Dale Yu: First Impressions of Butterfly


  • Designer: Stephen Glenn
  • Publisher: Rio Grande Games
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 9+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Game played on review copy provided by Rio Grande Games

Butterfly is the newest release from one of my oldest friends in gaming, Stephen Glenn.  Right when I was coming into the hobby, 1999 or so, I was playing Acquire games by Email – and one of the guys in that group was none other than Stephen Glenn.  He may be best known for his debut game, Balloon Cup, which was recommended for the Spiel des Jahres in 2003 – but he has had a number of designs published since then.

as a complete aside, here is that ASCII template for Acquire

In Butterfly, players are trying to help Hudson the Hedgehog move around the forest to get the most valuable collection of butterflies and bugs.  The double sided board allows for a grid of 6×6 for 2p, 7×7 for 3p, 8×8 for 4p and 9×9 for 5p. The 100 tiles are mixed in the bag and then the board of appropriate size is randomly filled with tiles.  The starting player places Hudson, a wooden hedgehog piece on the board, and the game begins.

a 2P game at the start
A few turns into the 2p game

On a turn, the active player must move the hedgehog and must collect a tile if possible.  Prior to moving, the player may turn the hedgehog to the left or right of its current facing, or he can leave the hedgehog pointing in the current direction – note that the hedgehog cannot do a 180 on his space.  Then, Hudson moves as far as the player likes and must end his movement on a tile, and the player collects whatever tile the hedgehog stopped movement on. Hudson cannot leave the grid of tiles. If Hudson passes over a butterfly net, the active player has the option of drawing a tile from the bag of unused tiles – which he must keep.

The next player then takes a turn.  The game continues until a player cannot take a legal turn; that is, they cannot turn/move Hudson so that he can pick up a tile this turn.  When this happens, the game immediately ends and scoring occurs.

There are 11 different types of tiles in the game, and they score somewhat differently.  I will group them by similar scoring types.

Red/Blue/Green/Yellow tiles – score their face value; unless you also have the (x2) tile for that color in which case all tiles of that color score double

Bee/Honeycomb – These work best in pairs. If you have a pair of a Bee and a Honeycomb, you score 10 or 15 points for that pair (the higher score on the Honeycomb tile).  Unmatched bees score -3VP; unmatched Honeycombs score nothing.

Dragonfly/Lightning Bug/Grasshopper:  You score only the highest value Dragonfly captured, and you score only the lowest value Lightning Bug captured.  As you collect a Grasshopper tile, you discard any previously collected ones; therefore you only score your most recently captured Grasshopper.

Flower– you score the square of the number of Flower tiles that you have.

Wasp – Score face value (always negative points)

The player with the most points wins. There is not a tie-breaker mentioned.

My thoughts on the game

Butterfly is a deceiving game in that it looks all childish and simple, but there is actually a nice game hidden behind its Pre-K appearance.  The abstract tile collecting game here reminds me a lot of Fossil – and since I’m reminiscing about old-skool gaming things, Fossil was maybe the first Euro-game that I can remember buying (thanks to it being named the Games Magazine game of the year in 1999).

At first, the game moves along quickly as players can grab the tiles that they want – there are a lot of different ways that the tiles work together, so if you get a (x2) or a Honeycomb tile early on, you quickly gain a focus as to what you want to pick up in the future.

Where the game gets interesting is in the later rounds when movement becomes a lot trickier.  As you plan your own move, you might be able to stick the next player with a less than desirable outcome on their turn – or force them to take a tile that they don’t need nor want.  Heck, there are even times when I’ll take a tile that reduces my score a little bit, but then forces the next person to take an even bigger hit on their turn.

All of the tiles can lead to good scores, but the Flower tiles have to potential to score the most.  If the table allows one person to concentrate on these alone, it could be lights out.

The game plays quickly, I’d say none of mine have lasted more than 20 minutes, and it is a great filler – room for tactical play, room to screw someone over, enough gamespace to allow for longterm planning – yet, all over before Craig finally shows up to round out the group.

So, everything plays fine here, and for me, it’s a pretty good game, but I question whether the artwork/art theme is right for the game.  If I saw this on a shelf and didn’t know much else about the game, I’d seriously think that this was just a kiddie game and probably give it a hard pass.   Given that, I’m not sure what theme I might have used – certainly not archaeology lest it be declaimed as a Fossil clone – but something less cartoon-y maybe?

Maybe this will turn out to be a wonderful bridging game – a game that you can introduce to kids, and one that can be played at a simple level of complexity, but then as their gaming ability/prowess progresses, you can use it to teach them advanced planning and how to make moves to totally screw over their brother or sister.  I may try this with my nephews over the holidays. I suspect they will be more easy to convince about the art than my regular group of forty-somethings.

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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5 Responses to Dale Yu: First Impressions of Butterfly

  1. Pingback: Dale Yu: First Impressions of Butterfly – Herman Watts

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  3. If I remember Stephen’s comments on Butterfly, it was originally dungeon-themed. (Quick check revealed that I’ve seen pictures of at least one prototype that was fantasy-themed… so my memory is still working.)

  4. Pingback: 3 free print and play games from SdJ nominated designer Stephen Glenn! | The Opinionated Gamers

  5. Pingback: three free print and play video games from SdJ nominated designer Stephen Glenn! - Best Games 2020

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