Disclaimer: This review is from a copy of the game that was provided by AEG to Open Seat Gaming, but opinions are our own based on several plays of the game.
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Design: Elizabeth Hargrave
Art: Indi Maverick, Matt Paquette
Mechanisms: Grid movement, movement points, Set collection
Number of Players: 2 – 5
Game Time: 45 – 75 minutes
Description: In Mariposas, players move their butterflies around the map, collecting flowers and creating new butterflies. Accruing points along the way, the players attempt to get their last generation of butterflies back to Mexico by the end of the last round to score mega points.
The game begins with each player placing their generation 1 butterfly in Michoacán and a random season card being dealt for each of the 3 seasons. The Spring season card is flipped up so players can see the bonuses that will be awarded during or at the end of that round. The Summer and Fall season cards have a number of generation 2 or 3 butterflies of each player placed on them and are only revealed once all those butterflies are moved to the board (or at the end of their season when scoring happens). The waystation cards are laid out on the waystation board, with a random life cycle ability token assigned to each row of the board (these provide bonuses if you collect all waystation cards of that color during the game), and the action cards are shuffled and 2 dealt to each player, the rest forming the draw pile.
Mariposas is played over 3 seasons (rounds) that all have the same basic structure. Players take turns taking actions by playing an action card from their hand. This involves moving butterflies across the board based on what the card depicts. After finishing the actions on their card, they draw a new action card from the deck (so that they always have 2 cards to choose from). Each season lasts for a certain number of actions of each player, and a scoring round takes place before the next season begins.
There are 2 types of spaces on the board (aside from Michoacán which is the start and end space): flower spaces and waystations. Flower spaces award 1 or 2 flower tokens when a butterfly ends its movement on them, while waystations allow the player a waystation card or other bonus (that are randomized at the beginning of the game) and also a flower determined by rolling the flower die.
There are also milkweed icons in between some spaces, and if a butterfly ends its movement next to milkweed that butterfly can reproduce and its owner can place a butterfly of the next generation up (i.e.: generation 1 butterflies place generation 2 butterflies on the board, etc.). Reproducing requires turning in flower tokens of an increasing amount, based on the generation of butterfly being added to the board.
At the end of the Fall season, players score points for the number of generation 4 butterflies that made it back to Michoacán, and points for each waystation card collected. The player with the most points wins!
First off, this game is a looker, much like her other two releases. The board is vibrant and easy to look at, the little butterfly pieces are quite lovely, and the cards have beautiful art on them, as well. Everything is incredibly well made!
Let me pause a minute here and tell you that AEG has been really stepping up their game in terms of game production. The year we started Open Seat Gaming, they had recently switched to a production model where they were publishing fewer games, but they were putting a lot more “oomph” behind those games. Mariposas (among others) is a really solid example of how they’ve been doing that – kudos to them.
The gameplay is really unique. You’re using your butterfly cards to move around the board. but you’re not trying to get to an endpoint – but you are. The challenge of Mariposas is figuring out how to best use your cards in order to get around the game board, so that you can 1) make baby butterflies for the next generation and 2) collect sets of cards. Then, in fall, you need to get your 4th generation butterflies back to Mexico!
Here’s the thing – this game is totally a “roll and move” style game. I know that sounds really strange, but the fact is, instead of rolling a die, you’re using your cards to determine your movement. But, instead of just having one single path, there are literally DOZENS OF OPTIONS. And the fact that there’s no end point makes it EVEN BETTER! I’d throw it into a category with Cartagena and more strategy-informed “roll and moves.”
Once again, Elizabeth knocks it out of the park when putting theme and gameplay together. The idea of generations (and that a butterfly that leaves Mexico never comes back), and the all-over-the-place flight patterns are exactly what you see with the Monarch’s great migration every single year. I also enjoyed the lifespan cards as set collection.
Mariposas is, for sure, lighter than Wingspan, and it’s definitely a very different game. But, that didn’t hinder our enjoyment of it. I feel like this would be an amazing game for homeschooling (which is what a lot of parents are doing right now) or in any classroom that may be teaching about the butterfly lifespan!
My only complaint about the game is this: I feel like it could get same-y after awhile. But, that’s for someone like me, who plays a lot of different strategy games. If you were using this as a family weight game, with kids, it’s perfect for that audience.
Try, Buy, Deny: If you enjoy any sort of game where you need to bounce between big picture thinking and little picture tactics, then Mariposas is, for sure, a try. Also, if you love the nature theme, give it a try as well. If you’re someone that typically matches with our gaming tastes, then it’s a buy – it’s a great addition to your collection. Also, if you’re using it educationally, it’s totally a buy. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a family friendly hit that nails the theme and can be taught to people of all ages and gaming backgrounds!