Game Buzz: Crows

It gets dark around here early because of all the crows
What they want and where they came from, no one really knows
Crows are sour and surly, with reason I suppose
There are crows, crows, crows in the trees
Saying crows things, doing as they please
There are crows, crows, crows everywhere
But when I think of you dear I don’t care

The preceding lyric is from the song by the Gothic Archies called “Crows”.  This song was originally written for the audiobook of The Vile Village, book #7 of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.  And it’s what runs through my head every time I hear someone talk about the game I’m covering today.

Crows - image by BGG user caius

Crows is a game designed by Tyler Sigman and published by Valley Games.  Art was done by Patrick LaMontagne.  The game is for 2-4 players, takes 45 minutes, and is for ages 10 and up.  The premise of the game is pretty amusing – you are using shiny objects to attract as many crows as possible.  You’ll be placing tiles, then positioning your shiny objects so that you get more crows than your opponents.  Too many shiny objects, too few crows!

Apart from the mildly silly premise, this game sounds interesting for a couple of reasons.  I like puzzle games, and it sounds like that’s what I’ll be doing.  The little wooden crows are pretty awesome, and how can you beat having shiny objects as one of your components?  Now I just need to look at the rules.

This game comes with 38 wooden crows, as well as 8 shiny objects (I think they’re just plastic gems in four different colors).  This is a modular game, meaning that the board changes every time, and as such, there are 53 tiles.  These tiles include empty trees, trees with 1-3 crows, trash, trinkets, and cemetery tiles. There are 20 special tokens, a first player marker, a scoreboard, and four 100+ markers (for if your score goes over 100).

Each player gets two shiny objects and a trash tile.  One of the shiny objects will mark your score.  The tiles and special tokens are shuffled and placed face down, with some returned to the box in two- and three-player games.  Nine tiles are drawn and arranged in a diamond pattern so that each is touching diagonally.  This will leave four holes in the playing area.  Some of the trees have crow icons on them, so you should place the appropriate number of crows on those tiles.  Whoever most recently saw a crow goes first.

There will be several rounds in the game.  In each round, every player will take one turn.  In a turn, you will choose a tile and place it on the board.  You can either draw from the pile of board tiles or use your trash tile.  Board tiles must be placed so that they touch at least one other tile along the edge.  Crows are placed as before.  Trash tiles will replace any tile on the board (as long as it doesn’t have crows or a shiny object on it).  The tile you replaced can then be placed anywhere on the board.

The next part of your turn involves placing a shiny object.  It can’t go on a trash pile, and it can’t go on a tile that contains crows or another shiny object.  If you place the shiny object in an empty tree, you get to take a special token, which can be kept secret until you use it.  You can use one token after you have placed your shiny object.

Once all players have taken their turn, the crows flock.  They move towards the nearest shiny object (only within the row or column, not diagonally), but do not cross gaps.  Also, if they pass over a trash tile, they stop there.  If two shiny objects are equidistant from each other, crows will go towards the one on top of a trinket.  If there’s no trinket, or if both are on top of a trinket, the crows are divided equally among the two.  Leftovers will not flock.

Now you score one point for every crow you attracted.  If the shiny object is in a cemetery, you get two points per crow.  Once the scoring is completed, you check to see if you have a murder (six or more crows – this didn’t become Clue all of a sudden).  If you do, two become a mated pair and leave the board (back to the supply).  The remaining crows scatter in a spiral pattern until only one is left on the tile (the player who attracted them decides where this scattering happens).  Crows that are not in a murder stay put.  Shiny objects are returned to their owners and the first player marker passes.  Special tokens that got played during the round are removed from the game.

When the tiles run out, the game is over.  Unused special tokens add points (2 or 3), and the player with the most wins.  Ties are broken by the player who did not play a trash tile.

This game looks like it is right up my alley.  I really like these simple little abstract games that have some theme to them.  The art looks pretty cool, and I can imagine this being a hit at Halloween parties.  Crows are not well loved animals, but their presence in this game is really interesting.

This is a tile laying game that is not really in the tradition of Carcassonne since you don’t have to match up land features.  The game I’m most thinking of is Shear Panic, another animal-themed abstract where you’re trying to not help other people with your moves.  Mechanically, they’re not similar at all, but it gives me the same vibe.  This one’s probably a bit more accessible since there’s not as many choices to make on your turn…the decisions are where to place the tile and where to place your shiny object.  I can see the last player in a round having an advantage over the others, but I’m thinking that the special tokens and rotating start player will probably help combat that.

To sum up, I’m definitely putting this one my want list.  Thanks for reading, and insert clever tagline here.

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