Here's a game that looks fantastic. Set it up and you'll pique a lot of interest and have people gathering round and wanting to play. And you'll find that tho' this is a game with multiple elements and phases, it's not at all difficult to teach. Indeed, you can use Papillon as a gateway game to introduce and ease people into mechanics that may be new to them if, for example, their only previous experience of board games has been roll & move.
As the name suggests en Francais, Papillon involves butterflies, and each player has a supply of a dozen butterflies affixed to miniature clothes pegs. A central board displays 10 tiles drawn at random from a bag and laid out in a 4, 3, 2, 1 grid. Eight garden gnome tokens are used primarily to mark the eight rounds of the game. You'll also see caterpillar tokens laid out on some of the tiles. Caterpillar tokens are the currency in Papillon and, when playing with three or four players, these are used to bid for turn order. They also count as 'nectar' (victory points) at the end of the game.
This bidding phase (which you forego in a two-player game) is used to determine the order in which players will take a row or column of tiles. If you bid 5 caterpillars ahead of anyone else then you are guaranteed first pick (and therefore the chance to nab 4 tiles) but there will probably be rounds when several players bid zero. The tiles show various groupings of coloured flowers. When you draft your tiles, you'll be forming them into a tableau to create your own garden, matching the colours together. When you form an enclosed flower bed of any colour, you take one of the butterflies and place it in that flower bed. You'll also want to form enclosed fields because many of the field tokens have tiny butterfly icons on them. These will contribute victory points at the end of the game.
It's the 'pollination phase' that's the meat of the game, however. Here players will take the butterflies they have in their flower beds to place out on a matching 3D standup flower. The end-game scoring for these is based on area control. In the first few rounds, the butterflies for enclosing fields will come from your supply but you can also take them from the butterflies you have already pegged onto the 3D flowers - and you'll of course find that that's your only option once you've exhausted your supply. That means that the area control for each of the 3D standup flowers can prove quite fluid, and therefore quite cutthroat, in the final rounds of the game.
It's worth mentioning that there is the potential for a big end-game scoring bonus too for completing large enclosures of flowers; so you may want to deliberately grow rather than closing off a flower bed to try to maximise that bonus. This could be a push-your-luck strategy, however, as you won't score anything at all for a flower bed that isn't enclosed... Players early in the game feel a pressure to quickly form flower beds to get their butterflies out but after a couple of plays you'll realise that it can be better to take your time and initially avoid two-tile flowerbeds in order to take advantage of the bonuses open when you complete a larger bed.
This is a game with a variety of ways of stacking up end-game points but it never feels like a 'point salad' game because the flower/butterfly/pollination theme comes through strongly. Designer J B Howell and illustrator Whitney Rader share the credit for this, but kudos too to the job done by publishers Kolossal. Our only caveat is that the clothes-peg butterflies can be rather delicate: you may find you have to glue them back together. To the publishers' credit, however, they include some spares in the box.
Papillon is a very accessible and appealing game that can be enjoyed equally by experienced gamers and those coming new to modern board games. Definitely one to check out.