Nurture the Butterfly Population in Mariposas | Casual Game Revolution

Nurture the Butterfly Population in Mariposas

Wingspan designer Elizabeth Hargrave returns with this set collection and unit movement game that provides many choices in a few, simple actions.


Mariposas is a 2-5 player game where everyone will work to proliferate generations of butterflies across the North American continent. The board is seeded with large cities from Mexico to Canada, each acting as a waystation. In between these pit stops are fields of flowers that attract butterflies, with the occasional milkweed plant. The object of the game is simple: move your butterflies to collect flowers, use those flowers to create new generations of butterflies, and then race 4th generation butterflies back to Mexico before Fall ends. 

However, much like the life cycles of butterflies, these simplicities aren’t as easy as they sound. The board’s cities and regions (noted by different colors) are crucial for collecting beneficial waystation cards to collect bonuses as well as meeting the requirements on seasonal goal cards. The game plays out over the course of three seasons: Spring, Summer, and Fall. Each player begins with a hand of two cards, each showing various movement patterns with which players can navigate the board. As players move, they will refer to the seasonal goal cards as a means of knowing where to go, what to complete, and how many points these tasks will merit at the end of the round.

Players will play a movement card, move their butterflies accordingly, and collect the flower(s) from the spot they land on. If players are adjacent to a milkweed, they may then choose to spend flowers to create a new generational butterfly. For example, to create a 2nd generation butterfly from a 1st generation butterfly, players must turn in two matching flowers or three flowers of any kind. As the game progresses and players wish to create higher generation butterflies, they must meet the cost and use the appropriate butterfly. For example, a 1st generation butterfly cannot produce a 3rd generation butterfly, only a 2nd generation can produce a 3rd generation butterfly. Once a player has played a movement card and finished their actions, they will draw back up to two and leave the played card in front of them to create a tableau. Each season has a different amount of turns, so the tableau of movement cards in front of players will help them keep track of how many turns they have taken in a given season. 

Landing on a city hex will provide additional benefits. Each city is populated with a waystation token. The first player to reach the hex will not only receive the colored waystation card associated with the revealed token, but may roll a die that will provide a flower. Waystation cards come in one of three colors (green, pink, and blue) and collecting a full set will give players a bonus. Waystation cards are also worth one point each at the end of the game. 

The real battle of Mariposas happens from season to season. Though the goal is to try to create as many 4th generation butterflies as possible and return them to Michoacan by the end of Fall, the seasonal goal cards will provide needed guidance for actions and locations players should get to during Spring and Summer. These may require players to have a specific generation of butterflies in two regions in between certain cities, to have as many butterflies as possible surrounding a city, or to create new generations of butterflies in between certain cities. 

At the end of each season, players will tally their points earned from meeting the requirements of the seasonal goal card. The player in last place will become the first player in the next round. At the end of fall, players will be trying to race all their 4th generation butterflies back to Mexico and collecting the number of associated points. Players will add up their points, including any waystation cards and associated victory points earned from a set, along with remaining flowers (3 flowers equal 1 additional victory point) with the player with the most points being declared the winner.

Mariposas components


At its heart, Mariposas is a casual game, but its ability to shift and morph much likes it titular insect, makes it a game that even hardcore gamers can find appeal in. And its tight scoring mechanisms mean that even the most veteran of gamers can’t run away with a game, which will make new players excited to try it again. 

The complexity and replayability levels come from the diverse amount of choices present from game to game. This can be achieved through different seasonal goal cards, the placement of waystation tokens, and whether there’s a bigger benefit to chase seasonal goals that can yield big points in the northernmost regions and cities, or to stay close to Michoacan and produce as many 4th generation butterflies as possible and race them back before the end of Fall. In multple playthroughs at various players counts, any and all strategies have won.

Seasonal goal cards can dramatically impact the course of the game. Summer and Fall seasonal goal cards are turned face down and covered by a number of generational butterflies. If all players remove those butterflies during the course of a round by creating them, then the seasonal goal card can be revealed early allowing players to make longer term strategic plays. This also adds strategic value, as some players will be racing to unveil the seasonal goal cards whereas others may be wanting to keep them hidden until the next round. This may be a negative to players — especially inexperienced ones — who need to know what’s ahead but may not know it until the next round begins. 

However, Mariposas will always come down to simple mechanics. Pick one of the two cards in hand, move butterflies according to the card, and collect the flowers and benefits of where you land. When you have enough flowers and are near a milkweed, create a new generational butterfly. It’s maximizing the benefits where Mariposas produces real depth. The game can be as simple or hardcore as the players playing it, and because of how scoring works, can even be the game that works well to bridge the experience gap. 

Above all else, Mariposas is proof (not that I think anyone needed it) that Elizabeth Hargrave is a master of putting together her interests into hobby board games without skimping on theme or tactics. 

Pros: Easy to learn, Vivid graphic design, Variable complexity and many paths to victory

Cons: Relies a lot on iconography