Designed by Joel Lewis with art by Dejana Louise Storey, Fluttering Souls is apparently based on an ancient Japanese legend that sounds like the Oriental equivalent of Greyfriars Bobby. You don't need to trouble yourself with such backstory: Fluttering Souls is a two-player set collection game. It is played with a deck of 21 butterfly cards, 18 of which are used for each round of play (3 cards are taken out at random).
Cards are laid out in a grid with all but one row placed face up. Cards overlap at each corner. Players take turns to take one card from the grid but they can only take a card that is 'open' (ie: has no other card covering one or more of its edges), so, for example, the first player can only take one of the four cards in the bottom row. More cards become 'open' and available as the cards below them are taken; so the game works similarly to the tile-taking in the video games known as Mah Jong and in Horrible Games' Dragon Castle. The face down cards are flipped when they become 'open'. Play alternates and players score for the sets and individual cards with which they end the round.
Though the rules for Fluttering Souls are simple, it's a game that demands players think ahead. You need to have an eye to what cards you are opening up for your opponent and what the cards he takes are going to be opening up for you. You're likely therefore to be planning at least a couple of turns ahead. Even so, this is a game that can be played quickly. The winner of each round takes a wooden token and the game is won by the first player to take three tokens (so after 3–5 rounds). You can usually expect to reach that point in 15-20 minutes.
Fluttering Souls is an attractive and appealing micro game that, as a two-player game, many will find more satisfying than other similar micro game fillers like Seiji Kanai's Love Letter (AEG) which are at their best with more players.
The edition of Fluttering Souls shown here is the version originally published by Nurse Shark. Next week's GenCon sees the release of a new edition by Good Games Publishing, which we're told incorporates several refinements and improvements on the original game. If we can get hold of a copy, we'll show that off on Board's Eye View.