SNAP Review – Busy Beaks
🎵 Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree… Merry, merry king of the bush is he… 🎵
[Anitra] That may be the only Australian bird we knew, but we learned a lot more about them by playing Busy Beaks.
[Andrew] Busy Beaks is a card game by Phil Walker-Harding and published by his own imprint, JOEY Games.
[Anitra] Two, three, or four players can play this game in about 30 minutes, and it’s best for ages 8 and up.
[Andrew] So Anitra, let’s do what we do; let’s talk about the art in Busy Beaks.
[Anitra] All of the bird illustrations in Busy Beaks are by Sarah Allen, and they’re adapted from her children’s book Busy Beaks.
[Andrew] The graphic design in this is great. Every card has reminder icons on the bottom that tell you what they do!
[Anitra] There are also facts about each bird on the back of its reference card.
[Andrew] There’s also this cool little “tree” board to show how to line up the rows of birds on the branches. And the card backs match the tree bark!
[Anitra] It’s very cool!
[Andrew] Cute touch.
[Anitra] So let’s talk about the mechanics and how you actually play Busy Beaks.
[Andrew] Sure. So, in Busy Beaks, your goal is to make “flocks” of five identical bird cards. (Here’s my buddy the Kookaburra by the way.) Whenever you turn in a flock, you get an egg token.
On your turn, you may play a card from your hand, then you may turn in one flock, and then you must draw one card.
[Anitra] Playing a card from your hand is the major action in the game. Place your card at the end of one of the three rows, called “tree branches”. Then do that card’s action.
[Andrew] Each bird has a different action, and this is really how the game flows.
Some of these birds let you pick cards from the tree branches, such as the Brolga and the Eastern Spinebill.
[Anitra] Some have you draw from the deck – the Budgerigar takes the top three off the deck, while the Tawny Frogmouth has you reveal five cards from the deck and choose two to keep.
[Andrew] Other cards let you steal from players’ hands, swap cards with the tree, or even copy other birds.
[Anitra] But only half of the bird types are used in a game, so try out different combinations and see what happens!
[Andrew] After playing a card and working out its effect, you may score a flock. You must discard five identical bird cards from your hand to do this. When you do, take the most valuable remaining egg token from the ones laid out by the tree. Then, if you’re the first player to make a flock of that bird type, take an extra single egg – the one you put out, hopefully, on that bird’s reference card during setup.
[Anitra] Don’t forget to draw a card to end your turn, and clean up the tree branches if they need it.
[Andrew] When someone takes the last multi-egg token, the game is immediately over. Each player counts up all the eggs on all of their tokens, and the player with the most eggs wins!
[Anitra] So Andrew, let’s talk about what we expected with this game.
[Andrew] When I opened the box, I knew immediately that we were going to be mixing up decks of bird cards, kind of like Smash Up or something like that. The game comes with all of these little cardboard boxes that you need to fold into shape and sort the birds into. So there’s a little bit of prep time the first time you open the box.
I also felt pretty good about this being an approachable, easy to understand game, both because of the age on the box, but also because we’ve reviewed Scribbly Gum from Joey Games before. And we know that education about Australian life, culture, and nature, is at the core of what Joey Games does as a company.
[Anitra] When I saw all the different kinds of birds, I expected something like Sushi Go Party (which is also designed by Phil Walker-Harding), where you’d want different collections of birds to do different things. I was a little annoyed by all these tiny boxes of cards, but it is a really effective way to keep them all separate without using any plastic.
[Andrew] So Anitra, we talked about what we expected when we opened this box. What surprised us?
[Anitra] Choosing different birds can make for a very different game. You can make a luck-heavy set with lots of drawing, or a really puzzley set that encourages manipulating how the birds are arranged on the “tree” so you can get exactly the ones you want. Or you can even make a game that encourages a lot of stealing from each other’s hands.
[Andrew] I was impressed at just how many different kinds of birds there were here. There’s 14 birds in the box.
[Anitra] So Andrew, would we recommend Busy Beaks?
[Andrew] Busy Beaks is a great light set collection game with interesting mechanics and great replayability across all of these various birds. It’s got a little bit of meanness in it, but not too much, and you can totally avoid it, by doing what you said, only picking only the “nice” birds to use in a game.
What I will say is, it makes me want to go to Australia so I can point at a bird and be like, “I saw that bird in that game!”
So Anitra, What are we going to rate Busy Beaks from Joey Games?
[Anitra] We’re going to give Busy Beaks 4½ birds out of 5.
And that’s Busy Beaks – in a SNAP!
Busy Beaks is available in retail stores in Australia. If you’re elsewhere in the world, you can buy it directly from JOEY Games.
The Family Gamers received a copy of Busy Beaks from JOEY Games for this review.
SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?
Age Range: 8+
Number of Players: 2-4
Playtime: 20-30 minutes