Review: Butterfly


Hudson the Hedgehog is a little bit of a packrat. He likes to collect things, but he really likes to collect everything. Anything can turn his head and attract his attention. And while it’s true that one hedgehog’s trash is another hedgehog’s treasure, some trash and treasure is objectively worth more than others. Can you accumulate the most valuable stash in the garden?

How It Works

Butterfly is a set-collection game for two to five players. Players collectively move Hudson the Hedgehog to amass tiles for their collections. The player with the most valuable collection of tiles at the end of the game wins.

Butterfly set up for two.

To begin, each player receives a player board. Tiles are drawn from the bag and placed on the appropriate side and in the appropriate grid for the number of players. Players determine a start player. The player who will go last positions the Hudson the Hedgehog piece on the board, and play begins.

On a turn, the active player must position Hudson so that he is either looking either straight ahead or turned 90 degrees to the left or the right. Then, the player moves Hudson onto a tile in that line and collects it. (If the player passes over a butterfly net, revealed after a tile was taken earlier in the game, the player may draw a free tile from the bag, but must keep it regardless of the result if drawn.) The player must move Hudson if there is a legal move to make.

The rules lay out clearly how each tile scores points.

The tiles all score in various ways. Butterfly tiles are worth straight points. Flowers are worth more the more of them you have. Only the most valuable dragonfly and least valuable firefly collected will score. Bees and honeycomb only score positive points if you have one of each. Only the last grasshopper collected will score. And wasps are always worth negative points.

The game ends when, on a player’s turn, there is no legal move for Hudson to make. At that point, the player with the most valuable collection of tiles wins.

A Butterfly in the Ointment (FarmerLenny’s take)

Butterfly looks cute and unassuming, and the single sheet of rules makes it seem like a light affair. And while these appearances aren’t entirely deceiving, Butterfly can also be fairly vicious. And a great deal of fun.

I already enjoy games that are predicated on a common piece that affects all players: the airship in Celestia, the merchant in Traders of Genoa, the blimp in Solenia, and so on. A common piece means that what the other players do on their turns naturally affects you. Interaction is baked into the game as all players must play along a common trajectory.

Hudson at the start of the game. The world is his oyster. But where to begin?

In Butterfly, this works wonderfully. Each player is at the mercy of the player who moved Hudson before them. Their choices are naturally pared down based on the decisions of the previous player.

But because of this, each move requires additional thought beyond what’s best for the player alone. Should I take the tile that benefits me the most? Or should I just leave the player after me with the worst options? Winning in Butterfly requires thinking about your opponents: you are not likely to win if you play solely to get the best collection of tiles for yourself, nor are you likely to win if you merely work to stuff your opponents. And it’s the intersection of these two lines that makes Butterfly fun and interesting. It’s interactive, and occasionally mean, all while you’re playing a light and breezy game.

Rats! Someone made me take the lower-value firefly, so my new score for fireflies is 1 instead of 7. See? Not as nice as it looks.

So the common playing piece and the interaction makes Butterfly interesting. What makes it worth playing is all the different scoring opportunities in the game. One of my all-time favorite games, Ra, is similar in this respect. Ra and Butterfly are both games where players want different things and to different degrees, making valuation decisions difficult. David has the doubler for green butterflies, I might think, so I need to leave him few green options if I can. But will he keep Russ from getting the flower he needs to increase his set? All the while, you’ve got a bee in desperate need of a honeycomb, and each player is trying to make the most of where Hudson is actually placed.

Look at all those beautiful tiles! Hudson is pleased.

The different scoring options, aside from adding interest, also work very well, and they add risk and tension to the game. You can see at the start of the game how risky certain propositions are. Do you go for flowers if there aren’t very many? Bees are a safer bet if there are lots of honeycomb tiles–what if there’s just one or two? Each game offers different valuations based on setup. Beyond that are the valuations and risks from turn to turn. I’ve got a high-valued firefly–can I avoid taking a lower one? Abby has a nice grasshopper–can I make her take a worse one? Is it worth taking a bee tile on the chance I’ll be able to pair it with a honeycomb? Is it worth drawing from the bag when I pass over a net? I might get more points, or I might lose points I already have. (Note: in one game I lost 12 points from drawing wasps from the bag. The angst is real!) The decisions in Butterfly are not taxing, but they are fun to make, and a game of Butterfly goes quick. With three or four players, it lasts fifteen to twenty minutes (maybe a little longer with setup), and in terms of time and enjoyment, it’s a winner.

How did I end up with all these greens? My opponent must have been asleep at the switch.

The components are nice–the tiles are thick, and the Hudson the Hedgehog wooden piece is quite hefty. (The game is made in Germany, and Hudson feels like something that could be in a HABA game.) The illustrations are nice, if a little cutesy; it comes with a draw bag (THANK YOU); and the player boards make teaching and playing a breeze. It’s refreshing to have rules that are just a single sheet front and back. The components work well, but they’re not outstanding, at least in terms of lavish illustrations or overproduced components. Of course, as a result, Butterfly doesn’t have an overproduced price tag, which is nice for the kind of game it is.

“Wasps to the left of me…wasps to the right.” Things aren’t looking great.

I’ve played several times with three and four players, and the game works well at those counts. There is definitely more control in the game the fewer players you have, and I imagine it would work quite well with two. The designer’s epic variant–perhaps the way it was meant to be played–includes playing with two players on the five-player board, with no additional tiles entering the game through nets. I like the added risk and tension of the nets, and I also like having more players at the table. For the kind of game this is, I don’t mind losing a little control, especially when the game plays this quickly and offers as much interaction as it does.

Bees and honeycomb tiles score together.

The worst I can say of Butterfly is that it feels like a “classic” design (a common “complaint” with Rio Grande’s games)–which for some is probably code for “boring.” I don’t find it so. The rules are simple to teach and digest, and the game is quick to play. But there’s nothing really novel here, and I can see this one getting lost in an overcrowded garden. It’s not the prettiest bloom in the bouquet, but despite this, the smell is sweet, and it’s one I intend to keep around as a fun family game and a good game night closer. It is nearly ideal in the way playtime, interaction, risk, player count, and charm intersect.

Super Fly (Jennifer’s Take)

FarmerLenny hit most of my pros/cons for Butterfly already, but I have a few stray thoughts to share. I will admit that one of the reasons I became interested in Butterfly was Hudson the Hedgehog. I have a secret thing for hedgehogs, acquired from a hedgehog-obsessed middle school math teacher. Somehow the hedgehog thing stuck with me, even though I pretty much flunked algebra. Oh, well. Hedgehogs are cuter than variables. Anyway…

The player boards both organize your tiles and help you to remember how each is scored.

Butterfly is cute, and not just the Hudson token. The whole thing is adorable, from the bright colors to the expressions on the insects’ faces. And it’s this cuteness that makes you think, “Oh, this is gonna be a game for kids.” Wrong. (I mean, it’s fine for kids, but it’s not just for kids.) This cute package hides a dark side. Not dark enough to make you angry, but dark enough to make someone say, “Wait. I thought this was supposed to be a warm fuzzy game. What happened?” (Exact quote from my husband after he got stuck with a wasp after I maneuvered Hudson into a detrimental position, leaving him no real choice but to take it.)

This is because, while the rules are simple and the gameplay breezy, you have the opportunity to really mess with your opponents. Since the active player moves the hedgehog, she not only wants to move him to a beneficial spot for herself, she can also try to move him to a place that leaves few options (or even only bad options) for the next player. In some respects, this is similar to the game Queenz that I just reviewed this week. If you’re paying attention to what your opponents are gathering, you can try to put a stop to it by ending your movement in a place that leaves them no good options. And since Hudson has to move if he legally can, you can sting other players like some kind of ninja wasp. 

Player boards at the end of the game.

I enjoy this level of meanness in games. It’s not enough to induce table-flipping rage because the interaction doesn’t result in the total destruction of something you’ve built. But it is enough to make everyone at the table think and prepare their possible actions/reactions. And in a game as short as Butterfly, it usually ends up being more funny than anything else, with good-natured groans and everyone wanting to try again. 

As far as trying again, this is also the type of game that begs you to play again and try to beat your score. There are many ways to score points, and while some of what happens to you will be foisted upon you by your opponents, there are many things you can try to up your point totals. There’s a little push your luck, a little strategy, and a little randomness. It all adds up to a fun game. No, it’s not a brain burner. It’s still a light and fluffy game, but there are enough decisions and “Should I do this, or that?” moments to keep adults engaged.

We managed to avoid the wasps in this game.

I do agree with FarmerLenny that Butterfly feels familiar. Just as Queenz felt more comfortable than innovative, Butterfly feels the same. It shares similarities with many games, while being an exact duplicate of none. And I do agree that at times this seems to be what Rio Grande specializes in. Broadhorns, Cinque Terre, Santa’s Workshop… The list goes on of games from this company that I enjoy precisely because they feel comfortable. They aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel or tack together a mish-mash of mechanisms and bits in the quest for an “innovative” (code for bloated) game. 

Like these others, Butterfly is only as complex as it needs to be in order to be a fun family affair. Everything has a purpose and everything works well together. But if you’re looking for the freshest face on the block or the game that offers a ton of interlocking mechanisms, Butterfly probably isn’t your jam. 

The board is double sided with different grids for 2/4 players and 3/5. The game scales very well.

The only thing that slightly annoys me about Butterfly is the setup time. Any game that has you put out a lot of tiles on a board has a high fiddly factor that can get annoying. And given that Butterfly is so short, sometimes the setup seems disproportionate to the amount of game. But that’s a minor quibble and if everyone grabs tiles and puts them out, it greatly reduces the time until you start having fun. 

The insert. The box is the size of a Carcassonne box.

Other than that, Butterfly is a game I’ll keep in my collection for the foreseeable future. It’s short, easy to learn, and just plain fun. There’s no brain pain, just a little thinking while those cute insects stare back at you, daring you to use them wisely for points. 

iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Rio Grande Games for providing us with copies of Butterfly for review.

  • FarmerLenny's rating: 8.0
  • Jennifer's rating: 8.0
  • User Ratings (0 Votes) 0
    Your Rating:


Simple rules and easy to each
Interactive gameplay with room for interesting choices and risky plays
Bright, colorful, cute components


Setup can take a few minutes
Game isn't innovative

8.0 Flying High

I'll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

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