Flicking Finches is a great gateway flicking game featuring simple rules that are well tied to a fun theme of trying to get Darwin to sketch your flock of finches who live in the Galapagos Islands.
Disclosure: Thanks to Meridae Games for sending me a prototype copy of Flicking Finches to check out. Some links in this post are affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps support this blog and podcast. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
What do you get with a copy of Flicking Finches a Darwin themed flicking game?
Right now the game only exists in prototype form but Meridae Games hopes to have it published in 2022 through the help of Kickstarter. A game of Flicking Finches takes about half an hour to play and plays two to four players.
Flicking Finches is a flicking based dexterity game set in the Galapagos Islands. Each player controls a flock of finches who are flying around the island trying to get the attention of Charles Darwin, hoping that they will get sketched into his sketchbook and be rewarded with some seeds. The trick is that Darwin is studying evolution and he will be looking for finches with different characteristics, such as size, beak design or feather pattern, for his book. The winner is the player controlling the flock that earns the most seeds.
The version of Flicking Finches I played, and that I’m talking about today, is a prototype. So, as usual with one of these prototype previews, please keep in mind that everything said here is subject to change.
In this case though, unlike my Battle of GOG preview, the designer does consider this game finished. Now there’s a chance something will come up between now and the Kickstarter or during that funding attempt that will cause changes but that’s not expected. The only change that is currently planned is to shrink down the box size so that it fits in your typical board game shelf and for the eggs in the game to come in the four player colours.
Despite being a prototype, the components in Flicking Finches are of excellent quality. I own published games with far worse components than this. The finches themselves are wooden discs with stickers on them in two sizes in four different player colours. Darwin is a wooden pawn that looks like it’s wearing a hat. There are also four wooden egg tokens. Mine are in blue but, as noted above, the final version will have these eggs in the four player colours.
The sketchbook cards are also of good quality. Though the most impressive component by far in this game is the playmat. This is a nice thick neoprene mat that features the game board as well as a rather detailed summary of play. Everything on the mat is clear and easy to see and the wooden discs slide well on it.
How to play Flicking Finches:
To start a game of Flicking Finches you place the playmat in the centre of the table. You shuffle the sketchbook cards and place five of them face up near the board. Each player selects a colour and takes all of the finches in that colour. The eggs are placed by the side of the board.
The player to the left of the start player, who is the last person to have fed a bird, picks one of their finches and hatches it. This is done by placing the finch onto any one of the three nesting sites and gives it one flick (note Darwin hasn’t been placed yet). The third and fourth players do the same but hatch two finches each. Once all of these finches are hatched, then the start player places Darwin onto any one of the eight observation spots and takes the first turn of the game.
Each player turn starts with you having the option to evolve one of your finches. Each finch has three characteristics, size, beak shape and colour (striped or not). To evolve, you remove a finch from the board and replace it with another finch that is only different from the original in one aspect.
After potentially evolving a finch you get three actions. The possible actions (which can be taken more than once) are:
Evolve – This is in addition to the evolution that you get for free at the start of the turn. Swap one of your finches for another, with only one characteristic change.
Hatch – Take a finch from your supply and put it on a nesting site and give it one flick. The nesting site used is based on where Darwin is on the map. You can also use an egg to get a free Hatch action.
Fly – Flick one of your finches that is already on the board. If you knock into Darwin he gets upset and moves to the next observation site on the board. Bumping other finches is fine.
If you knock an opponent’s finch off of the board they return that finch to their supply but get to take an egg. Eggs can be spent to take a free Hatch action. If you flick or knock one of your own finches off the board, then you return it to your supply and get no egg in return.
Chirp – Try to get Darwin’s attention. Each observation location has a series of rings around it. When you use the Chirp action you first check to see if there are any finches in the rings at Darwin’s current location.
If there are no birds in the ring, Darwin hears the chirp but doesn’t see a bird and so moves to the next observation spot.
If there are finches at Darwin’s location he will sketch the finch that is closest to him as long as it matches at least one characteristic shown on the first open sketchbook card going left to right. The owner of that finch will then take it from the board and place it on that sketchbook card.
Each sketchbook card can only hold one finch. Once all of the face up sketchbook cards are filled a new set of five are drawn from the deck. Once the third set of cards is filled the game ends.
Note: It may be worth chirping to either move Darwin or to get Darwin to sketch an opponent’s bird that doesn’t fit the leftmost open sketchbook card well.
The game ends when all fifteen sketchbook cards have a finch on them. If a player runs out of finches before this their turn is skipped until the game ends.
Points are then awarded for how many characteristics each finch managed to match to its card. One seed is awarded for one match, three seeds for two matches and five for matching all three characteristics on a card. The player with the most seeds wins.
In addition to these rules, there is an optional rule for adding clouds to the game. The game comes with three fairly large wooden clouds. When using this expansion the first player, before anyone has hatched any finches, can place these clouds anywhere on the board just so long as they don’t cover up any nesting sites or observation areas.
Flicking Finches, an Evolution in Dexterity Games, is a great family weight game.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m a huge fan of dexterity games. I love games where you have to stack, balance and flick things. These range from super light family friendly games like Go Cuckoo, a game that’s like the reverse version of Kerplunk (which you can read about in my Go Cuckoo review,), to games like Rail Pass, which is a real time pick up and deliver train game where you actually pass trains (check out my Rail Pass review for more information on that great dexterity game). Then of course there’s PitchCar, my all time favourite flicking game.
It’s this love of dexterity games that made me jump at the chance to check out Flicking Finches and hopefully help make this game a reality.
I love the premise of this game. The whole evolution theme is one that has come up in games like Dominant Species and Evolution, but it’s not a common theme. This is the first real gateway evolution game that I can think of. On that is completely family-friendly and playable by gamers of pretty much all ages.
On the topic of evolution, I love this excerpt from the rulebook:
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Evolution does not work in the manner presented in this game! Instead, it is a lengthy process of diversification and selection that unfolds over many generations and does not entail quite so much flicking!
The theme is very well integrated into the gameplay in ways that just make sense. This makes it very easy to teach the game, especially to kids. “Look you want Darwin to notice you because he will give you seeds, and you like seeds. Darwin is looking for specific things though and he will give more seeds to the birds he wants to draw. So you want to look at his sketchbook to see what he wants to draw and then try to get a bird that matches up close to him and chirp to get noticed. But be careful not to hit Darwin, as that will scare him off and he will then move to another spot on the islands.
I’ve already mentioned how much I dig the playmat for this game. In addition to being well designed and practical, I find neoprene awesome for flicking games. This style of game mat works great due to providing some friction but not too much. This makes it much easier to control your flicks after a little practice.
One thing I do suggest though is to get those clouds in play as soon as possible. Without the clouds, even at the maximum player count and especially with only two players, the board is rather empty. This acts to both make the game easier and harder. It’s way easier to flick too hard and end up off the map because there’s nothing to get in the way, and for an experienced flicker it can be very easy to reach Darwin in one flick due to there not being anything in the way. Adding the clouds gives you something to run into, something to bounce off of and something to manipulate, to cover up spots on the map or to block access to nests or to Darwin.
My only complaint about this game is in regards to the finch images on the sketchbook cards. While two of the characteristics are very easy to tell apart at a glance, pattern and beak type, size can be very hard to differentiate, especially if you don’t have cards showing both sizes up at once. This gets worse as the game goes on and cards start to get covered. I really wish there was something done to differentiate size more.
Another thing you need to be aware of is that this is a rather light game. As I already mentioned, this game can be played and enjoyed by gamers of all ages. There isn’t any reading required and even the youngest of gamers should be able to flick a finch and can easily be helped with the rest of the rules.
This leads me to think that Flicking Finches is a perfect gateway flicking game. It really would be a great first step before games like Flick Wars and would give players some great flicking practice for games like Icecool or Pitchcar.
Overall I was very impressed by Flicking Finches. I really love the theme of this game and the way it’s integrated into gameplay, where players hatch and evolve finches hoping to earn some seeds from Darwin and get sketched into his book. This friendly theme and simple gameplay makes me think that this would be a great family game especially for families with younger kids. I could also see this simplicity turning off older gamers. While it’s a lot of fun, there’s not a lot of strategy, tactics or depth to this game. Personally thought it was quick, neat and fun and I’m glad I got to check it out.
I wish Meridae Games good luck with their Kickstarter. This is a game I think deserves to be made.
There are a ton of great flicking based games out there. If you are a fan, like I am, I would love to hear about your favourites in the comments!
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