Mariposas Game Review
Welcome to our game review of AEG’s Mariposas. This game was designed by Elizabeth Hargrave, the designer of Wingspan, which we loved. Check out our review of Wingspan as well. If you want to know how to play this game, we’ll be releasing a Game Overview next week, which goes into the details. If you are interested in finding out what we think of this game, read on!
Mariposas – The Game
In Mariposas, the players control four generations of Monarch butterflies who need to fly north from Michoacán Mexico into the USA and Canada. Then turn around and fly back to Mexico to end the game. The players score points for different game events, and the player with the most points wins at the end of the game!
Upon opening the game box, you see all the excellent components. First, there’s not one but two boards you need to lay out. The board looks gorgeous. Each space is either color-coded with a flower or with a name of a city in North America. The overall board is a rough approximation of where cities in the eastern USA and Canada appear on an actual map. The second board has three rows, with each row having spaces for the four stages of a butterfly’s life cycle. This board is pretty cool, as the final area in each row is where you place random rewards for completing a life cycle.
The game has three types of tokens that all serve a different purpose. The way station tokens get shuffled up facedown and placed one on each city on the board. The flower tokens look good, and there are a lot of them. Good thing the game includes four trays with covers for you to store them. We’ve been impressed that game publishers are now thinking about storage in their games, and Mariposas is no exception. The game also comes with goal cards, and there are six, which you shuffle and place three of them on the end spaces of the waystation board. These are of really excellent quality and made of the same material as the board.
There are action cards along with bonus waypoint cards. The quality of these is good if a bit small. I prefer cards to be a bit bigger, but it is not a huge complaint. There are three types of season cards to match the three seasons of the game (Spring, Summer, and Fall). These cards are oversized and look fantastic. In the game, players as a group randomly select one to place face down for each season. There are also the lifecycle way station cards, 5 of each color, and life cycle stage. What would have been better with this is facts about butterflies on the back of these cards or the lifecycle stages. They look great, though, just a thought on how to improve them.
Finally, the game includes a lovely wooden flower die with each flower on one of the faces and a unique wild-card flower. The game also comes with five colors of butterfly tokens (10 of each color) which each player takes and uses throughout the game. I particularly like how the butterfly tokens are wooden and shaped like a butterfly. The only complaint we had on these was the generation number at the top of each butterfly was a bit hard to read.
This game’s setup is not super quick like the game we reviewed last week, AZUL. However, it does not rival Gloomhaven or other highly intense cooperative games we play in terms of setup. It, in reality, takes about 10 minutes. The main thing is to sort all the flower tokens beforehand. Then there’s a lot of shuffling of the ability tokens, way station tokens, and action cards. Then finally, drawing goal cards for each season and placing the correct amount of butterflies on each card. Overall the setup wasn’t too intense. The first time we played, I had to refer back to the rulebook a few times during setup as I was getting confused. There are 15 steps to the setup, but it does get easier on subsequent setups.
This game is full of choices that you need to make on each turn, and to score the most points, you need to be aware of both what you are doing and what your opponent is doing. We like that incremental scoring occurs throughout the game and that scoring doesn’t only happen at the end.
Playing Mariposas happens over a series of turns. In the first section of the game, Spring) you have four turns, Summer you all have five turns, and in Fall, you have six turns. I liked the fact that you got more turns near the end. The extra turns significantly helped when you had your butterflies fly too far out and away from Michoacán and had to get them back to score points.
The game also challenges you to end each section with your butterflies reaching specific goals defined on the goal cards. These can be as simple as having two butterflies on the board and no butterflies south of Atlanta or more complex, such as getting three butterflies north of Chicago in orange, yellow, and green spaces. The more complex the goal, the more points it’s worth. I like the fact also that as you play, you breed new butterflies, and you first take those new ones off the next section’s goal card, revealing it before completing the last season. Uncovering the next season’s goal helps you decide if you should go for the current cards goals or plan for a later goal to net you more points.
The game has the added challenge of landing on waystations. Suppose you are the first player to land on a specific way station. In that case, you turn it over and reveal either a color and lifecycle stage. A player gets that card from the lifecycle board or a bonus card. Those bonus cards give your butterfly a guaranteed flight type or allow you to add spaces to its flight later. Players can transfer these bonus cards to later sections of the game. Each Lifecycle row has a unique ability that players can gain if they collect all the cards in the row, which may grant you more points or turns, or tokens. We noticed that getting all lifecycle cards of one color in a two-player game is challenging because a majority of waystation tokens need to be landed on and flipped. Not sure how to balance this in a two-player game, but it made it difficult to strategize which end ability to go for as you didn’t know what was under a token.
As mentioned before, your main goal is to get generation 4 butterflies back to Michoacán at the end of the game. The more you can get back there, the more points you can get at the end of the game. The cool thing about this is that once you have a generation 4 on the board, you can turn it into two generation 4s by spending the required number of flowers. This ability can significantly help you get those end scores when you get them all back to Michoacán.
Mariposas is a genuinely fascinating game to play. Both the strategy and the look of the game are a lot of fun. We enjoy the difficulty of keeping track of what we are doing and how many points our opponent is trying to achieve. There is no way to block your opponent from going for points. You need to make sure you are always going for the most points yourselves. In our first game, we flew our butterflies too far north, making it difficult to get them back by the end of the game. We both only got one 4th generation back.
As mentioned before, the life cycle board was pointless for us playing a two-player game. We did get points for picking up cards, but it’s next to impossible to get all four in a row without some luck.
Overall, Mariposas is a solid and well-balanced game. It’s a mix of goal achieving and flower collecting along with a bit of luck and was fun to play.
If you think you would enjoy this game, check out our store and pick up a copy today!
What we Love
- Mariposas looks really great! All the components are unique and feel very on-theme
- Gameplay was fun and it was exciting to be able to get our butterfly home at the end
What could be better
- We would love to see a variant of this that would allow two players to achieve more of the life cycle goals
- The printing on the butterflies was a bit difficult to read