Bird Pax


KyleBird Pax screenshot 1I remember when you didn't need all this fancy computer equipment with all the cd-roms, and the rams, and the video cards, all of it costing hundreds maybe thousands of dollars, to have a good time. No, all you needed back when I was a kid was a deck of cards. Sometimes you had the basic playing cards, sometimes you got the funny cards with cartoon fishies on them or comical pictures of old ladies, and that was all you needed to enjoy a fun filled afternoon with your friends. Now, thanks to KnowIn Games, you get to relive the spirit of those classic card games on your high end thousand dollar machines with the simple and fun Bird Pax card game.

If you've ever played the card game War, then you're already most of the way there in grasping how Bird Pax works. Each card has a bird on it, a number value representing that bird's wingspan in centimeters, and an associated color which indicates which family the bird belongs to. Both players have a deck and from that deck maintain a hand of six cards. During each turn you and your opponent both play one card and the card with the higher wingspan wins the hand and all the cards currently in play, and the winner will also go on to play the first card in the next hand. If both cards played have either the same wingspan, or family color, then you go into "Pax" mode. Here, three cards are played face down from each player's deck as a kind of wager, and then both player's again play a card to see who wins it all (unless, of course, these new cards initiate yet another Pax).

Bird Pax screenshot 2Besides having a hand as opposed to merely drawing from the top of the deck, Bird Pax differentiates itself from War in implementing the concept of families into the game. If you have more than one bird in the same family, you can play them like a chain combo. That is, say you play a bird from the crane family, and you have two more of those in your hand. Your opponent plays a member of the falcons that would beat your first crane. You can play another one of your crane cards to beat the falcon. Just make sure that both cards combined really will win otherwise you'll just be throwing your cards away. It's also important to note that you have to play each card individually. That is, in order to keep the chain going, you have to beat the wingspan your opponent has in play with whatever card you play.

Play continues like this until you have reached the wingspan goal for each stage. This is tracked both numerically, and visually by a line running through the center of the playing field that will shift up and down as collective wingspan totals shift back and forth between you and your opponent. If this all sounds a bit complex, don't worry. Just like the cherished card games of our youth, it takes longer to read the rules than it does to actually understand and play the game. Just, uh, you know, don't try and stick your laptop in the spokes of your bicycle when you're done. That can turn out to be kind of expensive, and, um, it doesn't really make the same sound as playing cards anyway.

Analysis: Bird Pax is simple, charming, and above all, fun. Flawless by no means, this cute and easy card game does a fantastic job of taking an established classic and tweaking it for a much more compelling and entertaining result.

Something that always bothered me about the old card game of War is that there wasn't any skill involved. There wasn't even really luck, or even a game. Once the deck was shuffled and split among the players, the ultimate outcome was already predetermined leaving us to spend however long to figure out what that ending would be. By adding in a playing hand and the family associated bring along combinations, Bird Pax adds depth and strategy to a game that had none of these things. And yes, there can be quite a bit of strategy involved with Bird Pax as you'll see the first time your 250 value bird gets taken down by a bunch of waterfowl.

But though there is depth and strategy, what makes Bird Pax compelling is that it capitalizes off of a fairly simple system. Each hand is over in a matter of seconds, no round lasts longer than a few minutes. Not particularly challenging, this card game is easy to pick up, and nearly anyone with modest math skills can play. Even if your mental math is terrible, the game helps you out with icons that indicate which cards in your hand would win, and which would launch a Pax. And all of this is offered up with bright friendly graphics, and, okay, I'll admit it, I just really like the pictures of all the pretty birds.

Of course, there's plenty that I would like to see improved in Bird Pax. The most pressing, to me, is that the target wingspan for each level is not clearly defined. You have the indicators, true, but there's no real finish line to let you know how close or far you are from finishing a round. Also, I found the AI at work here to be pretty weak. Yes, occasionally you'll get sucker punched with a combo, but for the most part the computer opponent is a pushover. This could be remedied by offering a multiplayer option, and indeed KnowIn games is supposedly working on it, but it's not here yet. Finally, and this is not so much criticism as suggestion, I think what this game really needs is customizable decks with cards that can be bought and traded. Oh, and, um, little fun facts about the birds would be nice, for, you know, my kids.

Simple rules, a nice balance between thoughtful and casual gameplay that tips towards the latter, and a bright, cheery presentation all come together to establish Bird Pax as an endearing and somewhat addictive experience. Easily squeezed into a coffee break, this card game may not have tapped into its full potential quite yet, but we definitely like what we see so far.

Play Bird Pax

18 Comments

*Sigh* Why do I even try digital card games anymore?

Is it even possible for the opponent to draw anything with less than a 300cm wingspan after the 1st round? Not from where I'm sitting.

Broken, unless you like losing over and over. Yeah, I know. Don't be so hung up on winning. Sue me for being hung up on thinking it should be POSSIBLE.

I have to give it some credit, though. At least it didn't take the usual route of making sure the player could only draw useless cards. It flipped it on its head to make sure that the opponents only draw the absolute best cards...

How, exactly does this engender any strategy beyond that of War? Feels like the same game to me.

You lay down a card. They lay down a better one (99 of 100 times). If they go first, and you better their card, they add to it and you lose anyway (99 of 100 times). Who designs these things to be unwinnable like this, so monumentally consistently? And why would they think anyone would want to play them like that?

There seems to be something weird about the game play. Maybe it's just me, but seems like sometimes I lose when I should win?

This was an entertaining card game! I was shaky and kept losing on level 1 at first, but once I got the hang of it, I beat all 18 levels easily.

Can't wait for the two-player option!

Took some getting used to until I did understand how the game ran and then it was smooth sailing though I got somewhat bored near the 15th level. Had I know there were only 18, I would have kept going.

It looks pretty, but I agree that I get totally thrown off by "Level X" popping up unexpectedly. I would love to be able to win all of my opponent's cards instead of going to a new level.

Somebody should print this out and make it a real card deck. I'm a bird watcher and I'd love to have an actual physical deck of cards with all the different birds featured here.

I got to level 18, but I still don't know how to play this game! I was trying to get more matches for "Pax" as a strategy, but mostly playing randomly. This is a very weird game, but strangely addictive. Not really interested in learning how to play properly though.

I am really not sure what I am doing, yet I am on level 16. Now that is scarey :)

A war card game with birds' windspans as card values? Who thinks of these things?

I've also noticed that sometimes the computer will cheat or mistakenly identify a pax, for example the computer played a brown card (a greater bittern I think) and I played one of the pelicans. Not sure what happened there really.

Actually, I think the pax can also happen with closely related families, like gulls and pelicans, not sure.

Pax happens also when the sum of the cards for each player totals the same amount.

Nifty game. Wish the AI was better though.

I completely ignore the whole birds part.

Don't really understand the game all. All I know is the same color against each other starts a pax, largest number wins, and throw low when you can't win.

Some tips for the people who are struggeling:

-Try to collect cards of the same families, they work great in PAX's.
-Don't waste your high value cards all the time, if the AI plays one, sometimes it's best to keep yours in your hand and give him a low value card.
-When you have 2 or more cards of a low value family, always play the lowest card first, and work your way up. If the AI picks a valuable card, he wasted more than you. If he plays a similar value, chances are that you'll outmatch him, thus taking the pot.
-Try to iniate PAX's when you've got at least 1 high value family.

PAXing is fun, combo-combo PAXing is even more fun! It's great when you and the opponent initiate pax after pax until the computer has no more cards left!

Another thing: Ever wondered what happens when in the middle of a combo-PAX, you end up with no more cards in stack? the PAX deck will get shuffled and spread between you and the computer, and PAX starts again.

I am not sure why, but when clicking the first picture it opens the game in a new window and also opens it in a new page, so it opens twice.

I didn't think that I was into the game when I first started playing, but then my macaroni cheese got burnt. That's when I realised how much I liked the game.
I love getting as many 'Pax'es as possible then winning the pack.
Great game :)

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