Dance of the Fireflies from Backspindle Games – Review

The first time I played dance of the Fireflies I had a rare bout of analysis paralysis.

Theme and What is it?

*Note* Copy of the game provided by the publisher for review purposes.

The time has come to choose a new Royal Gardner and as one of the apprentices it might be you. There are others though. In order to see who best deserves the title each of you will bid on different flowers around the sundial and move them to your own garden. Can you make the best garden in all the land?

Dance of the Fireflies is a set collection auction game where each player attempts to create the most visually stunning display. Can you get the best flowers and build the best garden?

Gameplay Mechanics

Dance of the Fireflies revolves around two things: set collection and bidding for flowers. There is also an element of special power to use when you plant a flower.

You begin the game with a number of firefly tokens that you use for bidding. One of your fireflies is a royal firefly and gives you a bonus if used to bid on a flower.

In the center of the game area is a flower clock built around a sundial. One side of the dial represents night and the other day. A flower card represents either a night flower or a day flower. They also have a number of spots for bidding your fireflies. The spots are marked as night, day, and both to denote which side of the sundial it has to be on so you can place a bid there.

At the beginning of each round you rotate the sundial so that it’s pointing at different flowers. If the day end of the sun dial is pointing at a day flower you harvest it and check for who wins it. The same is then done for the night side. To bid on flowers you place one of your fireflies on an open space on the card. If you play your royal firefly you place it face down.

Once a flower comes to auction you flip over all of the fireflies on it and see if any of them are royal. Depending on whether or not there’s a royal firefly on the card, how many other fireflies are present, and if there is a tie a winner is chosen and they immediately place the flower in their garden.

Placing a flower in your garden comes down to set collection. You can only place one of any type of flower in a flowerbed. If you have a duplicate flower you need to start a new flowerbed. You can have any number of flowerbeds in play. When you place a flower you also get to use that type of flowers special ability.

A couple of other twists in the game. You have a hand of flower cards and on your turn instead of bidding, you may play a card from your hand but have to give up one of your fireflies limiting how much you can bid in later rounds.

When the game ends you tally points. The number of points you get for a flower bed increases the more flowers you have in each individual flowerbed. There are also bonuses for having a flower bed of all night or day cards. A full set of night is worth more because they are rarer. Most points becomes the Royal Gardner.

Initial Impressions

This isn’t a theme that jumps out to me. I do like card games and think that there are some bidding games that have fun mechanics. To that end I was in the middle on this one. I wanted to get it to the table because I just didn’t have any real feel for what I was getting into.

Game Build Quality

The bits and bobs are okay. There isn’t anything here that was bad but nothing really stood out either. I liked the sundial as a nice center piece for the game but most everything else was just there. The cards are fine. They were good quality and they shuffled well. I don’t feel like they’ll need sleeves. 

The cardboard deck holders are nice but really unnecessary. They felt tacked on but were of decent enough thickness that they didn’t warp. The firefly tokens are wood and only the royal has a design on one side. Player shields would have been nice to hide people looking at their pieces for the royal firefly. 

Artistic Direction

The art is fine. They’re a bit muted. When I heard the game was about planting beautiful gardens I thought the cards would be really bright and colorful. It feels like they underplayed what should have been one of the games defining features. 

The artists did a fine job and because all of the art is so similar I feel like they were given instructions. I wish they had let these cards be more vibrant or used photos of the actual flowers.

Fun Factor

This game comes down to did they play their royal firefly and should I use mine? There are a very small number of weed cards that can be bid on and those can add an element of take that to the game. Most of this game comes down to the bidding and the auctions. 

Age Range & Weight

The box says 8+ and I think that’s pretty dead on. The decisions here aren’t very difficult and kids should be able to easily decide what to do from round to round.

The game is very light and goes very fast once you get a handle on the strategy for it.

Conclusions

The first time I played this game I had a rare bout of analysis paralysis. Trying to figure out what cards were in my hand and which flowers I needed to make sets, which card should I bid on, and when do I play my royal firefly. These are questions that raced through my head as I tried to figure the best course of action. When was a good time to give up a firefly to play a card from my hand?

That was my first game.

After that I realized that most of the decisions in this game come in the last half. Early game it doesn’t make sense not to id on the earliest card in the clock and try and win it. In fact I used the strategy of bidding on the closest card I could drop a bid on as quickly as I could. The only real question that kept coming up was when do I play my royal? This ended up being less of a question than I wish it had been. Mostly because we all got into the habit of bidding the same way. There’s no way to guess what anyone played because everything is a viable card for players early game.

Late game you want to look at what people have in front of them but by then they have two or three flowerbeds so it’s hard to predict which cards they’re going after. Playing a card from your hand is also something that tends to wait till the end. I only ever used it to get one or two cards out to get more points.

One final strategy is the day and night cards. There are so few night cards in the game that trying to get a set of night cards feels pretty much impossible. Getting a full set of day cards is so easy by comparison that it’s not even trying to do it.

I get that it’s a light game and it doesn’t take very long but it just felt like I never really had a decision to make. I felt like the game was playing me and not the other way around.

In the end, this is a pass for me. However, I always recommend you try it for yourself. If this sounds like your type of game hit up your local game store and see if they have a copy in their library.