’s worth it?). Just be careful about where you’re investing your defense.
- Waiting until a card is uncovered to place The Great Eggfly can be amazing. It’s a great way to block the only good play available, and occasionally it can leave your opponent without many options about where to place it when they have control of The Great Eggfly. The best gift you can give your opponent in this game is a truly useless card.
- Sometimes you can use the Layout Card against your opponent. My favorite way to do this is by forcing them into a decision tree that benefits you. If you push them enough and the Layout Card is friendly, you may end up in a situation where there’s only one choice every turn. If that choice benefits you, you basically have them over a barrel. If it doesn’t, hopefully you have The Great Eggfly and can change the tide when it matters most.
- Try to leave them cards that aren’t useful. This is always my favorite. Give them a second Blue Morpho when there’s no way for them to get a third. Let them have that first Monarch. Pretty much do whatever with no consequences, if you can pull it off.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Really nice art. What’s prettier than a butterfly game? Not many things, I’ll tell you what. It’s just a very nice set of art all over the game, and I really appreciate that. I think I wish there were more butterflies, but really just for the art of it all. And the card colors are nice and subtle.
- Pleasant theme. It’s a game of butterfly collection. Not really too much aggressive about that, though amusingly, it’s pretty much all hate-drafting, so, there’s a nice contrast there.
- Very much a simpler 7 Wonders Duel. Even down to the hate-drafting. But, instead of a tech tree you have some simple set collection, which I think makes the game a lot easier to learn, which I appreciate.
- I really like the variety of the Layout Cards. It’s just a cool way to set up a two-player draft. I wish I could find another game to use these with; they’re really neat. Maybe Sushi Go! Party or something? Haven’t really given it much thought, to be honest.
- Plays very quickly. It helps that there aren’t that many different types of cards and the microdecisions have macro consequences, so, the game might be over after a couple moves if you make a pretty aggressive mistake. As a result, it’s just a very quick game.
- Seems expandable. It seems like one could make a standalone expansion with new butterflies. That sounds pretty cool, at least.
- I’m never a fan of games where you play three rounds with no state saved between rounds. It ends up just with me wanting to play back-and-forth rounds until I feel like stopping, rather than marking “three rounds” as a game. So I’ve played four rounds so far, and it doesn’t feel like there’s any strategic depth between rounds at all, so that’s fine. Oink does this a lot and I complain every time, so, consistency.
- Cards are sort of a weird quality. Mine are kind of warped and they don’t seem to want to unbend.
- The Great Eggfly is going to enable a lot of really nasty hate-drafting. Hoo whee you can really mess with someone by playing that and forcing them to essentially skip their turn. It’s aggressive, but, I think that might just be a fundamental tenet of the game.
- Honestly, in general there’s a lot of hate-drafting. I think that’s just the nature of two-player drafting games; it’s a lot of denial and slapping your opponent by taking what they want even if you don’t want it. Points you keep them from getting are essentially points for yourself, right? … Right?
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, I actually was pleasantly surprised by Fluttering Souls! I thought the hate-drafting would be a bit of a deal-breaker for me, but given that the game is so quick to play, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as I had worried! I think my one complaint might be that the game is a smidge too simple, but honestly I think the coolest thing it has is the multiple layouts; that keeps the game pretty fresh from play to play (and they’re also reasonably fun to set up). Another nice thing about it is its art and theme; I’m a fan of pleasant games (and even moreso mean games with pleasant exteriors [I see you, Arboretum]), and this certainly fits that criteria. I’m not sure what’s going on with the cards, but I can probably unbend them with enough pressure and time. I’ll figure it out. Probably not a big concern. Either way, I think it’s an interesting little drafting game, and I’m definitely hoping that this isn’t the last time I’ve seen a game based around this concept; just like the bugs it features, I think it’s got a lot of legs! Puns aside, if you like drafting games but only have one friend, you may enjoy Fluttering Souls! It’s remarkably pleasant for a hate-drafting game.