Publisher: Fireside Games
Release Date: September 2018
Price: $39.95
Game Designer(s): John Shulters and Sarah Graybill
Format: Board Game
Number of Players: 2-4
Playing Time: 20-30 minutes
Product #:
Age Rating: 10+
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

This is an odd game, in that it looks remarkably simple and mindless, but isn’t.  Instead, the designers have created a game where the main drawback is the danger of analysis-paralysis, as players have to think their way into better scores.

The components of the game are simple and well made.  There are tiles, which are used to build the board, and there are bird discs, which are used to place your grackles on the board.  There are markers used to show that you’ve rotated a tile.  That’s it for components.  The rules are deceptively simple, on two sides of a single sheet.  You can place a tile, rotate a tile, or place birds on the board.  There are restrictions on when and where you can do each of these three things.  That’s it for the rules.

The bird discs are very high in quality, but they are, after all, small plastic bird discs.  Purchasers will need to watch out, and keep these away from small children, as they’re the size to be a choking hazard.  The tiles are nice cardboard, well-printed, but nothing special physically.  The tiles have each color on them, in various arrangements.  There are only 25 tiles, and the eventual goal is to make a 5x5 layout.  Before any birds are on a tile, a player may rotate it, but there are limits to this, and you have a limited number of rotate actions you can take per game.

What players are trying to do is to play their grackles onto the board, and they can only place them in lines, from circles of their own color to other circles of their own color.  The winner is the player who gets the most grackles on the board by the end of the game.  Since players are constantly getting in each other’s way, accidentally or deliberately, this is an interesting puzzle, especially with a full four players.

This may sound like a silly "beer and pretzels" game, but in practice it’s challenging and fun.  Kids and adults who are good at pattern recognition will enjoy the game and the ways in which you build lines of birds.

The price isn’t high, but a few buyers might think that they’re overpaying for what is actually in the box.  If this game had come out from a bigger company, the price might have been a little lower.  It’s a small game, and really you’re not getting very much in the way of components.  Still, the production quality on the grackle discs is high enough that you can see where the money was spent, and Fireside isn’t a huge company.  So, for a small game from a smallish company, the price is reasonable for the amount of enjoyment players will receive.  However, bags for the components would have been a desirable addition, and don’t cost much nowadays, so those should have been included.

Grackles is a fairly quick game, 30 minutes at the most, once players learn the game’s simple mechanics, so it will be a good filler game or a light introductory one.  The age 10+ is appropriate, simply because the game does involve thinking and planning, and might be frustrating for younger.  It is also a satisfying game for adults or mixtures of ages, though, because the rules are simple enough to permit a variety of players, but the strategies are complex enough to satisfy a wide range.

--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.