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Subject: S.O.S. (Shiny Object Syndrome) rss

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Jesse Carrasco
United States
Los Angeles
California
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I have been very curious about this game for a while now. Somehow, I do not remember how, I stumbled across the excellent tutorial that we've all seen and love. The Poe inspired video immediately caught my attention and as I watched more of it I was intrigued by the game. However, I couldn't really find any reviews for the game so I was very hesitant to purchase it. Then I was able to find a video of actual game play and, sad to say, it didn't really help get me more interested. The players were at a gaming convention so there was a lot going on but they didn't really seem invested in the game. Watching the actual game play, I began to think that this game didn't look as fun as I originally thought and after a while the game would become boring and routine. Well, I have purchased the game and have played it a few times. Below is my review.

Components
The pieces that come with the game are all very nice. The tiles themselves have a nice thick feel to them. The artwork is my favorite though. I love the cool colors of the blues and grays. It does a wonderful job of evoking the feel of a cold, rainy day (near a cemetery). Since we are now approaching October and the Fall season, this game seems to fit that feeling perfectly.

The wooden crows/creeples (crow + meeples = creeples) are nice little pieces that look great once you place them on the tiles. I would have loved to have them be just a tad larger because they can be a little difficult to pick up and move around, but that's just a personal preference.

The shiny objects are also very nice. They look like nice little gems and really stand out against the cold, gray skies of the board.

Game Play
The game play is very simple. After setting the board up in a diamond pattern, the first player will draw a new tile and place it anywhere on the board (as long as it's adjacent to another time). If that new tile has a crow(s) on it, then that many crows are placed on the tile. Next, the player will put their shiny object on any empty tile that will attract the most crows. Lastly, if they want, they can use a special power (more on that later). Their turn is now over and the next player goes through the same actions. Once every player has gone through their actions then the scoring begins.

At this point all of the crows will flock to the nearest shiny object. The crows can only move in a straight line (distance does not matter). If there is a shiny object in the line of sight, then the crow will fly to it. Once all of the crows have gone to their shiny objects then each player can count their points (1 crow = 1 point). If a shiny object was placed on a cemetery tile, then each is worth 2 points. After all of the points have been tallied then all of the shiny objects are removed from the board and the turns begin again for the next round with the next player starting the round (each round has a rotation so it isn't always the same person beginning). This will happen until all of the tiles are placed at which point the game ends and all points are totaled. The person with the most points wins.

Now there are a few more things that add to the game:

1) Power Tokens. If you placed your shiny object on a tile that shows a tree with no crows on it, then you can draw a power token. These can give the player some additional movements in the game (i.e. turn any tile into a cemetery for that turn, turn any cemetery into a regular tile so it does not score double for that turn, move two crows to a different tile for the turn, keep crows from flying away from that tile for that turn, etc.) These be used throughout the game (and once they're used they are discarded) however, if a player chooses to not use them then they are worth additional points once the game is over. The player needs to decided if it's more advantageous to use them or keep them.

2) Trash Tiles. Trash tiles are a way to block your opponents from attracting crows. If a crow flies over a trash tile on their way to a shiny object, they must stop at the trash and poke around for food for the turn. Then, on the next round they can continue on in their search for shiny stuff.

3) Trinket Tiles. These tiles are more shiny things that just make your shiny object more shiny. So it attracts more crows than a regular tile would. Because of this, these tiles will break ties. If two shiny objects are attracting the same crows and there is a tie, the crows would normally split the different and both players would get points. However, if one player's shiny object is on a trinkets tile then that shiny object is much more alluring and all of the crows will flock to it (thereby breaking the tie).

4) Scattering of Crows. This is perhaps the most important and unique aspect to the game. Once 6 or more crows have landed on the same tile a murder is formed (murder is the official name of a group of crows). To help balance the game, the crows will scatter. 2 crows are removed from the board (they fell in love and fly off to have fun together) and the rest of the crows are scattered in a spiral direction so each tile will have one crow on it. This is incredibly effective and making sure no one tile is full of crows that everyone will be trying to get to.

Review
So after my initial worries on whether or not the game would become routine and boring, I sat down and played it. I'm very happy to say that my fears were not warranted. While there is repetition in the tile laying, the game never becomes routine or boring. I found that it played very quickly and before I knew it, the tiles were gone and the game was over.

While it may seem like a simple game at first glance, there is a nice amount of strategy that can be used. I found myself always looking at where the crows where and trying to figure out where to place my shiny object. Did I want to try and find a spot that would allow me to attract a lot of crows or did I want to choose a spot that wouldn't attract as many crows but would also stop another player from attracting some? Would it be beneficial to use some power tokens or should I just keep them until the end of the game? Strategies had to constantly shift with each round because of the scattering of crows.

I think my favorite part of the game was the mechanic of the crows. I loved trying to figure out where to best place my shiny object to attract the most. But once a murder of crows was formed I loved seeing them scatter and fly around the board. This unique mechanic really balances the game and adds a layer that, thematically, makes perfect sense. Once the crows scatter a new player can find a better position to attract more crows. This leads to a very tight game where no one really runs away from the competition.

This is the perfect type of game to take to a coffee shop and enjoy while having coffee with some friends. Everything about this game feels right. The evocative artwork, the wooden crows, the movement of the crows and the scattering mechanic all add to this little gem of a game. Everything makes sense and fits together beautifully. I am very much going to enjoy continuing to play this game in the future. I highly recommend this game and I hope that more people will play it, because it deserves to be known.
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Brad McKenzie
Thailand
Bangkok
Bangkok
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Very nice review. I am on the hunt for a copy right now - yours and other reviews have sold me on this game...
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Jesse Carrasco
United States
Los Angeles
California
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Brad, thanks for reading the review. I think you will that you will enjoy this little game. It really is a lot of fun.
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Tyler Sigman
United States
Bellingham
WA
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Thanks for taking time to write a review of Crows.

Glad you enjoyed it!

CAW!
--Tyler (Crows designer)
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